Chapter 7“Where’s the fire?” Kaye asked as she poured some coffee into a mug. She watched as Ana rushed out of the bathroom, tripped over a rug, and stubbed her toe on something Tessa had left on the floor. It was like something out of an Ai-Ai de las Alas comedy. She looked at the clock on the wall; it was just a little before ten on a Saturday morning. Kaye liked to linger on Saturdays and therefore could not see what Ana was rushing for.
“I’m late!” Ana exclaimed.
“For what? Do you have to go into the lab today?”
“No,” Ana explained as she walked into her room, “I’m supposed to go to a product launch with Ken next week and he said he’d help me get ready for it.”
Kaye raised an eyebrow. A few days ago, it had been 'Nakamura,' and after dinner last night it was now 'Ken.' “Get ready how?” She asked.
“No idea, probably tips on what to say and who I’ll be meeting.” Ana answered. “Damn,” she added when the bell at the lobby sounded, “that can’t be him.”
Kaye peered at the monitor connected at the lobby, sure enough Ken Nakamura was waiting to
be admitted. “It’s him,” she gaily informed Ana, “do you want me to get rid of him?”
“Let him up and entertain him for a bit while I try to dry my hair off,” Ana instructed as she turned the drier on.
Kaye shook her head. Drying Ana’s hair would take forever. She pressed the button that would open the doors at the lobby. Then she looked down at her own ensemble, it wasn’t exactly designed for entertaining, but then she wasn’t going out with the guy, was she? She tidied the living room up a bit and turned towards the door when another bell sounded. She opened the door to admit Ken.
He gave her a discreet once-over and took off his glasses. “Ohayo gozaimasu. Nakamura desu. Is Ana here?” he asked.
“She’s not ready yet. I’m Kaye, Ana’s flatmate. Would you like to come in?” she answered in fluent Japanese. Despite her invitation, her expression was less than welcoming.
“Thank you. Ojamashimasu.” he said as he entered. He took in the woman who stood before him. Even with her hair loosely piled on her head and clad in loose, pink Hello Kitty pajamas, she seemed like a force to be reckoned with.
“Can I get you anything?” she asked, as she bade him to settle on the sofa, “Coffee? Tea?”
“No thanks,” he answered, “I’m taking Ana to Omotesando to have brunch.”
She nodded and turned to go, then suddenly stopped. She seemed to be listening for Ana when she hurried back to him, “Mr. Nakamura,” she started.
“Please call me Ken,” he invited.
“Ken,” Kaye started, seemingly searching for the right words, “Ana says you’re alright, but I don’t know you at all and I certainly don’t trust you.”
Ken was too amused, to be offended. What was it with Filipinas and their tempers? “I assume that you are giving me some sort of warning?” he inquired.
“You bet your boots I am,” Kaye countered, her gaze unflinching. She held his gaze as she delivered her ultimatum, “If you harm a single hair on Ana’s head, I will personally start a smear campaign against you that will go all the way from Sapporo to Okinawa. Do not doubt me, I can do it. Do I make myself clear?”
“Very.” Then he smiled at her, “you are a good friend Kaye. Please don’t worry, I give you my word that I’ll take care of her.” He assured her.
Kaye stared at him, still trying to size him up. Then she turned around and said, “See that you do.”
They both turned when the door to Tessa’s room opened. She froze in mid-stretch, stared incredulously at Ken, and rushed back into her room. Before either of them could react, Ana emerged from her room and smiled shyly at them. Kaye’s left eyebrow went up of its own volition. Ana, who usually favored simple clothes was actually dressed up. She wore a frilly blouse in shades of amber paired with tailored beige shorts and beige suede heels. Although her hair was pulled back from her face in its customary ponytail, she was wearing a light dusting of makeup.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting,” she said to Ken while Kaye fairly goggled at her.
Ken, on the other hand hadn’t noticed Kaye’s astounded expression. He smiled at Ana, “No problem, Kaye and I were having a very interesting conversation.” He saw Ana glance swiftly at Kaye, who suddenly seemed fascinated with her nail polish. “Shall we go?” He asked, and after bowing briefly to Kaye, they were off.
“If only I had realized that changing my image was your idea of helping me get ready for the event tomorrow, you’d never have gotten me out of my front door,” Ana complained. She and Ken had just finished a leisurely brunch in which he had explained details regarding the product launch next week. She thought they were done for the day; he however told her that they had another errand to take care of.
He now ushered her through the doors of one of Tokyo’s more chichi salons. A receptionist led them into a hallway that led off to private waiting rooms. Ana had never been in a salon as posh as this. The waiting room was equipped with upholstered seats, a television, several glossies, and even a mini-bar.
“Ana, remember what I told you last night about breaking out of the category you’ve been put into? This is the perfect way to do that.” When he saw that this argument was making little headway, he sighed, “A visit to a salon was a foregone conclusion,” he argued, “If this is to be believable we have to change some things, and your hairstyle is one of them.”
“I’ll have you know that I have very nice and healthy hair!” she argued, holding up several curly locks.
“Yes, but there’s too much of it. It’s too … what the word? Ah, I learned the word in class just last week … it’s frumpy.”
“Frumpy?!” Ana almost shrieked as she sat down on an overly upholstered sofa. “Ha! That’s rich coming from a guy who looks like a perpetual hosto!”
“Nani?” Ken’s voice dripped of icicles.
“Look at yourself, how would anyone believe that you’re in a serious, mature relationship if you go around like that?” she said, gesturing at his getup.
“These were picked out for me by my personal stylist” Ken argued.
“Yes, and they may have worked if you were a few years younger, but that’s not what normal people wear. You’re too … too flashy.” She stared pointedly at the studded leather belt around his waist.
At this comment, Ken’s brows threatened to rocket towards the atmosphere. However, before a third world war could break out, they were suddenly interrupted. “A-hem” the head stylist discreetly coughed behind them.
“Taki-san,” Ken greeted, as he took a fortifying breath to calm himself. “This is Ana. Thank you for opening your schedule for us today.”
“Of course, what did you want to do today?”
Ken considered this for a moment, then his mouth softened into a smile as he glanced at Ana, “I think she can figure out what style she wants,” he told him. He saw Ana’s jaw drop and decided to tease her a bit more, “But make it something more modern and not so frumpy”
“Excuuuuse me,” Anna spluttered but stopped when Ken flashed her a grin to indicate he had been teasing her. Ana found herself smiling back in return. No one other than Kaye, Tessa, and Jon had teased her before. Even her family tended to take her seriously. And at work, well, it just wasn’t the best place for teasing. She gave him a wide grin “Alright, but prepare to be amazed at the results,” he laughed at this. She then turned to follow Taki into the salon. At the last moment, she spun back to face him “Oh, and Ken?”
“If I have to change my image to suit you. I expect nothing less from you”
Ken raised his eyebrows at this. “What did you have in mind?”
“I’ll let you know later, but consider yourself warned,” she said as the drapes covering the entrance to the salon swooshed close.
Ken found himself smiling in reaction to that last veiled threat. When was the last time someone had tried to manage him like this, he wondered. Other than his staff and his manager, no one had ever tried to make him do something he wasn’t ready to do, and yet he was looking forward to what the bossy Ana had in mind.
He chuckled to himself at this. Then he went back to his car to retrieve the script that he had to read that afternoon. He knew that he could leave Ana in Taki’s capable hands but he realized he wanted to see the transformation, however minute it was to be. Perhaps they could even have coffee afterwards to discuss her planned transformation for him.
His mind then switched gears as it concentrated on the script. It wasn’t too odd that he could find a quiet haven at a salon at this time of day. Salons like this invested much in the comfort and privacy of its clients and were fully equipped for waiting. In a few minutes, he was fully immersed in the technicalities of the script in his hands.
Ken checked his watch when he heard the soft, rhythmical tapping of Ana’s heels on the marble floors of the corridor just outside the waiting room. He was amazed to realize that it had been more than two hours since they had arrived. He was even more amazed that he had actually waited that long for someone. When Erina had succeeded in wheedling him to accompany her on her errands he usually just deposited her there and picked her up afterwards. He disliked it when she tried to manage him or arrange his schedule for him. He laid the script aside and stood up in anticipation. When the door swung open and Ana stepped in, Ken smiled in reaction.
Ana smiled shyly at him, “Well? Do you like it?” she asked uncertainly. She would never admit it to anybody, but in fact she had been wanting to try something new with her hair for the longest time, but kept putting it off, as it was easier to bundle everything into a ponytail when she went off to work. Plus, she didn’t exactly have an audience when she worked in the lab.
She was a bit apprehensive when she saw Taki with his streaked blonde locks walk into the room earlier. She had been prepared to do physical battle to keep her curls, but Taki surprised her by wanting to keep them. She was secretly thrilled to have her hair compared to Boticelli’s venus, and suspected it was why she had let him talk her into getting some subtle highlights. Ana preferred long, naturally colored tresses to the current Asian blonde evolution. Taki had suggested layering the thick brown waves so that they now framed her face in soft waves. Her new cut barely skimmed her jaw line, and she was pleased to see that but instead of turning into one frizzy mass, the layers framed her face nicely. She was also delighted with Taki’s styling tips; he taught her different ways of styling her new hairdo with wax.
She was surprised when a professional makeup artist had come in to show her how to do her face. Ana rarely used makeup and refused point-blank the garish colors, but the stylist laughed and said that if used sparingly, the colors had great effects. Not wanting to be impolite and knowing that she could wash it all out later, she agreed to the makeover. She was pleasantly surprised when she looked in the mirror and saw how shades of green brought out the amber glow of her eyes and how the mascara thickened the lashes that framed them. The soft peach tones were subtle enough not to be noticed, but nevertheless brought out her cheekbones. She was so happy with the overall effect that she had bought everything that they had used on her.
Now she stared back apprehensively at Ken as he surveyed her, “Well? Is it that bad?” She asked worriedly.
He slowly stood and walked towards her. “You’ll do. You look much younger.”
“Gee, thanks. That’s what every woman hopes to hear from you.” She retorted, a bit deflated by his lack of a reaction.
Ken slowly smiled and surprised himself by pushing back a lock of her hair that had fallen over her eyes. “That’s not what you wanted to hear?”
Ana stared at him stonily, she was inwardly miffed. She had expected more than that after significantly depleting her bank balance.
Ken chuckled, “Ana you look beautiful. You don’t need me to tell you so.”
Ana felt a blush suffuse her face, “Well, that’s a definite improvement from your earlier comment.” She said and smiled, “so do you think this is going to work?”
“Definitely.” Ken answered.
Go to Chapter 9