Anmitsu

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
An anmitsu is a Japanese confection usually served during the summer. It consists of crushed ice drizzled over with sweet syrup, fruit chunks, an (sweetened bean paste), jelly cubes, and mochi balls. To make it more festive, as in the example above, a swirl of ice cream - vanilla, red bean, black sesame, or green tea - is placed on top.

The short story under the cut was inspired partly by recent events and by the sweet, frosty treat from whence I got the title. Can love really bloom despite certain circumstances? This story doesn't really answer the question, but it does show that the best thing we can expect from any given situation can even be the faintest smidgen of hope.

Submitted: June 06, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 06, 2008

A A A

A A A


It was a sweltering hot day outside, but inside was colder than the inside of a refrigerator. Small wonder most people were either sneezing or coughing.

I sat at my desk, staring blankly at the monitor. There was nothing to do; everything that needed to be done by the end of the month was already finished – and we were barely a week into the month. I wanted something to do, something to get him out of my head – that lanky, bespectacled, pale-faced man I wanted to call my own. But, alas, even my boss couldn’t give me anything apart from what he previously assigned.

I was distraught. I was annoyed with myself.

Hang it all, but I was bored - practically bored out of my mind!

Damn the heat, I thought, staring glumly out the window, feeling the hot glass beneath my hand. Damn this summer…

I never liked the summer. Even as a child, I loathed it because I usually fell prey to everything from measles to chickenpox during the sultry season. My last boyfriend broke up with me one horribly warm summer, just as Lent gave way to Easter; my season of rebirth became my season of emotional death. I was a math dunce, so I always had to go back to school for remedial classes in high school while everyone else was frolicking at the beach. In college, I took advanced classes – just so I wouldn’t have to go to the beach where people would make fun of my less-than-perfect body. Summers were, truth be told, one of the banes of my existence.

Just pretend to be busy, I told myself. Blog, write, go for those online tarot readings - anything to get him off your mind! Bitterly, I admitted to myself that it probably wasn’t meant to be, anyway; for all I knew, he probably had a girlfriend – some pretty Chinese-Filipino girl picked out for him by his parents or something. He won’t care for me. I’m just the fat contact person for a project, no one special.

I checked my watch. It was one in the afternoon; six PM was ages away. It was so hot – seeing how I flinched at touching the windowpane – that I decided to go for an anmitsu after hours. I closed my eyes, my mouth watering at the thought of shaved ice topped with all sorts of sweet, luscious things.

Then, the phone broke me out of my reverie.

“Hello,” I murmured, my voice bland.

“Miss Driesl!” the receptionist exclaimed. “Thank God, you’re here! Sir Lou’s out of the office and there’s someone here looking for him about a software installation, and…”

I raised an eyebrow at that. Lou and I were from different departments and our work rarely ever crossed, except for that…

My eyes suddenly went wide, my mouth went dry, and my heart began pounding within me. It can’t be! I thought, my mind whirling like a tornado at full blast. The big boss didn’t sign the contract! We’re not supposed to… They can’t possibly…

“A Mr. Nicholas Shen’s here to see you,” I heard the receptionist say. “He was told to look for you just in case…”

“I’ll be right down,” I managed to say, and slammed down the phone. I don’t know how I did it, but I locked my PC and then scrambled off.

“Driesl!” my boss called. “What’s up? Where’s the fire?”

“Nicky Shen’s downstairs!” I replied as I opened the door, barely concealing the excitement in my voice.

The elevator doors were wide open as I stepped out and I practically hurled myself into the waiting car.

“You look excited,” one of the girls from the fourth floor commented.

“Me? Excited?” I laughed the idea off; however, my heart wouldn’t stop pounding. “What a notion!” Liar, liar, pants on fire…

“Maite just came up from the lobby,” my companion confided with a giggle. “She says there’s a cute boy downstairs!”

“Really?” I kept my voice as neutral as possible. “She was probably seeing things; there are no cute men in this company!”

“That’s what I told her! She said I had to see it to believe it.”

“Meh, it was probably a heat mirage or something.”

It took what seemed to me like an eternity for the elevator to reach the ground floor. Almost as soon as the doors opened, I flew out and ran straight for the receptionist’s desk.

“Hey, Annie!” I greeted her with a jaunty wave. “I have a visitor?”

She nodded over to the couches behind me. “Mr. Shen from X-Corp,” she replied. “He was looking for Sir Lou, but asked for you when I told him that he went out for lunch.”

“Hi, Miss Driesl,” a perky male voice greeted me.

I turned slowly, scarcely hoping; even dreading that what I was about to see was just an illusion. But it wasn’t an illusion: he was there – he was really there!  Sleepy-eyed, pale-cheeked Nicky Shen was actually there!

“Nick!” I gasped, extending a shaking hand to him. “Hi!” Hang it all, Nicky! We just emailed your boss about new skeds and things and… I gulped nervously. “We weren’t expecting you.”

He rose to his full height and pouted somewhat pensively. I could see a software box in his hands. My eyes went wide: our software – he’s brought it!

“Um, I told my boss I would be available today for the installation and training,” he explained somewhat sheepishly.

“Oh, my…” I managed a smile and led him to the elevator. “Um, let’s see what my boss has to say about this.”

“Okay.”

It was weird, but I felt more at ease with him as soon as we were all alone in the elevator. We chatted about the traffic, old comic books, and the dreadful heat.

“If the heat keeps up,” he grumbled, “I’ll end up looking like a baked lobster!”

“Stay out of the sun, then!” I teased him.

He grinned at me. “Why do you suppose I’m so pale?”

We arrived at my floor where my boss was equally surprised to see him. They talked for a while, and I listened as I stood behind Nicky’s chair. While they talked, I took the opportunity to study him at close range. Nicky was six years younger than me, but his shaggy-cut hair was already a quarter gray. His skin – so flawless from a distance, so clear in his pictures – wasn’t so perfect; the usual childhood scars from the pox, bit of acne, spots on his temple. Faint, but you knew they were there when you were near enough. Nicky was Chinese, but even for a Chinese man his eyes were small, almost beady behind his wire-framed glasses. You would think these little things would put a girl off from liking someone, but the opposite happened in my case. Those imperfections made me like him a little bit more.

“I’ll go install the software,” he told me as he followed one of my colleagues out the door. “I’ll see you later.”

I nodded and went back to my desk. Almost as soon as he’d left, I was peppered by questions from all sides.

“Who is he?”

“He’s cute! Where’s he from?”

“Is he staying?”

“What do you mean he’s only on loan?!”

“Can’t we keep him? There isn’t anyone cute around here!”

And so on, and so forth.

All I gave them was his name, where he was from, and what he was doing for us. Beyond that, I declined to say anything more.

Because, I thought morosely, there might not be anything more.

I prayed for him to show up, prayed that I could find a way to bring him closer – and always thought I was praying in vain. But now, he was here. I know it would sound selfish if I said I considered this a sign that I was on the right track and that my liking him wouldn’t be a one-sided thing, but that was how I really felt. Within me, however, the old doubt, the old fear of rejection remained and I was more than a little uneasy.

The seconds turned to minutes, the minutes turned into hours. By the time Nicky and my colleague returned to our floor, it was a quarter before closing time.

He sat at the table beside mine and proceeded to install another copy of the software into the other PC. I kept my eyes on my keyboard, pretending not to notice the glances he kept sliding my way. Whenever he wasn’t looking, I would look his way, as if trying to burn his face into my brain because I feared that it would be a long time before I saw him again. Truth be told, I felt like crying.

“It’s done,” I heard him say, and I turned sharply to him.

He smiled as he rose to his feet. “It’s not a complete installation,” he went on. “I’ll do the final one once the contract is cleared.”

“Um, okay,” I said, nodding in agreement.

He came to stand by the wall of my cubicle and he idly began to play with one of my paperweights. “I’ll probably be back next week or the week after,” he said. “And I’ll tell my boss I wasn’t informed of the new arrangements.”

“Please do,” I murmured. Dear God, was he leaving? It was trite, but I felt as though my heart was being squeezed like a sponge. Oh, Nicky…

“Um, Driesl?”

I looked up; it was the first time he called me by name without the “Miss”. He had a lopsided smile on his face.

“Yes?” I said. “Was there something?”

“Um, there’s a Japanese café a few blocks away and they make a killer anmitsu. It’s a…”

“Shaved ice topped with syrup, fruit, bean paste, and green-tea ice cream,” I finished for him.

“Oh, so you know the place?”

“Been there often. Love that anmitsu!”

“Great!” He held out his hand to me. “Can you spare me some of your time? I know you’re on your way home, but it’d be nice if you joined me for an anmitsu; it’s so darned warm!”

Everyone told me afterwards that my face was the same shade of magenta as the blouse I wore on that day when I slipped my hand into his. But I didn’t feel any heat rising into my cheeks as I did; all I felt was a fierce sort of joy.

“Sure,” I replied with a smile. “Let’s go.”


© Copyright 2017 Marga Manlapig. All rights reserved.

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