Sunday, 17 May 2015

Chapter five (segment one), twenty four years earlier, May, Noriko

Club activities ground to a halt as mid terms came crashing down on them. That two way presentation had already been one activity too many.

The club members made good use of their room for studying after school, even though officially there were no club hours.

There wasn't a teacher who cared. She didn't expect to find a teacher who would willingly tell the students not to study for exams just because they sat in their club room.

She had just opened the door to the Stockholm Haven Café when she heard agitated voices from inside. It was too late to change her mind, so she entered despite recognizing Kuri-chan's voice as one half of a quarrel.

“I told you not to come here evenings.”

“Look, you brat. I was free now so I came here to collect my money. None of your business.”

The middle aged woman that the voice belonged to stormed out of the café.

“Who was that?” Noriko asked Kuri-chan. She nodded affirmatively when the barista questioningly held up an empty coffee cup.

Kuri-chan gave the exit a long stare. She sighed and turned to Noriko. “That was my legal guardian.”

“Collecting money?”

“She's also my landlady. Let's just say she's running a dirty business by the side with orphaned teenagers. Suits me perfectly, but I'm a bit worried about a couple of the other tenants.” She shrugged. “Not my business really. She leaves me alone in exchange for some cash.”

Shouldn't you be worried about yourself? “For some cash?”

“I have a job that pays rather well, but I had to lie about my age. She's backing the story.”

Noriko nodded at the door by the counter. “Want to take it inside?”

Kuri-chan shook her head. “Your coffee is done. Let's sit down by a table here.” She grabbed her glass of water and walked away from the counter.

Noriko rounded some chairs and tables as she followed her rival and friend.

“What kind of job?”

Kuri-chan sat down. “Hostess, part time.”


“Not so loud please. James knows. He's paying her share. I leave the money here.”

So that was what that phone call had been about. “Is it really worth it?” Now Noriko did feel worried.

Kuri-chan shrugged again. “Quarter of a million yen in a good month. A hundred and fifty in a bad one. Pays my living here and I can save a little.”

That was a lot of money. I bet Kyoko-chan knows. It still sounded dangerous though.

“I know what you think. Don't forget I'm fifty. If I get into trouble it doesn't matter if my body is sixteen, twenty six or thirty six. So it's a matter about not getting into trouble, and that's where being an adult comes into the picture.”

Noriko shook her head. “I'm not going to copy you. Our family is rich. I don't need a part time job.” I still don't like it. “How?” she asked.

“After my swimming training.”

That made sense in a perverted way. No one would ask questions about a girl applying make-up and dressing up in a locker room. “Just curious. How old do you look, you know, when...”

“I can push it to a bit over twenty. It's pretty dark after all.” Then Kuri-chan looked afraid for the first time. “Please don't tell Ulf. I know you like him, but...”

“I won't. If I steal him from you I do it by my own merits.” Noriko felt her cheeks heat up. “I don't think I could keep him otherwise.” I don't think I can compete with you. I always forget you're both adults inside, and I'm still a kid.

Kuri-chan looked at her for a long time. “You're more dangerous than I gave you credit for.”

That gave her a start. Dangerous? How?

Kuri-chan waved to James who had started to accept orders from the tables since the club made the café their usual hangout. He nodded and after a while he came out with a caramel coloured soft drink.

Noriko made her orders as he delivered Kuri-chan's.

It was almost dusk outside when the home-grown brothers arrived together with Sho-kun. Noriko still had a bit of a problem thinking of the club members in terms of first names, but both Kuri-chan and Urufu-kun had been adamant on that part.

Soon Sango-chan would arrive together with Jirou-kun. There was a standing bet on who would be seen first hand in hand, they or Yu-kun and Kyoko-chan, and when that event would occur. The winner would be treated to their planned field trip during summer break.

Noriko hoisted her bag and spilled her homework onto the table. She had gotten permission from her mother to sleep over at Kuri-chan's home. Kyoko-chan would join them as well. Your own little rebellion, Noriko thought. Neither her parents, nor Kyoko-chan's knew that Kuri-chan lived on her own.

“Let's start with maths,” Noriko suggested and waved the three newcomers to their table.

The boys wouldn't come tonight. It was the last Friday in May, and Fridays were sacrosanct to Urufu-kun and Yu-kun for some reason. Her idiot brother had chosen to join them.

At least they wouldn't have to listen to Urufu-kun's atrocious choice of music. He liked his music foreign, which was OK. He also liked his music ancient, which was not.

Behind her the bell jingled again, and Sango-chan entered with Jirou-kun. Noriko threw a glance at their hands. The bet was still up.

They split to two tables and started cramming math for all that they were worth. Come Saturday they would study English. Both Urufu-kun and Kuri-chan had promised to join them, but both were otherwise occupied during Sunday.

Noriko felt rather certain it wasn't a date this time. Urufu-kun had talked about his part time job, and now she knew why Kuri-chan often preferred late afternoon meetings during Sundays.

They were on their third round when Kyoko-chan finally arrived for a last half an hour of cramming in the café. At eight o'clock they had to leave, and that was really pushing it a bit. Kuri-chan wanted to be home before nine, and they had some shopping to do first.

After that they'd prepare a late dinner and study until midnight.

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