Chapter 0:


Waking Up as a Gyaru in a New World

I silently set my basket on the counter. The cashier, an older woman with short, dark hair and glasses, asked, “How’re you doing today, hun?”

“I’m alright,” I said. After a moment, I remembered to ask, “How are you?”

“Oh, not too bad. Almost over, right?” she said with a sigh. She began sorting out what I brought her. A microwave burrito, ramen, chips, candy, ice cream and soda. “Any big plans this weekend?” she asked, as she started to scan.

I stared at the rack of gum next to her and wondered if she was making fun of me. “Not really,” I said. Video games and anime. My sister and mother would be gone this weekend, since there was a soccer tournament, which meant I would be alone. There was a list of chores I would probably halfass but other than that I could do whatever I wanted. I could also eat whatever I wanted, courtesy of the allowance my mom left for the weekend.

The cashier was blessedly silent as she finished ringing up my purchase. When the final total came up on the screen, I felt satisfied. I’d managed to keep it low enough that I could order a pizza with the rest. She gave me my change and my bags and said, “Have a nice weekend, hun.” Maybe she hadn’t been making fun of me?

It was beginning to get dark as I left the convenience store. It was still hot, though. I never liked to go out without long-sleeves so I started to sweat almost immediately. It probably also had something to do with the fact that the only exercise I got these days was walking to and from the convenience store. I picked up my pace anyway, wanting to be home already. I soon slowed, though, because there was someone stopped at the crosswalk ahead. A girl. I muttered a curse. I didn’t want to stand alone at a crosswalk with a girl. She’d probably think I was creeping on her.

I stopped a little ways away from her and studied her. She seemed like she was about my sister’s age, with bleach blond hair and dark skin. She was wearing black heeled sandals, a very short black skirt and a loose cream-colored blouse with spaghetti straps. A number of gold bangles and bracelets graced either forearm and she had a small pink backpack shaped like a cartoon bunny slung over one shoulder. The bunny backpack tickled my memory. The girl glanced to her left, at the light that was still green, and I recognized her.

Her name was Mina. She was one of my sister’s friends, though I hadn’t seen her in a while. I guess they’d gone down different paths. My sister had become a soccer fanatic and apparently Mina was a popular girl now. Only a popular girl would be wearing that getup. I wasn’t too surprised either. Mina had a warm and sweet personality, with a habit of casually touching that had always made me nervous. Whenever she had been visiting my sister, she had been kind to me. Even tried to get to know me and include me. She was often very funny, though not always on purpose. In short, the kind of girl that any guy would be attracted to. I suppose I was a little shocked to see her in clothing that showed so much skin, though. And her hair had been dark the last time I’d seen it, her skin a few shades lighter. I bet she’d done it for some guy. Girls like her seemed to have the worst taste in men.

The crosswalk blinked the little white walk signal and we both set off. I kept the same distance between us but it wasn’t easy. Mina was walking slowly, staring down, her shoulders hunched in. I wasn’t the best judge of body language but I didn’t have to be to tell that she was seriously depressed about something. Probably the same guy she’d dressed up for. Or maybe she was getting bullied. Some of the girls in my sister’s old group had been very mean, though I think Mina didn’t always pick up on it. Girls were probably even meaner to her now that she dressed like that. Mina must have lacked the mean girl gene herself, though, because I’d never seen her clap back. I sighed and awkwardly switched the bags so the heavier one was in my other hand. What would it be like to be the kind of guy who had the confidence to actually ask her what was wrong? It wasn’t like we were strangers. Maybe she just needed a friendly face to talk to. Maybe I could make her day a little brighter. I thought about it. Almost worked up the nerve a couple of times.

The soft siren that warned of an approaching train knocked me out of my circular thoughts and made me glance up. The barriers had come down, keeping Mina from crossing. I jerked to a halt before I got too close. I wondered if the fates were being kind by giving me too many chances or just rubbing salt in the wound of my cowardice. I stepped a little closer and noticed that her shoulders were shaking. Was she crying? My throat went dry. I mentally lashed myself. What did my feelings matter? Maybe I would be embarrassed but shouldn’t I try to make her feel even a little better. She had always been nice to me. How many people could I say that about?

I took a step forward and said, in a hoarse whisper, “Mina.” She didn’t react. Too quiet. I swallowed and cleared my throat. Before I could repeat her name, however, Mina squatted down and then sidled underneath the barrier. I blinked a couple of times and stared at her. What was she doing? My gut went hard and cold as a sudden thought hit me. She couldn’t really be planning to…? Mina leaned over the tracks and looked in the direction of the train. She pulled back but didn’t leave the edge of the tracks. She was really planning on doing it. “Mina, wait!” I cried, setting my bags down. She didn’t hear me over the clacking and long loud whistle of the oncoming train. I rushed forward.

Too late. Mina had hopped onto the tracks and the train was too close to brake, only seconds away. That didn’t stop me, however. What was my life? My sister might miss me. My best friend would. My mother would. But Mina? It would be like a light going out of the world. I sprinted forward, meaning to push her away even if I died. I forgot about the barrier. It hit me waist-high and I somersaulted over it, landing half on the tracks in a heap. I glanced up and met Mina’s horrified eyes. They were blue now instead of brown. Color contacts. The train hit us.