Disclaimer: I do not own Tokyo Mew Mew
Taruto was working the late shift again.
The situation had relatively reached its boiling point and he knew he had every right to quit. Yet tragically, the single bullet on his "to do" list became a must for him like food or water. As much as he hated to let the joy die on his life, what needed to be done had to be done.
He sighed tiredly as he resumed working on the endless piles of dirty, unwashed dishes and silverware. They appeared to be swallowing in on him, semi taunting, semi-sympathetic. For a split second, his head plunged into daydream mode, licking down every corner of the boring image miserably, and conjuring up even worst thoughts after that, most of which contained the word, 'work.' Truth be told, if this predicament persisted, he didn't know how much longer he could go on. Death had decided to move one more step closer; like a metal hinge so overly rusted that not even the most elaborated oils could established movement or life for it again.
Taruto was not surprised at this fact. He hadn't expected good results to clot his life ever since he took that path alone. Tripping back now, he realized living with his parents may be for the best. A 17 year old who'd just gotten out of high school couldn't possibly take on such responsibility overnight.
Too bad he couldn't unearth the effects earlier.
Even though he was only putting in effort to managed one person (himself), it was already turning like he had to work for fifty. With his cheap paychecks and non-economical bills, there was no way he could obtain a break. He didn't even have the time to shop for groceries.
He detained a sarcastic 'HA!' while spraying what was left in the bottle of detergent soap. The yellow liquid bled over the pool of warm water slowly, drowning the soiled dishware from view. No sooner had the deed been done, a massive pack of bubbles erupted, acting as a slight substitution for the now buried water. He winced at the sight and shoved his hands right in. Almost immediately, groups of food particles were lingering alongside his wrists. They surrounded his pale skin like garbage handcuffs.
Taruto tried not to vomit at the nauseating feeling. All the saliva from the customers who'd dined using those plates was absolutely revolting. He shuddered at the thought.
To think, last week he even had the guts to declared he was in a spot to treat himself to a nice breakfast at a restaurant; otherwise a two day vacation. How erroneous that had been! How . . . stupid.
Obviously, he was merely one step closer from sniffing slobber to picking up trash! To make matters worst, his debit lay due in three days! No realistic fortune cookie would dare tell him he could make it, even if he worked himself to death.
He forced his dried, devastated, arthritic fingers to finish cleaning the last fork in the sink.
It would cost a miracle to save him now.
Suddenly, the door to the kitchen swung open. A girl whom he knew too well marched in his face and mindlessly embraced him with a murderous hug. Without further adieu, he was flat onto the floor; his soggy sponge following suit.
"Hey, Taru-kun! It's me!" she exclaimed eccentrically, squashing the helpless teen under her.
Taruto stared, eyes blank. He was aware of his lungs progressively losing consciousness. He let out a sharp breath.
Just as he suspected--
"What are you doing here?" he asked his coadjutor unenthusiastically, too drained of energy to overreact.
Purin grinned, exposing her newly polished white teeth.
"Isn't that obvious, Tar-Tar-kun? I came here just to see you! Aren't you happy? Oh, and I also came to drop off several cookies I baked," she chirped. Purin hastily got off his chest and pulled out a medium sized plastic box.
Taruto rolled his eyes. Seizing onto the angles of a nearby table for support, he hoisted himself back up to standing posture. Once on his feet, he groaned, snapped his neckline bones and rubbed his back to recover from the fall. He muttered in annoyance.
"You're not supposed to be here! Look at the time, would you?" he said, veins exploding in pure anger.
She held out her prepared gift unpretentiously.
"I haven't tried them yet, but I'm sure they're pretty decent. I'm not that bad of a baker," she assured optimistically.
Taruto eyed the dowry casually, one hand on his waist. The moment of bitter admiration lasted as short as it began. In less than ten seconds, he had dismissed the parcel to trail back to tending the silverware in the washbasin.
"Yeah, whatever," he said dryly. "I'm busy."
Purin's smile twitched—before flipping upside-down entirely.
"Taru-kun, aren't you going to try them?" she asked, cheeks dipped with pink.
Taruto roughly wiped at the platter residing on his hand. Discovering in disbelief that the intransigent food pieces weren't budging a millimeter, he snatched the steel wool sponge and began tackling at it furiously.
She watched him impatiently, repeating, "Taru-kun, are you still listening to me?"
The brown haired boy halted for one minute, then dumped another pile of tableware into the sink.
"HELLO? It's me, PURIN-CHAN! Do I need a microphone?"
"Can't you see I'm occupied at the moment?" he asked sardonically. "Just look! Look at all this work!"
She gazed over his unfinished tasks. The cookery equipments were snowed with leftover ingredients used previously by the chefs. Ribbons of old cut vegetables decorated the trash bins and melted ice cream lay on several serving trays, waiting eagerly to be washed. The large oven stood motionless in front view, its once shiny metal reputation destroyed by the bumbling procedures from unexplained recipes. Packs of sugar crusted the blenders. Salad mixings tortured the microwave. It was a horrendous stand. The whole kitchen was practically contaminated with rotten food--from the collapsed tables begging to be scrubbed in the upper right handed corner . . . to the poor tablecloths that were gradually being suffocated under their own scent.
Purin gawked in bewilderment.
". . . Wow . . ." she marveled in mid-shout. "You should start working faster to complete your daily duties for the sake of having to stay late again."
Taruto rolled his eyes. When will she ever understand?
"I'm not behind on my duties, I WANT to stay," he explained.
Purin stared, confused.
"That's none of your business."
Purin grimaced, clearly upset. Her lips curled up into pouting mode. Her cheeks puffed sourly at her opponent. Being the busybody girl she was, she decided without delay to stop at nothing until she got an answer. Curiosity was her strong point; a vibrating egg inside her that'd threatened to implode if its wounded spot isn't instantaneously cured. Taruto understood this well. He'd crossed her path a few too many times during work breaks to not.
All those weeks in the kitchen, silly Purin Fon would shot him with questions, making a break--not a break. When Purin gets pumped up, there was no technique to put the fire out—until it was too late.
"Taru-kun, it's always better to spill your troubles when you're suffering!"
He rinsed the soap layered cloth with one hand while wiping a yellow stain on his apron using the other. He grumbled a soundless 'here we go again.'
He really hated working late shifts. But he hated Purin Fon's bothersome conversations more.
"Are you concerned about someone or maybe something?" she persisted.
"What does that have to do with me working the late shift?" Taruto questioned.
" . . . It might . . . in some way!"
"Well, it's not!"
"Okay, if that isn't your problem, I'll guess again."
"Don't. It's not worth it."
Purin ignored his side statements.
"Is it possible that there's someone you like in this job? Are you waiting for her secretly?"
Her single phrase shot Taruto through the stomach.
"You've got to be kidding me! I don't like anyone here! The only reason I'm here, listening to your useless pleads is because I need to earn some cash!"
She leaped up.
"I get it now! So . . . you're saying you're broke?"
Taruto mentally smacked himself. A slight blush took over his cheeks and he glared.
"I didn't say that! I'm just a little low on money, that's all!"
Purin placed a finger on her mouth, confining a giggle.
"You need to get money desperately, correct?" she asked.
"NO! Just shut it."
"Do you have any bills needing to be paid in an extremely short period of time as well? Are you trying to save up enough yen to get yourself an incredibly amazing expensive object you've been dying to own for years?" the blond jabbered, skipping under his interruptions.
Taruto turned the faucet off. He dried his hands with a towel, deciding the last tree of dishes should wait after he took a short rest. He stretched, leaned against the oven behind him. He frowned at his co-worker.
Today of all days! She was acting like a broken waterwheel, spinning rapidly out of control with wrecked machinery. Some days, Taruto thought it bliss--easier if he hadn't been partnered with such a co-worker.
"Taru-kun! You're done with the dishes? Well, are you?" Purin squealed, hopping next to the amber eyed boy excitedly. "Do you have the heart now to try one of my homemade cookies? PLEASE?"
He uttered an infuriated sigh.
"Purin, do you realize what time it is? It's eleven-forty-five! You should be in bed by now! Work is over!"
Purin crossed her arms.
"Well, I don't feel very sleepy," she argued. "Oh, I know! I'll help! I am your partner in the cleaning district after all!"
"NO! Go home, either way! This is my job, not yours. You're not even supposed to be here right now! It's off limits! How'd you get in?"
The effervescent teenager grinned.
"I have my ways. Of course, it did take some pretty good flirting skills. I happened to have some up my sleeves. So it's no surprise I managed to convince the boss," she said proudly.
"That's got nothing to do with it. Flirt with the boss all you want, not me! You're invading my private business."
"Well, I'm here now so I might as well keep ya company!"
He turned to face her.
"This is getting frustrating you know. Why do you always follow me around everywhere, spilling your impractical jokes? Is bothering me to death one of your major goals in life?" He stopped. "What were you planning to do here anyways? You never come on my late shifts."
Taruto fully anticipated Purin to counter his questions with another senseless reply. But to his amazement, she remained quiet. Suspicion slowly crept up his thoughts. The image of the still girl endured for a lengthy time period. However, as he inspected her closer, he uncovered that her face was veiled with a sudden shadow of solemnity. The yellow haired girl had unexpectedly become deadly serious.
"Uh . . . hey . . .?" his voice level shrinked.
She finally spoke again, in a composed tone of voice.
"You're right. I DID come here for a good reason," she began, wrinkling her red skirt. "That is . . . I came here to tell you something. Something I figured you ought to know."
Air thickened between them. The cold draft in the room faded into waves of troubling heat. Taruto felt a solo drop of sweat slid down the left side of his face. He wasn't sure why he was experiencing such tension at the moment. Maybe it was because he wasn't acquainted with seeing this personality in Purin.
"So . . ." the sentence fainted on his lips.
"Taruto . . . today is my last day as your co-worker ," She concluded.
"Well . . . I've been meaning to tell you," she added quickly. "But judging by your previous reactions toward my procedures, I assumed it wouldn't have made much of a difference."
Taruto lurched mentally; failing to prevent himself from asking wordlessly, 'why'?
Purin read his thoughts.
"Not like I wanted to quit the job," she explained. "It's a wonderful job. It's so fun working with you and being able to make you angry. I like taking your orders, this was one of those few jobs I actually enjoyed and wouldn't mind continuing working for free. But . . . I have to move soon--in less than three days."
She bought both palms to her cheeks.
Taruto let the deeper of details slid in. It caused no effect on his facial expression, although it did lift up a portion of his heart. For some strange reason, he felt tempted to request her to stay. Even after all those times he had said to himself, 'this is the worst co-worker I've ever had," as of right now, he wanted to persuaded her to stay.
It wasn't like the announcement was a big shock. He took it calmly. He didn't feel any 'real' emotions, just a slight jolt.
"Well, that's that! It's all I've got to say, Taru-kun!" her chirping voice exploded the prolonged silence.
Purin inched toward the kitchen door. She smiled. The color was back on her cheeks. Her serious side disappeared. She scooped up the package she bought in earlier and tossed it at Taruto. It landed on his head. She clapped, pretending to yell, 'score'!
"I hope you like them!" she said, gesturing at the box. "This is my gift to you. I know it's kind of weird. This whole event was weird. But I just felt like doing it for such a great work partner! Anyways, I'm sorry for disturbing you!"
She bowed, exiting.
Taruto twitched. It was then that the base of his brain caught onto a slippery resolution. The brown haired boy scrunched up his forehead hesitantly before shouting,
She stopped; cycled around to face him.
"Today's your last day here, right?"
" . . . Yeah."
He strolled gracefully over to the sink, launching the tap water again. The feat was informal. One could consider it to be the most rudimentary response to a departing announcement.
Purin watched, eyes accompanied by a vacant stare.
"Why don't you come help me finish washing these if that's the case?"
She inched sideward. Her eyebrows featured confusion.
"Hey, you ARE my helper, right? My assistance?" he said cockily. "So let's see you assist me with one last assignment before you go. What's my late shift is your late shift."
Purin felt a flicker of spark. For the time being, she didn't say anything. All was quiet, excluding the small splashes of the tap stream smashing against the bottom of the basin. She didn't respond. She didn't move. She just gaped at him, fingers tight.
The sound of the running water seemed to delay passing time.
At last, she nodded, signaling acceptance for the offer.
"Okay. I'm still your co-worker for tonight."