Falling Leaves Ch 4

Couldn’t remember the last time I wore one of my short-sleeved dress shirts. It almost added a feeling of import to the occasion. At work I always wore long sleeved shirts, even in the summer. It felt different— lightweight— like wearing a bed sheet instead of clothes.
 
However, the knots in my gut kept me on my toes; didn’t want to get too complacent. Though Jun might’ve ended up as an easy screw, that didn’t mean I had to make an ass of myself. Outside of that particular line of thinking, at least. That was pretty bad. Manni must’ve rubbed off on me.
 
Still, her status as a liar hung over my head like a storm cloud— an omen of what could very well happen if I involved myself with her. Memories of family and false friends flooded my head every time I thought it.
 
It was only 5:52, a bit early for me to be waiting out in front of Grill on the Alley. The summer day kept the sky blue much longer than I expected. It probably wouldn’t get dark until eight or nine. That meant more time for the sun to fry my newly exposed forearms.
 
I moved into the shade.
 
Grill on the Alley sat tucked a couple blocks off the main drag, marked by a small forest of trees in its parking lot and a slanted red roof. A predominantly human wait staff served the people inside. Upon closer inspection, I spotted one monster through the front windows. An elf. Pretty, young (probably), blond, and wearing the same charming vest and dress pants the rest of the waiters wore.
 
Was it progress that they let her work there, or did she have to settle for it?
 
Out of the corner of my eye I spied a bus come to a stop on the other side of the street. As with every bus before it, I checked to see if Jun disembarked from it. A young man and an old woman later, no dice. The public transit left with a hiss of hydraulics.
 
The wait had me kicking at parking lot gravel to pass the time. Meanwhile a cocktail of anxiety and excitement wreaked havoc on my stomach, as if the thought of socializing with someone outside of work would somehow change the world. In a way, it would. Already I was wearing a shirt I didn’t think I’d wear, about to meet someone I never thought I’d voluntarily meet. Standing there, in that situation, was itself a minor triumph.
 
Change, good or bad, is all kinds of scary. Unfortunately, scary in an exciting sort of way.
 
A taxi pulled into the parking lot and once more I stiffened in expectation. When it stopped and unloaded its passenger, however, I saw a man I didn’t recognize. Another false alarm.
 
As the man made for the restaurant, I heard the gravel behind me shift.
 
“Uh, hi!”
 
I nearly jumped at the sound of Jun’s voice. Turning to greet her, she wore a white summer dress with a pink floral pattern, complemented by the oncoming twilight of the evening. The light material hugged her chest and waist before letting down in a wide hem. Her hair, instead of the disheveled mess I witnessed when we first met, looked much neater. Actually, I didn’t know it was naturally wavy. A friend of mine had a name for the style. “Sex hair,” I think? The scent of vanilla lingered in the air as she approached and relieved some of the anxiety in my gut.
 
With a pause, I decided against greeting her normally. “Hiding your ears and tail again?”
 
She shuffled in place in her white heeled sandals. “Uh, well— I thought you wouldn’t like being seen with a—”
 
“No.” I edged closer with arms crossed, almost close enough to breathe on her in my seriousness. “If we’re doing this, it’ll be with full disclosure. No more magic, no more bullshit.”
 
Her shoulders drooped and she stared at me wide-eyed. Bet she didn’t expect to get scolded right off the bat.
 
Taking a deep breath that puffed up her chest, she blew it back out through pursed lips. “It’s not you I’m worried about, but, okay. Fine. It’s only fair.”
 
She brought a hand up to her head, pausing for a second as she touched her scalp, and pulled off the leaf. Stringy smoke cascaded off of her hair and revealed the fuzzy pointed ears atop her head. Protruding from her tailbone through a hole in the back of the dress was the trademark tanuki tail, thin at the base and progressively fluffier along its length. Finally, the dark “mask” across her eyes made her look gloomier than she probably was.
 
“There, happy?” Her eyes darted around the parking lot as if everyone on the block suddenly looked at her. To be fair, some of them did.
 
I chuckled. “Yes. But… sorry, that was shitty of me to spring on you like that.”
 
“Yeah, a bit. You don’t mince words, do you?” She shook her head. “But, you have a point. ‘Full disclosure’ is probably for the best.”
 
Didn’t want to start the outing on such a topic. Time to change gears. “So. What’s a pretty young lady like you doing in a dump like this?”
 
Her ears perked up and her cheeks flushed. “Well, you said this is a good place, right?”
 
I shrugged. “You showed me somewhere cool, so I thought I’d do the same. Shall we?”
 
She smiled. “Y-yes! Let’s!”
 
Inside, Grill on the Alley had a rustic western feel to it. Hardwood floors and walls were complimented by black wood furniture. A single step inside and I could already catch whiffs of meat and potatoes wafting from the kitchen. Jun held her tail in front of her to keep it out of the way while our waitress led us to our table. Despite her care, several people craned their necks to catch glimpses of her. At the same time, I might’ve been getting a few glances of my own. I didn’t care what strangers thought about me, but Jun’s complexion was paler than when we were outside.
 
The waiter seated us in the back at one of those tall tables with equally tall stools on either side of it. Never was particularly fond of those, but I wasn’t going to complain after being seated so quickly.
 
Had to think ahead to a topic of conversation before she had a chance to be awkward and silent. “So hey, I remember you drinking coffee in the break room.”
 
Jun looked around as if wondering where the statement came from. “Yeah. I, uh, need a bit of coffee to get me to lunch.”
 
Hopefully she meant herself, not Sylvia. “Never understood the need, honestly.”
 
“You’re probably a morning person, then.”
 
“Oh yeah, always have been. Sunrise is the highlight of my day.”
 
She tilted her head in agreement. “Unless you have a hangover.”
 
“Ha. Tell me, was that your first one?”
 
“Yes, actually.”
 
“Well, now you can speak from experience about them.”
 
A big smile stretched her cheeks. “Yes, I can.” Situating herself on her stool, she leaned toward me and rested her arms on the table. “So, Lennard, may I ask where you grew up?”
 
Ah, so she wanted to be the first to ask the real questions. I took up a pose similar to hers, resting my arms on the table. “I grew up in Flagstaff. A couple hours north of here.” Thinking back on it brought images of sunbaked driveways and dust-covered hands to mind. “Nice little city. What about you?”
 
She fidgeted in her seat, as if excited to have her turn to talk. “I was actually born in Japan. So was my mom.”
 
My eyebrows raised. “Really?”
 
“Mhm. But, we moved to the states before I was a year old. After Mom sort of, uh, took over Dad’s business.”
 
I voted not to take a crack at that bit of info. “You don’t look particularly Japanese.”
 
Jun shrugged. “My mom’s already from an interracial family, and my dad’s the whitest guy in the world.” She leaned in, as if about to tell me a secret. “He always wore polo shirts and tied his sweaters around his neck, as if he was on a golf course all the time. Even at home!”
 
Our waitress brought us water while I had a chuckle. “How are you two doing tonight?” she asked. Then I realized she was the elf I saw earlier. “My name is Faelyn, and I’ll be your waitress this evening. Can I get you anything to drink?”
 
Jun and I shared a glance, to which I snickered under my breath. “Do you guys make Hammerheads?” I asked.
 
The elf tilted her head. “I’m not sure, actually. I can ask our bartenders if you like.”
 
“That’d be great. Thanks.”
 
“If they don’t make it, do you have a backup drink?”
 
“Just rum and Coke.”
 
Jun spoke up. “I’m fine with water for now, actually.” As Faelyn left, she turned to me. “What’s a Hammerhead?”
 
“It’s a cocktail, equal parts Black Sambuca and amber rum, plus some Coke, over ice.” She gave me a raised eyebrow. “It’s actually a real pretty, blue-ish kinda drink.”
 
“Luckily, I’m putting off my business-y-ness until Monday, so I can drink tonight.”
 
Ha. “That’s right, you said your parents own a business?”
 
“Well, Mom does now.” After a pause she took a sip of water. “Since I’m an only child, she really wants me to take over so she can retire.”
 
I took a gulp of water, too. “Huh. What’re you doing here, then? Is all of this kind of like training for it, or something?”
 
Jun put on a grim face and looked away. “No. My mom put me through tons of tutoring and extra classes while I was growing up, showing me how to run the family business and make a profit. Everything from how to budget, how to network, how to meaningfully expand. Everything.”
 
“Sounds like a good fit for a tanuki to me.” Was that racist? Probably.
 
She rested her chin on her hands. “I hated it. I didn’t want to take over. She said I’d understand when I was older, but that just didn’t happen. So, as soon as I turned eighteen, I was out of there. But, I still have all that education and thought I might as well use it. So, here I am.”
 
A weight pulled my chest down into my stomach. “Do they even know what you’re doing these days?”
 
“Probably not. They gave up trying to bring me home after the first year, I think.”
 
Since when to people have to run away from home like that? “Jeez.” Then again, I might’ve done the same thing in her shoes.
 
A sigh. “It’s fine.”
 
Silence hovered over our table as Faelyn returned with a short glass of dark blue alcohol. I told the elf I still needed a minute to decide on dinner. The clicks of Faelyn’s sharp heels faded among the chatter of the other patrons.
 
While I had the first sip of my Hammerhead, Jun averted her eyes from me and stared at the ice in her glass. Without much else in my stomach, the booze tugged at the lining of my throat like liquid lead. Still, it had a nice heavy middle and a fizzy aftertaste.
 
“Sorry,” Jun said. “I’m not really good at this.”
 
I agreed that starting the conversation with such a downer topic probably wasn’t the best idea. “It’s fine.” Still, she spilled her guts, so I figured I’d spill mine. “My childhood wasn’t that great, but I didn’t have to take a bunch of classes like that. Or run away.”
 
She raised her head as if surprised I latched onto the subject. “Oh. Uh, ‘that so?”
 
I took another sip before continuing. “My older brother was a real pain in the ass. The usual ‘I’m better than you forever’ kind of guy. Our parents thought he was perfect, of course. He always got better grades, did better in little league, and went into business school. I was expected to be just like him. It’s actually pretty cool that you got away from your parents to do your own thing, because my entire college experience was planned out by mine.”
 
Her eyes stayed fidgety. “So, uh, what did you want to take, but didn’t? I mean, what kinds of classes?”
 
My tongue licked at the front of my teeth to remove the sugar from my drink. “I don’t know. Music? Art? Sports? Anything might’ve been cool. I mean, a friend of mine even invited me to try out for the soccer team. But my parents didn’t give me room to experiment. They wanted me to have an easy four-year schedule, ending with a degree in business. I just didn’t have the balls to complain.” I scoffed. “It was probably the only thing they didn’t fight about.”
 
She wiggled uncomfortably on her stool. “Sorry.”
 
“Don’t be. Everyone’s parents fight. It’s not like I have some kind of ‘dark and troubled past’ or something.” Another sip. Probably too big of one. My head jerked to the side in response to the burn in my throat. “Everything’s fine now, anyway. I mean, I have a job.” I set my glass down. “And I’m far enough away that they don’t ask me to visit. Never thought having no car would be a good thing.”
 
Jun stayed silent. I didn’t expect her to be so socially awkward that she could barely hold a conversation.
 
Although, did all of that count as “spilling my guts?” Nah, it wasn’t like she could take advantage of that knowledge. All of my friends knew it, too. No big secrets were told, and I was still in control.
 
Oh, wow. That’s a fan-fucking-tastic way to think about things.
 
“U-uhm,” Jun started, only to pause to take a quick breath. “Have you thought of taking some classes? At a community college, maybe?” A chill quivered up her shoulders. “Maybe find something you’re interested in?”
 
At least the conversation went in a lighter direction. “I’ve thought about it.”
 
While we discussed the different colleges in the area, Faelyn came back to check on us. Instead of sending her away again, we skimmed through the menu. I asked for a specialty pizza while Jun ordered a leg of lamb. I didn’t even know they served lamb, but I’m sure no weresheep were harmed in the making of the menu. Jun also ordered a glass of expensive-sounding brandy. Too rich for my taste.
 
“I guess you don’t plan on driving home, huh?” I asked.
 
She smiled. “No, I took a cab.”
 
“I just walked here.”
 
“Yeah, I remember your place being in the area. But wow, I’ve lived here for years and I didn’t even know this place existed. How did you find it?”
 
“A friend of mine told me about it. He said it’s a good date spot.”
 
Her tail stuck straight out behind her. While her eyes searching for something to look at that wasn’t me, she twirled her wavy hair in her fingers.
 
“S-so, uh. This is a date, then?”
 
Okay, I admit that was pretty cute. “No.” Her eyebrows and lips flattened in disbelief. “This is dinner with a coworker on the weekend. Because this is how these kinds of things should start. Instead of, you know, getting blackout drunk and vomiting all your secrets down my toilet.”
 
Her tail wrapped around her lap, which she hugged around her middle. “You know, you’re one hell of a tease.”
 
She straight-up pouted at me. While she was indeed cute, it could easily have been an act. She just had to pretend to be socially inept, and act all shy whenever she did something “wrong.” I didn’t buy it for a second.
 
Still, I couldn’t help but laugh. “While we’re on the subject, I still don’t fully understand why you want, uh,” I motioned at the both of us, “this whole thing to happen.”
 
It was a bit direct, but she agreed to full disclosure and I planned to hold her to that. She once more looked away, this time with a palm sideways over her mouth to hide the red in her cheeks. From my perspective, she had no reason to want to pursue me. At the very least, I needed to hear her reasons.
 
In the back of my mind I wondered, did she really need a good reason?
 
One deep breath later, and she began. “Okay. Bear with me for a minute.” I took a gulp of my Hammerhead and motioned for her to proceed. “I ‘ran away’ from my parents about six years ago. But, every time I interviewed somewhere for a job, they didn’t give me the light of day. Because I’m a tanuki. A year later, and a few months after I developed Sylvia, I started at Falling Leaves.” So she was, what, twenty four or twenty five? Almost the same age as me. I took a while after college until I landed the job at Falling Leaves. “But ever since then, as you have probably figured out, I’ve been Sylvia for the majority of my time.”
 
A smiling Faelyn walked by with a tray and stealthily set Jun’s glass of brandy next to her. When she left, the tanuki promptly took a big gulp and smacked the glass down onto the table. She shook her head in response to the taste and burn.
 
“Hah~. And because of that, I haven’t legitimately dated anyone for four years.”
 
I had to keep myself from expressing my surprise. And I thought I was getting blue-balled with my one year of datelessness. In the back of my mind I probably figured she could use Sylvia’s looks to get any man she wanted. If not, why did she make her disguise so obviously sexy?
 
Jun continued. “I mean, sure, Sylvia got hit on at work and junk when I started. She was specifically crafted to be easy on the eyes. She got through interviews very easily. It’s no wonder I attracted attention, just not the kind I wanted. But, you know, I tried it out. In the first year at work, I wanted to see if being somebody else, even on a date, would work.”
 
She leaned on the table and grabbed the thick locks of hair behind her ears in frustration. “Just thinking about it makes me feel sick. All the guys I tried dating as Sylvia just wanted to get in bed with her. At one point I even added intentional discrepancies into her backstory, but they never noticed. They just stared at her chest. And when I tried going to clubs, not as Sylvia, nobody wanted anything to do with ‘that coon chick over there.’”
 
“Ouch.”
 
With one finger she stirred the ice in her drink. “I stayed home alone every weekend, worried that going out wasn’t worth it. I never tried anything new, stayed distant with my coworkers, and never took off my disguise until I was in bed. Even if someone caught my attention, I just figured things would end up the same.” She licked her fingers and took another sip. Much more controlled than last time. “I latched onto the idea that showing anyone who I was would be too much of a risk. It was like I didn’t deserve to exist or something. Nobody would give Jun their time, but Sylvia had all the time in the world.”
 
She looked into my eyes and took my silence as incentive to continue. “I hate Sylvia. And I’ve had to be her every day for years, unable to say what I want to say or be whom I want to be. Nobody understood, because I couldn’t talk about it with anyone. So, I held it in.” Jun looked at me, her eyes a little watery. “I want to say that you showing up and talking to the other girls at work was what brought all this to the surface, but it’s been simmering for a long time.”
 
Though I didn’t notice it until then, I was on the edge of my seat listening to her.
 
“So, I figured I’d take a chance. It might be a one-time thing, but for now I want to see what might happen.” Another deep breath. “But I think, more than anything, I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
 
At her words, my heart tumbled in my chest. I might have gotten a bit lightheaded, too. Couldn’t tell whether it was my drink or not. Was she lying? She spouted the usual “I’m lonely waaah” sob story a liar just might conjure up, but the crazy part was it was my sob story. The worst part was the guilt. To anyone else, I invited her to dinner just to interrogate her.
 
After a moment, her eyes widened and her cheeks darkened. “Oh wow, I’m sorry. I rambled way too much. And I barely answered your question so, uh. Just, uh— ahem— sorry.” Tail around her stomach and hands glued to her lap, she stared down at her drink with flustered glances in my direction.
 
“I get what you’re trying to say.” My heartrate quickened as I reached for my own glass and raised it toward her. “I’ll drink to feeling lonely.”
 
Before she could react, her brow furrowed. “Are you okay?”
 
“What? Come on, don’t leave me hangin’ here.”
 
“No, no. Your face is all flushed.” She steadied herself on her stool and leaned over the table to put the back of a hand on my forehead. True to her words, her hand felt cool to the touch.
 
She also showed off a bit of cleavage with how she leaned toward me. Jun wasn’t as well-endowed as Sylvia, but that’s an unfair comparison for a girl almost two feet shorter than her alter ego. They were actually quite nice and plump and I should stop staring at her tits.
 
“I’m fine,” I said.
 
For whatever reason, I chose not to push her hand away, letting her realize the contact and pull away in a hurry.
 
She sat back down and shoved her hands into her lap. “Sorry.”
 
Once more I raised my glass and jingled the ice. She responded this time and we cheered to loneliness. Though I aimed to take a longer drink than her, she kept up with admirable fervor. Both of our drinks were half finished by the time we set them down again.
 
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, “I don’t mind getting touched by a girl.”
 
That just darkened her blush. Then, she pushed a lock of hair away from her eyes and stuttered, “A-are you that starved for female contact, Mr. Cash?”
 
Huh. That was a new one.
 
I smirked. “Uh oh, are we flirting now?”
 
She tried to look nonchalant by stirring her drink with a finger again. “Is that what it sounded like? I apologize.” Her flushed face glowed in the light of the overhead lamps. “Don’t get your hopes up. You haven’t done a single charming thing all evening. Y-you’re more charming at work, to be honest.” Ouch. I couldn’t tell if she was forcing herself or not, but she sure went for it.
 
But I wasn’t about to let her show me up. “My bad. I didn’t bring any documents to give you. I know how much you love it when I hand you stacks of paper.” I straightened my back, picked up my menu as mock documentation, and prepared the silkiest voice I could muster. “‘Here you are. I made sure to use your favorite font. I know how much you love Helvetica.’”
 
Jun covered her smiling lips and straightened up as well. “Ahem. As your supervisor I should tell you that handing in your work in such a seductive manner is counterproductive in an office environment.” Her hands fumbled a little when she picked up her drink to have another sip.
 
“Sorry. Should I give you my work shirtless instead? Is that charming enough for you?”
 
Jun almost choked on her drink for a few seconds. “Oh jeez, I fully regret starting this now.”
 
I leaned in and took a smug sip. “Come on, don’t give up so soon.”
 
“No no no, it was just a stupid spur-of-the-moment thing. Please forget I said anything.”
 
“Nah.”
 
“Please?”
 
“No, I’m gonna remember this and bring up ‘working shirtless’ whenever I want to embarrass you.”
 
Her head hanged low, but she still laughed. “No~, come on, Lennard. Don’t be like that.”
 
“Nah.” Weird, that wasn’t the first time she called me by my first name, but it felt good for some reason. The familiarity was like a breath of fresh air.
 
The hilarity of the conversation died down and we passed the minutes discussing our drinks. Both of us already drank out of our glasses, so I wasn’t afraid of sharing or having a bit of hers. Unlike the fruity thing she got last time, it was a nice strong drink. Jun downed the rest of it and set it down with a clack. Leaning back a little, her light dress pulled tight over her chest. A lovely sight, really. It almost looked like she did it on purpose.
 
She sighed. “Hoo, I’m already a bit tipsy.”
 
I finished off my own glass with a hard gulp. “You’re real brave to drink again after your little ‘incident.’”
 
“Well, I think that alone improved my alcohol tolerance. And chance of liver failure.” I laughed as she pulled herself back to the table and leaned on her elbows. “Seriously, how did you ever live long enough to gain your level of tolerance?”
 
“My roommate made sure I survived.” I looked around for our waitress. The food was probably almost ready.
 
“Of course he did. Regardless, you do drink a lot.”
 
I put up a hand in my defense. “Hey, you’re supposed to drink when you get dinner with someone. Outside of stuff like this I don’t even drink that much. Other people usually make me do it.”
 
“So far I only know about your former roommate and, well, me. So, just two?”
 
“No, there’s another one.” My heart sank at the thought.
 
She smiled, as if happy just to hear me talk about myself. “Like who?”
 
Looking down at my drink, I let myself get lost in the flow of the still-melting ice. My eyes followed a drop of condensation as it slid down the side. We asked for full disclosure, but that was a bit too much to ask.
 
“I don’t really want to talk about it.”
 
Jun’s ears sagged. “Oh. One of those?”
 
“Yeah.”
 
And there I went again, shutting myself up as soon as I was asked something personal. Jun went ahead and told me everything she wanted to tell me, but I didn’t even give myself the chance to start. I didn’t want to try again, either. I must’ve been a terrible date.
 
Though I tried not to make eye contact, I felt compelled to look at her. “Do you have one of those?”
 
Her eyes downcast, she muttered, “I have three.”
 
A pair of trays moved into my peripheral vision. “Hello, guys,” Faelyn called above the restaurant chatter. “We have the leg of lamb for you.” She set a pure white plate down in front of Jun, who made sure to move her glass out of the way. The lamb bone stood upwards on top of a dollop of mashed potatoes, with a drizzle of gravy. Then came my own meal. “And a specialty pizza for you.” The tray took up my entire half of the table as the scents of mushrooms, pepperonis, onions, and chicken wafted around us.
 
“I hope you enjoy! Do you guys want more to drink?” she asked. The elf was certainly on-point that evening.
 
“Yes, please,” I said. With pizza at the ready I could drink a lot more.
 
Jun nodded as well, and Faelyn took our glasses to the bar. Refusing to stand on ceremony, I went ahead and pulled a slice from my tray and put it on my appetizer plate. Jun followed it with her eyes, her mouth hanging open a little.
 
“You okay?” I asked.
 
She shook herself out of her stupor. “Uh, yeah. It’s just, uh. I’ve never actually had real pizza before.”
 
My eyebrow rose on its own. “Now you’re just fucking with me.”
 
“No, I’m not!”
 
“You have to’ve had pizza sometime.”
 
“Well, yeah, but only the crappy microwave stuff. And only for the first year I lived on my own, never delivery or even oven pizza. Besides, making my own food is always cheaper.”
 
“What about when you lived with your parents?”
 
She set her hands in her lap again, bushy tail fidgeting all the while. She was doing a lot of that. “My parents are more of the ‘let the chef make our food’ kind of people.”
 
For a hot minute I stared at her while the steam from the melted cheese rose between us. “Want a bite?”
 
“Uh,” she looked at the smoldering triangle on my plate. “Well, I don’t know, I—”
 
“I cannot in good conscience let you live another minute without tasting real, good, pizza.” As I spoke I pushed the plate to her side of the table and grabbed another piece for myself.
 
She stared at it as if it would jump at her. Opening her mouth to say something, she swallowed what she was going to say and picked up the slice with both hands. As if to make the experience go quicker she opened wide and took as a big a bite as she could. Cheese stretched from the pizza to her lips, shocking her in wide-eyed surprise until she fumbled the strings onto the plate.
 
“You okay there?” I asked, probably with the biggest smug smile.
 
“Mmm,” was all she said as she chewed and swallowed. “Oh wow.”
 
“Good, right?”
 
Her eyes scrunched up, as if suspicious of the pizza. “Where has this been all my life?”
 
“At the local pizza joint.”
 
Faelyn came back with our second round of drinks soon after that.
 
I had to share two more pieces with Jun before we left. She tried to pay the whole thing, but she couldn’t stop me from splitting the bill. Although, when I saw the numbers, I regretted getting a third and fourth round of drinks.
 
* * *
 
We weren’t falling over each other, but the tiniest thing managed to make us laugh. Chips, water, and a few six-packs from the convenience store and we were ready to outdrink the rest of Phoenix. For whatever reason, I thought getting more alcohol in me was a great idea. Great enough to volunteer to pay for everything.
 
Before I knew it I was trying to figure out which key opened my front door.
 
Jun pushed her back against mine playfully, her tail hugged in her arms. “Need some help, there, Lennard?” I gave her a look and pushed back, almost knocking her over in her drunken state. She laughed as she picked herself up.
 
Regardless, I got the door open and was met with a wave of warm air. “Got it.” The world tilted and danced with every step I took toward the couch.
 
Jun skipped after me. “Hoo, it’s hot in here.”
 
“I’ll get the window,” I said. “Have a seat.” I set our stuff down and wrenched the window open, my hands nearly getting stuck in the blinds. Then I made for the closet and retrieved my record player.
 
She leaned over the armrest of the couch, her tail waving up and down. “What’s that?” As I set it down on the floor she got a better look at it. Her ears perked up and she cried out, “A record player? That’s so cool!”
 
“It’s just some $30 thing I got after I moved here.” I figured some ambience wouldn’t hurt. “Do you like old swing and jazz?”
 
Her voice deepened. “I love it.”
 
“Alright, then.” I picked out my record of Louis Prima’s Greatest Hits and set it up.
 
As soon as the brass started playing, Jun said, “And you said you’re lonely? Plenty of girls would go for this kinda thing.”
 
A fair point.
 
I sat down. “I’m not really great at first impressions, so getting a girl here to listen to my old-ass records isn’t really a good game plan.”
 
Jun looked around herself and put her arms up. “And what am I?”
 
“Not my date.”
 
After a moment, her arms fell and her ears twitched in disappointment. “Right.”
 
Looking down at her, she really looked sad about it. “Don’t let it bug you. You’re pretty much the first girl here. So, congratulations.”
 
That didn’t seem to help. If anything, she visibly withered at my words. 
 
Then, my hand moved on its own and reached down to pat her on the head. Whatever urges lurking beneath the surface got me scratching her behind an ear, tousling the hair around it. Though both of us were a little surprised, I couldn’t stop.
 
She closed her eyes and leaned into my hand. The warmth of her cheek made me pull away.
 
When I did, she gave me a sidelong gaze with seductive eyes. “You really are a tease, Lenny.”
 
At that moment, I realized how much of an ass I made myself out to be.
 
I crossed my arms and sat down next to her, causing her side of the couch to bounce her a little as I reached for a six pack.
 
Handing a cold one to her I said, “Shut up. Let’s drink.”
 
Her smile never left her lips as she cracked open the can. “Whatever you say.”
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4 thoughts on “Falling Leaves Ch 4”

  1. Finally read through to here. Good stuff, I like a pear-shaped tanuki. One thing I noticed is that this chapter doesn’t feel as edited as the others. Some of the wording and sentences feel different. There are also a few errors that have been absent from the others

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