of bubble tea, sushi, lists, memories, and meetings
because I decided Sakura needed a piece too.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Inspired by: rawrchelle. And a certain string of embarrassments.
Dedicated to: Kathy and Elena—for sharing these moments with me
Sakura Haruno was a professional cynic.
She didn't believe in much of anything anymore, not after Naruto Uzumaki broke her heart and decided to leave his best friend since forever in pursuit of a "cooler" crowd.
Her twin brother Sai was shocked to see his older sister cry.
If it weren't for her veryveryvery large group of dorky friends and her lovinglovingloving twin, Sakura knew she would be falling to pieces more frequently than she already did.
That's why when she woke up in the morning and slipped the greengreengreen contacts into her dark eyes, Sakura knew she can handle every shocking thing that blew her way.
Lily dating their good friend Lacee? That's adorable.
Mark finally emerging from the closet and admitting he's gay? It's about damn time.
Kira crying over her wounded heart because their idiot friend Scott trampled all over it? Prepare for a beating.
The day her mother (her sweet, loving, strange mother) decided to pick her sixteen-year-old twins up from school just like the good old days and take them out for an afternoon treat was unusual, but not shocking. Sakura learned over the years to just go along with her mother's whims.
However—he was a whim that Satsuki Haruno continually entertained.
The door chimes.
"Welcome to Tapioca Express!"
Sai pulls on his sister's shirtsleeve and nods with his head towards the menu on the left. Curious, the teen follows her twin's gaze and gasps in delight.
Bubble tea. She hasn't had that since they went to Colorado last Christmas to visit their relatives.
"Kaa-chan!" Sakura smiles. "Is this the surprise you wanted to give us?"
The woman nods. "Mhmm. You love boba, don't you Sakura-chan?"
And you need to smile more often.
They order passionfruit (Sakura), lychee (Satsuki), and strawberry (Sai) slushies.
"Oh and a plate of your banana crepes." Satsuki adds at the last minute.
Sitting down and enjoying their snack at a nearby table, Sakura realizes she misses these afternoons with her mother.
The door chimes again.
Sakura glances up and sees another woman entering with three kids but goes back to her meal. Her mother also looks up.
"Saki-chan," She whispers.
"That boy looks just like one of your anime characters... like Andou Tsubasa."
Her head shoots up to take another look at the boy. She is stunned by his features because for once, her mother is right.
darkdarkdark spiky hair—
"Nah." Sakura disagrees. "He looks more like Natsume to me."
Turning around in his chair, Sai also takes a look. "He looks like a woman."
Sakura snickers. "That's what you say about every anime paper boy you run across."
"But it's true!"
The craving for tea and boba is unbelievable.
The day school let out in June, Sakura finds herself driving to the little cafe tucked away in the shopping plaza. In the passenger seat of the Nissan 350Z Roadster she shares with her brother, one of her best friends, Lily, enjoys the afternoon breeze.
"And there's this incredibly hot guy working here?" Lily asks her for the nth time.
"My mom thinks he's hot. I think he looks scarily like an anime paper boy." Sakura clarifies.
"Which automatically means he's hot." Lily grins as she wrenches open the cafe door.
"Welcome to Tapioca Express!" The only person in the cafe greets them.
To Lily's disappointment, it's not the incredibly hot Asian guy, but a Caucasian, art-obsessed (if the paint splattered pants were anything to go by) teen with an eye on Sakura's car working the counter.
"Maybe he's the owner's kid and was just in the shop that one day." Lily suggests.
Sakura sighs. "You're hopeless."
The summer after her high school graduation, Sakura finds herself frequenting the bubble tea cafe once a week.
There's something quaint about the cafe's silence. If she had ever remembered to bring her laptop, Sakura could sit for hours at a table and work on her novel in peace. As it was, she only had enough time to order what she wanted before running off to her next errand.
Parking her car, Sakura enters the cool shade of the cafe and pushes her sunglasses to the top of her head. To her surprise, her mother's "Anime Paper Boy" is working the counter. Sakura can feel her ears grow warm as she remembers their first meeting more than a year ago and her mother's loaded glances and words.
"I'll be with you in a minute." He grunts, preoccupied with the register.
"It's fine." Sakura assures him, taking the moment to scan the menu. She is torn between a passionfruit slush and Thai tea.
Which do I want more?
"What can I get for you?" She finally hears him speak.
Her head snaps back to him and for a moment, their eyes meet. Immediately, she remembers her mother.
"I'll take a passionfruit slush with boba and a strawberry slush with boba." She wrenches her eyes back to the menu before digging around her bag for her Pocchacco wallet.
As she pulls out a ten, a one, and some coins, her phone rings in her back pocket.
"Oh crap." She mutters under her breath, trying to pull her phone out with the same hand holding her wallet and giving the teen her money with her other hand.
"Hello?" She tucks the phone in between her ear and her shoulder.
"Saki! Are you excited for me to pummel Naruto?" Her cousin Ino Yamanaka's voice cries out excitedly.
"I'll get those for you shortly." The Anime Paper Boy says to her.
Sakura looks at him and smiles apologetically. "Thanks." She answers gratefully before walking off to a table to take her call. "Ino, I told you already, you don't need to beat up Naruto."
"Sakura, it's been almost two years."
"Even better. Look, Naruto's not worth it."
A beep in her ear tells Sakura she has another incoming call. One glance at the caller id on her screen shows her brother is calling.
"Hold up chica, Sai's calling."
"Blasted cousin. This is a very important conversation he's interrupting!"
Sakura pushes 'SWITCH' on her phone. "What do you want?" She asks irritably.
"Did you get my boba?"
She sighs. "I got it..."
"Good. By the way, Naruto is coming over in a bit."
"Yeah, we've had it scheduled for a week. He's coming at three to play Call of Duty."
"Oh, so now you decide to tell me that." Sakura lashes out.
"Sakura, if I had told you earlier, you would have fought tooth and nail against it."
"No." She denies.
"Yes." She hates the fact that Sai knows her so well. "Naruto's my friend too. Just because the two of you don't get along, it doesn't mean that you have to keep me from hanging with him. Besides, you took the Z when I told you yesterday I wanted to use it. This is payback for being such a bitch."
"God, you're insufferable!"
"Live with it Sakura." Her brother snaps.
"I need to go; Ino's on the other line." Sakura's voice shakes from anger, using every possible excuse to stop talking to her twin before she says something she'll regret later.
To her relief, she sees that the guy is sealing her orders closed. Sakura gets up from her chair as she hangs up and Ino's voice floods her ear.
"Saki, what was that about?"
"Your order." He pushes the cups towards her.
"Thanks." Sakura sighs as she picks up two straws from a nearby container and stabs the plastic covering with them.
"Where are you?" Ino asks upon hearing the male voice in the background.
"Where am I? Buying boba."
"Geez Sakura, you have a serious addiction to that stuff."
"Oh shut up, I know I have an addiction." Sakura grumbles as she pushes open the door and walks back to her car.
Two weeks later, Sakura finds herself seated in her Prius waiting for her cousins at the airport.
Ino Yamanaka's blonde hair with light brown lowlights and her light tan makes her look stunning rather than trashy like so many of the ganguro girls they see in Shibuya. Her blue eyes (Sakura giggles when thinking of the day they both visited the optometrist in California and came back with different colored eyes) sparkle when she sees Sakura's car idling at the curb.
Beside Ino, their other cousin Tenten Nagasaki sports a more natural beauty with her track tan and her natural chocolate brown hair caught up in their usual two buns atop her head.
"I love the new hair!" Ino plays with a section of raven and cherry blossom pink. "It looks good on you. Not too pink, not too black. I've got to get the number of your stylist."
"If it suits you. By the way, I have a treat for you two." Sakura grins as she helps load their suitcases in the trunk.
"That's a secret, dear cousin." Tenten pouts.
Sakura drives off, taking the familiar highways home to Canton and stopping in front of her favorite cafe. She hesitates before she takes off her seatbelt.
"Do you remember that mortifying story I told you about my mom and some guy at this cafe?"
"Yeah... why?" Tenten asks.
"Um... he might... be... here."
"Yes!" Ino whoops in glee. "Pretty Asian boy—here we come!"
"Ino, please don't make a spectacle of yourself." Sakura begs as she locks her car.
"Too late." Tenten shakes her head as Ino opens the door.
"Oh my God Sakura," Ino stares at the menu in shock. "You guys actually have boba. In the middle of nowhere."
Sakura glares at her cousin. "We're in Canton, Ino, not Iowa."
"Hey now," Ino defends herself. "You never know. I live in California with our thousands, probably millions, of Asians. You expect tea shops."
"Let me repeat," Sakura sighs. "We're in Canton. Twenty minutes away from a big university. That alone gives us diversity."
Tenten turns to Sakura. "What's good here?"
"I dunno. Everything? I like passionfruit."
"Oh my God Tenten, they have pineapple!" Ino shrieks.
The Anime Paper Boy (that name is forever in Sakura's mind as his name) looks like he wants to shoot himself at Ino's stupidity. Tenten and Sakura only sigh at their cousin's antics.
"Ino, it's not like we're in the middle of nowhere or something. Of course they'll have pineapple." Tenten rolls her eyes.
Sakura taps her foot impatiently. "Are you ready yet?"
"Go first chica."
She steps up to the counter and gives the Paper Boy a smile that says: Tourists, right?
He smirks faintly. "What can I get you?" He asks her.
"I'll have a passionfruit... green tea with boba. Large please."
"Four fifteen." He rings up her order.
Just as she pays for her drink, her phone rings. This time, her ringtone is the Pokemon theme song.
"Hello? Oh hey Neji."
She walks away from the counter.
"You with your cousins yet?"
"Yeah, I just picked them up."
"Good. Can I see them today?"
"What?" Sakura pauses. "We'll come get you."
"Time? Um... give us an hour."
"I can't wait an hour! I want to see them now!"
"What do you mean you don't have an hour? You little prick..." Sakura snarls.
"Where are you?" Neji interrupts her tirade.
"I'm getting bubble tea..."
"At the usual?"
"Yeah. You want something?"
"Who is that?" Ino slides up to her side.
She mouths Neji before going back to her phone. "Fine. Coconut slush. Got it."
"So when are you coming to get me?"
"What? I will come get you when I get you. Sheesh. So impatient."
She hangs up and falls back in line beside Tenten. The brown-haired teen looks at her. "You're back?"
"Neji." She sighs as Tenten moves aside. "Hi, sorry, I'm back."
"It's fine." The Paper Boy tells her.
"Can I have a large coconut slush?"
"You want boba?"
She looks back at her two companions. "Oh come on, Saki, you know you have to get boba."
She slides a five in his direction. The teen drops her change in her open palm before walking off to make their orders. Sakura and her two cousins take a seat at a table.
"Neji is such an ass." Sakura grumbles. "Practically demanded for me to hurry up just so he can see Tenten."
"Oh God." Ino groans. "Really? That's a little rude."
"Passionfruit green tea with boba." Sakura hears.
She gets up from her chair to pick up her order. "Thanks." She says to the Paper Boy before continuing her conversation with her visitors.
"No... really?" Sakura shoots back sarcastically as she plops down in her chair again. "And then he asks me to bring him boba. I wish I wasn't such a nice person."
"Oh, Saki, you know you couldn't resist someone in need." Tenten grins.
"Right. Because boba deprivation is such an urgent matter."
"Hey... it is to me!"
When Sakura steps into the cool lights of her family's favorite sushi place, the hostess whose name she never got waves to her and asks how many will be eating with her today.
She shakes her head and informs her that she's joining a party already present.
"What's this?" Sakura gestures to the pile of edamame shells.
"They—" Tenten munches on another piece. "—Gave this to us for free. These people are awesome. Do you really come here that much?"
"Yes. Cheapest and the best sushi in town."
"Dude, I'd come here everyday." Ino takes a sip of her Dr. Pepper.
Sakura takes a pod and cracks it open. "If you say so. By the way, Sai is a jerkface. He came storming into the middle of my dinner with my friends, stole the keys to the Z and left me with the Prius. What's up with that?"
Her mother has the grace to look slightly guilty. "Ah... I forced him to take us here because I didn't feel like driving. He was supposed to go out tonight with Naruto and the boys."
Sakura stiffens at the name.
She never noticed the familiar face in the back corner.
Her brother and father decided to go on a weekend retreat to Chicago.
Male bonding—they called it.
So her mother decided to take her daughter out to dinner on Saturday night before she goes to college in Ann Arbor.
They enter the sushi restaurant and are seated by the wall.
"I don't understand why Tou-chan has to go to Chicago with Sai this weekend. We're about to go to school." Sakura grumbles to her mother.
"Oh Saki, let your father spend some time with his only son. Besides, it's not so bad to spend time with me, is it?"
Sakura opens her mouth to reply but their waiter comes by.
"What can I get for you to drink?" She hears a smooth voice say.
Her mother orders water with lemon and Sakura hears herself say "Hot tea," but she's too shocked to say anything more.
It's the Anime Paper Boy.
In her favorite restaurant.
To her relief, her mother does not seem to recognize him. However, Satsuki Haruno does take note of his good looks.
"He's extremely good-looking." She comments to her daughter just as he leaves to place their order with the kitchen.
Her eye twitches. "You do know where we've seen him before, right?"
"Remember? The guy from TapEx you said looked like Tsubasa but Sai and I thought he looked like Natsume?"
Her mother steals another glance.
"Oh my God, you're right. It is him."
He comes by their table to ask about dessert. They order green tea tempura ice cream without whipped cream.
"By the way," Satsuki casually asks. "Did you used to work at that bubble tea cafe? What was it called, Sakura-chan?"
She can't believe her mother sometimes.
"Tapioca Express." She mutters, shooting mental daggers at her mother.
"That's it!" Satsuki's face lights up. "Did you?"
The Paper Boy looks a little stunned, but he nods and explains, "The owner sold the restaurant and it's under renovation."
Sakura vaguely remembers seeing a 'For Sale' sign in the cafe window. So the place actually got sold. She hadn't been there in a month because she had family in town.
"Oh really? Do you think you'll go back to working there once they're done? My daughter loves that place."
Her glare intensifies. How dare her mother put her on the spot like that? It sounds so... suggestive, as if the only reason Sakura liked going there was because of him.
"She's the one who recognized you, after all."
I'm going to murder this woman. Sakura thinks darkly before slipping on a fake smile.
"Only because I go there so often." Her words have a sharp edge to them.
"I don't know." The Paper Boy finally answers. "But thanks for remembering me."
The dark cloud in her eyes vanishes, replaced by amusement.
Who in their right mind thanks someone for that? What a dork...
"Kaa-chan!" Sakura hisses as he leaves to take their order back to the kitchen. "What on earth possessed you to ask? I already told you I knew it was him!"
"I had to check, Sakura-chan." Her mother replies airily.
It's fall break. A few of her friends decide to eat dinner together at the sushi restaurant.
It's the first time they've been apart for so long. Even her younger friends—Kira and Katy, who are one and two grades below them respectively—miss their presence at Bishop's.
Tonight though, Sakura is determined to help her dear friend Alec make his more-than-friendly feelings known to the oblivious Kira.
"Okay, so if you sit at the end, I'll sit over here"—Sakura points to a chair farther away—"and she'll sit in between."
Alec raises a question. "Are you sure she won't spend her entire time talking to you instead of me if we do things that way?"
She considers it. "Good point. Okay. I'll sit here—" She points to her usual corner chair "—and if Mark sits next to me, she'll be forced to sit next to you across from me because Liam will instinctively sit across Mark."
"Sounds like a plan."
They take their seats.
"Hey Alec, do you remember that story I told you about my mom embarrassing the shit out of me?"
Alec laughs. "What about it?"
Sakura casts a wary look around the small restaurant. "He might be here tonight."
"Really? You see him?"
She searches again.
"Nothing to worry about. So what's good to eat here?"
They are so engrossed in their menus that the voice startles them.
"What can I get for you to drink?" Their waiter finally shows up.
Sakura looks up and stares at Alec in horror. Alec frowns slightly when he sees the panic in her eyes.
"Umm... hot tea."
"I'll take a Coke."
"Pepsi okay?" The Paper Boy checks.
While his head is turned, Sakura mouths, It's him! to Alec. He flashes a Cheshire smile at her.
When the Anime Paper Boy walks off, Sakura seizes Alec's shirt sleeve. "Oh my fucking God—that's him!"
He laughs. "I can see that."
The next weekend, her friends meet at the restaurant to hang out.
Kira and Mark are with her again, but this time, Christine, her boyfriend Rick, and Jake join them.
"Hey girl!" Christine envelopes Kira and Sakura in a tight hug. "How are my precious Asians doing?"
They take a seat at their table.
"What can I get for you to drink?" Their waiter appears at Sakura's elbow.
She freezes, recognizing the voice, before slowly glancing upwards.
On Halloween weekend, she visits twice.
The first time, she goes with her parents, her father's sister, and her mother's mother. Sai is absent, stuck tutoring a girl up at school.
They're celebrating her father's birthday. And they have a different waiter this time, much to Sakura's relief.
Her mother looks disappointed.
The next day, Sai comes home and insists on dressing up for the occasion.
"Let's eat out." He persuades his twin. "You and me while Kaa-chan and Tou-san are at a party."
She gives in. "What do you want to wear?"
He thinks about it. "Vampire Knight."
Shooting her twin a surprised look, Sakura says nothing as she goes into her closet and searches for the uniforms.
"Here." She tosses him the black and white ensemble before shooing him out of her room to change into her own.
"Where do you want to go?" Sakura asks him as she slides into the passenger seat of the 350Z.
Sai thinks for a moment. "You know, I'm craving sushi."
She freezes. "No."
"I ate there yesterday."
"But I didn't. For me? Please?"
She can't resist that pleading face, a mirror image of her own.
They speed off down the familiar streets. Opening the door to the restaurant, Sakura shoots her brother a dirty look when she sees that not even the children dining tonight are in costume.
To further add to her embarrassment, the Paper Boy and his Korean co-worker share an amused smile with each other. The hostess has the grace to ignore their attire as she leads them to their table.
"How on earth did I let you talk me into doing this, Sai?" She hisses as they take their seats.
Sai shrugs. "I dunno. It's Halloween?"
"I wonder what told you that? Was it our twin connection, the calendar, or the number of people dressed up on the streets?" She retorts sarcastically. Sakura glances around the restaurant quickly. "And why is it that we're the only people dressed up in this place?"
"Maybe it's because we're the only people young enough and crazy enough to do so." Sai offers as he looks through the menu.
"Can I get you something to drink?"
Sakura looks up and sighs. Of course. Someone up there really hates her.
"Sierra Mist." Sai adds. "We're ready to order, by the way."
The Paper Boy pulls out the pen and notepad from his pocket.
"I'll have a bowl of udon." Sakura shuts her menu.
"And I'll have shrimp tempura."
The Paper Boy says he'll be back with their drinks. Sakura sighs in relief when he leaves and Sai pats her arm consolingly.
"It's fine, Sakura."
"No, it's not. I can't even look at him without remembering Kaa-san and her... awkwardness."
"Get over it." Sai tells her brusquely.
She knows he really means: You'll be fine.
"On that tempura order, you don't want any vegetables, right?"
Sakura nearly jumps out of her skin at the Paper Boy's sudden reappearance. Sai tries to remember what he ordered and looks to his sister for help.
She sighs again when she realizes Sai is depending on her to answer for him.
"Yeah. He just wants shrimp."
Their waiter's response surprises her. "I'll have to ask the kitchen if they can do that."
She frowns. "They usually can, but yeah... get back to us about that."
When he leaves, Sakura exhales deeply and shoots her brother another dirty look.
"What?" Sai asks innocently.
"Don't even try that with me, Sai Haruno."
"The cook said it's fine. So shrimp tempura?"
Sakura nearly jumps out of her seat again as the Paper Boy kneels right beside her and goes over their order again.
This guy... he makes her incredibly uneasy.
To her relief, he leaves them alone for dinner, coming back only to refill their drinks and ask them about dessert.
Sai takes the initiative to order their usual.
"This is really good." He mumbles through a spoonful of green tea tempura ice cream.
A single drop slides off his spoon and splatters onto the sleeve of his jacket.
"Sai!" Sakura kicks her brother under the table. "How dare you get ice cream on my masterpiece!"
"Whoops." Her brother takes his napkin and wipes it off.
"I swear to God," Sakura gives him a dangerous smile. "If you've gotten anything else on that, I'm going to cheerfully kill you."
Sakura knows that the holidays, when all her friends are home from college, are the times they visit the sushi restaurant the most.
She's stopped being surprised whenever the Anime Paper Boy appears at her side, waiting on their table.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't fail to make her nervous.
The day before Valentine's Day, she and her childhood best friend Shizune decide to have a girl's night out before Shizune's boyfriend smothers her in the festivities of the holiday.
But Shizune is on a mission tonight.
Objective: Find out more about this Paper Boy her dear best friend is so mortified about.
They're seated by the wall and a new guy comes by to take their drink orders.
Shizune gives her a look.
"Please tell me that wasn't him."
Sakura snorts at her shallowness. "It's not."
"Good. Because he wasn't Paper Boy material at all."
Suddenly, Sakura sees a familiar figure walk by.
"Shizu, that's him." She whispers.
The older girl turns her head to look. "Damn! I can't see his face!"
They wait with bated breath for him to turn around.
"Oh..." Shizune smirks. "Nice pick. There's hope for you after all."
Sakura groans and slaps her arm to pull her friend's gaze away from him. "You're incorrigible."
They order their sushi.
"So, you know anything about him?"
"No." Sakura glares. "Because unlike most women, I am not a total creeper."
"But unlike most women, you are psychologically attuned. C'mon Saki, profile him. Work your magic."
"Hm... fine." Sakura laughs at the backwards compliment. "He's most likely a college student at one of the community colleges."
"Good." Shizune's smile grows wider. "What else?"
"Probably immigrated here from Asia, judging by the slight accent when he speaks."
"You know he's got an accent? Sa~ku~ra~! You've been pay attention to his every word!"
She sweatdrops at her best friend's idiocy. "Um... yeah. Because he's my waiter and I have to pay attention to what he's saying. Besides, my mom's the one who told me that one."
"Damn. Foiled again." Shizune pouts.
"I'd guess he's either Japanese, Taiwanese or Korean. And he's probably fluent in whatever his native language is."
Sakura studies his back a little closer.
"Most likely hangs out with a bunch of Asians. Probably knows how to skateboard and play a musical instrument, either the guitar or the piano. If he's not listening to hip-hop, then he's a fan of alt-punk. The skater, emo stuff."
"Geez, this is pretty detailed."
She smirks. "I try. Anyways, if he's got a car, it's gonna be a Nissan or a Honda, but a Toyota or Mazda is possible if he inherited it from his mom. Probably has siblings."
"Older or younger?"
"Older. You can tell by the way he listens more closely to older adults like my parents."
"Maybe he's just polite?"
"He's Asian, Shizu. We're all polite."
"Touche. But you haven't said the most important thing."
She sees him walk out of the kitchen with a carafe of sake.
"I'd guess... twenty-one. Twenty-three max."
Something in Shizune's face changes.
"Sakura." Shizune says sternly as he walks by again. "No. I forbid it."
"What?" She asks, bewildered.
"There's no way in hell I'm letting you date a twenty-one-year-old."
"SHIZUNE! I don't even like him! Besides, you wanted me to profile the Anime Paper Boy, so I am. I'm guessing twenty-one because of the sake."
Shizune sighs as if to say: what a pity.
"He's cute though. Not my type."
"Right. Because your type happens to look like Justin Timberlake."
"Shut up Sakura."
Sakura smirks triumphantly.
She's totally won this round.
Her friends visit the sushi place in April to celebrate.
Lily is visiting home after living abroad (Paris anybody?) with her parents for the year. Sakura knows her bestie loves the sushi restaurant, this tiny hole in the wall with incredible food and amazing prices. It shouldn't have surprised Sakura that they would be eating here tonight.
It is also the first time all of her friends, save for the precious few attending out-of-state schools, are gathered together since Christmas.
When Sakura and Christine enter the restaurant, everyone else is already present. Christine takes the end chair across from Rick, leaving Sakura to the spot beside Lily. On Lily's other side, Kira waves to her.
"You're here!" Sakura throws her arms around Lily. "I miss you soooo much!"
Lily laughs and hugs her back. "I miss you too, you crazy Asian."
"What can I get for you to drink?" Their waiter asks.
Sakura cautiously looks at him and lets out a soft sigh of relief. It's not the Paper Boy.
Dinner is the most fun Sakura has had in weeks. Between cramming for her chemistry class and writing her Comp paper, she hasn't had much time to breathe.
"Sakura!" Kira suddenly calls her attention when their dinner arrives. "Look."
Her gaze follows Kira's fingers to the opposite end of the table. "Oh no."
"What?" Lily frowns, her eyes following Sakura's stare. "Oh wow."
"Shut up Lily. Didn't I tell you about the Anime Paper Boy? The one from the bubble tea shop?"
Lily's jaw drops. "That's him? Holy shit! He's hot!"
"Keep your voice down, you idiot! He's right there!"
Kira orders their usual dessert and the Paper Boy sets it down in front of Sakura, handing both of them a spoon.
Sakura can feel Kira smirking at her.
"Kira. Knock it off. I know what you're thinking." Sakura warns her.
Her bestie smiles innocently. "I'm not thinking anything."
"Sure you aren't." Sakura snorts as she slices a piece of tempura ice cream for herself with the edge of her spoon.
"Can I get you anything else to drink?" Another voice asks, startling Sakura as she carefully drains her cup of tea to the dregs. Her hand jerks and the crushed leaves hit the back of her throat, making Sakura sputter and cough.
Lily's elbow connects with her ribcage—hard.
"I'm dying here and all you can do is put me in more pain? What kind of friend are you?" Sakura shrieks.
Christine's voice distracts her long enough to prevent Lily from answering. "I'll take a glass of water."
Her head turns to look at Christine on her other side but the Sakura catches sight of the Anime Paper Boy standing there coolly at the end of her table, watching her display of grace.
The pieces click together and she turns to glare at a smirking Lily.
"I hate you oh so very fucking much."
"Love you too Sakura."
As per tradition, the Harunos ate out at a restaurant of Satsuki's choice on Mother's Day.
This year, her mother chooses the sushi house.
"What do you want to drink?" A familiar voice asks.
Her mother's happy smile grows larger.
Sai catches her eye and gives her a look screaming: Damn, what shitty luck you have.
Sakura sighs and shakes her head in agreement.
Her mother stays silent throughout lunch. But during dessert, she stops the Paper Boy as he passes by.
"Excuse me, but what's your name?"
Her father sighs, too used to his wife's antics to be embarrassed anymore. Sai and Sakura share horrified glances.
When he leaves, Sakura suddenly smirks and composes a quick text. A few seconds later, her phone rings and she covers her mouth with her hand to smother her laughter.
"What?" Sai asks.
"Oh Hinata." She snickers as she slides her phone across the table for her twin to see.
You got his name? And it's SASUKE? That's HOTT!
In July, exactly an hour and a half before closing, Sakura, Sai, Neji, Hinata, and Naruto walk in to say goodbye.
Neji is moving back to Utsunomiya.
Naruto and Sakura are on better terms now, but their friendship will never be the same.
"God, I don't know what to get. I only have a twenty on me." Neji flips through the menu.
"It's on me guys." Sakura tells them.
"Seriously?" Naruto's eyes go wide. "God, Saki, you're the best!"
Sai chuckles at his sister as she ponders her words further.
"Am I going to regret this?" She asks Hinata across from her.
Her friend giggles. "Maybe? But seriously, you are the best."
They entertain themselves with telling jokes and riddles. Naruto leans forward to tell them a particularly dirty one.
"So a man and his wife decide to have a communication system for when they do or don't want to have sex. So the wife tells her husband: 'If you don't want to do it, squeeze my left breast twice. But if you do, squeeze my right breast once.'
"The husband says: 'Okay. That's easy to remember. No is left one twice and yes is right one once. Piece of cake.'
"What about you?' The wife asks.
"The husband thinks for a while.
"I got it.' He grins. 'If you want it, pull my dick once. But if you don't, pull on it two hundred and fifty-six times."
"Naruto!" Sakura swats him on the arm. "That's sick!"
"I'm a teenage boy." Naruto answers smugly as the others laugh.
The three boys eat a ton when their food arrives. Sakura makes fun of them for their bottomless stomachs.
"Dessert?" Their waiter (the Paper Boy—who else?) asks.
Hinata's eyes light up.
"Green tea ice cream, please." Sakura smiles.
When they're done eating, Sakura asks for the bill.
"By the way, the ice cream is on the house." The Paper Boy tells her as she scans her receipt for any mistakes.
Sakura's jaw drops slightly before she pulls herself together. "Thank you!" She smiles brightly at him in appreciation.
"You're good, Saki." Naruto smirks once their waiter walks away. "You scored us free ice cream with your stunning looks."
"Oh shut up, Naruto, and stop kissing up. I already paid for you to pig out."
"Man, I am never running up and down the length of Twelve Oaks. I'm so out of shape." Sakura says to her friend as they enter the sushi restaurant in the middle of summer.
"What? You out of shape? You look good to me." Katy scrutinizes her.
"Katy, before my freshman year, my legs used to be stick thin. And now... not so much."
Katy stares at her legs at the same time the hostess waves them over to their table, one set for a large party of fourteen. "Damn girl. Your legs look good now. If what you're saying is true, holy shit."
Sakura grimaces. "I know. It's weird to think about."
Their waiter isn't there to take their drink orders. Sakura sits in her usual chair, trying to control her breathing before she decides to go to the bathroom. When she returns, Katy is sipping a glass of Pepsi.
"Kat, do you know if they're here yet?" Sakura keeps an eye on the door.
"Nah." Katy sips through her straw. "But Mark called and said he's almost here."
"What do you want to drink?"
She jumps before turning around to face the speaker. Sakura knows she shouldn't be surprised but she is. "Hot tea please."
Mark walks in through the door carrying her black dress. Behind him, Kira carries a bundle Sakura knows is her Natsume sweater in her arms. Moments later, Lacee dressed in black and white and Dave in his street clothes take a seat at the other end of the table.
"It's about time you got here." Sakura jumps out of her chair.
"Quick—change. She'll be here any minute." Kira hands Katy the bundle in her harms and gestures to the dress in the Mark's hands.
Sakura takes the dress and runs to the bathroom. When she emerges five minutes later wearing a simple black, knee-length hooded dress, Katy runs into the bathroom next.
The Paper Boy sets down her cup of tea at her elbow. "Thanks." She murmurs, stripping all her jewelry off.
"Oh my God! I can't get over your eyes... they're so green!" Mark suddenly exclaims, leaning forward to peer into Sakura's eyes.
"Um... they've been green for a while now."
"But they're so green! God! You are gorgeous, girl. That color in your eyes... wow."
"Holy shit, I'm wearing green contacts!" Sakura exclaims, irritated by Mark's praises.
"Just... sit down Mark." Kira pushes him down into his chair.
More and more people in costume join their table.
"SURPRISE! HAPPY EIGHTEENTH BIRTHDAY LILY!"
Lily laughs. "You guys..."
"Sakura!" Rick seated at the end hollers. "Lily would like for you to hit on the Anime Paper Boy as her birthday gift."
Her jaw goes slack.
"Oh hell no. Not when I just ran up and down Twelve Oaks looking for a stupid stand that doesn't exist."
"Sakura doesn't even like him." Christine reminds him.
Mark turns to her. "Saki sweetie, you should!"
"No! That's your sick fantasy, not mine! You just want me to date him so you can say that I am!"
"But he's one damn fine catch!"
"You're gay, Mark. You think every Asian guy you run into is a catch."
"But it's true! Especially in this case."
"Stuff it, Mark."
Dinner goes by without another incident, their conversations normal. But then, Mark starts up on Sakura's nonexistent love life.
"Sakura, I don't understand you sometimes."
"What's there to understand?"
"You're freakin' gorgeous—"
"—That's true—" Kira interjects.
Sakura shoots her a withering glance. "Oh, you shut up. You're prettier than me by a long shot."
"—And there are lots of guys hitting on you but you don't want any of them. I don't get it. Are you waiting for something?"
"The Paper Boy!" Kira giggles, making Katy laugh out loud.
Her glare intensifies. "Can it, you. The Paper Boy has nothing to do with this."
"You should date him!" Mark urges. "Oh Sasuke... I love you..." He sighs dramatically.
"I already told you: I am not hitting on or dating a complete and total stranger. For starters, that's super creepy and I am not a creeper like you, Mark. Besides, how do you know his name?"
"Um... you told me."
"Right. My mom asked. That's embarrassing."
"Oh I know!" Kira's face lights up. "You should ask him if he thinks Sakura is pretty!"
"Kira!" Sakura gasps, her cheeks flooding with color.
Minutes later, he walks by on his way to the kitchen.
"Can I ask you a question?" Mark grins.
"Sure." The Paper Boy answers easily, moving around to grab Lacee's empty cup.
"Do you think she's pretty?"
The Paper Boy pauses and looks at who Mark is pointing at. To Sakura's amusement, his finger points directly at Kira.
"Not me! Not me, you moron! You were supposed to ask about Sakura!" Kira flails her arms, her face red.
Sakura smirks. "Good move, my dear gay bestie. Kira needs someone to boost her self-confidence."
He gives them an amused smirk before quietly answering, "Yes," and walking back to the kitchen to refill Lacee's empty cup.
"Oh my God." Kira groan into her hands. "Mark, you are such a moron!"
Sakura sees the Paper Boy return with Lacee's soda, but he leaves as quietly as he appears.
"I mean, how could you botch something as simple as that!" Kira continues to rant. "I'm so embarrassed!"
"Oh honey, you need to understand that you are beautiful and who better to reaffirm than an insanely hot guy?" Mark points out. "You should ask him if he thinks I'm cute so he knows we were joking about asking him."
Kira snorts. "Like that's going to work."
"Yeah, especially when you're concocting your brilliant plan to make things less awkward with our waiter, oh I don't know... two feet in front of him." Sakura rolls her eyes. "Your observation skills astound me."
"I should have never told you about that plan and just done it myself." Kira glares.
Sakura laughs. "That's what you get, chickadee!" She rubs it into Kira's face just as her empty cup of tea vanishes. "Hey... my tea cup..."
"The Paper Boy went to refill it." Kira fills in helpfully.
"I can see that."
When the Paper Boy returns and sets Sakura's steaming cup down by her elbow, Mark grabs his attention again.
"Do you think she's pretty?" He points to Sakura.
"Mark!" She screeches, her face red.
He glances down at her and smiles faintly.
He answers softly before disappearing.
"Oh my God, that did not just happen!" Katy squeals.
"My life is over." Sakura mutters behind her hands.
"Oh, get over it sweetie. It means he wants to stick himself in you." Mark answers flippantly.
Kira, Sakura and Katy stare at him, shocked by his statement, before withdrawing into a scarf (Kira), a hood (Sakura), and a shirt collar (Katy).
"What?" Mark laughs, clueless.
"I'm embarrassed to be in the same company of you." Sakura mutters.
Despite her extreme mortification during Lily's birthday, Sakura continues to be dragged to the sushi house throughout her sophomore year of college.
In March, she walks in with Shizune, Hinata, Tenten, and Ino.
"Happy Birthday Sakura!" Hinata hugs her as they enter the sushi house.
She grins sheepishly.
"Thanks. Although, was it necessary to lock Sai in a closet on his birthday too?"
"Oh screw your brother." Ino replies flippantly. "Because what we want to accomplish cannot be done in the younger twin's presence."
She frowns. "Ino..."
"Over here!" The hostess waves them over to a center table.
"It doesn't change the fact that it's Sai's birthday too and I feel bad about leaving him behind." Sakura chastises as they sit down.
"My cousin will get over it." Ino replies confidently. "And if he doesn't, then I disown him."
"Me too." Tenten adds.
A familiar voice clears his throat and asks them what they want to drink.
"Um... Sprite." Shizune requests.
"Sierra Mist, okay?"
"Dr. Pepper for me!" Tenten bounces in her chair.
"Lemonade, please." Hinata says.
Ino looks up over her menu. "Just water."
"Lemon with that?"
"Sure, why not?"
Sakura smiles wryly when his gaze shifts to her. "Is there really any point of asking me anymore?"
Smirking, the Paper Boy—Sasuke—answers, "I'll be back with your tea."
He brings them their food when it's ready and for dessert, he brings by a plate of green tea tempura ice cream.
"Woah, he's good." Tenten gapes. "He just asked if we wanted dessert and brought what we finally decided what to order before we ordered it."
Sakura twirls her spoon in the air before scooping up another bite. "It doesn't matter; we end up getting the same thing anyways."
"One ticket?" The Paper Boy (Sasuke—Sakura forces herself to remember his name) asks as they polish off the rest of their dessert.
"Yeah. And give it to me please." Sakura requests.
"Oh no." Shizune chides her. "It's your birthday. The birthday girl does not pay."
"Watch me." Sakura shoots back.
He hands her the bill as she requested. Shizune makes a dive for it but Sakura holds it out of reach.
"This is so unfair. You're shorter than all of us but we can't even snatch the bill away from you." Shizune pouts.
"Get over it." Sakura laughs as she sticks her card in the folder and hands it back to the Paper Bo—Sasuke.
"By the way," Sasuke (finally!—her inner chibi screams in exasperation) mentions as he hands Sakura back the folder. "The hostess wishes you happy birthday. And that the ice cream is on us."
She looks up from reading the receipt.
She smiles softly before picking up a pen to write down the tip.
"Can I see what we ordered?" Ino suddenly asks.
Without thinking, Sakura slides the order form out from the folder's pocket and passes it to her cousin.
What should I give? Sakura asks herself. What is fifteen percent of sixty-three? It's about... nine... but...
She writes down thirteen, bringing the total charge on her card to seventy-six.
One dollar for the treat.
Two dollars for putting up with my crazy family and friends throughout the years.
Three dollars for every year we've continually run into each other.
She glances up and smiles when she sees that everyone in her party is preoccupied with re-reading their order. Assured that no one is watching, Sakura flips over the merchant's receipt and scribbles something on the back.
"Let's go." Sakura stands up when she sees Sasuke heading their way. She closes the folder and places it on the table.
"Hold up." Ino picks up the folder and slips the order form back inside the pocket. "Okay, let's go."
Sakura smiles to herself as she thinks about the note she would never under any other circumstances write.
But for him, she's willing to make this one exception.
THE SEQUEL IS UP! It's titled nothing on you.