Today's Reading

"You okay, Koty?" Leo tips his head to the side and gives me a quizzical look.

"Yeah, sorry." I push play and let Leo slip away into his favorite show.

One of the few things that is just for him in his overcrowded life.

As we watch the show, I cut my eyes to the side occasionally to watch Leo. Yeah, he has it bad for Jay Yoshikawa. Maybe one day he'll look at me that way too.

"Can I have some edamame?" Leo says when the show breaks for a commercial. He opens his mouth. I shoot a couple of soybeans into his mouth. One pings off his upper lip and onto the table. "Hey, in my mouth and not up my nose, please."

"Learned your lesson from the last time?"

"I was four. Give me a break."

Our favorite show comes back on, and Leo's attention goes back to it. Jay is just about to crush this week's creeptastic yokai as her secret identity Kitsune Mask when Mr. and Mrs. Matsuda burst through the front door of the restaurant.

"It's fine, honey," Mrs. Matsuda says. "Everything is going to work out fine. We'll swap things around a bit. That will help boost traffic."

"Hey, kids." Mr. Matsuda looks over his shoulder and gives his wife a pointed look. She drops the conversation.

"Hey, Mr. Matsuda. Mrs. Matsuda," I say as Leo refills the last of the shoyu bottles.

"Anything else you guys want done before what I hope will be the dinner rush?" Leo slides to his feet and balances the tray on his arm with his usual grace.

"No, honey. I'll call you if I need you." Mrs. Matsuda kisses the top of Leo's closely cropped head. "Do some homework so you won't have to stay up so late again tonight." Leo groans. "Okay, you can finish your show first."

Leo flits around the restaurant putting all the shoyu bottles back on their tables while humming our latest jam. I nod along, as YouTube sensation Rayne Lee's song "One Last Kiss" has been on my mental radio all day long too. After depositing the tray on the counter, Leo oversings the chorus while doing a dance-y walk across the restaurant. He pauses in the middle of the floor to do the video's signature four finger snaps before finishing his strut to our table. I laugh. Nobody at school gets to see this side of Leo. These one-man shows are only for me.

"You are such a dork," I say as Leo slides back in the booth with me.

"Can't help it. Rayne's song has been stuck in my head all day long."

As soon as I push play again, a couple comes into the restaurant. Followed by a family of six. Leo's free time is over for today, and now he has to do his part in the family machine. My heart hurts for him. And for me.

"Tell you what. After I'm done, I'll leave my tablet in the back with Ojiichan. You can watch the last ten minutes tonight when you get home or if you have a slow spot during dinner."

"Thanks." Leo's dimpled smile makes my heart melt.

I clear my throat. Get back in the Friend Zone, Dakota. "Anytime."

* * *

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