“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 cafés 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.