Chapter 9:

Cat Got Your Tongue?

My Crush Is A Nekomata

Ryoko’s POVBookmark here

Summer carried on and Maneki and I didn’t get to see each other for most of it since I had work and she was busy helping her mom. I had agreed to take on more shifts at the bookstore during my break, specifically because one of my coworkers was going to some sort of summer camp and no one else would be able to cover their shifts. During one of my breaks, I decided to pick up a romance novel that was set aside to be stocked on the shelves. I was sitting in the breakroom and flipping through its pages and skimming them when I came to a realization.Bookmark here

These stories are nothing like Maneki and me.Bookmark here

Of course, I had also picked up a book that featured a young woman and a rich guy, so of course they were nothing alike. Maneki and I also hadn’t gone on any dates or gone beyond holding hands either. I was about to put the book down when my boss entered the room.Bookmark here

“Whatcha got there?” he asked. I flinched and tried to hide the cover before he could see it. He began to laugh. “I didn’t take you as the type to read those sorts of stories.”Bookmark here

“It’s been selling well, so I figured I’d give it a quick look,” I lied. “I’ll put it back.” I did as I said I would and went back to work.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

When my shift was over, I headed straight home. I opened the front door and stepped inside, closing it behind me. I was slipping my feet out of my shoes when I noticed my dad leaning against the doorframe that led into the other room, staring at me. His arms were crossed against his chest and he seemed mad. I didn’t say anything at first and just stared back at him as I gripped the strap of my bag nervously.Bookmark here

“When were you going to tell me what you placed on your exams?” he asked, his voice low and monotone. “I thought you were trying to do better than that.”Bookmark here

“I still made it into the top ten,” I replied. “I wasn’t that far from the top five.” He let out a frustrated sigh. Obviously, that was not what he wanted to hear. He wasn’t going to like anything else that I had to say either. “Dad, I—”Bookmark here

“I expected more out of you, Ryoko.” We both became silent. At that moment, I gave up on telling him what I really wanted and how I didn’t want to go to college, at least for the time being. “Isn’t there something you can do?”Bookmark here

That was when I got a brilliant idea. I could almost feel the light bulb flicker on in my mind as my mouth turned into a smile. I wish I could say that it was fake, but whenever I thought of Maneki I couldn’t help it.Bookmark here

“Actually, I have an idea. One of my friends scored higher than me. I can try studying with her. I’ll text her about it right now.” My dad stared at me for a moment, then shrugged.Bookmark here

“All right, at least you’re doing something.” And with that, he turned and walked into the living room, appeased for the time being.Bookmark here

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Maneki’s POVBookmark here

My phone buzzed in my back pocket as I rinsed the rice in the sink. I looked over my shoulder to see the screen light up for a moment, then dim again as I rotated my hand around the bowl. I strained it and passed it to my mom before drying my hands and looking at the new message. I was surprised to see Ryoko’s name on the screen.Bookmark here

Isn’t she at work?Bookmark here

I unlocked my phone and read the message.Bookmark here

Ryoko: Can I call you?Bookmark here

I quickly typed out a short message and sent it back.Bookmark here

Maneki: Sure.Bookmark here

“Hey Mom, I have to take a call real quick.” All my mom did was nod in response, but I could tell by the look on her face that she was surprised. I took a few more steps toward the doorway, finding Taro sitting down at the table not that far away. It caught his attention when my phone started ringing in my hand. I answered it.Bookmark here

“Hey . . .” Ryoko’s voice came through the speaker. She sounded more awkward than usual. Was she anxious about calling me?Bookmark here

“Hey, what’s up?”Bookmark here

“Do you want to come over to my place this weekend?” she asked. “My dad wants me to study more before school starts again and I figured we might as well do it together since you scored higher than me. I can’t ask Harumi for anything like that.” We both giggled at that comment, drawing a confused look from Taro. I saw him raise an eyebrow at me, so I turned away from him.Bookmark here

“Let me ask my mom real quick.” I walked back over to my mom. I already had her full attention. “Can I help a friend study over at their house tomorrow?”Bookmark here

“A boy friend?” Taro inquired in a low voice, now entering the kitchen. I could almost feel a protective, intimidating aura coming off of him.Bookmark here

“No,” I responded matter-of-factly, “Ryoko invited me over.”Bookmark here

“I don’t see a problem with it,” my mom answered, turning back to what was she was cooking.Bookmark here

“Thank you.” I lifted the phone back up to my ear. “Yeah, I can go. What day?”Bookmark here

“Does Sunday sound good?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.”Bookmark here

“Okay, Sunday afternoon it is then. We can meet up at the train tracks.”Bookmark here

“All right, see you then.”Bookmark here

“Bye.”Bookmark here

“Bye.” I hung up on her and shoved my phone back in my pocket. When I looked up again, Taro and my mom were staring at me. “What?”Bookmark here

“You finally made some friends!” my mom cheered. “It must be so exciting.” Taro stood beside her, giving me a funny look.Bookmark here

“It’s no big deal, guys.” I grabbed something else and went back to helping my mom cook, hoping the other two would drop the subject.Bookmark here

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Ryoko’s POVBookmark here

After Maneki hung up the phone, I rolled over in my bed. I set my phone on the headboard and began searching for my book.Bookmark here

Hopefully this gets Dad off my back. Maybe we can actually hang out while she’s here, too. When I was in the process of opening my book, another realization hit me.Bookmark here

Maneki’s never seen my house before.
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