Bringing the Heat
Waiting at the train station for Ayu, you're not exactly sure what to expect. After all, it's been almost fifteen years since you last saw her, back when the two of you were in elementary school. She used to live next door to you and the two of you were close friends, in the way that only little kids who live next door to each other can be.
When your mother suddenly asked you last week if you remembered her, all those memories came flooding back. The little tomboyish girl with the pigtails who always seemed to have skinned knees and a smudge of dirt somewhere on her face - she was always dragging you into some adventure or other, whether it was climbing onto the roof of that old abandoned house down the street or throwing rocks at a hornet's nest.
The two of you promised to keep in touch by email, and you did for a while, but eventually that came to an end. You can't remember if it was you or her who stopped replying, but whoever it was, you never heard from her again. Until your mother's question, you hadn't thought of her for years.
You asked her why she was asking all of a sudden, and she told you that Ayu will be staying at your house for about a few days. 'She plays volleyball for her college,' your mother explained. 'Her team is playing against Kanazawa University next week, so they've been looking for people to billet the players.
You'd hoped for a relaxing summer holiday back home doing much not at all, but the thought of seeing Ayu again is kind of exciting. Volleyball? You knew she'd end up doing something sporty. That girl could climb any of the trees in the street in ten seconds flat, even if she did sometimes fall out of them.
You wonder how you're supposed to recognise her. All you remember about her is her long black hair and her wide eyes that always had a mischievous gleam in them, but that's not really enough to go on, is it? If she was with her team-mates, it would have been easier, but since she's travelling here alone you'll just have to hope she hasn't changed much.
You wait around, feeling a bit awkward looking at each of the young women coming out through the turnstiles. You see one girl about the right age, with long black hair, and she turns and smiles at you. You raise your hand, a smile flashing onto your face, when a guy come past you from behind and hugs her.
Not her, then. You feel a bit disappointed - she was really pretty. The crowd thins out. Maybe she caught the wrong train or missed this one? You get your phone out and check it.
No missed calls or messages. When you look back up you see some consternation at the turnstiles. Someone is trying to wrestle a number of bags over them. You walk up, curious about what's happening.
Who the hell travels with that much luggage on a train? One bag comes flying over the turnstile and lands near your feet. It's a sport bag. No. There's some soft feminine swearing and another two bags join the first.
You're still staring at them when their owner, having struggled through the turnstiles themselves, walks up to collect them. You look up. . .
She's sweating as she runs a hand back through her short, black hair. 'Sorry,' she says. 'Give me a sec and I'll get all this crap out of your way. ' She bends down to pick up the sports bag nearest to you and when she looks up she finally sees you for the first time.
. . . .