25 December 2009

Leave it up to Fate: Chapter Twenty-one

New to The Japayuki Chronicles?
Start with Chapter 1!


Ana sat in the van in silence as her companions discussed the concert they were attending. Takashi informed them that the event was usually held at Tokyo Dome, but they managed to snag a slot at the Budokan so they changed venues this year. Tessa and Jon were noisily perusing the list of performers, while Kaye and Takashi launched into a discussion of the Japanese entertainment industry.

When the got to the Budokan, Takashi helped them out of the van and led them into the hall, “Your other guests are already here,” he told her.

Ana nodded, thinking of Nakano and Tanaka and how excited they must be.

Takashi continued, “As you know, Ken will join you after the program because he has to take care of hosting duties,” when Ana nodded, he gestured to a row of seats in front, “Most of the companions of the performers are seated with the VIPs in the first few rows, but Ken thought you’d be more comfortable with your friends,” he said, indicating a few rows behind the VIP seats.

“Arigato,” Ana smiled her appreciation. She looked around, most of the seats of the Budokan were already filled and there was an excited buzz going through the air.

Built in 1964, the Nippon Budokan is an arena in central Tokyo that was originally built as a venue for the Tokyo Olympics. Although this arena had been built with Japanese martial arts in mind, it has since served as a stage for a host of performers ranging from the Beatles to Beyonce. In fact, for most foreigners in Tokyo, the Budokan is synonymous with large-scale rock concerts.

The stage was positioned to one side of the vast arena. It was large, semi-circular and had several catwalks projecting from it. The longest one was down the center aisle and helped define the VIP areas. Several rows of seats were positioned in front of it. The stage itself was a maze of stairs and platforms that went up, down, and nowhere. The area behind the stage, which Ana assumed led to the dressing rooms, was completely covered in black canvas. From the flat, middle area, seats surrounded the stage in two tiers.

As they approached, Nakano and Tanaka jumped up from their seats to greet them. Ken had also graciously invited them to the party afterwards so they were dressed up nicely. As Takashi excused himself, Ana introduced her friends to her lab assistants.

“Ana-san, I think you’re supposed to sit over here,” Tanaka said indicating a chair nearest the aisle.

Nakano nodded, “Yes, your friend wanted to sit there, but an usher told her that the seat was for you.”

Ana looked at Nakano, puzzled, “What friend are you…”

“Hey guys, what took you so long? We were here ages ago.”

Ana had hardly finished her question when the unmistakable sing-songy voice made the hairs at the back of Kaye’s neck rise. The four of them turned in unison. Sure enough, Marga was walking down the aisle towards them. Jon, Tessa, and Kaye gaped at her.

“Marga!” Tessa managed to gasp out, “What are you doing here?”

“I was invited,” Marga told them as she air kissed them in turn.

“Invited by who?” Kaye couldn’t help asking.

Marga laughed, “Why, Ken of course,” oblivious to their astounded countenances, she continued, “When I had a class with him last week I mentioned that Tessa told me about the event tonight.”

Kaye and Jon looked at Tessa accusingly as Marga went on, “And of course, I knew it was only an oversight on his part not to have given me a ticket since sempai Ana and I are such good friends. So he sent me a ticket and here I am.”

She turned to beam at them, “Isn’t this great, we’re all here together!”

Ana almost giggled as she saw the expressions on her friends’ faces. Tessa managed a weak smile and Kaye and Jon both grimaced. There was a mad scramble for seats as both Jon and Kaye were loath to be seated near Marga. Finally, Tessa ended up seating next to Marga and Ana. Jon and Kaye sat at the end of the row, skillfully using Nakano and Tanaka as a buffer.

“This is so much fun sempai,” Marga chortled as she sat in the seat next to Ana, “I’m so amazed at how orderly everything is,” she turned to Tessa, “It’s so different from Manila, no? Whenever we watch concerts there, everything is so unruly. We usually get prime tickets, but people in the bleachers are so annoying. They always try to get into our section, you know?”

Tessa nodded abstractedly as she scanned the audience, “Oh look, isn’t that the guy from the drama they show on Thursday nights?” she asked Nakano.

Nakano’s answer was drowned out by Marga’s voice, “Oh but here, its great that we got prime seats! This is where all the stars are,” she said as she primped her hairdo.

Ana glanced over at Kaye and Jon and saw them roll their eyes in unison. Ana almost burst out laughing; she wondered how long those two would last in Marga’s company. She started in surprise as an usher tapped her on her shoulder. “Hai? Nan desu ka?” she asked.

“Ano, Ana-san desu ne?” the usher asked, verifying Ana’s identity.

When Ana answered in the affirmative, the usher handed her a backstage pass and told her that he had been asked to accompany her there. Bemused, Ana told her friends where she was going, then stood up and followed the usher.

He led her through a series of cordoned-off areas and through a maze of makeshift hallways before they came upon a door, which had a card with Ken’s name printed on it. The usher then took his leave and Ana thanked him. A warm feeling flooded her senses as she realized Ken had not entirely forgotten about her.

“Ken?” Ana called as she stepped into the room. She heard a rustle from behind the screen at the far end of the room. She smiled in expectation and was shocked when a woman stepped out from behind.

She was fully made up, her short black hair was perfectly teased, and her generous d├ęcolletage, visible from the open vee of the short robe she was wearing, was amply dusted with gold dust. She looked Ana over and asked insolently who she was, “Dare?”

“Gomenasai,” Ana apologized, “I thought this was Ken Nakamura’s dressing room…”

“So it is,” Ai shot back, “who are you and what are you doing here?” Ai raised a brow and crossed her arms. She knew perfectly well who this woman was; she had been the one who had sent for her after all. Under her heavy lashes, Ai inspected the gaijin. She wasn’t bad looking, she was pretty in a wholesome kind of way, but she certainly wasn’t of Ai’s caliber in any case.

Ana visibly tried to control her mounting anger, who was this woman and what the hell was she doing in Ken’s dressing room? And how dare Ken call her in here when he was obviously entertaining someone else!

Ai almost smiled when she saw that the gaijin was getting worked up, “Dressing rooms are off-limits to fans you know,” she said as she sat down on one of the chairs, “Security deals harshly with stalkers these days.”

“I’m a friend of Ken’s,” Ana managed to say, “He actually asked me to come here.”

“Ah sou?” Ai asked disbelievingly, “Ken never mentioned anything about us having any visitors.”

Us. Us?!

Ana suddenly saw red. Was this Ken’s way of telling her he wanted out of their agreement? Was this woman the girl whom he had been seeing this past week? How dare he treat her this way!

“Would you like to take a seat while you wait for him?” Ai invited, smiling as she turned to check the contents of the mini fridge, “I think we have some tea in here…”

“No thank you,” Ana managed to say, “I have to go now,” and she marched out the door to Ai’s satisfaction.

Goodbye gaijin, she thought.

+++

For what seemed like ages, Ana walked aimlessly down a series of clinical white corridors, before she finally stopped to lean against a wall. Takashi had told her that Ken would start to see people soon, but this was all too abrupt for her. Perhaps this wake-up call was best, Ana thought.

“A-na-chan!”

Ana looked up and goggled at Yoshi who was walking towards her. He was outfitted in an amazing red and white tux made of some shiny material. He even had a ginormous feathered corsage affixed to one shoulder.

He smiled as he reached her, “Wakatta, wakatta, I know it's a bit too much, but it looks good onstage,” he said defensively as he held his hands up. As Ana grinned, he sighed, “The only consolation is that I’m not the only one wearing this costume,” he said, gesturing to the group behind him.

Ana gaped at the assemblage. It was all a bit hard to take in—five grown men in shiny, sequined red and black tuxes strutting as if their getup was normal.

“Oi Yoshi, who’s your friend?” A tall curly-haired man asked.

“Ah sou ka,” Yoshi said as he turned to Ana, “You’ve never met Freeway, have you?”

Ana shook her head. She belatedly realized that Yoshi was one of the members of Freeway, one of the famous all-male singing groups that were very popular in Japan.

Yoshi smiled as he turned to his friends, “Ne minna, this is Ana,” he said. Ana bowed slightly, and Yoshi proceeded to introduce his mates. There was Tachi, Tatsu Akigawa, a tall blonde who was the leader of the group; Maki Sakamichi, who had shoulder-length hair and carefully sculpted brows; Youichi Semakawa, who, with a boyish grin told Ana to call him You-chan; and Hide, Hideaki Matsuyama, who sported a perm and had his shirt open to reveal lightly oiled pectorals.

“Ah sou, you’re the mysterious gaijin who has captured Ken-chan’s heart,” Tachi said with a smile.

“We’ve been asking Yoshi to introduce us to you, but he’s been a bit reluctant to do so,” Hide said as he stepped closer to Ana, “Now we know why.”

“Hide,” Yoshi cautioned, “Don’t scare Ana off.”

“Hide can come on pretty strong, but he’s harmless,” You-chan informed Ana, “He’s only dangerous when he’s had a couple of beers.”

Ana smiled at him, “Wow, that’s comforting.”

“Consider that a warning,” Maki told her, “Hide turns into a kissing monster when he’s drunk.”

Taki sighed, “He’ll kiss anyone.”

“Even us,” You-chan confided and Ana burst out laughing.

+++

Ken walked back to his dressing room in frustration, a note clutched in his hand. “Meet me at the rehearsal room on the second floor,” the note said, “We have something important to discuss.” The note had been signed in Ana’s name. And so he had went and waited for almost an hour for her. He worriedly thought that perhaps she had been held up somewhere. He had been unable to reach her on her phone, but Takashi had assured him that he had delivered Ana and her friends safely to their seats.

He was rounding a corner when he heard her laughing. She stood leaning against a wall, laughing with Yoshi and his band mates. So this is what held her up, Ken thought. So this is why he had been waiting for her in vain for the better part of an hour.

“Ah, Ken-chan has come to pick his princess up,” You-chan quipped as he spied Ken at the end of the corridor.

Ana stiffened and turned to look; sure enough, Ken was approaching them and he didn’t look happy.

“Ne Ken,” Tachi said, “We’ve been getting to know Ana-san.”

“So I see,” Ken said icily, pinning Ana with his stare. She stared back defiantly at him. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but Ana and I have something to discuss.”

“C’mon guys, back to the dressing room, we have to practice that last move,” Yoshi said, recognizing the note of steel in Ken’s voice. He gave Ana an apologetic grin and herded his band mates away.

“It was nice meeting you Ana,” Maki said as they walked away.

“You’ll be at the party later, won’t you?” Hide asked Ana. At her nod of assent, he smiled and gave a jaunty wave, “See you there!”

Ken waited until the last of the men had rounded the corner, then he turned to Ana, “You seem to forget yourself,” he said, grasping her arm and dragging her towards his dressing room.

“Ken?” Ana quickened her pace to match his, “What do you mean?”

“We have an agreement,” he reminded her as he thrust her into his rooms, “and until we conclude that agreement, you have to restrain yourself from running into another man’s arms.”

Ana wrenched her arm away, “Nani? What are you talking about?!” she asked incredulously.

“Obviously, being with me has given you a taste for fame,” Ken said derisively turning to face her, “Isn’t Dan enough for you anymore? Do you need to add other stars to your collection?”

The slap was like a crack of thunder in the silence.

Ken raised his hand to his stinging cheek and glanced at Ana. She looked back furiously, “How dare you?” she spat, “How dare you when you’ve been carrying on with someone else under my nose.”

Ken glanced at her in confusion.

“Oh yes, I know about her,” Ana went on, “I know about the girl you’ve been spending time with for the past few weeks.”

“What girl?”

“Short hair, humongous breasts, and legs up to her armpits?” Ana she saw recognition dawn on Ken’s face, and her heart sank, “So you do know her?”

Ken nodded, “Ana,” he started, his voice softer than it had been, “It’s not what you think…”

“It’s not what I think?! Then what? Are you saying you haven’t been spending these past few weeks in her company?”

“I…I may have but…”

“But what?”

Ken remained silent.

“So it’s alright for you to take up with strange women, but for me to talk to someone is a crime?”

“Don’t talk to me like that, its not as if…”

Ana looked at him directly, “Yes, its not as if we’re really in a relationship,” she said before walking out the door.



Go to Chapter 22!

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...

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Hi guys! Thanks for dropping by and reading my inanities ;-) I hope you'll continue to drop by in the coming year.

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22 December 2009

Leave it up to Fate: Chapter Twenty



New to the Japayuki Chronicles?

Start with Chapter 1!


Jon’s orderly flat resembled a nuclear disaster area. Curling irons and hair dryers were scattered across the marble counter of the bathroom. His living room resembled a garage sale. His sofa was piled high with discarded clothing. Wispy pieces of lace and powder were littered on the carpet. The air was thick with the scent of perfume. Even his kitchen bore remnants of the Chinese food they had consumed earlier.

As Ana gazed at her reflection in Jon’s full-length mirror, she could hear her three friends squabbling as they fought for counter space in Jon’s bathroom. They were all getting ready for the fundraiser at the Budokan. The vehicle that Ken had sent would be arriving in a few minutes to pick them up. Although Ana said that it wasn’t necessary, Ken had insisted on it. Kaye, Tessa, and Jon were only too happy to indulge in the luxury of being chauffeured around Tokyo.

Ana smoothed her hands over the dress that she had especially selected to wear for tonight. She was wearing one of Lynne’s gifts, a layered chiffon shift in shades of blue and green. Ombre, her sister in law had called the subtle blending of shades. It had a beautifully embellished neckline and fell to asymmetrical folds to her knees. Kaye had been surprised when Ana informed her that the dress was from her sister-in-law instead of from Ken. Over the past few years, Lynne and her mom had taken to buying her designer clothes when they put in an order for themselves. So every time Ana had gone home for a holiday, she came back to Japan laden with carrier bags containing designer clothes that she never had an occasion to wear—until now, that is. Her tastes must be changing, Ana thought when she inspected the dresses last week, looking for something suitable to wear. A few months ago, she would have wrinkled her nose at such luxury, but now she reveled in it. A whole wardrobe at the back of her closet and she never even knew about it.

She donned the diamond studs that had been her grandmother’s and critically inspected her attire. Not bad. She idly wondered if Ken would approve.

It was almost two weeks since they had last seen each other. In the past week Ken had barely contacted her. She wondered if something was the matter when Yoshi, whom she bumped into a few days ago, told her that Ken had come back to Tokyo during the past weekend. At Ana’s visible surprise, he quickly backtracked and made the excuse that they had been busy with rehearsals the whole Sunday and afterwards Ken shuttled back to Shizuoka to resume taping. Yoshi went on a bit on how packed schedules were in the summer season, and that people made the most of the weather by shooting dramas for the fall and winter season.

Ana was a bit hurt at not having heard from him. She thought Yoshi might have noticed, since he seemed to want to cover up for Ken. She broke down the next day and gave in to the urge to send Ken a message, asking how he was. He answered in kind the following day, it was mostly about the event tonight. Although he had given her details and told her he had asked Takashi to arrange for transportation, his message had seemed cold and distant. When she apologized for bothering him, he called later in the day. He had sounded tired and apologetic, and Ana tried to tell herself not to read too much into a text message. But their conversation had been strained and Ana sensed he had been glad to end it when a staff member called him back to the set.

In spite of that, Ana was unexpectedly eager to see him again tonight. One part of her brain was sending out warning signals that she was getting too used to having him around, yet she was unable to tamp down the thrill of seeing him again.

The noise in the bathroom escalated when the doorbell at the foyer rang. Ana spied Takashi through the security monitor, and surveying the chaos around her, she told him that they would be down in a bit. Her friends were putting the finishing touches to their outfits, so she told them she’d go ahead.

“Konbanwa,” Ana smiled as she bowed and bade Takashi a good evening.

He returned her greeting with a low bow, “Ana-san, thank you for coming tonight,” he said, “This is truly a big help to Ken’s career.”

Ana shook her head, “Please don’t worry about it,” she assured him. Funny how going out with Ken hadn’t seemed like such a chore lately. Ana frowned as she pondered this, in the past few weeks, Ken had transformed her normally placid life into a whirlwind. Things were never boring when he was around. All her life, Ana had thought life was made up of a series of interrelated formulas and rules that one had to abide by. Ken however, constantly encouraged her to think out of the box. The constant bickering and teasing that comprised their relationship was in turns explosive and funny.

He taught her to laugh at her mistakes and not to take herself so seriously the whole time. He listened attentively to her when she talked about her day and pampered her each time that they were together. He occasionally gave her small gifts, a bouquet of flowers, a box of doughnuts, and tons of studio freebies. She knew she was close to thinking like one of his witless fans, but he certainly knew how to make her feel like a woman. She looked forward to one of his slow smiles when he saw her approach and the way that he rolled his eyes whenever she talked about Dan. In the short span of a few months, she managed to feel closer to him than she was to her own brothers. But the way she sometimes thought of Ken was far from brotherly.

As time passed, it was getting more and more difficult to remind herself that this was all just make-believe. A small illogical part of her brain pondered the possibility of actually making a go of the relationship, but her more practical side quashed it down. It was impossible. It was totally out of the question. She and Ken could never be together for real.

She knew she was spending more time with him than she ought, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. It was just for another few months, she kept telling herself. Another few months, she thought sadly. And then the fairy tale would be all over.

+++

Takashi was in high spirits. The ploy they had used had paid off and Ken was now more popular than ever. The public avidly followed the developments in Ana and Ken’s relationship. This resulted in an increase in interviews, invitations to appear in shows, and offers of product endorsements. To an agent, this news was akin to manna from heaven.

He glanced at Ana and glimpsed a flicker of sadness cross her face. She must be thinking of Sato, Takashi thought. It must be hard for her, to be separated from the one she really liked. Takashi was fully aware of the arrangement between Ana and Ken and he fully approved of it. It was much more simple to keep things between them business-like. Takashi had even met Sato once when Ken had asked him to pick up Ana a couple of weeks ago. It was easy to see that the ha-fu had become interested in Ana. Going by what Ken had told him of the arrangement, he figured that Ana was probably anxious to get together with Sato. Fearing that she might be thinking of leaving them high and dry, Takashi sought to reassure her.

“Gomen ne, Ana-san. I know that this arrangement has been difficult for you,” he told her, “but please don’t worry. As soon as Ken finds someone new, we can break this off right away.”

Ana felt a cold wave envelop her as she stared at Takashi. Oblivious to her sudden pallor, he continued, “As a matter of fact I even introduced him to the new idols of our sister agency a few weeks ago. They seemed to get along pretty well. In fact, I heard that he and Yoshi spent an evening in Shinjuku with them last weekend. Who knows, he may have found the one,” Takashi chuckled at his last statement.

Before Ana could react to that however, Takashi peered around her, “Here come your friends, shall we go? Traffic can be unpredictable,” he said, as he turned to exit the lobby.

Go to Chapter 21!