„You don’t have to wait for me,“ Mint said. She placed her bag on a chair and looked around for a free treadmill.
“Someone must watch you, young lady,” Evelina Rickenbacher replied. She overlooked the gym and frowned. Mint followed her gaze. There was Gabriella Ozolini doing her warm-up routines next to Polly Duke, who looked very sweaty doing pull-ups.
Evelina clearly didn’t belong in this world but after Mint’s getaway in New York City she was determined to keep an eye on her stepdaughter. This meant that Mint, when not busy with practice, working out in the gym or physio, was being taken on shopping sprees around the city. In the end she carried all the bags back to the hotel rooms which were connected by a door which had to stay open. To make things worse, due to her lower ranking Chili wasn’t playing Tokyo but the European tournaments.
Putting on her earphones, Mint stepped onto a treadmill and began her daily work-out, while Evelina Rickenbacher sat down in one of the chairs a little further away where she wasn’t disturbed by smelly, sweaty athletes.
Since she had landed in Tokyo Mint hadn’t spoken to her best friend once due to the time difference but also because she was never alone. Even in the evenings she wasn’t allowed to leave her room and she didn’t want to talk to Chili when Evelina was in the next room and able to overhear her conversation.
Why hadn’t she bothered to learn Spanish when she had the opportunity? It could have been their secret language. The desperation brought tears to her eyes. Brushing them away she ran faster.
She didn’t see Natsumi approaching and when the Japanese player poked her in the side Mint almost jumped off the treadmill in surprise.
“Hello,” Natsumi laughed while stepping onto the next treadmill.
“Hey,” Mint tried to smile at the Japanese player. She had always been nice to Mint and for a while had been taking her and Chili under her wings.
“What’s up?” Natsumi must have realized her afflicition, but she was smart enough to understand that it had to do with Mint’s new watch dog. She kept on smiling.
“I can’t go anywhere,” Mint replied under her breath and without looking up to Natsumi. “She won’t let me out of the hotel room.”
Natsumi seemed speechless by these revelations. She didn’t say a word but when they finished the treadmill she gestured Mint to listen.
“Let’s go over to your stepmom,” Natsumi suggested. “Just nod. Whatever I say. Ok?”
Mint looked back to Evelina Rickenbacher. She didn’t want Natsumi to go over. It made her uneasy to even think that Evelina would get to know one of Mint’s gay friends, let alone the craziest of all.
“Mrs. Rickenbacher,” Natsumi smiled at Evelina. She folded her hands and made a little greeting bow in front of Mint’s stepmom. Mint was surprised. Natsumi’s English was flawless, but now she spoke with a very bad, unidentifiable Asian accent.
“So good to see Mint. So good,” Natsumi said with a smile. She was still nodding her head. “Mint always very nice.” Mint couldn’t believe her ears. But Evelina was delighted by the young and polite Japanese.
“I like to invite Mint for traditional Japanese dinner,” Natsumi continued. “Tonight. With my family. Very nice”
Evelina hesitated but then she looked at Natsumi and Mint knew exactly what was going on in her stepmother’s head. Categorizing Natsumi as “harmless Asian” she finally gave her permission for a night out.