By Jeannie Yee Davis
“Ready for Akina’s party?” Bobby plopped himself into the vacant chair next to Akiko’s desk, crossed his leg, and grabbed the stress ball from her coworker’s desk, tossing it from hand-to-hand.
“Nuts,” Akiko rubbed her temple. “I can’t go. I need to finish this article today.” She glanced at her watch and scowled, “I don’t have time to go home and change.”
“I knew you’d say that,” Bobby grinned. “You can’t miss your sister’s 40th birthday. Family is important. Just chill. Gotcha covered. I grabbed your outfit from your place.”
“You’re so thoughtful, Bobs. How did you know…?”
“You’re the only person I know who would’ve selected an outfit when you got the invitation. Easy peasy for me.”
“Where is it?” Akiko asked, noticing Bobby arrived empty-handed.
“In the hall closet,” Bobby tipped his head towards the hallway.
Strolling to the restaurant, Akiko shyly stated, “If my boss likes my article, she’d consider me for the promotion I wanted.”
“Kudos,” Bobby smiled, and they bumped fists. “Don’t forget me when you’re globetrotting through Europe.”
Akiko giggled. “Forget you? Never. We’ve been friends how long?”
“Since fourth grade.”
“Exactly. Besides, I’ll never find another you.”
I’ll definitely never find another you, Bobby thought. If only you knew you’re my world. If only you knew you’re the reason I survived foster care and bullies. You taught me to ignore the short kid jokes and assured me that I was just a late bloomer.
“That’s the article I was working on. Hey, where did you go?” Akiko snapped her fingers in his face.
“Sorry, I was…um. Hey, you’ve been working nonstop. Let’s take a personal day tomorrow!” After some persuading, Bobby’s pouty babyface won her over.
The following day, Akiko stood on the curb in front of her apartment and waved as Bobby drove up. “Morning, Bobs, where are we going?”
“Mornin’ sunshine!” Bobby said, climbing out and hurried to the curb. He opened the passenger door, bowed, then helped Akiko into the car. “I guarantee you a memorable day.”
“Keep this up, and nobody will ever compare to you.”
“That’s my plan!” Bobby skedaddled back to the driver’s seat. “How’s old town sound?”
“We haven’t been there since high school?” Akiko squealed. “I wonder if Mel’s changed much in fifteen years. You got me craving their strawberry shakes.”
They reminisced spending Friday nights there to reward themselves for their week’s school achievements, when truth be told, neither had dates. She was, still am, an overachiever who aims to mirror her sister’s excellence. Since he had no siblings, he became the older brother that she never had or more like a partner in her endeavors. They have been inseparable, busy with events then and now, which meant they were each other’s social life.
They habitually glanced at their table in the corner as they entered Mel’s. They smiled at the server, wiping their table. The waitress waved them over, seated them, then handed them menus, which they declined, placing their orders from memory instead. As they ordered, “Runaround Sue” played on the jukebox, and Bobby’s face lit up. “You taught me the East Coast Swing to this song for that Doo Wop school dance where your date Johnny Rocket left with my date, Suzy Q.”
“That was so embarrassing. Thanks for taking me home that night. And, if memory serves, you taught me.”
“You taught me,” they exclaimed simultaneously, chuckling.
“Whatever happened to them?”
“They lasted a week. Longer than Johnny and I lasted.”
“Suzy and I lasted an hour.” They giggled.
“I’m surprised you haven’t found someone, Bobs. You’re the perfect guy.”
“You think I’m perfect?” he grinned. “I’m waiting for Miss Right to realize she’s in love with me. You?”
“My career is my cloud nine.”
“Aki, there’s more to life than just a career. Does it have to be a choice? Can’t you have a career and a life?”
“Guess I haven’t met the right guy yet.”
“You’re so focused on work. You wouldn’t notice the right guy.”
“I’m content. I have you.”
“Do you remember when we first met?” Bobby rhetorically asked as he gazed at the daisy on their table. “I was walking close behind you after school. Mesmerized by the swishing of your long ponytail as you walked. You suddenly fell. I almost tripped over you.”
“I scraped my knee.”
“Luckily, I had wipes in my backpack.”
“You cleaned my bloody knee.”
Bobby handed the daisy from the table to Akiko.
Akiko sniffed the daisy, gazed into Bobby’s eyes. “You gave me a daisy that day, too. I just remembered. I told myself I would marry you when we grew up.”
Bobby smiled. “Awesome. I’ve had a crush on you since that day.”
“We’ve always had each other. You’re right. I can have everything on cloud nine.”