[There is a marginally improved version of this version here, and a hopefully less cryptic version of the original, which may be almost the final version, here. JMR201808132024]
Paid Date (Yamato Version)
Joel Matthew Rees, August 2018
Joel Matthew Rees, August 2018
The door of the sandwich and sushi shop jangled shut.
"Yo, Kaz!" Stuart raised his hand in a mock Vulcan salute from his seat in a booth.
"Stu," Kazu returned the salute. "Who're your friends?"
"M' bros. Sit?"
"Stu's bros." Kazu nodded to the two young men seated across from Stuart as he slid in and sat down, setting the soccer ball he was carrying on the seat at his side. "Kazu."
"Name's Greg." The older of the two raised his fist for a bump, and Kazu met it with his.
"Mike. Yoroshiku." The younger of the two nodded, almost bowing.
"Mike just got back from Japan," Stuart interjected.
"Uis. Dendō ya?"
The four talked about missionary work and school and other things for a few minutes.
Mike looked past Stuart toward the kitchen area and leaned forward conspiratorially. "Stu says you keep pretty busy, weekends."
Kazu looked at Stuart doubtfully.
Stuart looked down in embarrassment. "Guys, I don't know if this is a good idea."
Kazu looked back to Mike and Greg.
"Get around," Greg elucidated. "You know, date a lot of girls."
Stuart's discomfort visibly increased.
Kazu frowned. "Wouldn't say ‘a lot', but I'm not sure that my dating habits are particularly public information."
"Not every week?" Mike seemed disappointed.
Kazu shook his head.
Greg cocked his head. "But you do go out several times a month?"
"Bishop's idea. He thinks waiting should be active."
"Waiting?" Greg raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, kind-of. A very wonderful young woman wanted to graduate from high school and go on a mission, and doesn't want me to feel tied down."
“And you don't think she was giving you the brush-off?" Greg smirked.
"It's a chance I'm willing to take. So I date kind of randomly. A couple of times a month."
Kazu laughed. "Sometimes I seem to help guys around me notice girls they hadn't been noticing."
Mike was enthusiastic. "Do you kiss them all good night?"
"Stu, brothers or tennis team, this is a breach of protocol." Kazu started to get up.
"Uhm, guys." A girl's voice broke in from behind Stu and Kazu. "I don't own this place. You have to order something."
Kazu looked out the window and blinked, then sat back down. "Got anything fresh from the tree?" he asked without turning around.
"Reconstituted mango or guava okay?"
"Mango sounds great. How about you guys?" Now Kazu turned around to look at the girl.
She studied the order pad without looking up.
The three brothers stalled a bit longer, then each ordered something to drink.
"Thanks, guys. That was a little quicker than usual."
"Sure, Steph." Stuart grinned.
The four boys turned back to their conversation as the girl returned to the service counter.
"Your twin, Stu."
"She looks a bit like you."
"That's what we want to talk with you about." Greg kept his voice low.
Kazu gave him a blank look.
"Could make it worth your while."
"I don't think I like the direction this is taking."
"This was not my idea." Stuart hedged.
"Fifty." Mike held up five fingers.
Kazu's frown deepened.
"She doesn't go out enough." Mike explained.
"Six different guys in one year is not enough?" Stuart complained.
"That was last fall. When's she been out since?"
Kazu closed his eyes and shook his head.
Stephanie came back. "Your drinks, guys." She set their orders on the table for them.
"Thanks, Stephanie." Kazu said.
"Sure." She turned around quickly.
He watched her retreating form for a moment before turning back to the brothers. "Tell you what." He lifted his soccer ball with one hand. "You guys beat me," he indicated the park across the street with the ball, "and I refrain from punishing you."
Greg cocked his head. "For what?"
"For trying to bribe me to date your sister."
"Huh? Two-on-two?" Mike smirked.
Greg shook his head, chuckling. "Stu said you could be cocky. If you win?"
"I choose your penance."
Mike laughed. "Deal."
Stuart just rolled his eyes.
They finished their drinks and filed out the door, waving to Stephanie and her boss as they left.
An hour later, laughing, talking, and sweating, they filed back in and sat down again.
"So what's our punishment?" Mike shook his head, still laughing.
"Incoming." Stuart warned.
Stephanie approached. "The boss says you have to order something if you're going to be here."
Kazu grinned. "I could use some California rolls after that workout."
The three brothers looked at each other doubtfully.
"I understand there are funds from a canceled project that have been freed?" Kazu prompted, pointedly.
Persuaded, the brothers each ordered a sandwich.
"So what's our penance?" Greg asked, as they watched Stephanie return to the kitchen.
"Give your sister a little room to breath. Let her choose when and whom she dates."
"Doesn't your sister deserve a little respect?"
Two older brothers muttered complaints as Stephanie returned with sandwiches.
"I'll be right back with your California rolls."
Stu watched Kazu as Kazu watched Stephanie's retreating form again. "You like Steph."
"Well, yeah. She's a pretty likeable person."
"What's all the whispering about?" Stephanie called from the kitchen.
Mike called out, "Kaz says he has a crush on you. Ouch. Now he's kicking me."
"Kick him another for me, Kaze-no-kimi."
Three brothers chorused, "Kaze-no-what?"
"Hi-no-hime." Kazu stood and gazed openly at her. "Wasurete nakatta."
"Of course I haven't forgotten."
"Wait," Stuart exclaimed, thinking aloud as his sister returned, "My twin sister goes with Mom and Dad to Sapporo to research Mom's family history, and I stay behind for soccer camp, and she comes home with the coolest boyfriend, but I have to re-introduce you two a year later?"
"Not exactly," Kazu hedged.
"Close enough." Stephanie grinned.