RECOMMENDED FOR MATURE READERS
We entered as a pack and splintered down the aisles; I went to the fridge, Ginny and Yumiko to the back, and Akane straight to the front armed with a frilly dress and glossy lips.
She stepped to the counter propped up on platforms half her height. She fluttered her lashes and giggled. “Hi,” she squeaked and leaned over. “I like your hair. Would you like to go on a date with me?”
The shopkeeper looked past her and to the rest of us. “Get lost,” he grunted.
I scoured the rows in search of coffee; all of the brands they had were too sweet. Why did we keep coming to this place? It wasn’t as though we were poor.
In the corner mirror I watched as Akane pouted and tilted her head. “That wasn’t very nice. Don’t you think I’m cute? Maybe you’d like me if you got to know me better.”
Maybe I’d get something else. Lemon, grape, strawberry, perhaps a milk tea; taro?
Ginny and Yumiko considered the bento boxes on display and argued amongst themselves. Would they rather the tori or the makunouchi; or maybe a hamburger, just like Ginny used to have in the “old country.”
“I told you to get lost,” the shopkeeper huffed. “I know what you are. You’re in that gang of crossdressers.”
The lolita in black pushed closer to him and smiled. “Does that mean you don’t want to kiss me? I promise, I taste just like a girl.”
He shoved her away and I caught her. Akane was such a delicate thing, and getting picked on by failed adults was beneath her.
“I said get fucked, you queer!” he spat.
“Hey,” I growled. My tone was deep, not like most girls; it made me into something I hated, but it was useful. His attention had shifted from Akane and was set on the glare I’d laid on him.
The store was silent save for the humming of fluorescent lights struggling for life and the soundtrack in the background; it was a ballad from a cartoon I’d seen as a child, and was too sentimental for a small time convenience store turning rancid.
I stepped to the counter, placed my purchase, and stared down the clerk. He was too young to be the owner; maybe he was the owner’s son, or grandson, nephew or some such. Nepotism was the only guarantee a worm like this had for a job.
We stared for an eternity. In my periphery I could see sweat bead and catch along his brow. Five against one; he knew the odds.
“Give me a pack of fifties,” I ordered. “Reds. I don’t care what brand.”
His hand moved automatically to the high shelf; he wasn’t going to break the line of sight. The shopkeeper placed them down, slid them toward me and clicked his tongue.
“Eight hundred yen,” he said.
“Eight hundred! For cigarettes and coffee?” Ginny laughed. “You hear that, Chiyoko? That’s highway robbery!”
Akane propped herself upright and beamed. “Is there anything I can do for a staff discount?”
The storekeeper and I traded silence. I recognized the shirt he wore under his uniform; they were gang colours. Anything we started his friends were going to finish later.
“We just want food and smokes.” I collected the items and slid them into my coat pocket. “You called my friend an ugly name. You can pay instead of apologising.”
His face contorted. “What!? You expect me to pay!? You fucking-”
My elbow smashed into his face, and the shopkeeper doubled over. A river poured from his nose.
He dived, throwing himself across the counter to tackle me; he fell short, ran into a knee from Ginny, and collapsed to the floor. Soon he was lost in a storm of kicks, to his stomach, to his ribs, to his face; enough that he wouldn’t be getting up for a while.
“Leave him,” I barked. The other girls stepped back and gave him room to curl into a pathetic ball.
The shopkeeper coughed. “I know… who you are…”
“Of course you do, idiot,” I scoffed. The point of my boot traced his chin. “We never tried to hide it. We’re the closest thing there is to a real devil; we’re the Hellbound Dolls, and you should know better than to fuck with us.”
A final kick, then silence. I hated shopping in this part of town.
To be continued…