26 April 2009

Leave it up to Fate: Chapter Sixteen

New to the Japayuki Chronicles?
Start with the Overview or Chapter 1

“Hey Ana,” Kaye greeted her as Ana took off her shoes at the genkan. An aromatic smell was wafting from the kitchen where Tessa, Kaye, and Jon were congregated. Kaye was cooking pasta, Tessa was tossing a salad, and Jon was uncorking a bottle of wine.

“Hi guys!” Ana smiled as she realized she hadn’t seen them in ages. She had missed these people. The past few weeks had been like a whirlwind that she had hardly spent time with them. She went to her room to change into house clothes then padded out to the dining room, took a loaf, and began to make garlic bread.

Ken and Ana had increasingly spent a lot of time together over the past couple of weeks. They frequently lunched together at various caf├ęs and restaurants in Shibuya, Daikenyama, and Omotesando. Some nights they had dinner or relaxed at one of the more upscale watering holes in Roppongi or Azabu. Sometimes they were photographed with Yoshi, who seemed to have a different girl on his arm each time Ana met him. The press avidly reported their attendance at a premiere screening of an American action film at Roppongi Hills, a concert at Suntory Hall, and at the launch of the new line of mobile phones Ken was endorsing. Tabloids were awash with statements from people who swore that they had seen Ken and Ana arguing over the selections while lining up for Krispy Kremes in Shinjuku, purchasing ties in Ginza, and shopping for groceries in Azabu-juban. It was if they had really become a couple—at least to the avid followers of the Japanese entertainment industry.

“To what do we owe the honor of your unexpected presence?” Jon asked as he leaned on the table beside Ana. He poured a small measure of wine into a glass and handed it to her.

She made a face at him as she took a sip, “Why? Can’t I hang out with you guys anymore?”

“Well, its just that we haven’t seen you in ages,” Tessa said as she put the salad bowl on the table.

“You guys saw me yesterday,” Ana protested.

“Asus, you know what we mean,” Kaye said as she tossed basil leaves into the sauce, “Tessa’s right, we haven’t been seeing much of our favorite half of the latest it couple—the famed Ana-Ken couple,” her eyes twinkled at Ana, waiting for a reaction. At Ana’s blank expression, she prompted, “Get it? Ana-Ken?”

“Dandandan-dan-dadan-dan-dadan…,” Jon hummed the theme from Star Wars for effect and Ana choked on the wine she was sipping. Jon handed her some tissues, “Mind you, Kaye coined that herself,” he said, rolling his eyes, “Ang corny no?”

Kaye lifted the wooden spoon she was using to mix the pasta sauce and turned to him. Jon wagged a finger at her and began backing away, “Don't you dare throw that spoon at me! This is a Brooks Brothers’ shirt!”

Tessa giggled, “You’re so smart Kaye, if you want Jon to behave, hold his clothes hostage.”

“It’s not funny,” Jon argued, “these shirts cost the earth.”

“But you capitalists buy them anyway,” Kaye retorted. She turned back to the sauce she was making, tasted it, and decided it needed something else. She rummaged in the cupboard and started dumping things in randomly.

Jon goggled at Kaye, “Did you just put ketchup into that sauce?” he asked disbelievingly.

“So what if I did?”

“Kaye, you can’t do that.”

“If you don’t like it, then don’t eat it.”

Ana and Tessa giggled as Jon sighed and resignedly poured himself another glass of wine. When they finally sat down to eat, Tessa once again remarked how much they had missed Ana these past few weeks. “We aren’t complaining though,” she informed Ana, “thanks to you, the three of us have become really popular!”

“What do you mean?” Ana asked.

“Well, as you can imagine,” Tessa started, “Marga let slip that she’s close friends with the girl that Nakamura is currently dating,” Ana started laughing and Tessa went on, “She also told everybody that I room with you, so everyone thinks I rub elbows with the stars too.”

“What was her reaction when you told her that we actually had dinner with two of them two weeks ago?” Jon asked, referring to their dinner at Barbacoa Grill a couple of weeks ago that Ken and Yoshi had ambushed. He was surprised when Ana turned up with them in tow, but it resulted in a fun evening for all. Jon was still amazed at how they were able to get extra seats when the restaurant had told him that they were booked through for the night. Ah, the fringe benefits of stardom.

Tessa giggled, “It was priceless! She tried to be nonchalant about it, but then she asked if she could tag along the next time we go out.”

“I hope you didn’t agree,” Kaye gave her a piercing stare.

Tessa avoided meeting her gaze, “My co-teachers have also asked if I’ve met any of Ken’s friends, particularly those from Johnny’s,” she added, referring to a company famous for managing male singing groups. She cocked her head to one side, “Actually there’s this guy I’ve been crushing on…the guy who plays Jiro on that new Fuji Terebi drama… I wonder if Ken knows him,” she wondered.

“Do you want Ana to pass him a note through Nakamura?” Jon teased, “What are you, twelve?” He ducked as Tessa made to throw the saltshaker at him.

“Personally, I feel as if I’m your agent or something,” Kaye told Ana, ignoring the antics of the other two.

“My agent?” Ana asked.

“Exactly,” Kaye agreed, waving a chunk of garlic bread for emphasis, “Some local Filipino groups have heard of your association with Nakamura and they’ve been bugging me to ask both of you to attend or guest in one of their events. Ha! As if!” she said as she broke of a chunk of bread and put it into her mouth. Kaye was very involved in a lot of events involving the local Filipino community and often liaised with people from the Philippine embassy as well as local NGOs.

“Aruu, admit it—you’ve been thinking of inviting them to that ballroom party you’re organizing,” Jon chided.

Kaye turned to him, “Well it’s for a good cause and it would certainly increase ticket sales,” she guiltily defended, “And when I mentioned it to Yoshi, he seemed interested.”

“Whoa! It seems that Ana is not the only one to get involved with a Japanese actor,” Tessa kidded. She couldn’t help but notice that Kaye and Yoshi had hit it off that time when they had dinner. She tried to eavesdrop, but she was completely lost when they had switched to Japanese. Tessa’s Japanese language skills were mainly confined to polite greetings. Although Kaye and Ana frequently pointed out that her skills drastically improved when she was shopping.

“You’re off the mark on that one,” Jon told her.

“What do you mean?” Tessa asked.

“Well, I think that Kaye and Yoshi are too much alike to be romantically involved. They’re both sharks,” he told her, “and it was evident from the first moment they met that they were thinking of ways to exploit their connection,” he turned to Kaye, “I couldn’t get all of what you were talking about, but it seemed geared towards unromantic things.” Although Jon studied Japanese at university in the Philippines, as an expat he hardly used it, and was only marginally better than Tessa.

Kaye shrugged, “Ok, ok, so I got him to introduce me to some potential sponsors for the ballroom party. An in return I helped find him a new personal assistant and housekeeper.”

Ana, Tessa, and Jon exchanged knowing looks at Kaye’s admission. It was so much like Kaye to insist on a fair tradeoff. But then they knew that although Kaye might be an opportunist at times, her heart was in the right place. The events she organized benefited several charities back in the Philippines.

“The news of you and Nakamura has reached the ni-chome community as well,” Jon told Ana, referring to an area in Shinjuku that housed some of the more popular watering holes for the discreet gender-challenged population of Tokyo, “But since I haven’t let slip that I am personally acquainted with you, no one’s asked me anything. But the most interesting stories have been going around,” he informed Ana as he wiggled his eyebrows.

“What sorts of stories?” Ana asked.

“Well, the most interesting point of debate I heard last weekend,” Jon announced, “Was if Nakamura wore briefs or boxers. I personally thought—briefs. I don’t suppose you’d care to enlighten me, hmm?”

Ana was surprised as three pairs of eyes suddenly impaled her with laser-like intensity.

“Of course I wouldn’t know!” she said heatedly.

“Just checking,” Jon said under his breath.

“Oh by the way,” Ana said, wanting to change the subject, “Ken asked me to ask if you guys would be free next Saturday.”

“What’s happening next Saturday?” Tessa asked excitedly.

“Well, if you’re not busy, Ken has some tickets to spare for an event over at the Tokyo Budokan in Kudanshita. Ken and Yoshi, as well as bunch of other people are supporting the Earth Day fundraiser concert,” she paused for effect, “And he asked me if you were interested in coming.” At the excited gleam in her friends’ eyes, Ana went on, “He got us prime tickets and we’re also invited to the uchiage party afterwards.” In Japan, uchiage parties were normally held to celebrate the completion of an event. Since this particular event involved a ton of people from the local entertainment industry, Ken had told her that it would be held at one of the bigger clubs in the Azabu area.

Ana covered her ears when Jon, Kaye, and Tessa started screeching in unison. Nakano and Tanaka had reacted in much the same fashion when Ana had told them earlier about the concert. Ana had been surprised when Ken called her this afternoon and asked her if she’d like some tickets for her friends and assistants. He had told her that he thought she might want to have someone with her in the audience since as one of the hosts he wouldn’t be able to sit with her. She had been truly touched by his thoughtfulness.

She looked at her friends; they all had the same glazed look in their eyes. Tessa was the most transparent, she was happily imagining meeting more stars. Jon was mentally putting together an ensemble. Kaye had a predatory look in her eyes as she wondered if she’d be able to promote her event there.

“Well, will you guys be free? What should I tell Ken?” Ana asked them mischievously.

“Yes!” the three of them bellowed at her.

23 April 2009

Leave it up to Fate: Chapter Fifteen

New to the Japayuki Chronicles?
Start with the Overview or Chapter 1

Ana stared at the array of controls on the dashboard as she sat in Ken’s Porsche; it was one of the most luxurious cars she had ever been in. The engine was idling as she waited for him in front of his agency in Azabu where he was supposed to pick something up. Afterwards, Ken told her that he would take her to one of the best Indian places in Shibuya. Ana was a big fan of Indian food herself, and for the nth time she told herself that it was the reason why she was now sitting in his car.

Kaye’s warning from the night before rang in her head, “Careful that you don’t start believing in this fairy tale, proximity has a funny way of breeding familiarity,” she had said when Ana told her and Tessa that she was having lunch with Ken. Then she had started muttering that being a fairy godmother was hard work and that there ought to have just compensation schemes. Tessa started giggling as Ana stared at both of them in confusion.

It was just lunch, Ana told herself, as she fidgeted in the plush leather seats. It was just a simple lunch in a room full of people. Nothing more proper than that, Ana argued, people had lunch with each other everyday. Only people didn’t usually have lunch with handsome and charming companions who could steal your heart if you weren’t careful, a niggling voice inside her reminded her.

She was so caught up in her thoughts that she gave a start when her mobile began vibrating. She picked it up gingerly and peered at the word ‘call’ as it flashed on the screen. Ana sighed, it was another unidentified number. Over the past few days, she had been getting calls from a lot of local reporters and journalists, begging her for an interview. Even her private line at the institute had been inundated with calls. Resignedly, she decided to answer the call.

“Hello?” Ana answered warily. She hoped that answering in English might put the Japanese press off a bit.

“You forgot didn’t you?” a female voice whispered.

“Huh?” asked as she glanced around nervously, she wondered if she was being paranoid about the paparazzi, but she couldn’t seem to help herself.

“Tanya’s birthday,” her sister-in-law clarified.

Ana groaned, she couldn’t believe she had forgotten her godchild’s birthday. “Lynne, I’m so sorry. Is she mad at me?”

Her former best friend chuckled, “Don’t worry, I took care of it,” she answered, “But mind you, I expect her Christmas gift to be extra-special,” she warned.

“You can count on it,” Ana promised, “Is she there? I’d like to talk to her.”

“Alright, I’ll put you on speaker phone,” Lynne said.

Ana could hear Lynne call to her daughter in the background. The excited patter of feet heralded her godchild’s voice, “Ninang Ana!” Tanya bellowed into the mouthpiece.

Ana smiled, “Hi sweetheart!” She could hear Lynne admonishing Tanya to speak in a normal volume. “How are you sweetie?”

“I’m fine Ninang,” Tanya answered, “Thank you for the dollhouse! Judy loves it!”

“Judy?” Ana asked, wondering if Judy was a playmate, a nanny, or otherwise.

“Yes Ninang,” the child piped up, “Remember Judy, the doll you gave me last Christmas. So now you gave me a house for her. Remember?”

“Yes darling, I remember,” Ana answered as Ken opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat. He tossed a sheaf of papers onto the backseat and looked curiously at Ana. She held up a finger asking him to wait.

“Ninang?” Tanya called.

“Yes darling, what is it?” Ana asked, missing Ken’s reaction at her statement. His brows were doing impressive aerial gymnastics again.

“Ninang, will you come home soon? I miss you,” Tanya asked plaintively.

Ana’s heart melted, she so loved her godchild. “I’m sorry baby,” she apologized, “I miss you too, but I can’t come back anytime soon,” she answered.

The frown on Ken’s face was definite as he growled, “Are you talking to Sato?”

Ana shushed him, “No, I’m talking to my godchild,” she said exasperatedly as she activated her mobile’s speakerphone system.

“Ninang?” Tanya’s childish voice came through loud and clear, “who was that?”

“That’s just Ninang’s friend sweetie, say hello,” Ana turned to Ken, and motioned for him to answer when Tanya said hello.

“What’s your name?” Tanya demanded.

“I’m Ken, what’s yours?”

“I’m Tanya. I’m five and I’m going to a real school soon,” she proudly announced, “Ninang, is he your boyfriend?”

Before Ana could reply however, the sound of heels on marble indicated that someone was hurrying towards the phone. She groaned as she heard her mom’s voice, “Ana? Hija? Who was that?”

“Hello Mama,” Ana answered as she scrambled to turn off the speakerphone system. Ken chuckled and Ana glared at him, “Uh, that was a friend,” she told her mother.

“Is he really?” her mother sighed, “I wish you would go out more hija, you’re not getting any younger…”

“Actually, I’m on a date. Right now,” Ana answered, her temper getting the better of her. Even her family believed her to be hopeless!

Her mother giggled in satisfaction, “I knew it hija!” she trilled, “So who is he, hmm?”

“No one you know,” Ana answered in Cebuano, glaring at Ken’s amused expression, “Uh, Ma we’re having lunch so I’ll call you back later. Love you, bye!” Ana sighed as she hung up.

“What was that all about?” Ken asked as he started the engine and eased the car onto the street.

“Long story.”

“Ii yo. We have time.”

Ana looked at him in exasperation, he smiled innocently at her and she laughed. “To make a long story short, my mother was about to launch into her favorite topic,” at Ken’s inquisitive smile, she continued, “If you must know, its the ‘poor-lonely-Ana-should-find-someone-to-spend-the-rest-of-her-life-with-soon’ speech.” She glared at him when he started laughing, “Its not funny at all! My mother can go on for hours on the subject!”

“Are mothers really like that?”

“I think all mothers are pre-programmed to do that.”

“I guess if my mom were still alive she’d probably be pressuring me to marry too.”

Ana could have kicked herself. How insensitive could she be? How could have she forgotten about Ken’s parents? Keeping her tone light, she turned to him and said, “Consider yourself lucky then, it’s not a situation I’d wish on anyone.”

Ken laughed at that, “I think I am lucky,” he said as he smiled at her, “In any case, I don’t think either of my parents would approve of my lifestyle.” Although Ken’s parents had encouraged his acting career, they were simple people who would never have approved of the superficial relationships that abound in his profession. In fact, if his parents still lived, Ken doubted if acting would have been anything other than a hobby. His dad had actively encouraged Ken’s early interest in diplomatic service and had even put Ken’s early earnings into what he called a college fund.

At Ana’s inquisitive look, he continued, “My parents loved each other. It was a rarity in those times,” he smiled as they turned a corner, “I remember what my mom said when she was asked if dad was omiai,” he said in reference to the traditional Japanese marriage mart, “she said that it was ai.”

Ana smiled at that. Ai—the Japanese word for the ephemeral concept of love. In Japan, most people expressed their feelings with the word suki or ‘like.’ The term daisuki or ‘to like very much’ was one level up, and ai suru or ‘to love’ was rarely used.

She smiled at Ken, “Your parents must have been happy together.”

He smiled back, “They were.”

Ken thought of his parents as he navigated through the light traffic. It wasn’t the girls he had gone out with that they probably would have disapproved of, Ken mused. No, it was his lack of emotional commitment that would have worried them. He had never really thought about it before now, but he acknowledged that part of his reticence in forming emotional attachments was because he had witnessed how it had destroyed his father when his mother died.

In the months after his mother passed away, Ken had seen the despair eat away at his father. He drank and worked until he became a mere shell of the man he used to be. He had forgotten about his children, Ken and Yuki, who were also grieving. After his father died, Ken had enclosed himself into an impenetrable cocoon and focused all his energies on bringing up his sister.

Over the years, Ken had found it difficult to build emotional connections. Yoshi had said as much when Ken ended a two-year relationship with a popular model a few years ago. The girl had been a common friend and had gone crying to Yoshi when Ken broke up with her. It wasn’t as if he did it consciously, Ken thought, it was just that not letting anyone get too close had simply become a force of habit. It had been easy. Most of the girls he had gone out with had been fun, but they had been flighty and immature and it had been easy for him not to form emotional roots with them.

Distractedly, glanced at the girl sitting next to him. Ana looked cool and composed as she quietly stared out at the passing scenery. Ken idly pondered what his parents might have thought of Ana and impulsively decided that they would have liked her. He may not be involved with her on a romantic level, but he enjoyed her company and felt like they could eventually be good friends. However explosive their relationship may be, Ken thought that he was truly himself when he was with her.

She was unlike any girl he had even gone out with. And therein lay the problem.

Go to Chapter 16

05 April 2009

Taym Pers: On the cover

New to the Japayuki Chronicles?
Start with the Overview or Chapter 1

Julie (who's collating all Pinoywrimo excerpts) and Tina (the ML for NaNoWriMo Philippines) sent out a last call to authors for book covers last February. I hadn't sent anything in when I submitted my excerpt, and I kind of felt bad about it, so my creative juices giddily started flowing when I learned of the extended deadline ;-)

Since the story is basically chick lit, I wanted something attractive, girly, and funky. I scanned several covers for inspiration. Finally, it was the cover for Petite Anglaise, a novel based on Catherine Sanderson's blog, that helped me come up with a cover of my own.

Copyright by Petite Anglaise

I was looking for something that would evoke the landscape of Tokyo, so the multitude of buildings in the background above was perfect. If you look closely below, you'll notice I got a bit OC withe the architectural elements. Some of buildings included in the composition were Philippe Stark's Asahi building (popularly known as the Golden Poo), Meiji-jingu shrine, Yokohama Landmark Tower, Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, and the Fuji Terebi building in Odaiba. I added the sakura (cherry blossoms) for effect since Ana and Ken's story starts in spring ;-)

Next, I worked on the outlines of Ana and Ken. Ana's went through several revisions, first she was wearing a blouse and cullotes, and was walking rather than leaning on the torii. It must have taken me 2 days to find the right pose for her. Ken was easier. Making his Asian-ness apparent in the outline was a major challenge, but in the end, I decided that it was all in the physique and hairstyle. Japanese men are usually lean and have Kouji Kabuto type hair. However, instead of sketching as I did with Ana, I simply traced a photo of one of my fave Japanese actors (Guess who!!!) on Adobe Illustrator ;-)

All throughout the design phase, I wanted to echo the effect of the Eiffel tower on the cover of Petite, so I imagined a ginormous torii (Japanese gate) dominating the center of the cover. I think I'll tweak it a bit more if I find time, because it isn't as obvious as I wanted it to be. Plus, the colors on the .jpg file are more muted than they ought to be. sigh. Onscreen, the colors of the torii and the suitcases really jump out at you, but when I converted them, they lost a lot of oomph. sad.

On the whole however, I'm glad with the way the cover has turned out and am already envisioning the covers for the next books ;-)


Thanks for your time! More chapters coming up soon ;-)

01 April 2009

Leave it up to Fate: Chapter Fourteen

New to the Japayuki Chronicles?
Start with the
Overview or Chapter 1
Or go to the previous chapter (Chapter 13)

Ana was understandably nervous about going to work on Monday. She feared a press barrage on the train, but thankfully, the Tokyo train system was such that it allowed space for people to ignore each other, even though they were squeezed into relatively small quarters. Ana suspected that if Ken donned shades and got on the train, no one would be the wiser, especially in the mornings, when people were packed like sardines. Luckily, she was able to snag a seat after a couple of stations. She got comfortable in her seat, but gave a start when she saw her own face smiling back at her in black and white on a tabloid that the man opposite her was reading. She almost chuckled; the glamorous girl on the paper bore no similarity to the simply clad and bespectacled woman who was squished along with the rest of humanity on this train.

On the whole, the press gave Ana and Ken’s relationship a favorable review in the papers. They published photographs of them being interviewed and of them dancing together. One paper even published one of Ana and Yoshi dancing and hinted that since Ana seemed to get along so well with Ken’s friends, maybe this relationship had been going on for some time.

The press will believe anything, Ana thought wryly as she fiddled with her card key and pushed the doors to the institute open. When she got into the office, she found Tanaka and Nakano poring over a couple of tabloids.

“Sugoi jan!” Nakano trilled, pointing to the full color picture emblazoned on the cover of one tabloid, “Ana-san is now a star!”

“You look very beautiful Ana-san!” Tanaka earnestly exclaimed.

“Thanks girls,” Ana smiled.

“Ne, did he kiss you?” Nakano asked.

“Nande?! Dame dayo!” Tanaka hushed her.

“I was just curious,” she mused, “I wonder if he kisses as well as he does onscreen.”

“Well, sorry to disappoint you Nakano, but kissing wasn’t part of the agenda last night.”

Nakano sighed, a bit disappointed. Nakano and Tanaka began to bombard Ana with questions about the event. They were as bad as Kaye and Tessa's interrogation two night ago; only more polite. Their conversation was interrupted when a delivery man with a giant bouquet of flowers. Ana was surprised when he told her that they were for her. Bemused, she signed for the flowers and opened the card that came with it. She giggled as she read the note Ken had scrawled.

She suddenly froze when Dan came into her office bearing two mugs of coffee. He offered one to Ana, “Monday-morning commotions are becoming a bit too regular in this office,” he mock-complained, “What’s it all about this time?”

Ana felt herself blush, “Thanks Dan…,” she said as she reached for the coffee.

“Sato-sensei, mitte kudasai!” Nakano said, shoving one of the papers at him.

He stared at it, then his gaze shot to Ana, “Is this you Ana? Isn’t this the guy…,”

As Ana stood rooted to the spot, Nakano visibly rolled her eyes and said, “Sensei, that is Nakamura Ken. He and Ana-san are going out, see?” she pointed out the caption that read: Nakamura Ken with girlfriend Ana

Ana snatched the tabloid, put it on her desk, and turned to Nakano and Tanaka, “Would you mind starting the preparations on the samples we’ll be working on today girls?” she asked politely.

“Hai, itte kimasu,” Tanaka said as she visibly dragged Nakano out of the office and into the lab.

Dan walked over to Ana’s desk and picked up another of the discarded tabloids that lay on Ana’s white lab coat. He opened it and studied the full-color photograph on the front page. Ana was wearing a red dress and was looking up at Nakamura who had an arm draped around her shoulders. They looked happy and glamorous. His gaze then shifted to the enormous arrangement of red roses on Ana’s desk, “Is that from Nakamura?” he asked.

“Yes, uh, it is.”

Dan considered this silently for a few minutes, then he turned to her, “This all seems so sudden Ana,” shoving his hands into his pockets, he walked over to where Ana was standing, trapping her between her desk, “Wherever did the two of you meet?”

“In LA,” she answered, “during the conference … he was shooting a movie down there …” she trailed off. Dan was so close to her that she could smell his aftershave. Her pulse suddenly sky-rocketed.

She was surprised when Dan looked at her with regret etched upon his face, “I knew it was wrong to have made you go alone,” he said with a wry smile, “So are you really going out with him?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah, but we’re not really... I mean, we’re still in the early stages… getting to know each other…”

“So you aren’t exclusive?” Dan clarified.

“Well, I guess we are but…”

Dan smiled slowly at her, “I think you’d better make sure Ana,” he said as chucked he under the chin before he exited the room.

Ana visibly sagged in relief when he left. She was glad that she had the desk for support. What the hell had that been about, she wondered. Was the plan really working? Dan behaved like he was jealous of Ken. If that were true, then it meant that he might be realizing his feelings for her. As the thought crossed her mind, Ana hugged herself and fought to control the sudden urge to start screaming in wild gleeful abandon.

She visibly started when the phone on her desk rang. She picked it up automatically, a smile in her voice as she answered, “Ohayo Gozaimasu, Madrigal desu,”

She heard Ken chuckling at the other end of the line, “Ohayo. You sound happy Ana,” he said, “Have you received any surprises this morning?” he asked.

She smiled, he really was very thoughtful, “Thank you for the roses,” she said, “They’re lovely.”

“Have you seen the papers?” Ken asked as he flicked through the channels on the TV. Most of the morning shows were featuring pictures and footage of Ana and Ken, and the reception was generally favorable. For a first-timer, Ana came across as charming and sincere on-screen.

“Yes, they’re everywhere,” she answered as she closed the door of her office and sat down, “Even people on the train were reading about it.”

“Lots of press is good press,” Ken quipped.

Ana laughed at that. Then, as if relaying gossip to a comrade, she told him what had happened with Dan in her office, “…Then he said I’d better make sure…whatever did he mean by that?”

Ken frowned at her dissertation. He didn’t know why he was affected by the giddiness he heard in her voice. There was a bite in his voice when he said, “I hope you’ll be discreet with Sato, I don’t want us to blow our cover so soon.”

Ana was confused, “Are you mad about something Ken?” she asked, a little confused. Among other things, the whole point of this scheme was to get her and Dan together, wasn’t it?

On the other end of the line, Ken fought to control his irrational temper as he answered her, “No, I’m sorry. I’m just tired,” he explained curtly, rubbing the back of his neck as he spoke. This was stupid. He was behaving like a possessive boyfriend on a jealous streak. The thought made pause for a few seconds. Then he shook his head. Ha! Him, jealous? Of Ana and Sato? No way.

“Are you alright?” Ana worriedly asked after he had been silent for a while.

“Don’t worry about me,” Ken assured her, touched by the note of sympathy he heard in her voice. He decided he was simply feeling stressed about his schedule this week. He almost sighed when he recalled the list Takashi had read to him this morning. He needed to do something relaxing, something fun.

“Do you want to have lunch sometime this week?” he asked Ana suddenly. He hadn’t planned on asking Ana out, but somehow the invitation had simply slipped out.

Ana was surprised too; she had expected them to meet only on weekends. But she found herself smiling and saying, “I’d like that.”

There was a smile in Ken’s voice as he hung up, “See you Ana.”

Suddenly, he was feeling much, much better.

Leave it up to Fate: Chapter Thirteen

New to the Japayuki Chronicles?
Start with the Overview or Chapter 1
Or go to the previous chapter (Chapter 12)

Kaye and Tessa were waiting up for her when Ana got back to the apartment. Both of them were sprawled on Tessa’s bed, watching something on TV. When Ana came in, Tessa propped herself up on her elbows abruptly, nearly overturning a bowl of chips. “Cinderella is home!” she squealed.

Ana laughed, “If I’m supposed to be Cinderella, then I should have been here ages ago,” she said as she looked at her watch. It was already past one in the morning.

Kaye turned to look at Ana from where she was sitting. The screen behind her froze as she hit the pause button. Piolo Pascual looked out at them from the TV screen, the shot capturing his anguished expression perfectly. “So, how was it?” she asked.

Ana smiled at them both, her sandals dangling from her fingers and her stole slung recklessly over one shoulder. “It was fun,” she said as she thought about the night that had already taken on a dreamlike quality in her head. She turned to go to her room, “Just give me a minute to get out of this and I’ll join you. What are you guys watching anyway?”

Tessa and Kaye giggled and chorused, “Lobo reruns!”

“I’ll be right back,” Ana said. She hurriedly went into her room and changed into comfortable pajamas then went to the bathroom to wash the battle paint off. She grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and went to join her friends. Unlike her room and Kaye’s, which were usually neat as pins, Tessa’s room looked like a college dorm room. It was furnished simply with a large airbed that was overflowing with pillows, a low Japanese-style desk where a large computer screen-cum-TV was set up, and a clothes rack that was bursting to the seams with clothes. Tessa loved her clothes. Every other square inch of the room was covered with makeup, romance novels, CDs, discarded clothing, or food. It resembled a warzone. It was the perfect place to relax after a long day’s work.

Neither Kaye nor Ana could explain how this messy room managed to relax them. But Tessa somehow understood and thus managed to ignore their occasional complaints about her room.

When Ana entered, she saw the two girls focused on Angel and Piolo who were having some kind of to-do onscreen. She put down her water bottle and cleared away some of the junk on Tessa’s bed so that she could sit down.

“Just dump everything on the floor,” Tessa murmured, her eyes still glued to the screen.

Ana mock-sighed and carried the clothes over to the hamper, the makeup to the dresser, and the books and CDs to a nearby shelf. “We really have to schedule a clean-up soon you guys,” she said, “It’s beginning to smell in here.”

Tessa paused and began sniffing, “It does not!”

“You have a cold sweetie,” Kaye argued and then shushed them both. They watched in silence for a few minutes than sighed in unison as Piolo took Angel in his arms.

When the scene shifted and showed a subplot of lesser characters, Tessa turned to Ana inquisitively, “Is going out with Ken Nakamura something like going out with Piolo?” she asked.

Her face deadpan, Ana answered, “When Piolo gets back to me on those dates I’ve been begging him to go on with me, I’ll let you know.”

Kaye snorted at Ana’s answer, but Tessa wasn’t about to let the topic drop, “Seriously Ana, how did it feel to go out with an actor?”

Ana idly traced the pattern on Tessa’s futon, she could feel Kaye and Tessa’s eyes on her the whole time. How did it feel, she mused. “It was kind of weird,” she finally managed, “It was like it was happening to someone else and I was just watching from afar.”

Ana thought back to the events of the past night. A couple of months ago, if someone had told her that she would be dating an actor and attending entertainment-related events, she would have laughed in his face and called him demented. But it was actually happening—to her. All her life, her milestones had always been related to her work and research. She had always thought it was more fulfilling than going to endless parties and listening to endless chatter. But tonight had been amazing. It was more than just the clothes and the glamour; it was being with Ken that made the evening enjoyable. If tonight’s performance was anything to go by, then he was certainly an amazing actor, Ana thought. She marveled at how he managed to convey to the group assembled that they were a couple. There was a distinctly proprietary air about him as he maneuvered her from one group to another. Ana was disconcerted by her reaction to it. She had never really been part of a couple before. When she went to a party with a date, she was pretty much left her to fend for herself—she socialized with her friends and he with his. In contrast, having Ken beside her the whole night, with his arm casually draped around her waist, was like having an anchor in the midst of a swirling tide. However, it was more than the niceties of him tending to her—making sure she had a drink, introducing her to people, dancing with her—it was that endearing smile that he gave her that made her feel as if he were proud to have her there by his side.

She turned to Kaye and Tessa, “I thought it’d be like one of those conferences you know?”

“Ann, I think you’re seriously screwed if you thought to find an analogy between meeting stuffy professors at a boring conference to meeting stars at that party you went to tonight,” Kaye said and Tessa started laughing.

Ana threw a cushion at Kaye, “Hahaha,” she retorted, “Ken tried to convince me that it was.”

Kaye raised an eyebrow, “Then he’s screwed too.”

Ana laughed as she related how Ken tried to calm her fears by making the conference analogy. Kaye grudgingly admitted that it was a shrewd tactic. She and Tessa continued to bombard Ana with question after question. Who was there? Who did she meet? How was the food? What were the women wearing? Did she encounter any paparazzi? Did the press swallow the story about her and Ken? Ana answered all of their questions patiently.

After a while, Tessa sighed dramatically, “It’s all like a fairy tale,” she mused.

“The only difference is that in real life, the frog doesn’t always become a prince,” Kaye commented as she munched on a potato chip, “More often than not, it's the prince who becomes a frog.”

Tessa shook her head at her, “I’m seriously worried about you Kaye,” she said, “you need some softness in your life.”

“No way,” Kaye retorted, “I prefer straight and simple romance to a fairy tale.”

“Fairy tales happen in real life too,” Tessa argued, “Look at Ana!”

Kaye sniffed, “That’s play-acting! Its all been scripted from the start.”

“But it could be more!”

“That remains to be seen.”

Ana intervened before the discussion could get out of hand, “I think this discussion is a bit pointless. Tessa, you know that this is little more than a business deal. And Kaye, Ken isn’t the ogre you’re making him out to be,” she stated as she tried to pacify them both.

She yawned and looked at her watch and was surprised to find that it was now almost 3 in the morning, “I don’t know about you two, but I’m going to turn in,” she said as she bid them goodnight.

“There’s just one thing that bothers me about this whole thing,” Tessa began after Ana left.
Kaye stood up and stretched, “Huh? You said it was like a fairy tale,” she reminded.

“I still think so,” Tessa answered, “I feel a happy-ever-after waiting for Ana just around the corner.”

Kaye snorted, “Then what could possibly be bothering you?”

Tessa sighed, “Its just that even in fairy tales, the road to happy-ever-after is never easy. I’m worried about her.”

Tessa looked so forlorn that Kaye smiled and crouched down next to her, “Don’t worry too much,” she told her, “whatever, happens, us fairy godmothers are always here to fix things, right?”

Kaye was rewarded with Tessa’s sunny smile as she said, “Right!”

Go to Chapter 14