Chapter 5When Ana turned the key in the lock of her apartment that evening she heard the hurried scrapes of chairs being pulled back and the soft patter of feet as they sped towards the door. To her surprise, it was Jon whom she saw first.
“Jon?” Ana said, confused at this unexpected occurrence. Jon was usually busy partying in Shinjuku ni-chome on Friday nights.
“I came as soon as I heard,” he said “you’d better get in and reassure Tessa you’re fine, she’s almost killing herself with guilt.”
“I’m fine” Ana said as she shed her shoes, “Well, sort of…”
“Ann,” Kaye said from the doorway of the dining room, “Thank god you’re here. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” she reiterated. When she turned, she almost had the breath knocked from her as Tessa engulfed her in a hug.
“Ana, I’m so sorry!” She wailed despairingly. “When I called and Nakano told me that you had gone with him I was so frightened.”
Ana smiled at this, “Were you all afraid he’d kill me and cut me up into little pieces? He’s fairly well known and it’d hurt his career if he did that,” she reassured Tessa.
“Actually,” Jon butted in, “We were all more concerned that you’d lose your temper again and end up killing him then we’d have to find a good enough lawyer to fish you out of jail” he joked.
“Wow, thanks for the concern” Ana replied, mock-punching him.
“Well, where have you been?” Kaye asked, ”You’ve been gone for hours. Nakano told us that you had taken the day off. When Tessa told me about what happened I wasn’t overly worried because I figured all he’d do was ask an apology for his abominable behavior at the airport ”
“Well, he didn’t exactly get into that, but I insisted that he did in the end.”
“Well? C’mon Ana, spill!” Jon commanded
“It’s kind of complicated…” Ana prevaricated, how does one explain such a situation? It was almost like something out of a convoluted teleserye plot. She almost jumped when Kaye suddenly stood up and reached for the phone. “What are you doing?” she asked
“I’m calling for a pizza,” Kaye answered, “I feel we’re going to be in for a long night.”
“Great!” Jon said as he reached for his coat and wallet.
“And where are you going?” Ana asked him
“To go get some wine,” he explained. Then turned to Kaye, “Red or white?”
“Get a little of both,” Kaye answered as she perused the menu.
“We’re having a party now?” Ana asked disbelievingly.
Tessa gave her an impish grin, “Well, now that we’ve ascertained that you haven’t been abused in any way, we’d like to have a blow-by-blow account of everything that’s happened between you” she quipped, “And for that, we need supplies.”
“Correct ka dyan,” Jon said as he slipped out the door.
“Will two medium sized ones do?” Kaye asked, her hand covering the phone’s mouthpiece.
“I want some chicken too, and some fries. And don’t forget to get the cheesy-roll-crust with maple syrup!” Tessa requested.
Ana shook her head at their banter, but inwardly she smiled because she was thankful for their support. If her instincts were right, she’d need it in the days to come. She took the pins out of her hair and headed for the shower. If it was going to be a long night, she might as well be comfortable.
Four hours, two pizzas and two bottles of wine later, Jon, Tessa and Kaye were finally satisfied with her recital. Their combined forces were worse than a Butch Francisco and Boy Abunda tandem on drugs. They had considered every angle and had asked her countless questions. She inwardly kept waiting for someone to bring up the magic mirror question.
“So what do you plan to do?” Kaye finally asked.
Ana shrugged, “I’ve been considering his offer,” she took a deep breath, “and I think I’ll say yes.” Stupefied silence greeted this announcement.
“Are you sure about this hon?” Jon asked as he opened a can of chu-hi and handed it to Tessa who was more into it than she was into wine. He could not believe that Ana would consider the proposition for even a minute. If he were in her position, he would, but that was another story altogether.
“Well, it’s just a business deal right? A trade-off, nothing more,” Ana answered, her voice wavering a bit.
“Sounds to me like you’re convincing yourself,” Kaye commented. She knew that not a few weeks ago she had prayed for some excitement to enter into Ana’s life, but this was way too complicated. She shook her head, feeling as if she had brought this on by her wishful thinking.
“Actually I am,” Ana admitted. “It all happened so fast that I feel that I’m still reeling in reaction”
“That’s the wine dear,” Jon assured her, “you never could hold your liquor.” He exchanged a knowing look with Kaye and Tessa, who both snickered.
“I can’t believe that you’re going to agree to masquerade as his girlfriend to get Dan’s attention.” Tessa giggled, “When I suggested you find someone to make Dan jealous, never in my wildest dreams did I think you’d follow through.”
“Or literally use an actor to do it,” Jon observed.
“Ann are you sure you want this? You’re bound to get more attention than you want in the first place.” Kaye warned.
“Ano ba, don’t inhibit her, she’s thirty-two, its about time she did something stupid,” Jon argued.
“This is serious Jon,” Kaye warned, bent on playing devils advocate, “Ann, are you really sure?”
“That’s the crazy part,” Ana answered, swirling the last remnants of her wine in a mug that they normally used for coffee, “I’ve never been less sure of anything in my life. But I know I want to do this… that I feel that I have to do this … I know it isn’t going to be easy, nor is it the most intelligent choice I’ve ever made, but I want to do it.” She turned to look at Kaye, “Am I making any sense?”
Kaye stared at her for a few moments before answering, “Yes and no. But at least I think you’re going into this with both eyes open.”
“What if …” Tessa started excitedly, and all eyes turned on her, “what if you two fall in love?”
Ana, who was just finishing the contents of her mug, choked. “That will never happen,” she vehemently declared, “I am never going to fall in love with someone like him.” She went on muttering on her way to the toilet.
Tessa, Jon, and Kaye looked at each other. “Famous last words,” Jon commented.
Kaye rubbed her temples, “I have a very bad feeling about this,” she said.
Yoshi had a very good feeling as he put down a folded newspaper. He and Ken were relaxing in his dressing room after their appearance on a popular evening variety show. Ken had been given his own dressing room, but he had preferred to relax in the company of Yoshi. They were calmly drinking cans of beer and picking at the boxed meal that the studio had provided. Like most studio dressing rooms, this one was clean and sparsely furnished. The walls were done in hues of cream and beige, with royal blue wall-to-wall carpeting on the floor. Its main feature, a large mirror with a dressing table in front of it ran along the whole side of the room. Several chairs were propped up in front of it. To the side were two racks for clothes and costumes to be hung on. A small cubicle for changing clothes and a sink were also provided. On the other end was a small sofa and coffee table where Ken and Yoshi were currently lounging.
“So I hear you found your girl?” Yoshi asked conversationally.
Ken glanced up at Yoshi, “How did you find out so fast?” he asked curiously as he discarded a pickle.
“I have my sources,” Yoshi said mysteriously. He used his chopsticks to pick up Ken’s pickle and popped it into his mouth. At Ken’s irritated expression he laughed, “Haven’t you seen the papers?” He asked as he indicated the newspaper he had just put down. “You were photographed driving around in Daikenyama.”
Ken grabbed the paper and took a look. He then shook his head in respect for the ingenuity of the local paparazzi. It didn’t help that they were usually fully equipped with the latest technical and photographic equipment in the market. Japanese papers and tabloids always paid a hefty sum for a good picture. “Yes, I did find her,” he said to Yoshi.
“And did she fall to your feet and blindly agree like most women do?” Yoshi asked with a dramatic sigh.
“Actually she didn’t”
“Wha-at?” Yoshi choked out.
Ken smiled as he recounted the events of the afternoon to his friend. After his account, Yoshi chuckled, picked up a can of beer and took a long sip. “So she wasn't impressed at all?” He smiled, “I like this girl already.” Ken snorted and Yoshi laughed, “Seriously Ken, if she agreed, I would truly be worried about the whole thing. But she seems like a sensible person. Plus, you need someone who’ll stand up to you, otherwise you’ll be impossible.”
“That’s probably the reason why I tolerate you then,” Ken joked back.
“Exactly.” Yoshi agreed as they shared conspiratorial grins, “So, what does this dragon look like?” he asked, curious at what kind of woman had the balls to stand up to his friend.
Ken frowned as he pictured Ana in his mind. She was definitely unlike most of the Japanese girls he had dated, both in looks and in temperament. Ken remembered a teacher whom he had had when he was in high school; she was fresh out of school; young, idealistic, and ready to take on the world. She had managed to touch the lives of her students in a way that most Japanese teachers never even bothered to. He had the damnedest crush on her. Ana sort of reminded him of that teacher, full of life and willing to take the world on. He noticed his friend looking at him strangely, still patiently waiting for him to speak, “She’s pretty I guess … brown eyes and long, curly hair … she actually reminds me of a grade school teacher I used to have.”
Yoshi almost spewed his beer, “A grade school teacher? You want to convince the press that you left Erina Sakamoto for a grade school teacher?” he asked incredulously as he coughed. He had half-expected an Amazon princess, but a grade school teacher? Erina may have been irritating, but she was one of the cutest idols of her generation.
“I’m not kidding,” he said as he pounded his friend’s back, “it actually fits since she’s in the academe. She’s actually got a PhD in some unknown science.” Oblivious to Yoshi’s raised brow he continued, “She has this way of looking at you when she wants to warn you to behave yourself or suffer the consequences. She wears these slanted, dark-rimmed glasses that enhance the fire in her eyes and freeze you over with a look. That’s what she is—fire and ice.” He looked up to see Yoshi looking at him searchingly, “What?”
Yoshi was privately astounded; it was the first time he had ever heard his friend expound on the topic of a girl. He usually brushed them off with superficial comments about their appearance. But this one seemed to have gotten under his skin. Yoshi smiled, “This girl is not your usual type Ken,” he warned, “you may just fall in love with her.”
Ken snorted. “That’s not likely at all,” he said, “she’s much too strong and independent for my taste.”
“Ah, I forgot, you like them young and stupid. Girls you could easily ignore and silence with a look had they the temerity to complain at your absence.” Yoshi observed, taking a swig of beer. Ken didn’t answer and Yoshi continued, “Face it Ken, you want someone who you can completely distance yourself from. Your dad…”
“Leave him out of it Yoshi,” Ken warned.
Yoshi shrugged, unperturbed at the look in Ken’s eyes, “I just don’t know how someone as cold as you could act so well.” He teased, “Careful, you may scare your girl off before you get what you want.”
“She doesn’t scare easily, and she isn’t my girl yet,” Ken said, and for once he really wasn’t sure about what would happen.
Ana took the call in the middle of the regular Monday meeting at the lab. She ran to the women’s toilet and locked herself into a cubicle. She hurriedly answered the call before she lost her nerve. Without preamble, she spoke two words, hung up, and went back to the meeting.
“I’m in,” Ana had said. Ken smiled as he disconnected the call. Short and businesslike, just how he liked things to be. Ken grinned as he put the phone down. Time to immerse myself in my new role, he thought as he strolled towards the studio.
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