My Government-Issued Girlfriend Can't Be This Cute!
"You've gotta be freaking shitting me." Keiko Asagiri in her burgundy outfit had a befuddled expression on her face. One eye looked like it was twitching, while the other focused on several glass doors ahead of her.
"Huh? Don't like the surprise?" I was honestly bewildered. Really wish she would've worn the cat ears though! But she won't wear them in public!
Her finger launched out and pointed at my local cinema's entrance. "Movies? How hard did your only two brain cells grind for this?"
"W-What do you mean?" I tried shrinking from curious onlookers around us. One dude in sunglasses literally munched from a popcorn bucket as he watched.
"Listen!" Asagiri's pointed finger shifted to me. "Movie theaters are the most generic place possible for a date!"
"But what's wrong with movies?"
"Eh, nothing really." She calmed down and slid both hands into her jacket pockets. "Just kinda hoped you'd subvert my expectations or something."
"I could've taken you to that love hotel instead."
"You've already fucked me enough by bringing me here. Buy me snacks and I'll forgive you."
"But movie theater food prices . . . " I felt my wallet trembling, or maybe it was my sanity.
Asagiri started jabbing my chest. "You broke or something? Need oil?"
Augh. "Fine whatever, you win. Just don't go too crazy in there."
Her scowl flipped into a smile and she ran ahead towards the fancy entrance. "Come on then!"
My girlfriend is probably looking forward to food more than anything else. I gave several onlookers an awkward smile to convey that the show was over.
As I ventured into the cinema lobby, an entourage of movie goers passed by me in the packed, huge room. Movie posters were dotted alongside every wall while aromas of baked popcorn and freshly grilled sausages soared through the air. A dome ceiling high above painted with Vatican-esque art contrasted the jingles of arcade machines right below. Large crowds filtered through the area as they segregated themselves into concession stand or ticket lines.
Asagiri waved ahead from rows of terminal kiosks. "Over here, Nishikata!" She yelled over everyone.
Embarrassment swept over me, like I was escorting a little sister more than a girlfriend. I walked by several couples looking a bit too lovey-dovey. Wonder if they're legit or fake? Be fake, please.
The red of Asagiri's jacket was easy to spot. "You picked out a movie yet?" I asked from behind.
"Don’t really care about any of these, you pick one." She moved aside for me.
"Oh, sure." I looked down at the panel's touch screen. Multiple movie selections scrolled with my finger. "What genres are you into?"
"Lovey, lovey-dovey romance!"
"No. Gimme horror."
I sighed and looked down again. "Well, there is one hype anime horror out now."
"What's it called?"
"Feed of the Honeybees 2," I said with a bored face. "Saw the first a while back but it was just whatever."
Asagiri came up close to me and poked the listing for details. "Oh yeah! My friend fangirled for this! Might as well see if she was onto something."
"Do you know what it's about? Since you haven't seen the first."
She beamed a cute smile. "Nope! Not a clue!"
Makes sense. "Hmmm, well . . ." I grasped my chin. "Story goes like: one day tons of humanoid, anime girl bees swooped down to Earth and tried enslaving everyone. But three bee girls defected and fought back alongside humans."
"Sounds like furry porn."
"It's not furry! Just lemme finish: the leader of that bee trio was named Bubbly, and she was like the charismatic and intellectual member—probably the prettiest bee girl too."
"Can't be weirder than crushing on ship girls at least."
"Heh." This chick knows me too well already. "Next bee girl was Cevenz, who's kinda the trio's anti-villain. She constantly craved human flesh, especially feet, so Bubbly was always sort of restraining her."
A group of passing guys looked in our direction. As Asagiri bent forward to inspect the touchscreen again, the guys clearly checked out her ass in tight shorts. Right afterwards, a shit-eating grin spread across my face as they gave me clear looks of jealousy.
"Huh? What is it?" She turned around.
"Nothing, haha." I calmed myself. "Anyway, the last member was Volfie, a really wholesome bee girl who liked writing stories and could play guitar. All three girls were super strong and by the end of the first movie, they slayed Queen Bee, or something."
"If they killed her, how do we get a part two?"
"Queen Bee kinda resurrected in the after credits . . ."
"Howdy-do, a forced sequel. Sign me the F up." Asagiri rolled her blue eyes.
Well that was easy. I tapped on the Japanese-dubbed listing for two tickets. More prompts popped up. “There's a showing in twenty minutes so we'll nab that one. You care about seats?"
"Whichever ones have a brick wall between us, pick those."
She latched onto my arm and beamed a flirty smile. "Kidding. Wouldn't be much of a date if I didn't play hard to get."
"I-I'll just choose two in the back then." As I picked seats, several options for prices appeared on the screen. "Don’t suppose you still count for a student discount?"
"Only if you count for a senior discount."
"Yeah, I'd hope not. Adults it is."
After declining a membership option, I slipped out my credit card to pay for us. Asagiri gave me baby-doll eyes as two tickets popped out; I handed her one ticket and a ¥5,000 bill. "Here. Buy whatever from the concession stand and give me change. I'll meet you in the room after I come back from peeing."
Cash symbols practically flickered in her eyes. Handing her money felt like giving money to a druggie, but I'd resigned myself to my fate.
"You liked the food I made the other day, right?" she said. "Maybe I'll get us something based on that."
"Anything works, just don't spend too much."
Her devious eyes gazed towards a nearby giftshop. "Maybe unlike you, I'll actually subvert your expectations."
"Finders keepers." Asagiri gave a quick thumbs up as she scampered away to the giftshop.
"Concession stand isn't that way!" I yelled.
"Oh, my bad!" Her knuckles cutely bonked her head. "Total airhead, right?"
"R-Right." Maybe a gambling addiction would be less expensive. . . No matter how I looked at it though, trusting her with money was probably a huge mistake!
In the dim room, a huge screen that towered ahead of me played commercials on loop. I looked around again to see an almost deserted theater room: only a sole couple far off in the front row chatted amongst themselves.
I sunk into my red seat. Asagiri's late. Is that cause for concern? Just as scenarios crossed my mind, a brand-new commercial started playing:
Their scene opened with the POV camera swooping down like a bird and hovering around a gorgeous woman. Her flowing, rose-colored hair seemed imbued with visible sparkles as she strolled down a city sidewalk. Men all around gawked in her direction while gentle winds would lift up her white skirt for the slightest peeks of pure, porcelain skin. A few waves and a smile were all she needed to bring guys to their knees.
"Wouldn't you like to experience the beauty life has to offer?" A narrator said. "The things you've been missing out on? Fleeting years of youth you'll never get back are calling for change!"
Camera focus shifted to a teen boy in casual clothes by a cafe, glancing down at his watch in apparent worry. He was tapping his feet as if waiting for someone, then the earlier pink-haired girl leapt from behind and wrapped herself around him. Rosy, glittering eyes combined with huge breasts pressing into him sent the boy into visible delight.
"Are you ready for our date?" The girl smiled an angelic expression. "Where are you taking me?"
"Oh, uh, h-how about the movies?" he stammered, very much enamored.
"Anywhere is fine as long as I'm with you, darling."
The two trekked onwards—linked in hands—as jealous onlookers coped and seethed.
"Live out your life, don’t even consider the alternative,” the narrator said. “Apply today for a Government-Issued Girlfriend! Enjoy the company of thoughtful, caring girls eager to help you through your darkest times! Experience what it’s like to have a real girlfriend! Certain restrictions apply.”
The commercial proceeded to describe contact details and sponsors, before switching back to rerun previews.
'Certain restrictions apply' is an understatement . . . Ads like that were what nudged me into applying for the program. My sister, Chidori, first got me curious about it, but she was tight-lipped about the girls' lifestyles. Even with all the perks they got, what made them decide to move in with strangers? Why even force couples to live together? Couldn’t they date living apart? Potential applicants would increase tenfold.
Abnormalities always made me suspect there were underlying motives besides just addressing declining birth rates. Too many things were happening lately: conflicting narratives, arising factions, and opposing worldviews. The DeLightful cult was spreading, and their honeyed words almost had even me fooled.
Stumbling footsteps to my side snapped me out of my trance. "Hey Nishikata, mind giving a hand?"
Asagiri had shimmied her way through the seat aisle to me. A large tray in her hands was loaded with assortments of snacks and drinks.
"Geez, did you buy their entire stock?" I said as I helped her.
"Blame yourself for trusting me with money."
"Point taken. Where's my change anyway?"
"Change?" She took the tray and sat to my left. "Oh, I spent everything else on this little girl."
Her back shifted towards me, revealing a chibi, plushie backpack. It was modeled after Bubbly—lead heroine from Feed of the Honeybees. Every bee girl looked like a regular anime girl, apart from insect antennas and cute bee wings.
"Oh thanks, Furbolt could use a new chew toy," I teased her.
"No! I wub' my Bubbly . . ."
"And I loved my money but look what happened."
"Yeah, I upgraded it to something better—you're welcome."
Money sink just doing her job. "Whatever. Didn't know you liked bee girls enough to buy their merch though."
"Nah, but their plushies are totally cute." Asagiri reached behind her to pet Bubbly. "Anything non-chibi and I gotta wonder how sane you otakus are."
"Well like, first, your guys' obsession was cat girls, then it was ship girls—bunch of other weird stuff . . ." She took a quick sip of soda. ". . . And now we've finally hit bee girls! Are you people honestly that horny?"
"Okay, how long have angels had wings for then?" I retorted. "Romanticizing exotic characteristics onto fictional women isn't exactly new."
"Sorry fam, I don't talk nerd."
"Read some more and you'll be a nerd too."
"Wow." Her face went uninterested. "Still no surprise you needed a government-issued girlfriend."
"I need a lot of things to be honest." A LOT
Asagiri rearranged snacks on her tray. A huge popcorn bucket sat snug in its slot, while various other junk food piled on top of each other. One lone, savory-looking hot dog already topped with condiments caught my eye.
Sure would've been nice if she got an extra for me . . .
Her hands reached with a napkin and grabbed the hot dog. With a clean snap, she split it in two and offered me half.
"Here," she gingerly said. "I remembered how much you liked those octopus sausages I made. This is probably even better."
Under dim light, Asagiri radiated newfound, angelic energy that dwindled her usual radioactivity. A bashful smile on her face almost made me forget about the hotdog.
"Well? You want it or not?" she bluntly said.
"Oh, y-yeah!" I reached for the meal I paid for, but it felt like a gift from Heaven.
Our theater room darkened and commercials ceased. Intro credits rolled ahead of us as Asagiri took a sloppy bite of her hot dog.
"Mofie's startin'," she said while chewing.
I looked at her right hand resting on my armrest. Something about her feminine appeal tantalized me more than ever, and my own hand slowly crept towards hers. Darkness made judging distance hard, but as I hovered over her, Asagiri's hand flipped and slid her fingers between mine.
"H-Huh?" I stammered.
"Don't be such a virgin," she said with a hint of embarrassment. "I'm just paying you back for the snacks."
Asagiri's fingers further interwove into my left hand as we fully linked. My pounding heart felt like it was gonna burst out of my chest, but then: a calm.
In that dark room, the surrealness of holding someone dawned on me—someone that saved me—a hand full of genuine care and warmth. For almost a decade I'd felt nothing but voids inside me, ever since that fateful day on the bridge. But now, I think I was ready to move on from my painful past.
Our hands fiddled and played with each other, eager to explore one another.
Not a single word was exchanged between us during the entire movie.