The Shirokuma was known for going above and beyond to satisfy customers of all tastes and knew when to keep quiet. As a result we catered to all kinds of customers...
But you’ve more or less figured that out by now. Let me do what I failed to the first time around. I’ll introduce myself properly this time.
This is me.
Jaded. Lonely. Host club veteran. But you can call me Llama.
So now that you have all the background necessary, let’s get to more recent events shall we?
There has been something going on with Penny-chan. He hasn’t been himself and even others have started to notice. First he started getting overly friendly with the regulars.
After that he started feeling inadequate about himself. For anyone that knew him, this would be a red flag. Not to say that Penny-chan was vain, but more to the fact that he was so unconcerned about himself that he would often even forget necessities that were required to keep oneself up and running. On multiple occasions he has been found passed out and/or feverish in the backroom and made to take the night off; much to his protest.
It was on this unusual day when Panda delivered one of his typical jabs that normally would be brushed off with a laugh, but Penny-chan was acting anything but normal.
He later asked if I would have a chat with him at the cafe during my off hours. I was hesitant. My desire to be around him only dampened by my confusion at his recent behavior. I had a feeling I would be leaving the discussion more worried than before, but when I opened my mouth to voice my reply he hit me with a look I couldn’t refuse.
I don’t think anyone in my position would have been able to say no to that face, so I don’t hold myself fully responsible for what happened next.
So there we are sitting at a cozy little table. Penny-chan still hasn’t said anything so my mind starts to wander in directions it shouldn’t. I imagine a much more favorable club to be working at.
Oh how those nights would go…
But before long I’m pulled out of my reverie by a confession I felt I must have misheard. I ask him to repeat himself.
I’m speechless. I couldn’t have misheard a second time and I don’t trust myself to keep my composure and respond. Just then I see Big Shiro walk by taking inventory and I see my chance to buy some time.
After the order is taken and I’m told it will be along momentarily and on the house (a perk for employees), I turn back to Penny-chan, not as composed as I would like, but I’m too caught off guard to do any better. He’s waiting for my response.
He starts to go on and I feel a strange tickle in the back of my throat. My eyes burn strangely in a feeling I haven’t had in years. Immediately, I know I can’t take this. Not now. Not ever.
This buys me another minute, but Penny-chan is rightfully ticked off at this point.
I wish I wasn’t. I wish I had been strong enough to reject this invitation. Even though the logical part of my mind knows that it wouldn’t have changed the fact. This is a problem I am going to have to deal with. I can’t ignore this like the other things. Like my feelings. Not anymore.
I’ll bide my time. I’ve been waiting for years. A little longer won’t kill me. Even if it feels like I’m dying already.
As a group we decide to go cherry blossom viewing during the weekend. It’s not a surprise since they do it every year, but I’m less up to going than usual. I cannot stay behind though. I’ve been doing it for too long and if I’m honest with myself- I was a little afraid to let Penny-chan out of my sight right then.
I had steeled my resolve after that talk with him and as long as Big Shiro didn’t pull his typical antics after a few drinks I was sure I could hold it together enough to get through the outing without an outburst.
This was my first cherry blossom viewing with Big Shiro. I was young and couldn’t hold my liquor very well back then. In more recent years we’ve all just sat back and let him do what he wants. Avoiding participation because these pictures always find their way onto the Shirokuma’s Wall of Shame and I’ve only just started to live down the few incidents I’ve been photographed in.
Maybe I was just being negative. Things might be a bit more calm this year. Shiro has mellowed out a little over the years and so far so good…
The pile of empty cans beside Penny-chan grew considerably before I took notice. I guess I wasn’t doing as well as I thought. I was secretly happy it was his pile and not Shiro’s, but at the same time I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t ever seen Penny-chan drink this heavily before and I know that no one else present has seen him ‘let go’ at all. Does he have a remarkable tolerance…? I wondered.
But he’s not out for long. Just as I start to think I should offer to take him home, he’s sitting up and slurring belligerently. Sasako suggests he had too much to drink and offers him some food. This seems to upset him and he rejects the offer. He gets up and weaves as he walks towards me. At least I suspected it was towards me. It was hard to tell, because his direction wasn’t consistent. Just as he’s about to reach one of us, a misplaced can sends him stumbling into me. I can’t breathe.
He’s drunk. I remind myself. I can barely even hear what he’s saying, but I know it’s not a declaration of any sort. I manage to gently nudge him off me, but he launches himself against Panda next. The only thing that keeps me from doing anything about it is Panda’s clear distaste for the situation.
Just as I started to wish it was indeed Big Shiro who had finished the beers, he starts up again.
It was a mistake for me to come.
It was a mistake thinking I could deal with this.
The rest of the day was a blur. Before I knew it, Penny-chan had passed out for good and the sun had gone down. As we packed up to leave, I was tasked with taking him home as I was heading in the same direction. It was a bittersweet victory that I took no joy in.
He slept like a baby the whole way home.
But as we turned the corner out of sight I felt a prickle of unease on my neck, but I brushed it off. I chalked it up to the emotional day I had…
Little did I know that I wasn't the only one with plans.