Chapter 1 – Atypical Encounter
The automatic doors opened with a slight ringing sound. The employee manning the place glanced at me for a second before going back to observe the rest of the convenience store. He has been working here for quite a while and we recognized each other. This was the extent of our relationship.
As I came in, I managed to guess the reason he was so idle. Except for me, only a few people were going around the shelves. I swiftly found what I was looking for and headed for the cash register. My hands held various snacks which I intended to consume during the day. Today was the last day of summer vacation and school was set to start on the following morning. I was planning to spend my last few moments of freedom enjoying my favorite activity: playing games while snacking.
One of the other customers had reached the cash register before me. I recognized a soulmate when I saw one. This black-haired girl seemed to be around my age and had her hands full of Caramelt, an old brand of caramel-based candy that was still quite popular even to this day. I wasn’t too fond of it but I knew quite a few people who loved it.
My instincts told me that this girl had similar plans to mine for the day. She put all her loot on the cash register without a word, and the employee winced. He counted them one by one and input the result into the machine before announcing the price. The girl paid without a word and left the store. It was now my turn. I put my three snacks down.
“These three, please.”
He scanned them one by one and announced the price.
I paid and after another basic exchange, I was out of the shop. Even though my grandparents had generously gifted me a lot of pocket money on new year’s Eve, I already didn’t have much left. I often told myself to save enough to last until the following year but my resolutions always fell apart in front of sweet temptations. Just like today.
The convenience store was only a few minutes away from home, deserving its title of being convenient, at least to me. When I was right under the apartment building where my family was living, I suddenly felt extremely dizzy. This was a weird feeling, the sort where you lose your sense of up, down, left, and right.
Dazed, I tried avoiding falling on the ground and this pushed me to take steps in a random direction. This was a mistake because I hit my head extremely hard on something and my vision went white. I couldn’t avoid falling to the ground this time but, with the dizziness still ongoing, I wasn’t sure if I was lying on my back or my belly. The pain in my forehead assaulted me.
It hurt, and it hurt a lot, too. I put my hands to my head and rolled on the floor in pain for a long time. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the pain abated enough that I could start thinking again. The dizziness was gone too and I realized I was on the floor on my back.
I looked around to see I bumped my head into a street lamp. Did I just have the worst sort of encounter one can have with a street lamp? Plus, it was the one I had seen so many times in the past since it was right next to the entrance to where I lived.
I stood up and cursed my bad luck. At least, the street was currently empty and my pathetic display hadn’t been witnessed by anyone. Or so I wished. I heard someone laugh hard above my head and noticed my sister at the window of our apartment. The window was opened and she was looking down at me, chuckling so hard she had to hold her belly with one hand. Why was it that little sisters had this ability to always be at the worse place at the worse possible timing?
(“What a moron! He bumped his head into the street lamp so hard he was down for a whole minute!“)
I wasn’t going to let this go without a fight. Sure, I did something stupid, but that didn’t mean she could mock me like this. I shouted to her.
“What did you say, you pest? Wait until I’m home!”
She stopped laughing for a second before resuming even stronger than previously.
“Hahahaha! I didn’t say anything, stupid! You looked so dumb crashing into the street lamp like this!”
I gnashed my teeth, picked up the bag of snacks I had let go of when I fell, and hurried up to our apartment, furious. When I reached home, my mother reading a book while was sitting on the living room sofa. And of course, my little sister was hiding behind her, sticking her tongue out at me.
No matter how angry I was, I knew there was nothing I could do in this situation. My little sister Elodie was three years younger than me and was the apple of the eyes of my parents. On the other hand, I was just a dirty boy. The power relationship in our family was decided the very moment our parents learned of her gender while she was still in our mother’s belly. This was my sad fate.
That didn’t stop me from looking at her with all the anger I could muster. My mother turned toward me with a frown.
(“What’s wrong with this kid again? What did he do this time?“)
Her words annoyed me even further. It was as if she implied it was automatically my fault. And what was with the third-person pronoun when I was right in front of her?
“What do you mean by that, Mom? It’s all her fault!”
My mother looked startled.
“Uh… What? I didn’t say anything, though?”
(“Is there something wrong with him for real? Now that I look at him, he’s got a bump on the head. Did he crash into a wall or something?“)
It was at this moment I recognized that something felt a little wrong.