12 March 2009

Leave it up to Fate: Chapter Twelve

New to the Japayuki Chronicles?
Start with the Overview or Chapter 1
Or go to the previous chapter (Chapter 11)

“This is a disaster! It’s never going to work!” Ana hissed worriedly.

“Yes it will,” Ken tried to assure her.

It was the evening of their first public appearance together. Ken and Ana were sitting at the back of a car, on their way to Shinjuku, where the launch was going to be held.

Takashi sat with the driver in front, mopping his head with a handkerchief despite the cool temperature. He was as worried as Ana, if not, even more so. If she didn’t go through with this or if she fumbled, all was lost. When Ken had told him that he had found Ana, Takashi could not have been more pleased. He readily suggested that the Suntory launch was the perfect way opportunity for the press and Ken’s colleagues to meet his new girlfriend. Plus, it was a fairly soft event for her to start on. However, after almost an hour of listening to the two of them bicker in the backseat was setting his teeth on edge. Ken and his dates were usually quiet when they were on their way to an event. But then again, most of his dates had been either models or actresses, and they had been used to the pressures of public life. Takashi privately wondered whether Ana was really up to the challenge and he mentally berated himself for having suggested that Ken go after her in the first place. He glanced at the rearview mirror and saw that the girl was staring resentfully at Ken as he looked out the window. Takashi looked at his watch. They were arriving in ten minutes. They better make up their minds fast, he thought.

Ana stared at Ken as she leaned back in her seat, in spite of his nonchalant attitude, she knew he was worried. He slouched in his seat, but even his relaxed pose could not dim the force of his presence. In formal black and white togs, Ken looked dazzling, every inch the star. When Ana saw him, she instantly went into panic-mode—she wasn’t prepared for this! She was a researcher who led a quiet and peaceful life—or so she had been before she met Ken. She sighed as she pondered fate’s quirky sense of humor in bringing two such different personalities together.

Ken turned to look at her when she sighed. To her surprise, he took hold of her hand and smiled at her, “I know you’re nervous Ana,” he said, “but try to think of this as one of your presentations before a panel. It can’t be very different from that.”

It was way different from that, Ana wanted to scream. When she gave a talk or a presentation, it was about work she had done, and she had all the facts and information at her fingertips. But now she was getting ready to spout a bunch of lies.

On top of that, she was very worried about how she looked. Ana thought all her flaws were magnified simply by standing next to Ken. Late this afternoon, Ken had sent people to her house to help her get ready. Kaye and Tessa had watched attentively as she was being made up and fussed over by the hair and makeup artists, while Jon watched videos in Tessa’s room. Even though Jon, Kaye, and Tessa assured her that she looked spectacular, she still felt uneasy. She was worried about a zillion and one things—that she was wearing too much makeup, that she would make a fool of herself, that she would say the wrong thing, and that she would trip when she walked in her new 3-inch heels.

Ken recognized the glazed look of panic in her eyes and tried to reassure her, “Relax,” he said as he rubbed her hand, “you look beautiful, you’ll definitely blow them away.”

Wanting to distract her, he continued, “Your dress looks really nice.”

As he had predicted, her expression went from worried to belligerent in less than a minute. “Ha! You would say so, since you bought it,” she shot back. However, as she smoothed the fabric over her lap, she shyly peeked up at Ken and said, “Thank you for this ensemble, it was really too much …”

“Do you really like it?” he asked.

“I love it,” she said, “you have good taste.”

He smiled, “Then enough talk of paying me back and enjoy the gift.” He squeezed her hand, it seemed small and fragile when held between his own, “We’re partners in this Ana, right?”

She looked down at their linked hands and then up at him. Then she smiled, “Right.”

He smiled back, “I believe you can do this,” he assured her.

The van had stopped in front of the hotel and Takashi turned to them worriedly, “We’ve arrived, dou suru?”

Ken kept his gaze on Ana. He smiled when he saw her square her shoulders and take a deep breath, “Let’s get this show rolling,” she smiled up at him.

In the end, Ana charmed the press by speaking in fluent Nihongo. She spoke of meeting Ken and of her work while Ken beamed at her proudly as he kept a loose arm around her waist from the side. She shyly admitted that she had not really seen his movies, as she rarely watched Japanese films, but that she had seen him in a couple of his dramas.

“She still has to develop some taste,” Ken quipped to the press’ amusement. He turned to Ana who gave him a saucy grin. He felt his heart skip a beat as he gazed into her amber eyes. That’s odd, he thought distractedly.

“You need some improvement yourself,” she whispered to him.

He chuckled and made their excuses as they entered the venue. In Japan, product launches such as these, although extravagant, were done in typical Japanese style. This meant a strict adherence to custom and formalities before the actual party. Ana sat in the front row as Ken went up on stage for the formal presentation, speeches, and toasts. At the end, they showed the new commercial that featured Ken.

After the formal program, waiters started going around, distributing drinks. Some guests wandered over to the buffet table that was set to one side of the room. It was decorated with lavish floral arrangements and had trays of artistically-presented food. The stage was cleared to accommodate the band that was performing that night. Before the entertainment began, the host enjoined everybody to pick up their glasses and all together, they chanted, “Kampai!” At the front entrance, some staff busily set up tables and arranged press packs and hefty sample packages for the guests to take home.

As soon as he was able to extricate himself from his duties, Ken came to Ana and stayed by her side the whole night. Ana thought he was playing the role of an attentive lover to the hilt. He got her some champagne and kept his arm lightly around her waist as he did the mingling that was a necessary part of his job.

Ken glanced at Ana as she chatted with an executive from Suntory. At first he was worried that she might get bored with all the shoptalk, but she seemed to be able to hold her own. Regardless of whom she met, be it an eccentric director, a pompous executive, a staff member, or a reporter, she treated them all with charm and grace. She was just so classy, he thought proudly. One would never have guessed that an hour and a half ago she was almost quaking with fear.

Ken’s industry colleagues privately amused Ana. They were such fascinating characters! Although she recognized only about a handful of them, she thought that they really weren’t all that different from the stars of the academe. Some were full of themselves, some were shy, some were intent on selling ideas, and some were bent on fishing for ideas. It was a highly interesting group, she decided. The highlight of the evening however was when Ken introduced her to his good friend Yoshi.

Ana shook his hand eagerly and smiled, “Samuta-san! I saw your last drama and I loved it,” she gushed. She giggled like a besotted high-school girl, much to Ken’s irritation.

“I knew we’d get along well,” he said as he winked at her. “Please call me Yoshi,” he invited as he slung an arm around her, “I came by to thank you personally.”

“Whatever for?” She asked.

“For standing up to this guy,” Yoshi answered, gesturing to Ken, “he needs to feel like a normal human being sometimes and he told me you brought him down to earth with a smack.”
Ken frowned, but Ana let out a delighted peal of laughter. “So he admitted that much?” she asked Yoshi.

“Yes, and much, much more” he said, wriggling his brows suggestively, “I can tell you more it you come and dance with me,” he invited despite Ken’s warning frown.

Ana smiled eagerly, “I’d be delighted,” she said. She turned to her companion, “Ken?”

Ken reluctantly nodded and sent Yoshi a look. But Yoshi simply winked back. Yoshi led Ana off to the dance floor, where people were dancing to a slow, jazzy tune. He then took her in his arms and smiled down at her, and she smiled back up at him. He looked over her head at Ken who was stonily watching them from the sidelines, as some producers tried to chat him up. He turned to face Ana and said, “What if we started making out on the dance floor, I wonder what Ken would do?”

“Do you want to try and find out?” Ana wiggled her brows suggestively.

“I don’t think my fans would like it if my best friend murdered me tonight.”

Ana started giggling, “I don’t think he’d mind”

Yoshi glanced over at Ken once again, he was now close to scowling. Yoshi grinned, and thought to himself, I think he’d mind more than you think. He grinned at Ana and said, “I’m willing to take the risk if you are.”

Ana couldn’t help it, she started laughing, he reminded her of one of her young cousins, Yoshi was just so full of himself. Yoshi smiled in appreciation at her humor, Ken’s grade school teacher was something else.

Ana looked up at him, although he was taller than her, Ken was much taller. However, Yoshi, with his blond hair and easy-going attitude, seemed much younger than Ken. She smiled at him, “So you’re Ken’s best friend huh?”

“Only by default,” he joked, “So you’re Ken’s girlfriend huh?”

“Also by default,” Ana returned and Yoshi laughed, “You seem very different from Ken,” she observed, “How did you two ever get along?” she asked.

“Shiranai? Don’t you know, it’s the Asian concept of yin and yang,” he explained, “I’m the good guy, and well, he’s …” he trailed off suggestively and was rewarded with a giggle from Ana. “He and I were both cast in a lot of dramas when we were much younger. When we first met I was just starting out as an actor, while he already had few dramas and movies under his belt,” he chuckled, “You should have seen him then—young, brooding, arrogant, and surly as hell.”

“I can imagine. And you captured his undying devotion with your irrepressible charm?” Ana guessed

“You got it,” he averred, “good imagination you’ve got. And I thought scientists were soulless.”

“And I thought actors were flirts.”

He smiled, thoroughly enjoying their childish sparring, “Don’t ask me to explain, I can’t figure it out myself. We may seem as different as night and day, but we’ve never really fought about anything,” he boasted.

The effect of that statement was ruined when Ken suddenly cut in, “Do you think I could get a dance with my girl?” he asked Yoshi tersely.

Yoshi smiled at Ana, “I don’t think that was a request, do you?” he asked mischievously, but he relinquished Ana to his friend anyway, “It was a pleasure Ana-san. See you around,” he said as he deposited her in Ken’s waiting arms. He made a smart salute at Ken and headed for the buffet.

Ken scowled up after at him, then he turned a scowl on Ana, “When I introduced him to you I didn’t mean for you to get overly friendly.”

“Are you jealous?” Ana kidded.

He gave her an incredulous look, “Me, jealous? Never,” he grinned when he saw her smiling cheekily up at him, “Now come and dance with me,” he ordered.

Ana laughed, “Hai, hai!”

Go to Chapter 13

5 comments:

acey said...

hi!!!

just read the overview and na-inriga ako. when you mentioned actor, i immediately imagined takeshi kaneshiro. lol!

keep writing!

ps: thanks for dropping by my blog.

cpsanti said...

hahaha! how perceptive acey ;-) i actually envisioned a cross between him and shun oguri. ahahahaay! ;-)

jeanny said...

seloso pa itong si Ken hahaha!!!

ryn, nag enjoy ako, actually first ko itong chapter na ito and I must kinilig ako ha. Got to read the previous chapters, I became interested how the relationship started :)

Keep on writing sistah. It's a lovely story. :)

cpsanti said...

thanks sis! ;-) he actually doesn't start out that way---i was trying for a subtle development of the characters. hehehe. enjoy reading! ;-)

Kikit said...

What does it mean to fall in love?
This chapter explains the signs. :) Kilig na ako masyado! Haha :)