Chances in Life
.Chapter I. An Arbitrary Meeting
Without even looking up from my magazine, I reached up and caught whatever it was my idiot of a coworker had thrown at me. A sharp pang seared through my palm as the edge of a CD case impacted it, but I didn't even flinch.
"Dammit!" Tidus jumped over the counter and eyed me suspiciously as I handed him the CD case, my eyes still glued to my magazine, though I wasn't even absorbing the words as my eyes skimmed over the article. It was all some pointless garbage, anyway, about some slut pop star who'd been impregnated by her fiancé, whom everyone knew she was just going to end up divorcing six months into the marriage. What I didn't understand was why anyone thought the public cared. I certainly didn't care. So why had I even bought the stupid magazine in the first place? I didn't remember.
"How do you do it?" Tidus wondered aloud, sounding miffed.
Having finally made the realization that the magazine article no longer held my interest, I closed it and acknowledged my friend. "Do what?"
"Just … catch, deflect, dodge … anything I throw at you!"
I passed him one of my trademark smirks. "Because I'm awesome, and you are no master of subtlety."
He scowled at me. "Psh, whatever." He stomped off to put the merchandise back on the shelf, muttering derisively under his breath.
I sighed, suddenly struck with a bout of boredom. I looked around the cramped store, from the wall of band T-shirts in the back to the corner stocked with anime merchandise, to the rack of CD's where Tidus was returning the one he'd thrown at me to the front where the corsets, shoes, underwear, and other various tops, etcetera, were found. There was some hardcore band blaring from random speakers throughout the room, and I suddenly found myself tuning into it, trying to discern the lyrics from amidst the heavy guitar chords, driving rhythms supplied by the bass guitar and drums, and screams underlying the singer's melody. My mission was futile.
I sighed again, propping my elbows on the counter and dropping my chin into my hands. I watched through the entrance of the store to the bit of mall framed in the doorway, looking on at the people that passed.
Just as I began to count down the minutes until I could leave and sate my protesting stomach down at the food court, a red-and-brown-and-purple blur shot across the entrance.
It almost seemed as if I'd imagined the whole thing, until the red-and-brown-and-purple blur returned, except as less of a blur and as more of actual people. A boy and a girl, to be exact. Both looked to be about my age. They stood outside the door, the girl pointing and laughing animatedly. The boy, whom I thought was much cuter in comparison to the girl (in case anyone should care), was blushing and shaking his head.
Finally the girl threw her hands up in exasperation and grabbed the other's wrist, dragging him inside.
And then something collided with the side of my head.
"Ow! Shit, Tidus!" I yelled angrily.
Tidus was standing over in the anime corner, gaping at me as if I'd just swung down from the ceiling on a jungle vine, wearing a loincloth. Then, his deer-in-a-headlight expression broke into a wide grin. He rushed over to the counter and began laughing in my face. "I got you!" He continued laughing.
I rolled my eyes, stooping to pick up the Inuyasha key chain he'd pegged at my head. "Yeah, well don't expect it to happen again."
I turned to see the boy standing in front of the register, looking flustered, and if I'd thought he was cute before, he was even cuter up close.
He held up, to my surprise, I a bead-strewn, black thong, and I immediately recognized it as one of the ones from our panties selection.
I quirked an eyebrow and bit back the laugh that was crawling up my throat.
"Does this come in any other colors?" the boy asked hurriedly.
I heard a short laugh sound from somewhere in the front of the store. The boy just blushed a deeper shade of red.
Feeling the irresistible urge to tease the boy, I couldn't help but ask, "Now is this for your girlfriend ... or you?"
I grinned as his adorable heart-shaped face became stained with a red so deep that it was almost purple. Had I not been so amused and captivated by this person, I would've begun to worry about his health at that point. I was pretty sure it wasn't normal for people to have purple faces.
"Girlfriend?" The redheaded girl appeared at his side. "Psh, if only he were so lucky." Then she leaned in to whisper to her friend, "I told you he'd have a sexy voice!"
I rolled my eyes. Obviously this girl, like Tidus, was no master of subtlety. Either that, or she'd wanted me to hear her. Hmm, now there was a thought.
I jumped, turning to face the angry, metallic gaze of my boss. I grinned sheepishly.
"What are you still doing here?" he asked in that even tone of his.
"Huh?" Oh yes, articulacy was definitely a strong point of mine.
"It's your break. Go get some lunch."
"Oh, right!" I went to swing a leg over the counter—
"And no jumping over the counter."
—and brought it back, using the gated opening instead.
"Riku!" Tidus called. "Bring me back something, please! I'm starving."
I turned to the two customers—the only two we appeared to have at the moment—and said, "You want to come?"
"Sure!" the girl chirped, grabbing the boy's hand. "I'm Kairi, by the way."
"Riku," I offered my name, though it was probably a redundant gesture.
"And this is Sora," Kairi said.
"Kairi, I can speak for myself," Sora muttered.
"Then go ahead."
Sora huffed, scowling at the redhead, who just grinned amusedly.
"Let's go," I said, leaving the store. The two followed.
We pushed through the sparse crowd of shoppers with little difficulty, being that it was a Wednesday afternoon. We reached the food court, and immediately my stomach growled painfully at the savory aromas wafting through the area.
"So, where do you guys want to eat?"
"Anywhere is fine," Kairi replied.
"How about the Panda Express?" I offered, overcome with a sudden craving for Chinese food.
We got in the short line at the Panda Express, and within ten minutes, were sitting down by the windows in a far corner. As I tore open my straw wrapper and poked it through the lid of my soda, I started up a conversation with Kairi and Sora. Well, actually it would probably wind up being with Kairi solely, because Sora didn't seem to be very chatty.
"So where do you guys go to school?"
Kairi picked up her fork and stabbed at her fried rice. "At the local Catholic school," she answered.
"Ah, so that's why I don't recognize you."
"What grade are you in?" Kairi asked.
"Senior," I replied laconically. "You?"
"Juniors. So you're … eighteen?"
"Yeah, since October."
"Do you have your license?"
"Yup." I took a bite of my orange chicken, the sweet flavor filling my senses.
"That's awesome! I can't wait to get mine."
"Which will be when?"
"Two Aprils from now."
"And what about him?" I asked, poking my fork in Sora's direction.
"Next August," Sora answered, the first words he'd said since we'd left the store.
I nodded, shoveling some fried rice into my mouth. Swallowing, I said, "So, I've never seen you around the store before."
"I suppose we don't shop there much," Kairi said.
"Why should we?"
"Because we're the most awesome store in the mall!" I replied enthusiastically. I was a walking advertisement.
"Honestly, that store kinda scares me," Kairi murmured.
I shrugged. "Oh well, what can I say? Everyone has their own preferences. After all, how boring would it be if we all liked the same things? Individuality is important."
Kairi nodded vigorously.
I turned to Sora. He wasn't looking at us, just sitting there and silently eating his food. It almost seemed as if he hadn't said anything, but we knew otherwise.
"Why don't you talk more?" I prompted.
Sora shrugged. "I don't have much to say."
"You're such a liar," Kairi teased. "You're usually so talkative that I have to stuff something in your mouth to get you to shut up."
Sora flushed. I just watched him, finding it hard to believe that someone who seemed so taciturn could be loquacious, as Kairi claimed. I went back to my plate, finishing up my rice.
"So," I spoke after a few moments of silence, "what's your relationship, you two?"
Kairi looked up. "We're not dating, if that's what you think."
"No, I know that. You kinda made that clear back in the store."
"Right." Kairi giggled. "Well, we're just best friends. What about you? You and your coworker seem to be good friends."
"Tidus? Yeah, I guess you could say that."
"Your boss seems kinda cold, though."
I chuckled. "Yeah, Leon gives everyone that impression. Really, though, he's like an older brother to me. And Tidus. And all of the other employees. He cares, he just doesn't go out of his way to show it."
"He's hot, too," Kairi said. "Does he have a girlfriend?"
I could sense the hopeful chord in her voice, and smiled amusedly. "Oh no, he doesn't have a girlfriend. And I doubt if he ever will."
"Because of his personality?"
"Because of his sexual preference."
Kairi's face fell slightly. "Oh."
I seemed to have caught Sora's interest, because he was now watching me with those rich, blue eyes of his. I couldn't help but feel captured by their stare. Like I was drowning. No, not drowning—suffocating, as if I couldn't get enough air into my lungs, no matter how many breaths I took. And the scary thing was, I didn't mind.
"He's gay?" Sora asked.
"And it doesn't bother you?"
I scowled slightly. "No, why should it?"
"Oh, don't get the wrong idea," Kairi said hurriedly. "It's just … attending a Catholic school, we're generally surrounded by homophobes."
"So you two don't have a problem with homosexuality?" I asked.
"Nope," Kairi answered cheerily. Sora shook his head.
I smiled, finishing the last of my chicken and taking a sip of my soda. I got up to throw away my tray, leaving my drink on the table to finish when I came back. I quickly stepped away to get Tidus something at Wendy's, and as I returned I saw Kairi and Sora talking. I stepped lightly up behind them, eavesdropping.
"Sora, you have to talk more!" Kairi was saying.
"I'll make a fool of myself," Sora groaned.
"Ugh, Sora! How do you expect me to help you if you don't do your part?"
"I never said I wanted help!"
"But you need it."
"No, I don't!"
"Yes, you do!"
Help? With what?
"Come on, Sora! Just because—"
"Kairi, drop it." Sora stood then, picking up his tray to bring over to the trash can, and met my gaze. He started, nearly dropping his garbage.
"Hi," I said, smiling.
"H-Hi." He blushed, pushing past me.
I watched him go and then went to grab my drink. "What's up with him?" I asked Kairi.
"I don't know. He's not usually this shy. He's actually really outgoing."
"Hmmm." I finished up my soda and checked my cell phone for the time. "I have to get back to work. You wanna come back with me?"
"I don't think we can. We have to go home." Kairi smiled apologetically. "But maybe we'll see you again some time."
Oh, you could count on it. Looking at Sora as he returned, I knew there was no way I was letting him get away. I didn't know what exactly I was feeling, but I guess you could call it "lust at first sight". I didn't really believe in love. Every relationship I'd ever been in had been based purely on physical attraction. Boy, girl, it didn't matter; a pretty face and a good body and you were mine. Yeah, some may call me shallow, but really when it came down to it, I just … didn't believe in love.
"Come on, Sora," Kairi said, standing with her tray.
Sora nodded and turned to leave. I came up beside him and whispered in his ear, "See ya around." He stiffened slightly and nodded again, more tersely this time. I smiled captivatingly, making sure to catch his eye, and walked away from them, back through the food court and towards Hot Topic, Tidus's food in hand.
Lend me your thoughts, I beg of thee, O mighty readers!