Chapter 1:

Chapter 1: Undesired Invitation

You again?!

“It’ll be 2,300 yen.”

The middle-aged lady proceeds to shuffle through her gigantic bag. I wait patiently. We’re the only two people in the store this late Tuesday night. I take a peek at the street outside. The weather seems to be so nice outside. Maybe after this lady finally finds her wallet and pays, I can take a break from the freezing air con.

“Yes!” The lady removes a tiny leathered wallet from her bag, opens it, and leaves the exact amount on the cash tray.

“Do you need a receipt?”

“Yes, please,” she says.

“Do you need a plastic bag?”

“Yes, please.”

“Do you need your items bagged separately?”

“No, thank you.”

I’m already packing her purchase. She seems so uneasy from across the counter. A package of sanitary pads and some chocolates is enough to make many female customers shy. I always find it cute and a little funny, as if I didn’t have a mother that would make me go every once in an often to purchase some for her, and every time I would get the wrong ones.

“Thank you,” she says

“You're welcome.”

As she leaves the store, I start walking towards the bento section. I haven't had dinner yet, and it’s about 11:00, so I’m starving. I just can’t get my eyes off the tonkatsu. I peek at the salads… but I can’t help it. With a bit of regret, I take a golden, big, and juicy-looking tonkatsu. I also take a bottle of water to feel less guilty. I pass the items through the counter’s sensor and pay with my app. The tonkatsu is thirty percent off, which makes me a little happy.

As I head towards the microwave, a candy box I was supposed to unpack later gets in my way. I helplessly try to catch it as it falls, but I’m not sacrificing my tonkatsu, so a rainbow of candy splatters on the floor. Dang!

I return my tonkatsu to the counter and start picking up the candy. Then the entrance door opens.

“I’m not bringing you to a double date ever again,” says a drunk female voice.

“I’m so sorry, senpai!” says drunk female voice number two.

I continue picking the candy up. But. Who in the world gets willingly drunk on a Tuesday night!?!?

“I mean, he was so cute!!! Why couldn’t you give him a chance?” asks number one

“He was so annoying!” says angrily, number two.

“But my date was so nice! Why couldn’t you stand him a little longer?” says number one.

“He’ll call you back.”

“You think so?”

“Not really,” says number two while giggling. “Do you want some water?”

“I want a beer” ends number one.

I hear footsteps walking to the fridges as the others approach the counter.

“Oi! Anybody here?” I hear number one from across the counter.

I stand up to find a girl my age, but I could be wrong. Her outfit looks straight out of one of those fashion magazines I can see from the corner of my eye.

“Eh? You’re cute!” she says between a hiccup and a giggle. I turn my eyes away.

“How can I help you?” I say while looking at the computer’s screen.

“I want one of those packs of chewing gum you dropped down there,” she says, twisting her hair and making puppy eyes at me. I turn quickly and crouch near the candy, trying to hide the blush I feel coming to my cheeks. She's pretty but wouldn’t even look at me if she wasn't drunk.

“What flavor?” I ask while checking the different options.

“Mint, please,” she says. I take a package and, as I rise, I try my best to avoid hitting her face. I don’t know at which moment, but she’s sitting on top of the counter, peering at my mess.

“Oh! Did I surprise you?” she says while giggling.

“Please get down the counter,” I say calmly.

“Sorry, cutie-pie!” she says with an apology gesture. Quite obediently, she turns on the counter, gets down to her feet, and turns so we face each other again. “I just wanted to get a better look at your back.”

I ignore her. This night has gotten so random! Is this girl hitting on me?!?

“Do you need anything else?” I say while leaving the gum on the counter.

“Have we met before?” she asks with squinting eyes.

“Well, I’ve been working here for a few months. I guess you might have come by before,” I say. Once you start working at a conbini, everyone starts looking familiar.

“Do you have a point card?” I say. This is taking a while, and I’m still digging for my tonkatsu.

“Oh! Right!” she says as she turns to the fridges. “Ellie-chan! Hurry!”

For a brief moment, I startle.


No way!

Why here!?!?

Ok. Breathe. Use your brain. I live in Tokyo. There must be at least four hundred Ellies in the city. The odds are low. Sure. No way, that’s her. Ha! Me always overreacting.

“Are you okay?” says number one. I startle. I almost forgot she was next to me.

“Yeah. Sure. Thanks,” I let out a strangled laugh. “I guess I got lost in thought for a moment.”

“You're such a cutie patootie!” she says, wrinkling her nose, then she kisses the air in my direction and turns again to the fridges, just in time so she won’t see me blushing.

“Ellie-chan!!! Moooove! I wanna pee!” shouts number one.

“I’m on it!” shouts back number two. I just think. No way!

The fridge door, which has remained open since I started my conversation with number one, finally closes. Still, it is like someone has opened another one behind me as I see Inoue Ellie walk down the snacks aisle.

No way! Drunk female voice number two is Inoue Ellie!

She’s holding two big bottles of Cerulean Water, and she’s been looking at some snacks in the aisle the whole time. I could run. Disappear in the employee's section. Sounds like a good plan. I mean there are other conbinis nearby. I’ll escape now that I can…

“Sasaki-san!?” says Inoue-san as she walks closer with her eyes half closed, as if she can’t believe the person standing before her is me.

“Inoue-san!” I say in a broken voice.

“Sasaki Rin-san!?” she lets out a gentle laugh and an eye-to-eye smile. I guess she’s as drunk as number one.

“That’s me.”

“It’s been so long!” says Inoue-san. We looked at each other momentarily as if we couldn’t remember how to interact.

“Wait!?! Ellie-chan. You know him?” says number one, that remained intriguingly observant this whole time.

“We were classmates, all middle and high school.”

“EH! Is he the one that… Wait,” number one cuts as her stance waver from one foot to another. “Girl. I need to take a pee.”

“Sure. Let’s go,” assures Inoue-san and turns back to me. “Can we use your bathroom?”

“It’s broken.”

“Aaah!?!?!” both shout at me at the same time.

“Sorry. It stopped working the shift before mine, and the plumber is unavailable until tomorrow morning.” I say quickly. “But I’m sure that the conbini across the street has a functional one.”

“I’m on my way,” says number one as she and Inoue-san hurry towards the exit.

“You gotta pay for those!” I shout so they can hear me in all their hustle.

“Right!” says Inoue-san, realizing she’s still carrying the unpaid water bottles.

“You also forgot the gum,” I say as Inoue-san runs back to the counter while number one stays at the entrance.

“Do you have a point card?” I tell Inoue-san as she leaves the bottles on the counter

“Ah!?” Inoue-san says and immediately turns in number one’s direction, “Senpai, do you have a point card!”

“What I need right now is a functional bathroom!” she shouts back.

“We don´t,” tells Inoue-san. I hurry to pass the items through the system.

“It’ll be 348 yen,” I say as she hurries through her purse and brings out her phone. She passes it into the system, and the payment is made. Meanwhile, I put their purchase in a bag.

“Do you need a receipt?” I ask.

“We don't!” shouts number one from the entrance. I hurry to hand Inoue-san her purchase when she tells me.

“By the way. Are you coming to the party?” she says.

“What party?” I respond.

“Oh, sure! You should’ve received an email a while ago… but you're working, so you haven’t seen it. I’m so stupid,” she says, letting out a forced laugh.

“You’re also a little drunk,” I say, and we both giggle this time.

“Ellie-chan. If you don’t move, I’ll have to pee on a bush!!!” vociferates number one on the edge of despair.

“I’ll catch up with you at the party. See you!” she says as she sprints to the exit.

“Bye, cutie-pie!” shouts number one as they hurry to the closest conbini.

“You’re so shameless, senpai.” It is the last thing I hear as their hurried footsteps disappear into the night.

I breathe. That’s the fastest conversation I’ve had in a while!

I pick up what is left on the floor and go to the microwave with my tonkatsu. As my food warms up, I scroll across my phone. The invitation is right at the top of my inbox.

“Beep!” chimes the microwave. I guess I’ll leave the dreadful task of opening the invitation for later.

I take a fork and a napkin, spot a good place in the table area, and dedicate myself to enjoying every piece of my tonkatsu.

Once finished, the store is deserted, and I have nothing else to do, so I open the invitation:

“Roppongi Hills International School

Class reunion

From 11:00 pm until we drop

At Tokyo Eras *Address attached*

This Friday (July 7)

Don’t miss it.”

No way I’m meeting all my high school classmates ever again! No way! I’m just gonna miss it, I guess.

The rest of my shift ended in a blur. Once Suzuki-san arrives, I’m off to my house.

The way back home is even more sluggish than usual after finishing a night shift.

I mean. Should I go? A part of me wants to, but it is weighted out by the many other reasons I don't want to go. I shove it off. I’m so tired.

Once home, I lay on my bed, completely knocked out.