“Alright, I’ll see you later!” Mizuki had called out as he tied his shoes, before dashing out the front door, just in time to hear Settia’s velvet voice coming from the other room; “Have a good day!”
It was December 12th, and surprisingly not too cold. Compared to yesterday, it was fairly alright – his lungs didn’t hurt when he walked for one, and it was snowing. Large, feathery flakes fell from the dark morning sky, fluttering through the air and landing softly on his shoulders.
Mizuki walked briskly, with long steps, looking around at the town that was coming to life. Some school children were throwing snowballs at each other, hooting and exclaiming loudly, a dog barked somewhere down the street, and someone was shuffling snow in a nearby yard.
It was a good morning, he thought. It had been a while since he last felt so good so early in the day.
And his classmates made sure to point that out.
“Hey, le Miz!”
This was the newest addition to his friend Noel’s long list of nicknames for Mizuki.
“Morning.” Mizuki dropped down on the seat next to him, untangling himself from his coat and scarf.
“You’re looking happier than usual?”
“Am I?” Mizuki was unable to suppress a smile.
“No seriously, you’re different. What happened to Scrooge?”
“Trust me,” Mizuki got out his laptop and text book, “Scrooge is still very much present. Can’t a guy be happy even though it’s December?”
“Normally, people would be happy because it’s December.” Noel reminded him, not quite willing to let his shallow perception of the world slip just yet. “But you’ve got a different reason to be happy I presume?”
He was fishing, Mizuki let him, but didn’t give him the pleasure of catching anything. He turned on his laptop, waiting for the lecture to start.
Soon after, the professor walked in, rescuing him from the prying questions and knowing glances courtesy of his friend. The professor, who was an eccentric gentleman to say the least, came into the lecture hall, carrying something under his arm.
“Is that….” Mizuki gaped at the professor. Noel looked confused, his gaze shifting from Mizuki to the teacher.
“Poinsettia!” the teacher exclaimed. “The Christmas Flower, or Christmas Star, if you wish!”
“Uh, professor?” one of the more distressed students raised his hand. “What does this have to do with the lecture?”
“Nothing in the slightest!” the teacher boomed, a wide grin spreading on his face. “I just happen to be a bit of a botanist in my spare time. You see, I was walking past the mall this morning, and a man gave it to me – it seems that in the US, today is Poinsettia Day. Naturally, I accepted-“
He droned on, talking about how the plant had been discovered in the 1700s and how it had gradually become a symbol of Christmas after people started cultivating it, Mizuki failed to pay attention.
He had a hunch where his professor’s plant had come from.
I’d be careful, he thought to himself; you never know….
Of course that was silly. Wasn’t it?
“The botanical name for the Christmas Flower is Euphorbia pulcherrima, which fittingly means very beautiful.”
A faint smile crossed Mizuki’s lips. “Yeah, indeed.”
“Huh?” Noel looked over at him.
Mizuki shook his head, chuckling softly. “Nothing.”
He tapped the desk with his fingertips. “If it’s Poinsettia Day, doesn’t that mean it’s some kind of birthday?”
“What are you mumbling about?” Noel nudged him in the side. “Are you losing it over there? You’re sounding just as crazy as the old man.”
“Don’t mind me,” Mizuki shook his head. “I’ve got…a friend who really likes those.” He nodded towards the plant the professor was still holding up.
“Professor!” another student groaned. “I thought we were in the middle of British history?”
“Ah yes, right you are. British and European actually. And I’ll have you know that both of the proper names for this plant were given by well-acknowledged European botanists who-“
“Oh boy, here we go…” Noel rolled his eyes.
Mizuki barely paid attention, to his friend as well as the professor’s ramblings for the rest of the lesson.
On his way home, he casually went by a small bakery, and picked up their least flashy sponge cake – free of seasonal decorations and writing, just a small marzipan flower adorning the frosting.
He felt silly, and kind of awkward. Settia hadn’t said anything, so this was probably stupid, and it wasn’t like he owed him anything, seeing as Settia was currently staying cost-free at his house. And still… He felt a certain determination when he went home, carrying a plastic bag with the boxed cake, swinging at his side. The weather was still nice for a December afternoon.
“I’m home!” he called out, surprised at the familiarity.
“Welcome back,” Settia replied from the main room, where he would always sit, as if he hardly moved while Mizuki was out. He wondered what the other man did all day, since it didn’t seem like he watched TV or read or anything.
“So, this is probably weird but…” Mizuki placed the plastic bag on the table. “My professor ran into that friend of yours today – “ it was a stab in the dark, but spot on it seemed. “It appears he got a present. And proceeded to tell the whole class that today’s Poinsettia Day. Anyway…happy birthday..?”
“You brought me a present?”
“Like I said…” he felt a bit sheepish.
Settia unwrapped the box, and lit up. “It’s so pretty!”
“It’s not…you’re supposed to eat it.” He felt even sillier. He’d yet to see Settia eat anything. “Uh…Do you like cake?”
“You don’t know?”
“There’s only one way to find out!” Settia stood, and got two spoons out of the nearest drawer. “Let’s try.”
“You first.” Mizuki insisted, pushing the cake over towards the redhead, who hesitantly dug his spoon into the cake and shoved it into his mouth, chewing slowly. His expression was hard to read as he chewed thoroughly, and finally swallowed.
“Better than expected.” Settia smiled at him, pushing the cake back to the center of the table. “You taste.”
They ate cake in silence, except from the vague sound of music coming from the neighboring apartment. It sounded like a carol. He tuned it out, looking across the table, at Settia, who was licking his spoon absentmindedly. He caught Mizuki’s gaze, and stopped mid-lick, cracking a smile; “Thank you, Mizuki.”
He didn’t know what to say. The carols from next door filled the silence that crept in over them.