Disclaimer: I don't own Skip Beat!
Other Stuff: Bold text are dialogue in english. Italicized text are thoughts.
Chapter 1: Homecoming Blues
Her hair caressed his face. The strands are soft and they smell sweet, like blossoms dipped in honey. He called her name, like he always does, but she continued to tease him by not turning her face towards his. He called her name again, but then she began to walk away. He tried to reach out, to stop her, to keep her close, caged inside his arms – but he couldn't move. It was not to be. She disappeared, lost to him, perhaps forever.
He opened his eyes. It was that dream again. How long has he been dreaming the same scene over and over again? He looked to his left, his alarm clock showed 2:55 AM. He had only slept for a meager 2 hours but he knew he would just toss and turn if he stayed in bed. So he got up, stretched and went to the kitchen to brew some coffee.
His apartment features a small balcony overlooking the city. Despite the hour, it is full of lights and sounds, much like his home a few years back. He waited for the sun to rise as he sipped his bitter drink. It would be a long day ahead. He is about to return to the place he once called home, the place where all good things started, and where all that is worth living left him. After four years, he is flying back to Tokyo.
The aircraft taxied on the runway 5 minutes before the expected time of arrival. Trust the Japanese to always be on time, he mused. It was fortunate he developed the same habit when he started his career here in Japan and carried it with him when he returned to the States. It made his ascent to the top of the industry all the more swift. Directors wanted their stars to be on time; professional, productive, and efficient. It saves time. And time is money. Now nobody would dare say he just rode along his parents' popularity. He worked hard and the industry loved him for it.
"We'll go directly to the hotel, Kuon. I just received an e-mail from the producer of the show. They are already setting up the venue for your private interview", his ever-vigilant manager advised as they both took off their seat belts.
He just nodded. Simon Takahashi had been the most dependable and hard working person in his staff. They had been together for 4 years, ever since he accepted the offer from Hollywood. The young manager had been highly recommended by Hizuri Kuu's manager of 2 decades, Andrew. The two of them share a lot in common – especially in terms of untiring professionalism and seriousness. Kuon had never heard or seen Simon laugh. The few times his manager did smile, were out of politeness. And best of all, he speaks Japanese fluently, a legacy of his father who is half Japanese and half Korean.
But all their conversations had been in English. He wondered if he can still speak Japanese as fluently as he did 4 years ago. The only time he can practice is when he speaks with his father over the phone.
He carried his own luggage as they left the plane, the rest of his wardrobe will be sent to the hotel directly by the agency. In a private lobby, a driver was waiting for them. The man led them through a smaller, dimly lit passage that led to a covered parking lot. As promised, his arrival was successfully shielded from the media. But he knew better than anyone that this will not be for long. In the next 24 hours, Tokyo and the whole of Japan will be shocked by the news that Hollywood's Number 1 Actor, Kuon Hizuri – formerly Japan's Number 1 Star: Tsuruga Ren, has finally returned.
"I have accepted the role and I am determined to keep my commitment. Thank you for your concern Yashiro-san, but my decision is final. Now, please let me enjoy my very short vacation" Kanae snapped, almost destroying her mobile phone by the firmness of her grip.
She probably didn't wait for poor Yashiro-san to finish, she thought, imagining the bespectacled manager who had always been nice to her.
"Give him a break Moko-san. He's just concerned about you, you know" she said with a teasing tone as her friend tossed her mobile phone into her handbag.
"Mo! He's my manager, not my father. Can you believe he didn't tell me about the offer? How unprofessional is that? Too bad for him I met the producer Tomoji-san in that awful party last week and told me all about it. I must have looked stupid, not knowing what she was talking about" Kanae fumed.
Kyoko smiled fondly at her beautiful best friend. "Well, the lead actor is notorious for being a playboy, and I'm pretty sure Yashiro-san was just genuinely concerned for you. Hikomori-san's last leading lady was involved with him in that er- dirty scandal" she reasoned out, in behalf of the pitiful manager. Of course, she didn't tell that Yashiro-san had talked to her the previous night and asked to convince Moko-san not to accept the role to be Hikomori Kenjo's next leading lady.
Kanae snorted. "As if I can't handle that brute. I'm fully aware of his less than sterling reputation with women. And I intend to be the first to thwart him".
True. No one is as strong and willful as my Moko-san, she thought fondly. Though she would still ask Yashiro-san to keep an eye on her at all times, especially when she's with that playboy. Not that she needed to ask. Yashiro-san would die first before he can let that guy touch Moko-san. It's been a while that she had been certain the handsome manager is infatuated with her best friend.
"So, have you accepted the President's offer to star in the film he's producing?" her best friend asked suddenly, changing the subject.
"Nope, not yet. I'm still thinking about it" she answered, pretending nonchalance.
Moko-san glared. "Mo! Are you truly considering turning it down? I mean this has the potential to be a big hit or better yet, a critically acclaimed film! Oh sure, it's a love story, but it's more than that – the character is very complex, as well as the relationships and interactions. And the message.. it's a story that needs to be told, Kyoko. A kind that only you can tell"
Two weeks ago her best friend had borrowed the script and read it in one sitting, with a serious look on her face. After she put it down, she declared: "Kyoko, you should accept this". Well, she liked the story herself, but…
"If you really like the story, I would happily recommend you to Director Kurozawa.."
"I don't want it. Besides, I'll be starting the new drama, remember?" Moko-san interrupted. "When was the last time you made a movie? A year ago? I think it's time you take on a new film project"
"Thank you for your concern, Moko-san. I do have plans. Unfortunately, this film's not included in those" she answered, pleased that her usual cold best friend is being so warm and caring.
"Mo! That's not it. How can we compete if you don't take on projects that are as challenging as mine's? With the rate you're going, I can easily bury you on the next awards ceremony" her friend answered with her signature scowl.
That is not totally true. Her current roles are plenty challenging. She currently stars in a primetime drama about a female police officer trying to solve a series of murders whose victims' bodies keep disappearing. It has a mystery / thriller / supernatural theme. She has to train for martial arts and sword fighting thrice a week and learn how to ride a motorcycle and to drive a car. Plus, she has a supporting role as another bully who is training a younger bully in a family drama wherein she plays a businesswoman trying to take over the company of the man who took her family's business away and caused her father to commit suicide. Her character is the older sister to the character of a younger actress who had been dubbed as the 'new Kyoko' by the entertainment press because she is rapidly gaining fame by playing bully roles. Aside from these, she had taken on a couple of modeling projects for a perfume brand and a clothing line.
She IS interested in the project. When President Takarada gave her the script, she was immediately captivated by the lead character – a 24 year old lady whose parents forbade her to marry the man she loves as he is of lesser circumstance. She was extremely hurt by her family's distrust that she vowed to never fall in love again and to devote her life in serving her family while playing the bitter and cold old maid just to spite them. Then she meets a handsome foreigner who begins pursuing her…
She lost her interest after that part. Of all things, why does it have to be a foreigner?
"Well, I have a very bad feeling about this one, Moko-san. Please don't ask me why. I don't know. I just… I just can't accept the role.." There. She finally said it out loud. Her Kyoko-minions had been dormant for quite a while now, but it took her very best to prevent them from coming out and wreaking havoc while she read that script. Then, she knew, she cannot accept that role no matter what.
Her best friend gave her a withering look to which she cringed and cowered in response. "That's it? That's your reason?" Then Moko-san turned away silently.
"Shut up" she turned around violently and faced her. " Only my best friend can call me with that nickname. And you, you're not her" Moko-san pointed at her face. "I don't know what you did to my Kyoko, but I don't know you. Kyoko is the consummate professional. She is not a superstitious fool who will turn away a promising role just because of some… some feeling!"
Ouch. So, this is what I am now? Unprofessional, unworthy, a shame of an actress.. wait.. I can't even be called an actress. I'm a nobody.
She remained silent after that as her soon-to-be ex-best friend continued to sulk nearby.
"I'm going upstairs to pack my bags. I need to get back to Tokyo to prepare for my new role". With this, Moko-san walked away, leaving her at the pool side of Lory's Kyoto mansion.
Everyone thinks I'm not worth knowing. Even Moko-san. All of them have left me behind and I deserve it. I'm an ungrateful, useless, hopeless nobody.
Just then her phone rang. The caller ID said that he is calling.
I can't talk to you now, Sho. I don't have anything to say to you. I don't care anymore.
It rang more than a dozen times and then went silent. She remained seated on the lounge, not wanting to move. Nowadays, doing things seemed like a heavy task. She only felt alive when she is in front of the camera, living a fictional life.. being someone else. What have become of me?
She got the towel from the back of the lounge chair and threw it over her face, as if it can put a lid on her pain.
As always, her thoughts drifted back 4 years – when her world came falling apart.
end of chapter 1
Note: Sorry I haven't continued Reality Bites.. I'll get around to it sometime, somehow.. meanwhile, do R&R.. :) - zf