The Spin Cycle
Ami stared, mesmerized by the swirling cyclone of bubbles.
"You've really got to get out more if you find the spin cycle that fascinating." Makoto nudged Ami over gently on the bench and offered her a can of soda.
Ami tried to stifle a yawn, "I had a research project due yesterday." Makoto shook her head. The explanation was enough --that and the dark circles that looked like bruises under her eyes. Ami swallowed, "Thanks." She tapped her foot against the tile floor and sighed, watching Usagi's comforter spin in the large aluminum front loader dubbed the Suds-o-Matic 2000.
"Minako just called and she's on her way," Makoto took a quick swig of her pop.
Ami frowned, "I thought she would be here already. I mean she called this morning."
Mako chuckled, "This is Mina we're talking about. Wait till you see her laundry day clothes."
Ami just frowned. Laundry day clothes for most mere mortals meant whatever was still clean in the closet. One could only guess how this was interpreted by Mina. Ami glanced around the almost empty building confused. She didn't think that the widow or the mom with the two school age kids were really the typical Mina crowd. She sighed. Of course, Mina lived by the rule of "You never know who you'll meet," and typically carried a purse that could double as a cosmetics counter for Bobbi Brown.
Laundromat Day was a tradition started by Mako and Mina a few months ago. Usagi, Rei and Ami had not really been going as they normally washed their clothes at home. Ami, for all her technological know-how had never used a washer or dryer. The housekeeper her mother had hired when Ami was still in daycare had silently taken care of clothes, socks, sheets and towels. Makoto had decided that this was unacceptable and had recruited her to join in their Laundry Days at the local Spincycle – a chrome and linoleum affair with a variety of vending machines and generous swaths of orange vinyl.
"Mmm, I love the smell of a laundromat and the sounds," Mako was leaning back against the front window with her eyes closed.
"Really?" Ami was incredulous.
"It's a sort of home away from home," She explained. "They all have the same smell of bleach and laundry soap, the warm humid air, the industrial washers, the vending machines…"
"The squalling children," Ami finished as she eyed the 4 year old boy who had decided that screaming would be the quickest way to get a strawberry Good Humor bar from the vending machine. As much as she loved children, she breathed a sigh of relief when the mother tugged the boy and his sister outside with their laundry.
Mako laughed, "It's even better on a rainy day – quieter with its own rhythms."
"Quieter?" Ami turned towards the door. Mina came shrieking inside then with her laundry baskets –soaked and draggled.
Even drenched, Ami could see what Mako was hinting at about laundry clothes. Mina had on a yellow sundress (now stuck to her like a second skin)– fashionably understated with red woven sandals that twined up her calves. Very unsuitable for a rainy day. She had opted for barely there make-up – a hint of gloss, a touch of blush and just a smidge of dark mascara to open up her eyes. Ami had noticed that this was a tactic at winning a certain type of audience. The kind that liked wholesome no-nonsense girls – the kind that did their own laundry at the laundromat. She was beginning to have some suspicions about the origins of laundry day, and why she had been invited at all.
Mako must have seen the question in her eyes. "Oh, you'll see why."
Mina then rushed over to the girls and squished Ami. "I'm so glad you decided to come out."
Ami rubbed at her now damp forearms and smiled up at her blonde friend.
"In honor of Ami's inaugural visit to The Spincycle, I am offering each of you strawberry Good Humor bars on me."
"That sounds sticky," Mako pushed out her tongue.
Mina obviously didn't catch the little joke, but kept up a steady stream of conversation as she turned to the ice cream vending machine, "I just wish we could get Usagi out here or Rei. It could be our girls' day out."
"Usagi's laundry is here though. Does that count?" Mako chuckled.
Mina didn't pause for breath but continued, "I was thinking we could get pedicures later at this great little shop across the way and maybe pick up some Thai curries since it's raining…"
Mako was rolling her eyes as she turned to Ami, "Are you sure you're up for this? A whole day trapped in a one small building with Minako? No television, no radio, no karaoke to keep her occupied…"
Minako was walking back to them with ice cream bars in hand, oblivious to how both of her best friends had long since tuned out her ramble. She stopped short and scrutinized both of the girls. "Hold the phone, Ami, is that what you decided to wear?"
A sarcastic reply was waiting on the tip of her tongue, but she bit it back. "Why? Is something wrong?"
Ami had opted for something clean, dry and fairly suitable for an uncaring public – a navy hoodie over a white tank top with old frayed jeans and sneakers. Her hair had taken a day off so she pulled her short style back into two small pigtails. As for makeup, she'd opted for lip balm couture.
Minako gave a little exasperated sigh and turned to Mako, "Didn't you tell her anything?"
Mako just took a bite of one of the strawberry bars and shrugged again. "Ooo in't has me oo," She swallowed and tried again, "You didn't ask me to. Besides she wouldn't have showed up otherwise."
Ami was listening to this exchange with growing alarm, "Wait. Why wouldn't I have showed up? What aren't you telling me?" She gave Mina a pointed look.
"Ami, dear," Mina wrapped a still damp arm around her friend's shoulder as she sat down. "I only have the very best intentions for you. We are here to have a fun day at the Laundromat." She squeezed her friend's shoulders. "You need to get out of that stuffy apartment sometimes."
Ami began to protest.
"Trips to the library and café don't count." Mina wagged her finger back and forth.
"Actually I was going to ask if most people consider laundry to be fun. I might not get out much, but I don't hear too many people saying 'Wow, I know what would be the best…visiting the laundromat. It's crazy-fun!"
Mina had released her shoulder and had turned to begin sorting her laundry. "Ami, sarcasm isn't good for your complexion. Really, Rei is having an awful effect on your temper."
Ami turned to Mako for help but found her friend fixedly staring at the ceiling lights while eating her ice cream. She sighed and bit into her ice cream bar in defeat.
A harsh beep told her that Usagi's comforter was finally done in the washer. Ami rolled a basket forward to empty it out. After the initial conversation with Mina, she was confused. Usually her friend was effusive when attractive men were involved. So far, the only males in the laundromat hadn't been over the age of ten. She frowned and began tugging the soggy pink mass out of the appliance. Perhaps, Mina was right, and she shouldn't work herself up over so many suppositions. She was gathering an armful of hot pink bunny covered material up when a sound made her wheel around — the distinct sound of male laughter. Make that many men, young men laughing together as they ran into the The Spincycle from the pouring rain. She hastily pushed the rest of comforter in and straightened up only to see several pairs of amused eyes staring at her. Her face heated up into a mutinous blush as she tried to calmly push the basket back over towards her friends.
Xander slapped Nick's back as they both careened through the doorway of the laundromat. Mamoru and Kellan both turned to glare at them as they adjusted their armloads of baskets.
"Remind me, Kell, how did you and I end up carrying all the dirty laundry again?" Mamoru sent a pointed glare at Xander, who shot a devil-may-care grin back.
"The mind boggles," Kell shot back.
Xander leaned into his tall blonde roommate and whispered, "Looks like your laundromat lady is back again -- the one with the cherry print, right?" He nodded towards Mina, who was at the moment doing her best to gracefully and nonchalantly sort through her bundle of laundry while maintaining that perfect stance to emphasize her calves.
Kell felt his back stiffen. "She's not my lady," he seethed back.
"Oh, well, then you won't mind if I do. I love cherries." Xander strolled over towards Mina with a winning smile pasted to his lips.
"You really don't mind if he pulls out the old Hutton charm on her?" Mamoru was studying his friend closely.
"Why would I care?" Kell began unloading the laundry on a sorting table.
Nick just shot a meaningful glance to Mamoru behind Kell's back. Nick took the other laundry bag from Mamoru and began dumping its contents onto another sorting table. He began separating the clothes into white and all other colors when he heard someone clearing a throat behind him.
"You're going to ruin those shirts if you wash them with those red sheets."
He turned to see the pretty brunette whose smile kept him frequenting The Spincycle Laundromat twice a month. "Anything else I should know before I toss something into the washer?"
"Yes." She looked directly into his eyes and extended a hand, "My name's Makoto."
He grinned down into her green eyes and shook her hand warmly, "Nick."
She pulled her hand away reluctantly. He has such large, long-fingered hands like a musician, she mused. "I've seen you here so often; I thought it was time I said hi."
Nick was quickly deciding that he liked her sweet smile even more so the nearer she was to him. "Hi, then." Lame, lame, lame, how could he just say that. Nick berated himself even as his smile didn't falter.
"Um, well, if you need any help or…anything. Let me know." Makoto bit her lower lip and turned with a mental sigh towards her own basket of laundry. The dialogue had gone so much smoother in her head. Of course, she had to admit to herself, the conversation usually ended in snogging and/or wedding bells whenever she imagined it.
Ami was feeling her own mental anguish. Four (even she had to admit) unusually attractive men in the same fairly vacated laundromat had set her nerves on edge. She was fairly certain the one with the black (make that shiny, crow black hair that screamed shampoo commercial) was studying her with undue attention as she tried to cram Usagi's unapologetically pink bunny comforter into an industrial-sized dryer. She forced her hands to slow down and steady as she set the dryer settings to what Mako had recommended and began feeding coins into the slot. She nearly jumped out of her skin as said tall dark and handsome male began addressing her.
"Are you in Professor Billingsley's 751 course?"
Ami's brain refused to catch up for a moment. Whatever she had been expecting him to say, it wasn't that.
He gave her a warm, open smile, "I've seen you walking into his class a few times. I had him last year. Molecular and Cellular Basis for Medicine. Brutal, but worth it."
She could feel her spine soften as she relaxed into the conversation. Medicine was a comforting topic for her shiny, black hair or no.
"I'm getting by. I've always debated as to whether I should change my focus from pediatrics to medical research," she explained.
"Tell me, does he still do that thing with his eyebrows whenever he gets excited?" Mamoru proceeded to twitch his eyebrows up and down rapidly in imitation.
Ami hid a laugh behind the palm of her hand. Pink bunny comforter aside, perhaps this hadn't been such a bad idea after all. She smiled up into this fellow med student's dark blue eyes.
Xander's head turned as he heard a bubble of laughter over several wash cycles. He spied Mamoru chatting to a petite girl across the room. This action was enough to warrant any amount of attention Xander could spare. She seemed the type to interest his more serious friend – small, mousey, with little attention to fashion and more into function. He was beginning to turn away with a scoff when she threw her head back and laughed even more heartily. He noticed the long pale line of her throat. Any artist worth his salt would, he reasoned to himself. Petal-pink lips and wide dark blue eyes that were now sparkling at his friend – someone he had reasoned to be of the dullest humor even if Mamoru had the most noble intentions. She must not have a sense of humor if she finds him that funny, he thought derisively. He began peeling off the wet oxford that had plastered itself to his chest to throw in the nearest empty washer.
Ami could feel the remnants of a smile fading away from her face as the med student, Mamoru, had walked back towards his friends. Her eye caught on a copper glint across the room. She tried not to gawk as one of Mamoru's lean friends began to unbutton his once-white but now transparent oxford shirt. A lean porcelain torso magnetized her gaze — for purely professional interest in anatomy, she reasoned. She stifled a sigh as he pulled a dark tee out of a dryer veiling the lovely inches of defined corded muscles that threaded his whip-thin frame. He raked a long-fingered hand through his damp coppery curls before turning an amused glance in her direction. She whipped around to hide a blush by scrutinizing some dryer settings. However, to be truthful she stared blankly at the buttons as her mind turned over that glimpse of bright green eyes laughing at her.
At the same time, Mako and Mina were conferencing over a pile of socks. And by conferencing, it is meant that they were both staring at the socks as if they held the answers to all universal questions especially those concerning attracting the opposite sex. Mako was glumly running her conversation with Nick over and over in her head dissecting each word for some small smidgen of hope. Mina was wondering if the red sandals had been a tad too much.
"Do you think…" Mako and Mina both started and stopped at the same time and then burst out into laughter.
Mina graciously offered, "You go first."
Mako smiled then lowered her voice, "Do you think he meant that he wasn't interested?"
Mina rolled her eyes. How many different ways could she phrase this today? "I think it means that he is as bad a conversationalist as you are and that you should give it another go. How could he fail to notice your abundant feminine charms?"
Mako crossed her arms over her chest.
"You just need to learn the art of presentation." Mina tossed her golden hair behind her shoulder and scooted forward subtly.
Mako quirked an eyebrow, "Yeah, because your presentation today has worked so well." She nodded at the tall platinum-blonde man who was currently pulling a load out of one of the gleaming dryers to their right.
Mina firmed her lips and began to open her mouth before she whooshed out a mouthful of air instead, "I know. What did I do wrong...? Am I trying too hard?"
Mako snorted. "Ya think." She softened when she saw her friend's downtrodden expression. "Just tone it down a bit next time. He can't fail to notice you eventually. The man has a pulse doesn't he?"
Mina's face split into a broad grin (Night and day, mused Mako ruefully). "You're right. There's always next laundry day."
Ami chose that moment to push a cartful of sheets. "Anyone mind giving me a hand with these sheets?"
Mina jumped up. "Reporting for duty!"
After a few messy attempts and some demonstrations from Mako, she and Mina finally had the rhythm down of folding each of the sheets. It was almost like a dance, Mina mused.
"Last one," Ami stated.
As she pulled out the fitted sheet, she noticed something gently fall down from the sheets. She could feel her face heat as a pair of electric blue panties mocked her from the laundromat floor. She snatched them up quickly sparing a swift glance to see if anyone had noticed. Her face scorched as she noticed Mr. Copper Curls grinning widely at her from the sorting table nearest to them. She shoved the offending article of clothing deep into her laundry basket.
Mina pointed out in a sagacious voice as she studied her friend's face, "At least they were clean."
Ami glared at her, "Was the floor?"
A sardonic voice interrupted from too near her right elbow, "Five second rule."
Ami whirled around to stare up into a pair of laughing green eyes. She wanted to wipe the smirk right off his face. How could this asshole be friends with that sweet Mamoru? Her brain was whirling and her face felt permanently stained. Before she could think of a suitably snarky response, he was halfway across the Spincycle.
She blew her bangs out of her face and packed up the last bit of laundry and soap.
She began stomping towards the exit when Mina sidled up beside her with her own basket in tow. "So, what did you think of your first Laundry Day?"
What did she think? She felt turned around – confused, happy, angry, embarrassed. Mostly embarrassed – her eye snagged on pink and bright blue.
"I don't know." Ami felt suddenly nostalgic for her housekeeper, for crisply ironed collars, for perfectly square folded sheets, for sleeping in on Saturday, for the absence of infuriating males.
Mako and Mina shared a meaningful look. They knew what that particular set to Ami's jaw meant. Mina was ready to pronounce Laundry Day a disaster when a voice called out:
"See you next week, Blue!" Mr. Copper Curls waved brightly at Ami.
Ami's ramrod spine went, if it was possible, even straighter.
Nick smacked the back of Xander's head, "Why the hell did you say that to her? Now they'll never come back."
Xander ignored the stinging pain in the back of his head as he studied the stiff little mouse stuffing her laundry into her smart-girl sensible sedan (also blue, he noticed with amusement). She was certainly a challenge. He turned to offer a little smirk to Nick and Mamoru's cold glares. "Oh ye of little faith. Trust me. She'll return." They all turned as a washer gave a loud beep to signal the end of the spin cycle.