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I waited before the boys cleared away before I approached Shameimaru. She was stuffing a few loose bills into a small envelope.
“Business is good?” I asked.
“It'll be better in the summer. More sweating, more rolled up sleeves and less spats,” she said in a business-like fashion. It was as if she was talking more about prize animals than people, “you'll even get the occasional open blouse if it's hot enough. This is just the pre-season.”
“I'm surprised you haven't been run out of school yet.”
“Eh, well, they'd need evidence first,” she said with a satisfied smile as she put away her money. “I only do dead drops these days. Give me money, I'll give you a time and location.”
Well, for the town's sake, I hoped that she never became a drug dealer. The thought was scary. It wasn't something I'd say to her face, lest I give her any ideas.
“So...” she looked up at me,”do you want to get yourself something nice or is this a social visit?”
“Just a social visit, Aya,” I told her. “Though, out of curiosity, what do you have on special?”
“Ah, you know, just this and that. New students are popular. A couple of long distance shots with your classmate smiling, a few of her blouse looking ambiguously translucent – you can almost make out the bra underneath. Rubbish shots but they still sell.” With a sly smile, she added, “not that you would want any of those, am I right?”
“Good to see that someone thinks I'm not just a helpless hornog,” I said with an approving nod. That it came from a questionable source was immaterial.
“I just meant that you've spent quite a bit of time alone with her,” she chuckled, “as for the horndog bit – I'm not one to pass judgment on my peers. I'm just a businesswoman.”
“Doing what she has to to get by, is that it?” I scowled, feeling a little dejected. I had forgotten that I was probably being watched by her too whenever I talked to popular girls.
“You betcha,” she reached into her desk for something and then got up. “Say, take a walk with me, wontcha? I'll split some of my bread with you.”
“Yeah, sure. Don't have anything better to do.” She handed me a half of one of the most popular sweet breads. “Where'd you get this anyways?” I asked. They were usually sold out within minutes. And it looked like she had been at her seat all lunch break.
“Partial payment from someone who was a few cents short.”
Good enough for me.
We left the class and took a casual stroll together outside. She had her camera wrapped around her wrist with a strap and seemed to be on a permanent lookout for opportunities. Didn't do much talking though, just casually asking if I was doing alright and making similar small talk. We eventually went all the way around to a side of the track, by a few benches under the shade of a tree.
“You know,” she said quite without hesitation, “I kinda had a thing for you when we were freshmen.” She focused her camera carefully, looking through the viewfinder. at a trio of girls lounging about on a grassy bank
That was highly unexpected.
“Oh, I didn't know,” I said, not really knowing how to react. It didn't really feel like much of a love confession when the other person wasn't even looking at you.
“Yeah, it was your smile, you know. Really came out good in pictures. Not to mention that you're way pervy. Natural gifts those. Means you can get close to people and then take advantage of them for a good shot.”
“Figures it was something like that,” I couldn't help but sound a little disappointed. She was just thinking about business. Even when it came to matters of the heart.
“Don't get upset. I think we both know that deep down you know it to be true,” she said while snapping a trio of images. “I shouldn't have left my zoom lens in class,” she griped. “Well, I'm sure that these'll sell anyhow.” Aya put her camera away and leaned up against the tree. She gave me her full attention now. She continued, “I really wish you had joined the photography club. I really felt like jumping your bones more than once and that would have been a perfect excuse. We could have made a great team both on and off club activities.”
“I think that's the first time I've been told by a girl that they wanted to jump my bones,” I laughed. It was just way too direct for it to be anything but humorous. “What's keeping you from doing that now?”
“Well, you're clearly focused on other people and work keeps me busy,” she shrugged. “It was more of a fling sort of feeling you know, a crush I guess.”
“Why tell me all this then?”
“Because I think that we should be honest to people that are like ourselves. Also because I'm hoping to get some sympathy,” she stuck out her tongue, mischievously.
“Sympathy for what?”
“You keep ignoring my requests so I thought that maybe if I leveled with you, you'd help me out.”
“Let me guess – you want me to take pictures of someone.”
“See? We do understand one another,” she nodded happily.
“Not sure I can take pictures on the sly. That's more your style.”
“Doesn't have to be on the sly. I just got an order for a few... particular tastes and I figured that if you asked nicely you'd be able to get the subjects to cooperate.”
“I don't think anyone I know will go for cheesecake pictures,” I told her.
“I just need a normal picture. With a bit of neck showing. No nudity, no suggestiveness needed. But if you can get that, it'd be a bonus.”
“...sounds like the kind of thing you could get yourself.”
“I've got a backlog of requests and, besides, if you asked them I think you'd get permission. If you do it, I'll give you 50% of the cut. Sounds fair, right?”
“I don't know.”
“Fine, 60%, but that's my last offer.”
“It's not about that, I'd have to know who it is first,” I explained. Couldn't just roll up to just anyone and ask for a picture with exposed neck. Too weird.
“Oh, ok. It's the guidance counselor and the gym teacher.”
“Yuugi and Yuyuko?” I was surprised.
“Yeah, this guy likes them old and with pretty necks. So, think you're up to it?”
Well, it was a weird request. But sounded doable. I knew both of them well enough to take the images. Aya was right about that. Still wasn't sure if it was a good idea.
 Help Aya out.
 Too bizarre for me.
It was meant for the other people. Because their reasoning was unreasonable and silly.