“Did you get hit by a train?” says Miki.
“You're just envious ‘cause I look so good.”
“No, Hiroto, seriously. I mean, as a friend? You may be good at judo, but dressing up is definitely not part of your killer moves repertoire, if you catch my meaning.”
“Oh, come on! You know you like it.”
Since Miki is always trying to best me, I take everything she says with a grain of salt. Okay, so maybe there’s some room for improvement, but I can’t look that bad, right? My confidence ebbs a little but stays afloat.
Keika joins us. “Hey, guys, sorry I’m late!”
She turns to look at me, and the look on her face sends my confidence plummeting into the abyssal depths. I mean, her expression was something to behold, even though it couldn’t have lasted more than a millisecond or two. Her face has now returned to all smiles as if she saw nothing out of the ordinary. But at that moment, that instant in time, she looked as if she'd just seen undead Sadako crawling out of her TV.
“That’s a very...interesting combination, Machida-kun,” says Keika.
“You don’t have to spare him. I already told him straight up. I mean I've seen bad dressers, but he takes the meaning to a whole new level,” says Miki. “I want to win, but I don’t want the competition THAT lopsided. It would make me seem a bully.”
“You were always a fair player, Miki.” Keika nods in agreement.
“Okay! Okay! I get it!” I throw up my hands. “So I don’t know how to dress!”
Keika puts her hands on her hips. Then she walks around me, looking me up and down, as if inspecting some strange new specimen. Then she whispers something in Miki’s ear and both girls giggle. They look my way, their eyes gleaming like predators.
“What now?” I say wearily.
Miki declares, “It’s your lucky day, Hiroto. Dun dun dun! In the interest of fair play, we're gonna help you dress!”
“You, sir, need a makeover,” Keika agrees.
I have a bad feeling about this.
“You can’t say no,” says Miki. “Otherwise it will make me look bad. Fair is fair.” Oh yeah? In whose rulebook?
“So we’re going to the shopping mall?” I ask.
“No!” Keika covers her mouth in horror. “Most of the stuff there is so...mundane. And we all know you're dirt poor and can’t afford the designer stuff.”
“Hey! I resent that!”
She goes on as if I never spoke. “We're taking you to Market Street in the next town. There's cheap but classy stuff hidden away there like treasures if you know where to look. And I do.”
Keika positively glows with anticipation. “Oh, we'll make you classy on a shoestring budget! Be glad I’m not charging you a designer's fee.”
“This will be so much fun!” adds Miki.
Any passerby would probably be jealous of me. With a girl on each arm, I looked like some mega playboy. They couldn’t be more wrong. In truth, I’m being gang pressed to my doom by two gorilla wardens dead set on giving me a makeover or else. They clamp my arms in vise grips, as if I’m gonna bolt at any time, which is not far from the truth.
We arrive at Market Street via JR train and spend the afternoon trudging in and out of boutique shops. Keika would reach into chaotic piles of clothing to pull out something that I swear wasn’t there a minute ago, as if she knows every secret stash of top clothes the owners hid from mere mortals. Then there would be some mixing, matching, and debating, at the end of which they would stuff me into a new outfit, shake or nod their heads like runway judges, giggle madly, and repeat the process all over again. I feel like a life-sized version of that American doll…what's its name? Oh right, Ken.
Despite all my complaining, I admit it: the girls know what they’re doing. Keika’s like the lead designer with Miki as her capable assistant, producing for me at the end of the day three amazing outfits. Even I can tell these blow my own creations out of the water. I do appreciate it. I stay dressed up in one of them and put the other two into shopping bags with my old clothes.
Feeling gentlemanly, I offer to treat them both to dinner, but both of them have some prior engagement that night so we part for the day. But they do take a rain-check and promise to find the most expensive restaurant in town next time. Bloodsuckers.