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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!