Start with the Overview or Chapter 1
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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.
Go to Chapter 15