Strawberry Tea

I wrote this story for a person on Gaia Online, this is going to be rather long. Hope you enjoy. Do not own PSOH, or any store or pop culture reference.

In a small café in Chinatown, a girl picked at her ice cream. She looked around the purple silk-draped walls, and stared at the gold Chinese symbols, trying to remember what they all meant.

She didn't get it. It was her favorite, chocolate with a strawberry swirl, but she just couldn't enjoy it. She twirled her long brown hair with her fingers, and fidgeted in her chair.

She couldn't figure out what it was, but she felt… anticipatory about something. She looked up and called the waitress over, noticing some Jock-types rioting up in the corner. They were laughing uproariously at nothing, and she turned away quickly to avoid their glance.

From where she was, she could tell they were at least Seniors, if not in college. It was a small café, and you could see everyone with no problems. They looked like the type you'd see head-butting and hitting on the poor freshman in the café who didn't know better.

She paid her bill and left, but one of the Jocks was staring at her with an odd gleam in his eye. She assumed that he was drunk as a lord and paid it no attention.

After about a block, she felt someone behind her. The feeling didn't go away another block later and she ducked into an alley to avoid her pursuers.

It was then she realized that that was about the stupidest thing you could have done. Yep, going into a dark alley to get away. If she could have hit her head on the wall, she would have.

Unfortunately, she never got the chance, because that's when someone wrapped their arms around her from behind. A rough hand covered her mouth, and the matching hand covered her eyes.

A voice in front of her spoke up, "Hey, little girl." Her eyes widened and she tried to scream. The hand over her mouth clamped tighter as did the arms around her chest. "Aww, don't be scared. We just wanna have a little fun with you is all."

Crap, she knew she was in trouble. Her mind sharpened, and she built up all of her adrenaline rush before ripping her jaws open to bite the hand that covered them, and squeezed her body together tightly to slip out of the arm's grasp.

Ducking and running, she tried to get away from the Jocks chasing her. 'I can't outrun them.' She realized. Seeing a large, red archway leading down into stairs, she almost tripped down them in her escape.

She bolted until she reached a huge door, opening it to lead into a smoky den, richly furnished in heavy oriental design. 'What's that smell?' she thought. She walked farther in, sniffing the air. 'It's incense!'

The entire place was filled with sweet-smelling smoke coming from an old-fashioned iron censer sitting on a wooden table. "Irrashaimase."

The girl whirled around panting. "We have everything from dogs to cats to birds to insects to reptiles. What can I do for you?"

The girl waited for her heart rate to calm down. "Geez! You almost gave me a heart attack!" The girl took a closer look at the… were they a man?

They were very effeminate. Almost androgynous. But she supposed he must be a man. His hair was cut in a short black bob, falling over his eyes. She noticed one was amber, one was purple. Odd. He seemed to be wearing a long-sleeved Ao Dai with peonies on it. No wonder he looked like a girl.

"Hello. N-nice to meet you." For some reason this man made her a bit nervous. He surveyed her calmly. "What would you like?"

"Hm?" 'Cats, birds, reptiles…' Oh, this must be a pet shop. "Oh. No, I'm sorry. A few men were chasing me, and so I ran in here to get away. Aisumimasen." She bowed.

"There is no need to apologize, young lady. I understand completely. Please, sit down." He gestured to a set of patterned chairs next to a low, wooden tea table. "Would you like some tea?"

"Yes, thank you." She took a seat, and the china cup he offered. "So what is your name, young lady?" She looked up, startled by the question. "My name is Ayumi Alistier Alexander Alexandria Sakura Starlight Gankustuou III. But please, call me Ayumi."

The mysterious shopkeeper raised an eyebrow. "Ayumi Alistier Alexander Alexandria Sakura Starlight Gankustuou III?"

Ayumi's eyes narrowed. "No, I'm serious. Call me Ayumi. I like the name, well, names. But, seriously, not all of them together. My mom and dad couldn't decide on a name, so I guess they used all of them." She was used to asking, but it was still annoying, having a name like a tawdry romance novel or a soap opera.

The shop tender sipped his tea quietly. "I see." Ayumi suddenly realized she didn't know his name. "Excuse me, sir, but what is your name?"

The shopkeeper suddenly smiled. A small, secret smile, like he knew something she didn't. "My name is Count D." Ayumi cocked an eyebrow. "Count D?"

'Ah, Count, so he is definitely a man.' The man kept that secret smile. "Yes, my Grandfather is also Count D. He is the true owner of this shop. I am simply watching it until he returns."

"So your mother and father picked out your name?" Ayumi started and almost dropped her teacup. "Oh, yes. My father picked out 'Ayumi'. He really liked that name. He was Japanese. My mother was European."

"We lived in Europe together for a while before my parents divorced and my mom moved here to Chinatown. I lived with Dad, until he died. I moved here with mom a month or two ago."

She had no idea why she was telling him so much. Was it just that he was so easy to talk to? No, it was probably that she hadn't had someone who listed to her since she got here.

Or maybe even that she hadn't had a chance to discuss this stuff with anyone, not that she had many friends TO discuss it with.

She had transferred in halfway through Senior year, and so with that, plus being very smart, with a straight-A average, well, it was a bit off-putting.

But this man…he was just so easy to talk to. He had this calming aura, and she felt like he was really listening to her. Odd for someone she just met, no?

Maybe it was the tea. It was very good, and made her feel mellowed out, calm, cucumber-cool. She hoped to God this man didn't roofie her drink. This Count D.

She realized she had been sitting staring at the flowered teapot for around two minutes, lost in thought. Oops. Count D smiled. "Thinking about something very hard, ne?"

"Oh, yes, I'm sorry." She apologized. But Count D didn't look offended. If anything, his eyes grew brighter. "Do you like animals, Ayumi-san?"

Her eyes widened. Of course! This was a pet shop. "Oh, yes, I love animals! I wish I could have some! Oh, but we can't have animals in our apartment, you see." She clarified, thinking he wanted to sell her one.

Count D's secret smile returned full force, and bigger. "Do you believe in mystical animals, Ayumi-san?" Her eyes lit up in a display of curiosity. "Mystical animals?"

Count D smiled wider. "Yes. Those animals not commonly found. Mysterious in both appearance and ability. The Phoenix. The Mermaid. The Kirin. The Unicorn. The Vampire. The Werewolf."

He rattled these off like he knew each one intimately. Gee, for not being much of a talker, he was certainly getting chatty. She had only met him ten minutes ago. Meeting a new person, perhaps he had only been reserved. At least, temporarily.

"Yes, I believe in those animals. I believe in all kinds of mystical flora and fauna. I just really wish I could meet some of them. That would be amazing."

Count D's smile grew. "How would you like to work in my shop after school? With my Grandfather gone, we're a bit shorthanded, and I could use a helpful young lady like you."

Wow, she'd been in this shop for such a short time, and already she was being offered an after-school job. 'Should I take it? I've only just met this man. This store could do drug-trafficking for all I know. But we really need the money…' "I'll do it. When do I start?" Count D smiled, a big one this time, closing his eyes. "You may start tomorrow, Ayumi-Chan. 4:00."

Chan? We were getting familiar already? But I worked for him now, so I guess we would be seeing a lot of each other. Chan… It sounded nice.

Ayumi decided as she rode home in a cab that she liked this…Count D.