Sleeping to Dream
Disclaimer: I don't own Skip Beat!
Thank you very much to those who read, followed, reviewed and criticized this story. I plan on writing more, so please do read my other stories in the future.
Some of you may say that Kuon or Kyoko or both of them are out of character in some parts of this story. Maybe. Who knows? We are yet to discover everything about these characters in the manga. I tried to stick to their 'known' characteristics as much as I can but I do admit, I experimented and imagined a lot of things in this story. The part of their movie included in this chapter is a story based on my own experiences (minus the happy ending and the gorgeous blond man who swept the heroine off her feet… that's just highly improbable, especially for me). I plan on writing a separate, independent fiction, but the setting is not Japan, of course, but the country where I live. This is still a plan, though. I will post an update in my notes in my other fanfics, in case you are interested to read it.
Chapter 17: Dreams and realities
Sayuri poured the tea with her usual grace. Her calm gestures and serene face belied the nervousness and uncertainty she was feeling inside. She could feel his eyes upon her, seeing her every movement, evaluating her every expression. His presence defied everything she used to believe in. His presence was chaos in her ordered and predictable life.
She was exhilarated by it.
After the ceremony was finished, she retreated to the other room and closed the sliding door behind her. Her mother was there. The distinguished-looking lady looked at her with inquiring eyes. The tall stranger had never been to their house before.
"Sayuri-chan, is everything ready for dinner? I suppose the men will be there until dinnertime and Mister–"
"Jacobson" she answered, though she's pretty sure her mother knew the man's name as he introduced himself to every single member of her family earlier.
"- Mister Jacobsonwill join us for dinner?" her mother continued.
"I believe he expressed his intention to stay for dinner, Okaa-san" she answered again. "Everything has been taken care of".
"Good. Good. He seems to be a man of means, that Jacobson-san" her mother said airily to her aunt who was sitting with them, at once ignoring her.
She didn't say a word even though she knew almost everything about him. Saying that he was a man of means would be a complete understatement, for he is the president and owner of a multinational corporation with billions of dollars in assets.
"I wonder why he came, though" her aunt replied.
The older women continued with their hushed bantering, ignoring her. And on these kinds of occasions, she was thankful because she will finally have the chance to get lost in her own little world.
It was a year ago when they first met. His name was Michael Jacobson. He had recently acquired a promising new company in Japan. His vision was to make it the new headquarters of his business centered on telecommunications, advertising and finance, in Asia. She was a business analyst in that small company and played an important role in the transition undergone by the business. She can fairly say that she excelled in her job because unlike most Japanese women her age, she didn't have a husband or children to take care of. She once dreamed about having her own family and even thought she had found the man she could spend her life with. But that was when she was still young and naïve.
Michael-san, as he liked to be called, was quite a surprise to them. He was young, only 29, but he had the demeanor of a seasoned businessman. Most Asians think westerners are a happy-go-lucky lot who liked partying and drinking and having a good time. But this American was different. He was always in the office from very early in the morning until very late at night. He only attended parties that are business-related and drank alcohol very minimally. A number of women in the office have made a pass at him, tried to seduce him, but he never responded. She only knew this based on what other people talked about and what she had observed on occasion.
Within 6 months, the company grew by 40% and acquired new investors from Europe and the US. She continued to work hard. She enjoyed working – it was the only thing that was different and exciting in her monotonous life. But she never thought to leave a mark, to make any great impression – or any kind of impression for that matter. But when her father fell into sickness, she had to leave the company to carry the responsibility of a dutiful child. It was a surprise that he sought her out and offered her a job as a part-time consultant. Apparently, he was impressed by her work – by her keen eye for financial details and her insightful recommendations.
They worked on projects together, very closely – at times even too close that she was tempted to crawl back into that comfortable hole that is her overly traditional family. And one night, during a business trip in Kyoto, he confessed to her. He had been in love with her, he said, since the day they met.
"Sayuri" her mother called with irritation in her voice.
"Hai, Okaa-san" she answered.
"When are you planning to go? I asked you to get fresh tea from the kitchen. Didn't you hear?"
Instead of giving an answer, she bowed then retreated gracefully to the hall. She sighed as she walked back to the kitchen.
All her life, she had been subject to many impossible expectations. First, she was expected to fill in the responsibilities of a son. A son would have been better suited for the family – to manage the floundering businesses and to marry an equally titled girl who can bring more honor and money behind the family name. As a girl, she can only be of value if someone rich and titled would choose her as a bride. This would be quite a feat because their family is already at the brink of being unknown – their businesses are barely surviving and most of their assets have been used to pay for the numerous debts accumulated by the last three generations. Her prospects in marrying someone from high society were very slim. Second, she was too smart. Unlike most girls, she preferred reading over learning the traditional arts and crafts that she was supposed to learn. Her early childhood was spent reading and studying math and science. This so disappointed her parents that when she turned 11, books were prohibited. She was only allowed to visit the library once a week and only after she had finished her lessons in tea ceremony, flower arrangement and playing the shamisen. Her mother even considered sending her to a geisha school, which absolutely terrified her. But her father decided that she would be of greater use at home – to manage the household when both parents are too old to do so. She behaved herself after this, afraid that her mother would send her away to become a geisha. She realized later on that it was never a valid threat – since no school would accept her, she being plain and her talents only almost passable.
When she turned 17, they finally allowed her to enter the university – because most of their acquaintances and relatives had started sending their daughters to premier schools and colleges to get a degree that they (the parents) can boast about during formal gatherings. She chose a degree in Business, plus a minor degree in Finance.
She was on her sophomore year when she met Takano. He was a gentle, kind-hearted man and a promising artist. Unfortunately, he did not have any family connections to boast of. He was a commoner, with no great future prospects and barely had enough money to get him through school. But she had believed that they would have a future together. When her parents found out, they vehemently opposed the match and threatened to have her drop out of school if she did not stop seeing him. She was young and weak then. She had no choice but to give him up.
In the kitchen, she asked the servant to fetch a fresh pot of tea and within minutes she was on her way back to the receiving room. As she entered, she saw that the door leading to the room where she left her father and Michael less than a half our ago was open, and Michael was conversing amicably with her mother and her aunt while her father sat alone.
Michael saw her and he smiled. It was an arresting sight. She almost dropped the tea tray she was holding.
"Sayuri! What are you doing?" her mother wailed with exaggeration when the tray slightly tipped to the side.
"Sayuri" her father's voice called. Her mother instantly held her tongue but still gave her a look of disappointment.
She handed the tray over to her aunt and slowly approached her father to tend to his need.
"Yes, Otou-san. Do you need something?" she asked. He remained fixated on the table top, as if trying to determine how many times it has been wiped down since it was made and how many times the varnish had been reapplied.
After a while, he said: "Sit down".
She was startled at this command. Her father rarely talked to her. He had always been cold and calculating. She knew he wanted a son, not a daughter as weak-willed as she is. She obeyed him, nonetheless, and sat in front of him.
He remained silent for almost 5 minutes, then…
"This man… he said that he wanted to marry you" her father asked, looking at her with those cold eyes of his.
"He told me of his intentions but believe me, Otou-san, I tried to discourage him. I vowed that I will never marry and I am quite content with my life" she explained, trying to hide her emotions. She was not afraid of what he could do to her. He never hurt her as a child. But a look of disappointment was worse than spanking. And being ignored for weeks and months was greater torture than hurtful words and scolding. She just felt and believed that anything that had to do with relationships and people are too troublesome. She didn't want any complications. She was content. She was fine. She wanted to tell her father all of this but she didn't know how.
They were both silent for a while.
"Do you love him?" he asked.
She was so astonished by his question that he jaw dropped. She had never lied to her parents. She never really shared her feelings or her thoughts with them, but she never purposefully lied to or defied them. The question was something she could not answer honestly and still get their approval. And she knew that if she failed to tell the truth, her father would know.
She chose to keep quiet and her head bowed. "I have refused him, Otou-san. I think there is no point in discussing this issue".
She could tell that he was looking at her intently, so she faced him and looked back – trying very hard to control the many emotions inside her that have been threatening to escape for a long time.
Takano had married a nice girl a few years back. She accidentally met him and his new wife in a weekend market while she was buying tea. She was truly happy for him. He deserved to be with someone who will be with him to the end. Her bitterness towards life would never extend to him – for he only brought her good memories; memories that helped her survive whenever loneliness threatened to consume her.
"Otome Takano visited me once" her father said out of the blue. "He brought my favorite tea. He said many good things about you and how gracious you had been to his wife".
"I know what you are trying to do, Sayuri. You want to punish yourself for once believing that you can be like any other person – free to do what you want with your life. And I know how much you have suffered, because… because I was the same".
She stayed silent, believing that he wanted to say more and she was not wrong.
"I was the only son. My father lost his business and many of his properties. It was me who supported the family when he died. I wanted to be a poet once, did you know?" he asked.
She shook her head. No, she did not.
He nodded with a little smile which was so unlike him. "But I was forced into a marriage I did not want, with a woman who was as equally powerless as I am". Then he sighed. He sounded so old and tired. And for a little while she pitied him. "I am sorry if you had to suffer through the same fate – always following what others told you to do, never having the voice or the chance to fight for what you believed in".
Unexpectedly, a tear fell from her eye.
"If it matters to you… I am telling you now that you are free to do whatever you choose to do. You are a very strong woman, Sayuri, and you deserve to be happy".
She cried silently, gripping her hands to her lap. She should be rejoicing. She should be laughing out loud. Instead, she felt even more constricted. Did she not say that she was content with her life? She was alright with other people making the decisions for her? Or is it because she could not believe her father's change of heart? What did Michael say to him?
She was still weeping when he stood up and moved beside her. His hands took her clenched fists. Her surprise made her look at his face. She had never been this close to her father for a long time. And seeing him now, she noticed the deep creases on his brow, the wrinkling beside his mouth, and the sadness in his eyes.
She had hated her father, her mother – all of them. She wanted them to see how bitter she had become, because of what they had done, because of what they told her to do. It was not about Takano. She had let go of him a long time ago. It was about this person that was slowly dying inside her, the little girl who wanted to fly but could not. The girl who dreamed of going places and reaching stars but was forced to make tea and shut up. The girl who wanted to know love…
She never saw her parents in the light that she saw her father now. It revealed to her a different world – a world she never tried to understand. And she realized how wrong she had been. It's true, they did hurt her, but it was something they didn't do on purpose, for they were forced by circumstances, by family loyalty, and by tradition.
And now she has the chance to show them that a life outside the walls and bindings is happier than inside.
"Forgive me, Sayuri" her father whispered. She laid her head on his shoulder and let her tears flow for the first time.
Later that day:
She felt the soft breeze on her face and she smiled. This day had been quite eventful; surprising, redeeming… a day not to be forgotten. She watched the fireflies gather above the small pond they kept in the garden. It has been a while since they appeared. Or maybe she only noticed now.
Soft footsteps approached her. She did not turn around. The newcomer stopped then slowly came to her side.
"It's beautiful" he said. She nodded, though the darkness around them would not have allowed him to see this response. Besides, he was looking at the pond with the fireflies.
"Your father is an intelligent man. Did you know he can recite Shakespeare's sonnets?" he asked, with a certain amusement in his voice.
"Can he really?" she replied. She was truly curious.
"Yes. He was really good too when he spoke. He should have been a poet. He also shared to me some of the things he wrote, the lines he made for you", he answered with affection.
She almost cried all over again. But then he took her hand.
"Sayuri… I know you've given me an answer. But, I want to ask again and this will be the last time… will you… marry me?"
There was no doubt in her heart that this wonderful man would do everything to make her happy. And after years of loneliness, she knew as well that she was ready to give everything that she is to make him happy.
"Yes" was her curt but breathless reply.
The half-moon finally revealed itself and she could see the breathtaking smile etched on his face as he took both her hands. She closed her eyes and she felt his lips on hers. She let her tears fall then and knew deep inside her that with him, she will never be unhappy again.
They had practiced the 'moonlight beside the pond scene'numerous times, just to make sure that their final scene in the movie would be perfect. Once, they were even caught by Moko-san who became so irritated and even threatened to ban them from the balcony. Moko-san must have been stressed because Yashiro-san was about to leave with Kuon. Simon-san decided to resign from being Kuon's manager to pursue a career as a painter and to be with his new wife, Director Kamachi. The President immediately recommended Yashiro-san for the position and given their successful partnership in the past, Kuon immediately accepted.
And so, Moko-san must be feeling upset, because her boyfriend is about to leave the country – though not for very long. She tried to tell her best friend that the men will only be away for two weeks. After the movie, they would come back to take a vacation 'for real' while the movie is being readied for release. But Moko-san would become even more irritated whenever she hears this.
It turned out that Okaa-san wasn't really angry at her. The two of them had a long heart to heart talk when she finally had the chance to visit Kuon. Okaa-san was the most wonderful and beautiful woman she had ever known, almost exactly a fairy queen, minus the supernatural powers (though she is still trying to discover whether this is true). And Kuu Otou-san had been wonderful as well, asking her to come over to the hotel almost every day to cook. After the first two weeks, they all decided to move to a bigger suite, with an extra room that she can occupy, since most nights she and Kuon would come home very late.
Her favorite part was when they visited the clearing where the two of them first met. They walked beside the stream and talked about their separate lives while growing up and about the life they wanted to build together. Then he proposed to her. And of course, she couldn't say no to her fairy prince. She looked at the small diamond on her finger and smiled. Everything that happened in the past two months was like a dream. Sometimes she would pinch herself just to tell herself that she wasn't in some weird fairytale dream. She always ended up hurting herself, of course, but it was always worth it.
She reached for his hand and he unconsciously closed his hand over hers. When she reached his side, he looked down on her and smiled. She almost fainted. She still hasn't gotten used to the way he lets his feelings known to her. She could only smile back at him like a fool. Then they both looked at the screen where their final scene was being played back. Everyone around them was either smiling or dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs. Even the director couldn't stop grinning as he watched the raw takes. The lighting was perfect – it revealed their silhouettes perfectly but not too much to make the scene less dramatic than intended.
"This couldn't be more perfect" the director murmured as the screen showed their kiss – their first on-screen kiss and hopefully, not their last; though it wouldn't really matter since they would probably spend their whole life doing that.
The ceremony was a simple one. Lory wanted to sponsor a bigger one and throw an even bigger party for the reception, but the couple refused. It was a relief that the LME president didn't push the issue and just sighed dejectedly while saying "We'll have another wedding to sponsor soon anyway…"
He looked at the bride walking down the aisle. She was beautiful, of course, with long hair gathered behind her head in a fashionable twist. Her gown was modest but showed all her physical perfection. And she wore a nervous smile, something so uncharacteristic of her. He smiled at this and looked at the groom beside him. He almost poked him in the ribs just to startle him and stop him from shaking like a leaf.
As the bride reached the altar, her bridesmaid arranged the train of her dress fashionably behind her. The woman caught his eye and smiled. He smiled back. Yes, the bride was beautiful, he thought, but the bridesmaid is and will always be the most exquisite creature he ever laid eyes on.
"Yukihito, smile" he whispered to his best friend and newly re-hired manager. "All your pictures thus far showed how nervous you are. Don't embarrass you bride too much. Wedding pictures last a long long time, you know" he said with mock seriousness.
The man threw him a pained look. "You're right. I don't feel very well. I'm not sure if I'm doing this right. Why the hell did she pick me?" he said frantically.
"Mo.. are you just going to stand there?" the bride hissed. Everyone caught the whole exchange, because the venue was very intimate indeed and almost all of them chuckled with amusement.
Both bride and groom blushed profusely. But finally, the groom had the courage to step away from his spot and grab the hand of his bride.
He would have to say that the ceremony went on smoothly from there – except for sudden whimpers that can be heard from the bride's side of the family and an occasional sniffle issued by the LME president dressed in his most elaborate, ultra white French finery. Then there was the awkward kiss shared by the newlyweds. He didn't mind most of these, because he was focused on the loveliest pair of honey-golden eyes. And he was imagining what their own memorable day would be like.
It would be perfect, he guessed.
"Hey Kuon, Kyoko, when will the wedding be?" a guy from the crowd asked.
They just smiled in response. They haven't accepted any of the interview offers, but the most conspicuous diamond ring displayed on her finger confirmed everything.
The movie premiere was a great success. It was a comeback movie for Kuon, for his Japanese fanbase and it was the first romance drama for Kyoko. It was also their first ever movie together and critics have started praising their partnership on screen. Two offers just came in from the States, inviting the future Mrs Hizuri to lend her talents in two internationally produced films – acting beside her future husband, of course.
Earlier that day, the Yashiros told them the good news – another Yashiro will be joining them after 8 months. This thrilled her to no end that she treated her best friend with ice cream while having a mini-reunion with their other best friend Chiori, the now semi-successful novelist and with Maria. They had a grand time planning how to embarrass the next bride to be on her wedding.
While the women were out and about, the men gathered together to cook a feast for them when they get back. It was a good thing his bestfriend was a moderately good cook because he knew squat in the kitchen, despite having a fiance whose cooking skills rivaled the best master chefs in the world. Albert (Chiori's boyfriend from Canada), prepared the salad while Hiou ran the errands such as buying the dessert (they agreed to pretend they baked it but actually just bought it… ). They promised that the girls would have such a good time they wouldn't even notice that the cake tasted too good to be made by just a group of amateurs who wouldn't know the difference between flour and baking soda.
After dinner, Jelly and a wardrobe stylist came in to primp up the girls while the boys were whisked away to Lory's mansion for suit fitting. They all rendezvoused on the red carpet, each gentleman immediately taking the hand of his lady.
It was a very busy, tiring but at the same time, very happy day. And as the two of them walked together down the red carpet, amidst the chaos and the flash of camera lights, they both realized how blessed they have been – to have lost each other but in the end, to have found each other again.
He realized he wouldn't have to just dream about being with her – because she is with him. For real.
She realized that dreams do come true – even if they seem like impossible and childish fantasies.
The two of them together felt like a dream, yes. But it wasn't.
It was the best reality. Ever.
Additional disclaimer: The song Sleeping to Dream of Jason Mraz is the original inspiration of this story. All rights to this song belongs to him.
Last notes from me:
This is the first fanfic I ever wrote with more than 3 chapters that I actually finished! I am so happy right now… la la la la la… Now, off to the continuation of Reality Bites and The Fourth LoveMe Member. :D
But before that I have 5 exams on Saturday that I have to review for.. hahaha… ..