My Government-Issued Girlfriend Can't Be This Cute!
The fact Asagiri wouldn’t be around forever was a hard pill to swallow, harder than real pills.
But why did I care? I was just a steppingstone in her life and eventually she’d forget all about me. After one year, we’d go our separate ways and that was that.
I used my shoulder to push open the movie theater hallway door. Trash on my tray quickly found itself in a bin, and then I stacked the tray nearby.
Words from the earlier DeLightful couple still irked me. Even after seven years I was still susceptible to their lunacy.
DeLigthfuls were a cult that steadily rose to prominence in Japan, dedicated to spreading their idolization of death itself. They don’t commit crimes or force followers into anything—and combined with being more akin to idea than organization—allowed a largely unfettered and rampant spread throughout the country.
Groups of people walked by me as I stood waiting for Asagiri outside our theater room. The hallway housed multiple doorways into other screen rooms, all of whom might've contained DeLightfuls. I fully expected that couple to return and finish me off; to proselytize me into the ideology I excised from my friend years ago.
My fatigued eyes peaked down the hall. Every passerby seemed like an enemy, waiting to pounce. Nausea made my head spin as ringing engulfed my ears. A wall behind saved me from collapsing.
"Whaaaaaaat? That you, Nishikata?" A familiar voice rang.
I glanced up and saw a hulking, muscular titan standing ahead. He wore gym apparel and had a bald head with masculine facial features. The attractive woman under his arm gave me a confused expression.
"Mo-Mogami?" I said. "What are you doing here?"
"What's it look like? I'm on a date!" he said with pride. "And you?"
I tried to compose myself. No way could he learn I was with a GiG. "I, uh, just came to check out a new movie."
"Y-Yeah . . ." Please be taking a huge shit, Asagiri.
Mogami peered towards the movie title then brought a spare hand to his chin. "Not something I'd call work off for, but whatever. Was Honeybees that intense?"
"What do you mean?"
"No lie bro, you look more traumatized than my Ex after she saw big dick for the first time."
"H-Hey, Momo!" The girl under his arm looked up in disapproval.
"Oh, you're way better than her, babe! Too used to speaking my mind, haha!"
Aoto Mogami was a coworker and something of a friend. He'd often try inviting me to the gym or mixers after work, but those places rubbed me wrong. Every month he was seemingly dating a new girl, always hotter than the last.
"Guess horror and me don't mix well," I said. “Maybe I’ll stick to romcom and isekai’s.”
“Wish hard enough and Dominion’s Paradise might get animated someday!” Mogami said. He knew my interests well. “But I’ll get going. My lady wants to hurry and give me a good time!”
“Geez, you’re embarrassing me!” she chided.
Maybe I should consider shaving my head too if I'd score half as much. "Yeah, see you at work tomorrow then."
He gave me a thumbs up. “Bet! I’ll make sure Asada and Kikuchi don’t bully you! As much!”
“Thanks . . .”
Mogami and his date strolled down the hallway. As their outlines slowly shrunk, Mogami’s head turned towards a tanned girl in red that walked in his opposite direction. They made brief eye contact and went about their ways.
Asagiri spotted me lying back on the wall and sprinted over. “Hey, you don’t look so good. Everything fine?”
Thank God she didn’t see me with Mogami. “Yeah. Just a bit tired, no problem.”
She glared at me like a concerned mom. Asagiri reached into her shorts and pulled out a lollipop. “Here.”
“Suck on it. Maybe it’ll make you feel better.”
“I’m not sure you should be prescribing medical advice.”
“Prescribe deez' nuts,” she said defiantly, unwrapping the red lollipop. “Dying on me would make me look bad.”
I snatched the candy from her fingers and brought it into my mouth. A poignant, cherry flavor spread through me. “Happy?”
“Didn’t I do what you asked?”
“Yeah, but now I got nothing to suck on.”
She was just trying to excite me, but the joke generated an idea. “Hmmm. Think I know where we should head next.”
“Still wanna keep the date up? We can go home, you know.”
“Nah, let’s visit an ice cream place. From all the stuff you’re always eating, I’m guessing you love sweets.”
For a split moment her eyes lit up like a little girl’s. “W-Well, if you’re paying for everything I can’t complain.”
Wasn't sure why, but I felt some satisfaction in seeing her happy. “We could go to that love hotel after too," I added.
“Stupid, don’t ruin the moment with bad one-liners,” she said as she laced her fingers into mine. She was even softer than before. “Come on, let's go.”
We trekked down the theater hall into crowds of people, a warm hand leading the way for me.
The commuter train raced along its tracks as a setting sun poured into an empty train car. Asagiri on my left sat almost shoulder to shoulder with me. Her tired face was something I hadn’t seen before.
“Were you that bored today?” I asked, looking towards her.
“Nah,” she said. “Movies and ice cream were fun. Maybe we should date more often.”
“Easy to say when you don’t pay for anything.”
The Bubbly bee girl backpack on her lap almost slipped off as Asagiri’s head leaned onto my shoulder.
“Hey, Nishikata,” she whispered.
“You don’t think I’m annoying or anything, right?”
“Only a little.”
Her head snuggled into me more. “Maybe it’s a good thing I stayed up late and read Dominion’s Paradise.”
“Huh? You can read it at your own pace, don't gotta rush it for me."
“Quicker the better. Guys like it when their girlfriend is into the same stuff as them.”
Actually true. “Well, I wouldn’t force you to do anything either.”
“You’re a man, nothing wrong with being a bit more assertive . . .” Two of her fingers danced on my thigh.
Hnnnggg, dangerous! Dangerous!
Her hand retreated onto Bubbly. “That’s what I like about you, Nishikata. You’re hopelessly horny, but you still respect me. That’s something I’ve barely ever gotten in my stupid life.”
“Oh, nothing. Just a mooch remembering her past.”
The train continued onwards for several minutes. Asagiri’s breathing turned rhythmic, like she fell asleep.
I looked down at her brown head on my shoulder. Light from outside illuminated her angelic face. Who cares if she’ll leave one day? I won’t let DeLightfuls or anyone else ruin the one year I have with her.
“Nishikata . . .” Asagiri whispered.
“You awake? Keep sleeping if you want.”
“No . . . I wanna ask something.”
She lifted herself off and gazed straight at me. Her tired yet spellbinding, azure eyes commanded me to focus.
“Are—Are you happy?” she said.
“Happy? Why wouldn’t I be?” Oh wait.
Her eyes delved into my own, likely searching for hints of deceit.
“If there’s something you ever want to talk about,” she started, “anything at all, I’m here for you. Don’t let emotions stay cooped inside until it’s too late.”
"Thanks, but I’m fine. You’ve already helped me more than you can imagine.”
Asagiri’s face bounced between annoyed and sad, finally settling on a smile. “Okay. Guess I’m doing a good job then.”
“Didn’t know it was your job to keep me happy.”
She planted her head back on my shoulder. “Now you have no idea.”
She left her hand open between us, as if inviting me to hold it. Maybe treating myself to more softness would be nice.
As I reached over to her, my phone vibrated with a text notification. Huh? I redirected my hand into my pocket and slipped out the device. Asagiri’s breath turned rhythmic again, signaling her departure to dreamville.
Probably Nemoto asking to play Semtex Legends, I thought. But as the text preview loaded, a name appeared that hurled torrents of emotions through me. I unlocked and dug into my inbox.
Of all people, of all times, why did Noriko choose now to try coming back into my life? After months of no contact and years before that; but perhaps with how intertwined our pasts were, meeting again was inevitable.
I read her message, over and over:Hey, sorry for being gone. Is it cool if I drop by sometime? The first woman I ever loved said.