Junko shows up in a hoodie over her uniform around quarter to five. Takuya arrives, yawning, a few minutes later. At five o’ clock sharp Kentaro’s apple truck rolls around to the front of the school. Kentaro and his dad help us unload the crates of apples onto the street. All the while Kentaro apologizes profusely. I point to Takuya and Junko and assure him we’ve got it covered. I thank him and his dad again as Kentaro climbs back onto the truck and they drive off.
“Okay.” I turn to Junko and Takuya. “Let’s get to work.”
I begin to order the two of them around, but before I know it, Junko takes over and begins snapping orders.
“No! Not there! That’ll ruin the whole image! Over there. There. Good.”
“Put it over there, Takuya. Not there! More to the left...Perfect.”
“Hiroto! What were you thinking! Arghh! That’s not how you do it! This way! See? This way!”
To a passerby it would seem as if Junko’s directing the whole operation, which I guess she is. At first I feel angry. This is my project! But as the arrangement takes shape, I grudgingly admit Junko’s much better than me at this. If we had gone about it according to my directions, the heart would look clunky and chunky. Junko arranges it so the whole heart and the ‘I love Shihoko’ message in the center look more elegant, and ultimately a lot more lovely. She would make a great drill sergeant, I think.
Before dawn breaks we are finished. A big, colorful arrangement of apples in a heart shape framing a flowing ‘I love Shihoko.’ We three stand there huffing and admiring our handiwork.
I high five Takuya and slap Junko on the back. "Thanks so much, guys! Couldn't have done it without ya!"
Tatsuya says, "Anytime, bud."
"Yeah, sure," says Junko.
Takuya nods his head toward the apple crates. “We should take the crates to the trash area or the teachers will have a fit. Come on, let’s clean up.”
Junko nods and Takuya jogs over to the crates.
I stand there a little longer, proudly looking at our masterpiece. Junko stands beside me silently, seemingly deep in thought.
I say to Junko, "What do you think?"
"It's stupid," she replies.
I open my mouth to say something stupid.
"But if I were her," she continues, "and some stupid, stupid guy goes through all this trouble for me, I would be touched."
She looks at me. "But then again, I'm not her."
"Oh," I say stupidly.
Did she just say what I think-
She giggles. "Don't worry. I’m kidding! She'll love it! And,” she wags a finger, “you’re not as dumb as you look.”
“What? Hey!” I protest.
She laughs. "Come on! Let's go help Takuya."
She runs toward Takuya and waves me over.
"Oh, alright." I grin and join my friends for the clean-up.