tagNovels and NovellasAnimeCon Harem Pt. 04

AnimeCon Harem Pt. 04

byFortySixtyFour©

"No. No way," Emily hissed through gritted teeth, glaring hatefully at the cell phone gripped in her trembling hand. It was a struggle not to hurl it at her bedroom wall. "No fucking way."

Emily was short, standing five feet tall despite constant claims at being five foot one—and, to her frustration, had a slight frame that seemed scrawny rather than sexy. Even at twenty-three years old, her breasts were still just teacup-sized mounds, too small to form cleavage or even fill her tragic little bra. Her messy hair was worn in a tousled long pixie-cut, dark bangs falling down across her cheek.

On her phone's display, an almost unrecognizable girl in a Magical Doll Himari cosplay was exaggerating a cute victory pose. Emily stared long and hard at the bright, chipper-looking young woman in the photo before accepting that it was, actually, in fact... Chloe. It was an admission that wrenched her insides into an angry knot. Chloe—you heinous bitch!

Miss-Anne-Dree: ♡ at animecon figuring things out!! remember that each and every day is full of blessings!!! love you all!!! ♡

#cosplaycutie #excited #imsuchanerd #animecon #magicaldollhimari #relationship
"Are you fucking kidding me?!"

"Emily. Inside voices only, please," her mother called out from the living room. "Are you almost ready to head out to work?"

Chloe's at the convention. She's at. The fucking. Convention! She wasn't gonna go, because HE would be there. We even made her give back her goddamned badge! Emily fumed, before taking a deep breath and slowly deliberating. How'd she even fucking get there?

But, whatever. There she is... at the convention anyways, somehow. With a new cosplay she's never shown anybody. That she's only posting on her stupid secret account. She tapped on the photo in annoyance, and then pressed and spread her fingertips across the display, enlarging the picture for closer scrutiny.

"Emily?" her mother asked again. "Am I not dropping you off, then? Didn't you trade someone for a morning shift so that you could be off for tonight?"

I don't see either of those con badges anywhere on her, Emily observed, slowly lowering her phone and exhaling, trying to contain the fury threatening to bubble out. ...Might mean Brian still has both of them? Maybe he hasn't run afoul of her just yet?

"Emily?"

"Change of plans," Emily declared in a resolute voice, reaching behind herself to untie her pocketed server apron. "Mom! I need the car."

"Hun... I have rehearsals to run all weekend, I couldn't lend you the car even if I wanted to—which, really, I don't. What's going on with your morning shift?"

"I'm not going. I quit. I quit for real this time," Emily responded. She wasn't the least bit concerned about her job—with its lousy customers and even lousier tips, she'd been looking for an excuse to quit for weeks. She tossed her apron across her unmade bed and untucked her collared work blouse. "Something big's come up."

"Emily..." The rest of her mother's protest went unheard as Emily paced restlessly back and forth amid her messy room, scrolling through the rest of Chloe's recent posts.

Magical doll Himari? Really? REALLY? And of course, no one but me knows, Emily realized with a scowl.

Last year at AnimeCon, Emily had, by chance, caught a glimpse of Chloe taking some uncharacteristically... sultry selfie shots. Chloe had been all gussied up in her Hera Victoria cosplay, but she'd unbuttoned the dress shirt within her pantsuit to tease an alarming amount of cleavage, pursed her lips into a pout, and even fluttered bedroom eyes at her phone for dozens of pictures. Considering the condescending, prim and proper image Chloe maintained, such un-Chloe-like conduct was utterly baffling. Behavior so blatantly out-of-character that it was sure to make big waves among their community of friends.

Only—none of those pictures ever seemed to surface anywhere. Everyone seemed none the wiser regarding Chloe's apparent lapse in disposition. That snotty girl's Nibbler account, Chloe-Ravioli, was just that normal reblogging of radical feminist articles and social activist rhetoric.

"Does CHLOE take sexy pictures? Emily... are you high?" A few innocuous questions dancing around the issue had revealed that even Brian was still in the dark. None of them had any idea.

After all, who would've had the bitter tenacity to carefully browse through thousands of different selfies in the recent Nibbler feeds in search of that familiar Hera Victoria getup? Who could have possibly happened to finally find those pouty shots of Chloe, posted instead under an alias account, Miss-Anne-Dree? There, Emily found a gamut of downright sleazy cosplay and lingerie shots, subtly seductive smiles and attention-grabbing attire that had built Chloe an impressive base of nearly fifty thousand followers.

Although resisting the urge to expose Chloe for an outrageous hypocrite was a challenge, Emily's patience was constantly rewarded with more and more sexual snapshots into this secret slice of Chloe's life; more potential ammunition to use against her. What she really hoped was for Chloe to carelessly prove somehow that she was cheating on Brian. Something more than just risque, something decisive enough to really fuck the relationship over for good. Then, Emily could gleefully pile up all the evidence in front of Brian. But, suddenly getting a big ol' heads up on what Chloe's up to right now? That's fine, too.

She pulled up Brian on her phone, but then hesitated, her thumb hovering over the call icon. Better not. He'll be able to tell I'm upset... and I don't know how the hell I'm supposed to answer when he asks why. Instead, she tabbed over to their messenger thread. Back in the day, they'd messaged each other almost all the time, but over the recent months, conversation had flagged. His responses had become few and far between, and so Emily had reluctantly stopped bothering him.

Well, this is an emergency, Emily thought, biting her lip. Maybe. Besides, it's not weird. I just called him last night. Or maybe that MAKES it weird? Ah, whatever... fuck it.

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: hey brian

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: u up n runnin?
"Emily? ...Are you alright?" Her mother called over.

"Not really?" Emily let out a helpless laugh, tossing her phone towards her bedspread and storming out of her room to make her way towards their large, somewhat cluttered living room. The lighting in there was muted and comfy, a flat-screen hung above their fireplace and a long wrap-around couch hugged the corners of the room.

"Mom, I have somewhere I really need to be, right away... I really need the car." Her spirit sank once again at the sight of her mother, Mrs. Rivera, sitting cozy on the couch with a book. They shared remarkably similar features—the same tiny nose, lips that looked like they were made for trouble, and large, expressive eyes. But, unlike Emily's figure, which could be summed up politely with petite, or little, her mom possessed ample assets—a bust and behind that were the stuff of hopes and dreams. In fact, just how many hopes and dreams are crammed in there?!

Throughout her childhood she'd idolized her own beautiful mother... right up until Emily hit puberty. Then she realized that her well-proportioned mother had apparently gotten stingy with passing on all those good genes. Her mom being a stunning, gorgeous woman always made Emily feel that, at best, she would only ever be just a cute knock-off imitation.

It was infuriating. Of course, Mrs. Rivera wasn't just some simple, unassuming housewife who was also unusually, even outrageously good-looking. She'd had a small acting career before settling down to teach, and magazine advertisements she'd modelled for in the past were still framed throughout their hallway.

"Is this about that boy?" her mother asked, and that all-too-familiar knowing smile spread across her lovely face once again.

"Very funny, 'that boy,' huh. You don't have a clue what you're talking about," Emily snapped, inexplicably irritable and defensive.

"Of course I do," her mother said without looking up from her page, calmly taking a sip from her coffee. "I'm afraid you've told me everything."

"I didn't tell you anything, ever. I never tell you anything. And you don't ever know anything, either! You just act like you do," Emily retorted in vexation. "Just like you're not even a real teacher—you just act like one—you're the drama teacher, for crying out loud."

"It's theater department director, not drama teacher," Mrs. Rivera corrected, rolling her eyes. She lowered her book and flashed her daughter a glamorous smile. "And the way you're acting has told me everything, li'l lady. There is no movement of yours that has not betrayed you! A pace, a glance, a turn of the head, the flash of your throat as you breathe—even your way of standing perfectly still—these were all my spies! My love, you only ever get this worked up over that boy..."

"Shouldn't you be preparing for your rehearsals?" Emily growled through clenched teeth. "Don't you have, like, equipment to check, stuff to prepare, or, uh... things to do? Work?"

"Well, yeah, I do... but it's Saturday morning, hun. And I've got a good book!" her mother pouted. "Aren't you the one who should be getting ready for work? Didn't you beg and plead with that poor Karen girl to switch you her morning hours? And now, all of the sudden, you're quitting? What's she going to do now, work both shifts?"

"She's, uh, she doesn't claim all of her tips," Emily tried weakly. "Bad things were coming her way. Karma. I'm just sayin'. Puh-leeease can I borrow the car?"

"Didn't we already have this all planned out? I was going to drop you off at work, and after your shift Rebecca was going to pick you up from there?"

"Okay, well yeah, I was about to call her," Emily admitted reluctantly. "It's just, she works 'till six. That's like, the entire day. It'll be too late by then!"

"What will be too late?"

"Everything!" Emily cried in exasperation, not daring to explain further. Her mom was so perceptive sometimes that it was scary.

"...Try calling Rebecca," Mrs. Rivera suggested, shaking her head and returning her attention to her novel.

"You don't understand. I need the car, right now. More than I've ever needed anything in my entire life!" Emily stamped her foot in a cute, exaggerated manner.

"My, doesn't that sound desperate? Which is exactly why you're going to wait for Rebecca to drive you. That girl has a good head on her shoulders, and she'll keep you out of trouble. I mean... as much as anyone ever can."

Emily opened her mouth to angrily retort, but nothing came out. She instead pursed her lips and whirled away, unbuttoning and angrily kicking her way out of her work slacks. Her uniform blouse followed, flung onto the tile of the corridor, and Emily stomped into her room, unconcerned with the trail of discarded clothing she left behind.

C'mon, c'mon... answer me, Brian. She strode her way through heaps of laundry, piles of comic books, and the discarded packaging from anime figurines to hop up onto her bed so she could check her phone.

There was this sense of urgency she just couldn't shake, as if tiny blue bubbles were insistently working their way up her body towards this growing pressure she felt. This uncomfortable, unsettling feeling of impending crisis, as though her life was rapidly approaching some sort of pivotal turning point. She couldn't even pinpoint what, exactly, was agitating her so much; it wasn't just the Chloe thing that was bothering her. That whole situation just felt like it was forcing her to act before she was ready. But what am I even DOING? Am I going to—ah, fuck, he's finally replying.

Oberon: Run is done.

Oberon: Whats up?

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: uhhhhh

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: just kinda checkin in on u

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: lol

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: u doin ok?

Oberon: Im not a little kid ya know.

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: yeah well

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: im alloud to worry bout you

Oberon: You definitely are a loud, lol.

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: •allowd

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: geez

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: lol

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: so ur ok?

Oberon: Yep. We are heading back over to the con now.
WE? Him and... Chloe?! Am I already too fucking late? Emily stared at his words, stunned, and felt her blood turn to ice water. She frantically thumbed letters into her digital keypad.

whos we? r u back with chloe
She almost even hit send before realizing how awkward and insensitive it was. Swearing loudly, she hurriedly tapped the backspace key before sending her response.

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: whos we?

Oberon: Didnt I tell you last night?

Oberon: Ive got all these girls with me.
Emily snorted, feeling the frigid tension in her veins start to melt away, and she fell back onto her bed with an exasperated exhalation. Brian, I love your little jokes, but no. Just no. You seriously 'bout gave me a heart attack this time!

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: yea ok bro

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: have fun

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: have fun

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: me n rebeca will b there

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: soon as we can

Oberon: KK. Call me when youre close so I can meet you guys somewhere.

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: kk

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: thx

♥ iXi Cerulean iXi ♥: bai
Okay. He hasn't run into Chloe. Obviously. We're fine. We're still fine. Let's try Rebecca, now... Shady Oaks, Shady Oaks, Emily nervously swiped her way through the contacts in her phone for a moment before finding the correct entry and making a call.

"Hello, could I speak to a Rebecca Smith? She works in the—Oh? Oh, um, okay. Then, if you could leave a message for me? Please tell her that Emily Rivera called, that it's an emergency, and... if she could get back to me as soon as possible, I'd, uh, I'd really appreciate it. Yes, well, thank you. Uh, yeah. Thank you. Bye."

Ugh, if she can't get off work, I'm getting nowhere! Emily pitching her phone into her pillow in frustration. ...What the hell did Chloe even mean with 'hashtag relationship?!' Is she there for him, or isn't she? Am I overreacting?

Hope he's doing okay, she thought, beginning to gather up all of her scattered costume bits so she could try everything on again. Until she was satisfied with the way every single piece fit together, the 'improvements' she'd made to her cosplay since last year were only theoretical.

Some detached part of her blithely wondered just why she was so anxious, so hung up on this... situation? Whatever this was, this thing that seemed to be looming now over her friend Brian. After all, that's all we are still, right? Good friends? Close friends? Some more of those tiny little bubbles wriggled their way up her entire body towards her brain, where they surfaced in a fizzing blue foam of half-forgotten memories and deeply buried secrets.

• • •


Nine years ago

Directly after her father's funeral, Emily found herself riding in a battered red jeep driven by a near-total stranger. The girl at the wheel was in her late teens, a very pretty hispanic girl introduced to her at the funeral wake only as her cousin—Samantha. She'd never met any of that side of her family before, because of some unspoken taboo rift, or feud, or something equally dumb, and everything about this situation was making her uncomfortable.

This older girl seemed to abhor silence, as she kept both the windows down and the radio up, so every spoken word was a yell over the music and the roar of wind. The jeep smelled like cigarette smoke and beer, Samantha dressed in revealing clothing, and overall seemed to be situated on the opposite end of the teenage social stratum. Far enough apart from Emily to make her feel uneasy.

Of all the people her family could have picked to have the talk with her about grief and loss and opening up about her feelings, Samantha may have been the worst choice. Emily didn't particularly feel any bond with some distant cousin, no matter how close their ages were. She felt no compunction to be nice or polite. Not now.

She saw no problem with shutting everyone out and being in no mood to chit-chat for the next few months. Maybe years. Isn't that normal when your Dad dies? Can't you all just fucking leave me be?

For most of Emily's life, her father had just been this roguish handsome guy who loved fast cars and shamelessly flirted with her mother. Her parents never officially divorced, but they'd been separated for longer than she could remember. Despite that, there was no apparent enmity between them; her mother always seemed to brush off his charming nonsense with good humor.

And now he's just... gone? Forever?

It had been a fatal wreck—they surmised he'd been driving over the speed limit out on a particular winding rural road. He'd been forced to suddenly swerve, likely to avoid hitting an animal, and lost control. The state troopers had followed black streaks of rubber across the pavement to a crumpled gap in the guardrail to find her father's '71 Pantera wrapped around a tree at the bottom of the embankment.

Having picked up on her recent obsession with anime, her Dad had always gone out of his way to find amazing anime movies, ones she'd never even heard of, for her. She wasn't able to visit him often, but whenever she spent time over at his apartment, new ones were waiting. They'd watch them together, and then he'd take her out for dinner somewhere to talk about it, valiantly weathering on through her relentless barrage of enthusiasm with a proud smile.

And now he's gone. Bitter sadness and helpless anger struggled inside her at a deadlock, but the sheer sense of loss finally won out. Despite only seeing him now and then, living in a world without her dad felt off, wrong somehow. This just isn't how it's supposed to be. It's not fair. It's not. It's just not!

"Heard you're goin' to Truliet in a few months here? You're what, thirteen?" Samantha yelled, her dark ponytail whipping about in the wind. Truliet was purportedly the high school for snobby rich kids, and Emily would swear she heard disdain in the voice of everyone who'd mentioned its name.

"Fourteen," Emily grunted. "All my friends are going to San Michaels. I don't want to go to Truliet, but my Mom's enrolling me anyways, 'cause she works there."

"I knew some kids from Truliet," Samantha said loudly, glancing over at her attire. "You're gonna have a rough time if you go in there wearin', like... that Japanime cartoon crap on your shirts. Up there in Truliet, they're gonna fuck with you for that. S'all status and hierarchy and shit, like, way more than a normal high school."

Emily looked down at her top, emblazoned with an action spread of characters from Shinobi Souls. She shrugged, making a bitter face. "Dad bought it for me." Watching the show used to be our thing together, alright? He always called me his little ninja. This is my favorite shirt. So just stop. Please. Stop. You're just making it worse.

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