“Hi. Um, so this is the apartment,” Jun said nervously, showing his prospective new roommate around. It had taken him much longer than anticipated to find someone interested in sharing with him and he didn't want to let him get away.
Ohno Satoshi adjusted the bag he carried strapped across his body and slowly walked around the living room taking in the slightly sparse furnishings. The light streaming in through the large windows warmed the room and more than made up for the lack of comfort. “I see that you like the minimalist style.”
“Not really,” Jun replied, wishing that the tips of his ears didn't betray his embarrassment so easily. “It’s just that my previous roommate took a lot of the furniture with him. Sorry.”
“No need to apologize.” Ohno’s impassive expression changed to one of delight. “It means that I will have plenty of room for my work.”
“If you don't mind me asking, what do you actually do for a job?”
“I work in a bakery,” Ohno replied with a wistful smile. “But during the weekend and my days off I dabble in painting. One day I hope to be able to make a full-time living out of it, but until then you won't need to buy any baked goods.”
At the mention of baked goods, an excited chirp came from the cage in the corner as a small brown and white head popped up.
Jun laughed and introduced Ohno to his pet hamster. “Sho-chan obviously wants you to move in, and so do I. Just please ignore him if he tries to get you to feed him. He's on a strict diet.”
Ohno twiddled his fingers in front of the little hamster and clicked his tongue. He received a happy chirp in response before Sho curled up and went back to sleep. “I’m glad that you have a pet, because I have one myself.”
“Oh…” Considering his track record with animals, Jun was now wondering how he could politely back out of the deal. “I’m not sure how a dog or cat would work with Sho-chan here. He is out of his cage quite often.”
“Don't worry, Masa is perfectly harmless,” Ohno said, lifting the bag off his shoulder. He placed it down on the table and spoke softly into the bag.
Jun’s eyes widened as a furry head popped up over the top of the bag. The rabbit had short white hair with black patches around his eyes and nose and long black ears.
“This is Masaki.”
The rabbit blinked a few times in the brightness after being in the bag, before jumping out onto the table. He gave himself a good shake before looking eagerly around at his new surroundings. His body was almost all white apart from the black markings on his head and some small black spots scattered around his body. An unusual brown splodge of hair covered his left shoulder and the top of his front left leg.
Gingerly Jun held out his hand for the rabbit to sniff, expecting the worst. Instead of being bitten, Jun found a soft nose pressing against his fingers as the rabbit stretched up onto his hindquarters. “Hello Masaki. You certainly have long legs.”
The rabbit, seemingly keen to show them off, jumped down from the table and began to hop energetically around the apartment in a zigzag motion.
“Sorry,” Ohno panted, as he chased Masaki, barely catching him before he knocked over the standing lamp. “He’s always a bit over excited when he’s been cooped up for a while.”
“Not a problem.” Jun was so happy to finally have a roommate and to have found an animal who didn’t hate him that he wouldn’t have minded if Masaki was hanging from the curtains.
Jun was working the evening shift at the coffee shop where he had managed to score himself a nice part time job. Ohno slipped on his own jacket, preparing to head out to his weekly art lesson, and walked over to the pen in the corner of the living room.
“Hey Masa. I'm heading out now.” Ohno ran his hand over the long velvety ears of the rabbit as Masaki to greet him. “Be good, and look out for Sho.”
The rabbit twitched his soft nose and blinked innocently up at Ohno. In his small cage sitting on the coffee table, Sho was just waking up, stretching his tiny body as he sleepily made his way over for a sip of water from the automatic dispenser.
Picking up two pieces of carrot, one small and the other much larger, Ohno passed them through the bars of the respective enclosures before picking up his bag and heading out the door.
A few moments later a loud squeak came from the brown and white hamster as he looked at the carrot with disdain. Masaki, who was crunching happily on his own piece, immediately stopped chewing and looked over at Sho. The hamster chirped at Masaki, holding his gaze with bright black eyes.
Abandoning his food treat, Masaki nudged at the corner of his pen, forcing the join far enough apart to allow him to squeeze through the gap. He loped over to the table where Sho’s cage was, sitting up on his hind legs as he peered at its occupant. Sho picked up his abandoned carrot stick and pushed it through the bars to Masaki who eagerly crunched it. Carrot was a rare treat for him, and he was more than happy to eat whatever Sho didn't want.
In return, Masaki hopped over to the door leading to the tiny balcony where Jun and Ohno dried their clothes. Using his head, he nudged the unlatched door open and made his way over to a row of planter boxes lined up against the railing. Jun, a keen cook, was growing a selection of different herbs and leafy greens in these boxes. Masaki sniffed at each, before biting off the head of a large healthy kale plant. After eating a couple of the leaves, he gathered up the rest in his mouth before heading back inside.
Sho was standing with his nose pressed through the bars of his cage as Masaki propped himself up on the edge of the table. A bundle of kale hung down from the corners of his mouth as the rabbit nudged the leaves in Sho’s direction.
The little hamster took a nibble of kale and recoiled in disgust. He dashed over to the far side of his cage, chirping eagerly. Sho looked back at the speckled rabbit as if checking that he was paying attention before squeaking excitedly in the direction of the fruit bowl sitting at the far end of the table. The bowl contained a large bunch of seedless grapes, taunting the hamster with their shiny, sugary perfection.
Masaki tried to reach the bowl, struggling as he attempted to grip the edge of the table. He finally managed to grab the dangling end of a stem, dragging the bowl to the edge. The rabbit’s paws slipped and Masaki fell back down onto the floor, taking the entire bowl with him. The pottery bowl broke into several pieces and the grapes broke off their stems, bouncing across the floor boards.
Picking his way carefully over the broken shards, Masaki picked up a grape and snapped it between his teeth, eyes closing in pleasure as the sweet juice burst across his tongue. He picked up another grape, but before he could eat it he was interrupted by and angry squeaking from Sho’s direction.
Masaki carried the grape over to the hamster and nudged it into the cage. The grape became stuck between the bars, but Sho pounced, tugging it with all of his strength as Masaki pushed it with his nose. The grape popped free, sending the little brown and white hamster tumbling backwards into the soft bedding scattered across the floor of his cage. With a squeak he shook himself and picked up the grape, shoving it into his cheek pouch, before repeating his actions with the next grape Masaki pressed through the bars.
The pair was happily munching their way through their haul of forbidden fruit when the door to the apartment opened. Jun, who was looking forward to a good night's sleep after a busy shift, certainly didn't expect to come home to the scene before him. Two pairs of eyes blinked at him as the two pets tried to convince him of their innocence. But nothing could hide the broken dish or the grape juice staining the fur around their mouths.
“Squeak!” Sho hid inside his exercise wheel, while Masaki hastily hopped over to his pen, feet scrabbling on the polished floor as he tried to push his way back in.
Jun squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. He walked over to the coffee table, carefully avoiding the broken dish. He picked up the remaining grapes and dumped them in the garbage bin, not saying a word to the two guilty-looking animals. As he grabbed a dustpan and began to sweep up the mess, a velvet nose touched his wrist. Masaki was looking at him with huge sad eyes while Sho peeked out from his wheel, his expression anxious.
“Don’t you two know that grapes are bad for you?” Jun sighed. “They contain far too much sugar.”
Sho pulled a slightly squished grape from his cheek and proffered it in Jun’ s direction. “Squeak?”