In the April before my first year at university, I ended up taking a part-time job at a florist not too far from campus. I stumbled across the tiny shop on a roundabout walk back to Shibahara Station: at its forefront, there were beautiful (but modest) arrangements of flowers. They appeared to be tended on by an exhausted-looking woman, who flitted from display to display with a battered, old watering can. There was an advertisement in the window of the shop for full-time and flexible part-time workers, so I decided to ask for more details inside.
The exhausted-looking woman—who turned out to be the owner of the store—told me that the advertisement was due to their desperate need for staff. At present, they had a total of five employees: herself, her husband, her only daughter, her senior manager, and a part-timer who had been working with them ever since he was in high school. It was a family-owned (and predominantly family-run) business, and for a long time, things had been okay—but now that her daughter was moving away to Kobe for a graduate job, and her senior manager was going on maternity leave, the owner was in desperate need for new employees.
I decided to express interest in the role, keen on earning money that would help me to stave off the instant ramen dependency that most university students seemed to struggle with. The owner asked if I'd had any experience working in retail before, so I replied in a clean and well-rehearsed manner that, although I'd never personally worked in retail before, I'd worked in a café restaurant during my years as a high school student; and as a result, I had extensive experience with customer service. She asked about my availabilities, and I quipped that—outside of class and driving school—I was as free as a bird.
"Good." She said. "There's an apron out back—let's start your trial."
The owner's name was Satou. She began by giving me a tour of the store and explaining the way their humble little place ran. According to her, the shop was mostly quiet, but they did have the tendency to get very large orders at spontaneous times. She, her husband, and the senior manager were the only people who knew how to do flower arrangements, but they were still in desperate need of part-timers to handle general store duties. I assured her that my schedule was very lax, and that I didn't plan on joining any clubs at university to begin with. I quipped that I was happy to work as many hours as was legally allowed. She thanked me profusely. For a moment, I allowed myself to think of a future where I, even as a university student, would not have to eat instant ramen for every single meal henceforth.
"My husband and I can handle all the background work." She said. "We will do all the ordering and the flower arranging and the delivering. You and Shiraishi-kun will handle day-to-day duties in the shop—customer service, putting out new stock, tending to the flowers, keeping the place clean, et cetera."
"Shiraishi-kun?" I echoed.
"Oh—he's our other part-timer." Satou explained. "He's a good family friend of ours—a very proficient worker."
She put a strong emphasis on the word very, and—at the time—I couldn't understand why.
"If I could get your availabilities," she went on, "I can tell you when your next shift is and have Shiraishi-kun train you."
At the end of my (fortunately successful) trial, we went to the back of the store and organised the details of my employment. She asked for my name, whether or not I could drive, and the days on which I was available. I told her my name, and that I was still in the process of getting a driver's licence. I told her that the only times that I was unavailable was during class; I would happily schedule my driving school hours around work. She hummed happily to herself as she rostered me on for every single remaining day of the week.
"At this stage, we don't expect you to know all the names of the flowers." Satou explained as she walked me to the front of the store. "For now, just focus on trying to put through orders, and let Shiraishi-kun handle the customer service. Once you get a little bit more proficient, we can have you taking phone orders—and perhaps we can put you on delivery once you get your licence."
She seemed to be very pleased by the prospect of having someone new on delivery; for after she said goodbye, she turned away from me with a smile still on her face and proceeded to close up the shop, looking much cheerier than I'd seen her the entire day. When I left what was technically my very first shift at the florist, I felt increasingly sceptical for what was to come.
Café restaurant: Yeah so I don't know how cafés work in other countries, but the intention I had for this was a café was that it's open all day. I used to work at a café, bar, and restaurant (it was a single joint) where, in the morning, it would serve breakfast and coffee and the like for people who liked to get together in the morning or like... bicycle riders or something. At lunch time, we would welcome passers-by who wanted to stop by for a bit of lunch and a glass of wine. At night, we opened the bar and people came in for dinner. That's basically what I meant by this, since I felt that simply writing "café" would give the impression of the same cafés that I wrote about in Little People and Small Things.
Ribbon: This prologue kind of felt like NCB, since it's kind of like... Shiraishi doesn't actually appear, but his name appears LOL. It gets better (and longer), though, I promise.
Princo: Many apologies that I'm too dead to bring out the updates faster. I really like
Language Barriers Signs though. I know, though. I know we all just want The Secret Chapters to make a comeback.
July 11, 2016.