Masumi hummed to himself as he shifted between stations in the kitchen. Everything had been neatly laid out beforehand and he was flying through preparation. The door was left open, letting all of the savory scents of breakfast float up the stairs, and sunlight was just peeking through the windows.
His flowery yukata flowed behind him as he served up the first of his breakfast, fried fish, among the three plates on the table. His fluffy hair was practically bouncing as he dished out the next lots, of steaming miso soup, stark and sticky white rice, and one bowl filled with avacado and natto. He was just pouring tea when his parents came down the stairs, similarly clad in their sleepwear, and took their seats at the breakfast table.
“Just in time!” Masumi greeted the pair of them with a smile as he took his seat and adjusted his yukata.
“Thank you.” Hideki said, then took a sip of his tea. “Your cooking gets better every day.”
“Oh, you’re welcome.” Masumi beamed at his father. “We talked about combining breakfast flavors in Cooking Club this week, so I thought it would be a good time to try it out! And you like it, so, I think it’s a success!”
“It certainly is.” Fujiko nodded, having swallowed a mouthful of fish and a few clumps of the other dishes before she’d finished sitting down. “We’ll have to start making you prepare our breakfasts every day.”
“Wh-” Masumi’s eyes opened as his esophagus closed. “What?!”
“I’m only teasing you.” Fujiko pointed at him with her chopsticks. “But this is delicious. Are you still making your own bento boxes?”
“Oh, um, yes! It’s good practice and the stuff from the stores doesn’t taste very good, anyway.” Masumi paused. “I mean, it’s good for you, obviously, and you have to, so, that’s fine.”
“Relax.” Hideki glanced at Masumi. “It’s breakfast time.”
Masumi slowly inhaled, then nodded slowly. “You’re right. Sorry. I’m glad you like it.”
“Why are you so excited today, Masumi?” Fujiko squinted at him as though she could divine his mentality If she tried hard enough. “Did you get another viewer?”
“Oh, um, no, that’s not it.” Masumi bought himself some time with a long drink of his tea. “I’ve made a new friend, and, um, I want to spend time with them again. We haven’t got to much, yet, because she’s busy, but she’s nice and interesting and I want to. So I think I might get to today? I don’t know.”
“Are you dating?” Hideki asked.
“Hideki!” Fujiko chastised. “Where are your manners?”
“Sorry.” Hideki said, then looked back to Masumi. “What’s her name?”
“Shiro Yui.” Masumi answered after a moment of hesitation. It wasn’t like they knew all the students who came to his school, and she didn’t have a reputation as a delinquent. Not that he’d heard.
“And are you dating?” Hideki asked and Fujiko rolled her eyes.
“No...” Masumi bit his lip. “We haven’t spent a lot of time together to even think about that, so, um, don’t worry.” He offered them a practiced smile. “Besides, she’s, um, really beautiful. She could probably date anyone if she wanted to.”
“You’re worried you’re small.” Hideki said.
“That’s nothing to worry about, Masumi.” Fujiko assured him. “Just look at me and your father.”
“Rude.” Hideki glanced at his wife.
“Maybe I was calling you beautiful.” Fujiko pointed at him.
“No.” Hideki shook his head. “I am rugged. Powerful.”
“You should hear about your father’s bad boy days.” Fujiko leaned towards Masumi. “Sometimes he didn’t finish his homework when he got it. Sometimes...he did it on the morning he had to hand it in.”
Masumi gasped theatrically. “No way! That can’t be true!”
“Oh, but it is.” Fujiko said. “Sometimes, when he put on his socks, he put his right sock on his left foot and his left sock on his right foot.”
“Father! You were almost a delinquent!” Masumi stared with wide eyes at Hideki.
“Please. Don’t talk of those days.” Hideki said, his voice as dry as a desert. “When I sleep, I still hear the screams.”
Fujiko smiled as she shook her head. “Anyway. The point is that not every girl is looking for that kind of boy. I’m sure that there are lots of girls who’d be interested in a boy who’s as kind and gentle as you are, Masumi. Not to mention, you take care of yourself more than most people I know, even now.”
“Thank you, mother.” Masumi smiled sheepishly.
“And as soon as you’re finished with school, you can start thinking about dating them.” Fujiko added. “You said that she’s busy a lot – she works, does she?”
“And she goes to school.” Masumi bobbed his head. “She’s dedicated like that. And, um, she has a lot of friends at school. She wants to be a journalist, actually! I told her I think that’s cool, because, um, it’s not something you see a lot and it takes a lot of effort to do...”
“That’s a good aspiration.” Fujiko concurred, as she finished off her breakfast. “Do you know what clubs she’s part of?”
“Um, swimming and broadcasting. She’s tall, so I think she’s probably good at swimming? I haven’t actually seen her do it.”
“An athlete.” Hideki nodded his approval.
“What an interesting friend you’ve made.” Fujiko said, as she got to her feet. “An athlete, a journalist, she works a part-time job...I’d like to meet her.”
“Oh, um, that’s, maybe?” Masumi stared off to the side. He’d barely gotten to know Yui in person himself and she probably wouldn’t like being introduced to his parents. Especially not if he just jumped it on her. Doubly especially not now that he’d been made aware that people might think they were going out with each other.
“Not right now, obviously. We’ve got cleaning to do. Do you want to grab your father’s dishes?”
“Oh, okay!” Masumi nodded and stood up, collecting all of the dishes while his father stood up and stretched. “Are you going to the city today?” He looked between them as he slipped into the kitchen.
“Not today.” Fujiko shook her head as they piled the dishes up and turned the taps. “The week has been a little too busy for us. We were talking about paying a visit to the spa. Would you like to go to the spa?”
“Umm.” Masumi scratched his head. “I don’t...I don’t know?”
“They’ve started a teenager section, so you won’t have to worry about being around lots of us old people.” Fujiko smiled she passed over a plate for him to dry. “I think some relaxation might do you good, since you work so hard.”
“That could be nice...” Masumi dutifully dried off the next dish. “But, um, I was hoping that I might get to spend some time with Yui today and I kind of want to be available? Is that okay?”
“It’s your time, Masumi.” Fujiko said. “But you shouldn’t sort your day around something that might happen or not. Why don’t you simply ask your friend if she’s available, and come if she isn’t?”
“I guess I could do that. Do you think she’ll be up?”
“I don’t know her, do I?” Fujiko shook her head. “You should know.”
“Oh, right.” Masumi laughed. “Um, I’ll just grab my ph-” Before he could finish his sentence, a beeping came from the living room. “Oh! That’s my phone!” He half-stepped away. “Oh, um, I’ll finish this.”
“I’ll finish for you. Go on and check your phone.” Fujiko said, nodding as Masumi raised an eyebrow.
“Thanks!” Masumi darted out of the kitchen and into the living room, pulled his phone off of the charger and hurriedly swiped through the lockscreen to get to his messages.
Would you like to meet at the ice cream store in town, for lunch?
Masumi’s fingers couldn’t type quickly enough.
Yes I will be there!
As soon as the message was sent, Masumi soared up the stairs with a wide smile on his face and his yukata fluttering behind him. He headed straight for his bathroom, then ran back out to grab his makeup box, and went back in. What followed was a test of his skills to makeup himself for his lunch with Yui without going overtly into Lowlife mode. This time, he had more freedom, but he still couldn’t go around like he wanted to.
He eventually emerged with his makeup finished, accentuating his natural features as much as he dared and with his hair a little more free and flowing than he usually kept it. His next challenge was to find an outfit that did the same. After much searching, he came out with something that would fit. A pink and white dotted sweater, with skinny jeans and some black boots. He liked them because they accentuated his hips, which he was always after as Lowlife, and the outfit itself wasn’t inherently feminine. It was perfect, and would probably cheer Yui up after how their last meeting ended.
With his outfit complete, Masumi rushed down the stairs to head straight over. He made it halfway to the door before his mother called out to him and he strolled inside.
“Where are you going, Masumi?” Fujiko looked him up and down and cocked an eyebrow. “That’s a nice outfit.” She and Hideki had apparently dressed while he was, and had settled into the living room.
“Um, thanks!” Masumi blushed brightly. “Yui told me that she wanted to meet for lunch at the ice cream parlor, so, um, I’m ready now and I’m going to go, head on over to there.”
“You’re meeting her for lunch?” Fujiko glanced at the clock. “That’s still a couple of hours away, Masumi. I think you’ll be waiting for some time before she arrives.”
Masumi stared at the clock and scratched his head. “Um, yeah. That’s true. I...got a little carried away. Do we need to go and buy anything? I’m ready anyway and it’s no problem!”
“I don’t think we need anything.” Fujiko said. “Have you done something with your hair? It looks lovely.” She said. “And your skin...are you using products, Masumi?”
Masumi stared back at his mother and failed to find a response that would save him from her analysis, as well as the silent gaze of his father.
“You’re staring like you’re about to meet your death.” Fujiko shook her head. “It looks nice. And it’s only expected that teenagers would go out of their way to look their best, considering what they’re going through.” She glanced at Hideki, who nodded. “I’m sure your friend is going to appreciate it, anyway.”
“Right, thank you!”
“Hold on,” Fujiko captured Masumi in a web of conversation before he could back out of the door. “What do you use on your hair? I can’t get mine half as full and I’m your mother! It’s not fair.”
“I, um, I’d have to look...” Masumi lied. “Anyway, um, I’d really like to get going now. I want to ride my bike around a few times and get that exercise done and then I’ll be hungry by the time that it’s time to have lunch, by, so, um. Bye!”
“Goodbye!” Masumi heard each of his parents call as he walked out to the street and breathed in the cool fresh air. The way it ruffled his hair relaxed him just enough to overcome the momentary panic of a few moments ago. He strolled over to his bike and hooked his leg over. “You’re going to be okay. You’re not going to spend two hours worrying about nothing. You look cute. You’ve got this.”
“Thank you so much!” Said the woman who was strolling on the street beside.
Masumi blinked. “Oh. You’re welcome.” He decided to avoid an awkward correction by riding off