A/N: The hardest part of writing this is having the two of them refer to each other so formally. I can't wait until they can finally call each other in a more intimate manner.
Chapter Five: A Walk in the Park
"So my neighbor runs straight up the slide and I didn't even stop to think about it even though my mother was shouting threats in the background. I took off after him. I was almost at the top when I ended up doing a faceplant and then slid right back down to the bottom while he was already off the jungle gym on the other side. To this day, I still can't figure out how he managed to go up such a smooth surface so quickly. But! It was a good lesson on using the slide properly. Er, not to mention painful-I ended up with a fractured nose at five years old."
"Ow!" Mizuno-Sensei winced, the slender fingers of her right hand covering her parted lips as she gasped at Makoto's story. "that must have been excruciating for you."
Makoto could feel the woman's stare on her face and became self conscious, a blush rose in her cheeks. "It was at the time, but pain is a funny thing; when it's gone we quickly forget just how badly it hurt. And sometimes what we do remember is just a ghost of the real thing."
The vet smiled, "I'm glad to see it turned out fine despite the fracture."
Mako touched her nose absentmindedly with a finger, "Thanks to mom. She wanted to make sure it was healed properly. She said my face was my only saving grace, knowing my attitude."
"I don't see anything wrong with your attitude," the vet said as she walked beside the brunette, "I think it turned out rather well." She smiled up at Makoto as they continued their walk. After an hour of conversation at the cafe the vet had asked Makoto if she cared to take a walk in the park nearby and the brunette had readily agreed. At the entrance there was an area designated for small children to play. The sight of the play area complete with jungle gym had steered their conversation towards childhood. And in Mako's case: childhood mishaps.
Makoto was thoroughly enjoying the outdoors while they sauntered along the path further into the park. She laughed, "Thank you! I've had some time to adjust. According to mom, I was a bratty daredevil. I think she was really scared I would take that attitude straight into adulthood."
"I think all parents worry about things like that," Mizuno-sensei stated, "What does your mother think now?"
Makoto's smile held a sudden sadness, "I'm not quite sure. I can only hope she thinks I've turned out okay. She passed away a few years ago." She glanced at the vet and was surprised to see the woman's eyes held a teary sheen.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring the conversation to a such a depressing topic," she apologized to the shorter woman. She was stopped however; surprise filled her when she felt the warmth of the vet's palm on her arm.
"Kino-san, I would gladly listen if you wanted to talk about your mother," the woman said kindly. A lump formed in Makoto's throat as she looked into Mizuno-sensei's upturned face and her consoling eyes. Even her touch felt comforting on Mako's arm. She had been right about the woman's compassionate nature. But to take advantage of her offer while out for the first time did not sit well with Mako.
"Thank you, Mizuno-sensei," Makoto cleared her throat, her voice husky, "That's kind of you but I'd rather hear about you. What was your childhood like?"
The woman gave her arm a squeeze and Makoto could see a twinge of regret in her blue eyes as she removed her hand. Makoto also shared the emotion, she missed the warmth already. They resumed their walk and ahead of them was a small lake. A few rowboats were out on the water, all couples Makoto realized. She wondered if the vet would be interested in going out on the lake, then put the thought aside when the woman began to speak.
"It was very quiet. I was a shy child, painfully so. I spent more time with books than other kids. My parents worked a lot; they were both doctors. So a lot of the time it was just myself and the housekeeper Yamada-san." A smile came to Mizuno-sensei's face as she recalled a particular memory. "I loved when summer came around though. My grandparents had a house in the countryside and I would spend all my summer vacations there. They had a lot of pets, they both loved animals."
Mako returned the smile the vet gave her, "Of course!" She said to the woman teasingly. Her tone was more gentle when she spoke again, "It sounds wonderful, those summer memories. I hope you were able to make friends eventually though. You don't seem so shy now."
Mizuno-sensei nodded, "I was. I was able to make some friends by middle school. We still keep in touch and reunite every so often." They both came to a stop when they came to the edge of the water, and a family of ducks swimming near the shore glanced at them expectantly.
Makoto threw a grin in the vet's direction, "I suppose they're waiting for a snack?"
Mizuno-sensei dived into her handbag and retrieved a small brown paper bag. Makoto was incredibly curious as to what the woman had in there. The mystery was quickly solved when the vet removed a small recyclable takeaway container with grapes cut in half. "We can't disappoint them now, can we?" The woman answered Makoto's question with her own.
"Eh? Don't tell me you usually walk around with food to feed animals you happen to come across?" Makoto gaped at her in surprise.
"Hahaha, no," the shorter woman laughed aloud.
"You do know, if word gets out to the other animals you're going to need a bigger purse, Vet-san," Makoto declared. Her heart was pounding in her chest despite her teasing of the woman however. The vet was like a magician, surprising the tall woman at every turn and Makoto wondered just how much more she could possibly fall for this person. Of course she wasn't going to mention or even remotely come close to the 'L' word anytime soon.
The woman's voice containing a hint of a smile broke her away from her thoughts, "Vet-san?"
The brunette laughed weakly, and she made herself busy by taking a few pieces of grape halves and tossing them one by one into the lake. The ducks dived after the treat, loathed to let any of the fruit get away. Makoto's face was red, her stare refusing to leave the ducks as she explained. "Er...that's how I referred to you when I didn't know your name." She dared a glance at the shorter woman and could see a pleased smile on the vet's face despite her pink cheeks.
"...I like it," the woman admitted in a soft voice.
Makoto was speechless for a moment. Her face felt even hotter. Vet-san really was too cute. Not to mention incredibly pretty. Makoto snuck peeks at her from her periphery as they fed the ducks in silence. When the fruit was gone the ducks swam away, disinterest now plain among the raft.*
"Why grapes?" Mako asked, as the vet put away the container neatly for later disposal, "I thought people usually fed them bread? Also, where did you get the grapes?"
The vet answered the last question first, "At the cafe while you were in the restroom. I frequent the establishment often so they usually prepare the grapes for me whenever I visit. I always take a walk down to the lake after unless its raining. And to answer your first question- bread gives little nutritional value, it can lead to malnutrition. It's also very fattening, making it harder for them to fly. There are all sorts of cons like overcrowding, pollution and even disease. Grapes are a healthy alternative. Also grains, birdseed or even defrosted frozen peas."
"I had no idea bread was so bad for them." Mako claimed, "So not only do you care for the pets but also you look out for the wild animals. You're a regular Saint Francis."
"It's really not that big of a deal, Kino-san," The woman said shyly looking over Makoto's shoulder, "I'm happyI was able to teach you something new."
At that moment Makoto badly wanted to reach over and pull the smaller woman into her arms. Even worse was the urge to kiss the vet. She restrained herself however. She could not go about acting too familiar. And even if the woman considered this a date Mako was not confident their feelings ran in the same vein. She would simply have to make do and enjoy the presence of the vet.
The woman gazed at her for an instant and Makoto thought for a moment that the look contained a trace of longing. I'm starting to imagine things, she shook her head.
"Is something wrong?" The smaller woman asked with some concern.
"Ah-no," Makoto denied with another shake of her head, "Ready to head back?"
"Sure," the vet answered and they began their walk back the way they came. The loud quacks of the ducks faded in the distance and the rowboats and their passengers were no longer in view. And as they walked they chatted more about their likes and dislikes. For the first time in a long time Mako could say she was content and really meant it.
*Note: apparently a group of ducks on water can be referred to as a raft. You learn something new everyday. I know I did. lol
To be continued.