Sorry, I don't have time to reply to everyone. I want to thank you all and I'm sorry for the mistakes. What comes to "the"s, I know I always forget them because my native (Finnish) doesn't have such things like articles. I'll try to remember that and also fix mistakes. Also I try to slower the pace.

Ch 9


Peeling radishes had never before been as pleasant task as today. Minko had taken three buckets outside because Ren-san and Tohru were literally running inside. Those two were really busy with the lunch preparations. Minko was ordered – as usual – to peel root vegetables.

One bucket was filled with radishes, the second was for the skin and the last was for the peeled radishes. Minko grabbed the first, peeled it quickly and threw it into the right bucket. The next one had already lost some of its skin when the first one hit the bucket. Minko smiled. She had messed up only to gain attention. Soon she had got used to the work and she was able to let her thoughts wander.

It'd been a week already. Or maybe 'only' was better word for the situation. They had had two dates, and the speed was slightly (okay, seriously) uncomfortable. The first had been on Tuesday. They had seen a movie which had been okay. Minko wasn't fan of romantic drama but she didn't like Tohru's choice either. It had been a movie about racers. Minko didn't understand mechanics so long monologues about horsepower, engines and wheels had been all Greek to her.

The bigger problem was that they didn't talk. When they had met, Tohru had pulled her into a rough kiss instead of greeting her. Minko hadn't got enough experience to give detailed reasons why she disliked the kiss or even why it was 'rough', though. They had held hands and Minko had tried to ignore the fact that Tohru's grip had been too tight. She hadn't built enough courage to voice her thoughts and insecurities but she knew that she'd have to do it sooner or later.

"So, are you free tomorrow after the shift?" Tohru asked as she returned with peeled radishes. Ren-san pointed a box that was filled with potatoes. Minko nodded, which meant that she had understood the orders, although Ren-san had turned his back to her already. The man knew that she had understood.

"I…" Minko bit her lips. She wanted to study. Their teacher had hinted that they might have a random test on Monday. Besides she had always been an excellent student and she couldn't afford to lose her status.

"Kids, hurry up. You can chat later," Ren ordered strictly. The kitchen was not the place for planning dates. It was another thing that made Minko uncomfortable – Tohru was way too open about their relationship. It was a private thing and Minko had no interest to talk about it in front of Ren-san or anyone else.

"Y-yes, sir. Sorry." Minko fled quickly and returned to her spot. Hygienic or not, the stairs outside was currently the best place. Besides, someone washed vegetables before cooking them anyway.

"Minchi, fifteen minutes," Ohana informed as she rushed to the trash can. Minko looked up and nodded. She got up and carried the buckets back to kitchen.

"I have to go, Ren-san."

"Tohru can finish peeling the potatoes," Ren answered, typically he hadn't even looked at her. How had he known that she hadn't peeled all of them? Minko blushed and apologized before leaving quickly.

Although it was still early, the kitchen was hot and hallways were chilly compared to it. Minko shivered, she hated leaving warm kitchen but she disliked the heat especially if she had spent the whole day there. A couple of times she hadn't drunk enough so at the end of her shift she had been feeling rather dizzy.

"Minchi!" Ohana shouted from the outside. Minko swallowed a yawn. Lately she had been tired. She had Saturday completely free although Tohru didn't seem to know it. She was able to finish few things and catch up with her studies.

"Coming."

It looked like Ohana wanted to say something, but she remained silent. Minko was delighted. Ohana had been uncharacteristically curious about Tohru and hers relationship. It was something Minko was uncomfortable to talk with the other girl, mainly because Ohana wanted to know if her suggestion had been useful. Minko, on the other hand, avoided the subject as much as possible. She wasn't going to tell about her "dates" with Yuina. One horrible reaction had been more than enough.

They had to run to the train station. Minko felt bad, if she hadn't taken so much time, they hadn't had to.

"I heard that Tohru asked you out again," Ohana mentioned as the door closed, "what was your answer?"

"None of your business," Minko replied quickly.

"Aww, so you said yes?" Ohana continued cheerfully. The girl had picked up a habit of teasing her about her love-life. Ohana was genuinely curious, which made the matter worse; she asked a lot of questions. Answering was more pain than enduring teasing. (Of course, Ohana couldn't resist the urge to tease her all the time.)

"Why do you even care?"

"Because you're my friend and I'm worried about you!"

"Balut!"

Ohana looked hurt. Minko bit her lip regretfully after she had said the word. It was an instinct. She always did that, hurt people when they said something that embarrassed her. She stayed true to her character and didn't apologize. Last thing she needed was Ohana (or anyone else) thinking that she had changed because she hasn't. Being with Tohru hadn't changed her at all and assumptions that it had, annoyed her. How mere love, crush or the like could change person? She fastened her pace.

"Don't worry," Nako said to Ohana when the brunette thought that Minko didn't hear anymore. She did but ignored it. She had currently a bigger problem – Yuina was waving at them in front of Fukuya Inn.

"Morning, Yuina," Minko greeted as casually as she could. Yuina made her nervous. It was surprisingly hard to be around her "ex-girlfriend". Somehow even mentioning Tohru felt wrong, like she was trying to boast or insult Yuina, which was not what she was doing.

"Mornin," Yuina replied yawning.

"Did you stay up too late?" Minko asked – it was her attempt to start normal converstation.

"Not really, I just could not sleep. I 'ave seen neegdzmares lately," Yuina explained with heavy and odd accent. Minko had to repeat few words again in her head before she understood what the other girl had said.

"Nightmares?"

"Oui, dzat eez vhat I said." Yuina grinned and Minko sighed. She hated today's accent already though she knew how to decipher it. "Morning Nako an' Ohana."

"Morning," the two girls said as they caught up with Minko and Yuina. Ohana continued: "What's today's accent? I haven't heard it before…"

"Eet eez secret," Yuina giggled, "aldzough Minko should know eet."

Both Ohana and Nako turned to the chef-to-be who shook her head. Minko had never heard it.

"I shall give you a 'int." Yuina winked and leaned closer to Minko. Minko felt her breath tickling her ear and neck when Yuina whispered something that others didn't hear. The raven-haired girl blushed slightly.

"It's French," Minko said curtly and didn't even look at Yuina. From the corner of her eye she saw Ohana snickering and whispering "What did she say?" to Nako. Minko was not going to say it aloud.

"I said-" Minko quickly covered Yuina's mouth. The other girl seemed amused.

"Not. A. Word." Minko growled in panic. Ohana and Nako had heard the rumour about her and Yuina.

"It's Yuina so she probably confessed her undying love for her," Nako commented calmly.

"Nako!" Yuina and Minko shouted, both blushing.

"So, she actually did?" Nako went on, surprised. Minko swallowed. Hard. She wasn't used to this teaser side of Nako. Had Nako been always like this or only recently?

"You are cruel," Yuina accused and pouted.

"You're easy to tease," Nako shot back playfully and slightly nervously as she had always been rather reserved around Ohana and Minko. "And we didn't even get to-"

"We 'ave to 'urry," Yuina muttered quickly and cut Nako off before the girl might reveal something she wasn't supposed to. "Ze train leaves in five minutes."

-x-

They arrived at the school a couple of minutes before the bell rang. First they had mathematics – the worst way to start the day in Ohana's opinion.

I wonder what Yuina said to her, was written on a note Nako passed her when the teacher was facing the chalkboard.

She's been dozing off the whole lesson, Ohana wrote back. It was true, Minko listened teachers always. But the girl had changed a bit in past weeks. Ohana had no idea what had happened on that one day. In the morning Tohru had called Minko lesbian and later they had been a couple. It was confusing. Maybe Minko had finally confessed?

She does that from time to time, Nako quickly replied, but I think she needs someone to talk to.

Do you seriously think she'd tell us about her problems? Ohana asked. Up to this day she had had to almost force Minko into talking.

I think she needs someone more than ever. I'm worried about her too. Nako passed the note before the teacher asked her to come in front of the class and solve a question. Ohana watched her friend. Nako was normally shy and timid but in front of class she forgot her shyness. Maybe that was because she didn't have to see anyone.

Ohana glanced at Minko quickly; the raven-haired girl was taking notes as usual. Maybe Minko would talk if she didn't see anyone…?

When Nako returned to her seat after solving hypotenuse of a right triangle successfully, Ohana's message was waiting for her.

I think I know how to get her open up. I'll fest it up (^_^)