So I last updated this story back in 2012 when I was still in college. It's been nine years, but I'm finally reading Skip Beat again! I've always regretted leaving this story unfinished, and I've recently been rereading my old stuff and trying to remember how I wanted to finish this one. My writing style has changed a lot (hopefully for the better but who knows honestly) and I've thought about going back and rewriting all of this...and I still might if anyone would want me to! But here's a new chapter for my poor readers that have been waiting for nine whole years. Sorry about that. :D
Kyoko stared at herself in the mirror of the bathroom in Ren's apartment, hands clenched in front of her. She could hear him in the other room, moving around as he got ready. The dress had cost so much that she'd done her best to forget the number entirely, but then Ren had told her how much his suit cost and she'd felt...well, not comforted. But somewhat better. They'd spent the majority of the previous day shopping, him driving her straight to an upscale store she'd never even heard of, much less gone into. He'd ushered her inside, her literally biting her lip to keep from protesting. She'd asked him to help her find a dress...to buy her a dress! It was hard to believe she'd been so shameless, but rather than seeming bothered, her boyfriend had looked excited, his hand on her back as he'd led her into the store.
The young woman that had greeted them hadn't even batted an eye at the number one actor in Japan entering her store. Instead, she'd bowed to them, hands clasped, and had offered them refreshments. Actual refreshments in actual glasses, brought out on a silver tray that Kyoko suspected might be actual silver. But she'd tried to refrain from staring, sure that one misstep would have her thrown out of the store like the imposter she felt she was.
And then, the dresses. So many dresses.
Okay, Kyoko thought with a wry smile as she played with the tube of lipstick she still needed to apply, it hadn't been that many. Maybe twelve. But in the moment, it had felt like hundreds. Hundreds of gorgeous, silky dresses that she'd worn only for the woman helping her. In fact, Ren still hadn't seen this dress...not on her. This had been the last dress she'd tried on, and when she'd looked at herself in the mirror in the store dressing room, even she had been surprised.
Kyoko had seen herself as several characters now. She'd seen herself transformed as Mio and Natsu and even as Kuon. But in that dress...her cheeks flushed just thinking about it. She didn't think she'd ever loved a dress so much.
Once Ren had paid, Kyoko carrying the garment back until he'd placed it in the back seat, hanging it from one of the handles above the door, he'd taken her to another store to pick out shoes, and yet another for make-up. When she'd reminded him that she already had make up, namely the set that Moko-san had given her, he'd turned to her with those puppy dog eyes she'd seen before on Cain Heel, tilting his head and frowning. "But I thought you were going to let me buy you a dress."
"You did!" she'd cried from the passenger seat of the car, pointing to the garment back in the back.
"You can't just buy a dress for this kind of party. You need everything that goes with the dress."
"You also bought me shoes!"
He'd continued pouting, but she'd been able to see the twinkle in his eyes, a smile threatening to break through. "But I thought you liked make-up."
"Besides, this is your first wrap party for your first drama. Aren't you going to let me celebrate with you?"
He'd just looked at her, reaching out and taking her hand. "Please?"
Now Kyoko applied the brand new lipstick, wondering how exactly that had worked. Then again, she'd managed to put her foot down when he'd tried to take her to a jewelry store, crossing her arms and facing the window instead of chancing a look at him, lest she give in again. "No. Absolutely not! I already have princess Rosa! I don't need anything else."
"No. No way."
He'd chuckled a little under his breath. "Well, it was worth a try," he'd murmured, squeezing her hand and pulling it to his lips to press a kiss to her knuckles. "Are you hungry?"
They'd had lunch then before driving back to his apartment, spending the rest of the day there on the sofa, or with her in the kitchen making dinner. It had, she thought with a faint blush, been a very good day. And after working all day today, part of her was excited about the party this evening. But the other part of her, the biggest part of her, wanted to stay here in this bathroom for the rest of the night...and maybe the next day too. Because tonight was the announcement.
The announcement was going to be made at the end of the evening during the last interview, which she and Ren had been slated to do together. And it wasn't that she didn't want people to know...not exactly. But she knew what people were already saying. That she was trying to sleep her way to the top. That she wasn't good enough for him. That she was a whore. And after tonight, it would only get worse. Surely people wouldn't accept her as someone who could be an equal to the man in the other room...he was the number one actor in the whole country. She'd been a maid a year ago.
Taking a deep breath, Kyoko replaced the lipstick in the makeup case that had come with the new cosmetics. They were high end, she knew, mostly because she'd seen them in magazines, and it killed her to actually use them. But, she reasoned, tonight was special. And if the power of makeup couldn't transform her into someone worthy of being by Ren's side, then she wasn't sure what could. She was sure he didn't feel that way...not now. But with everyone pointing it out…
"Kyoko? Are you ready?" Ren tapped on the bathroom door and she took another deep breath, willing her heart to calm. She was okay. She was fine. Ren was here. Corn was here. And almost everyone from Dark Moon already knew. So she just had to worry about...well...the rest of Japan. And the press. And her coworkers. And probably Sho. Surely he'd make things more difficult like he always did. "Kyoko? Is everything okay?"
She nodded, then realized he couldn't see her and gave a little laugh at herself. "Yes! I'm coming!"
Turning the knob, she pulled the door open, only to find herself face to chest with her inhumanly tall boyfriend, her heart skipping a beat in her chest as she took him in. The suit pants and jacket were white, his tie a sharply contrasting black. Her cheeks flushed as she ran her eyes from his shoes up to his shoulders and finally to his face, his hair styled just a little differently than normal. How, she wondered, could such a simple suit look so good?
When she caught his eye, she was almost surprised by the softness there. He, too, seemed to be taking her in, and when he moved forward, bending down a little, she wondered if she'd have to redo her makeup...and if he'd need to wash lipstick off his face in the near future. The thought made her cheeks red, and she started to drop her eyes, but his fingers touched the bottom of her chin, tilting her face up, and then his lips were pressed to the top of her hair.
"You look...so beautiful," he murmured into her hair, his hand cupping the side of her cheek for a moment before he dropped it to her shoulder, fingers trailing from her shoulder down her arm and finally intertwining with her own. She bit her lip, dropping her eyes.
"You too...I mean...you look really...really good." Forcing her eyes up to his once more, her heart nearly stopped when she saw the smile he was giving her. Better than his normal friendly smile or the heavenly one that had, over and over, fried her grudges to a crisp. This...this was a smile that made her want to duck for cover. Instead, she found herself smiling back, lips trembling as she tried to match the love in his eyes. She loved him. She loved him so much. More than she'd ever loved anyone. He was her fairy prince and her friend and the person who made her feel safe and warm...and even though it felt like her face might erupt into flames under the makeup, she reached her hand up, resting it on his shoulder and pulling him down.
The kiss she placed on his lips was feather light, and almost as soon as her lips touched his, she was pulling away, not waiting to get lipstick on him. His smile seemed to brighten though, eyes closing as he rested his forehead against hers. "I love you," she whispered, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath of the cologne he must have put on sometime during the last hour.
"I love you," he murmured, squeezing her hand, his voice just above a murmur, the words just for her.
When they arrived at the building, Kyoko felt like she was stuck to the seat. Beside her, Ren chuckled a little and climbed out of the car, handing off his keys to the valet, then moving around to her side of the car. Yashiro had insisted on making his own way to the party, so it was just the two of them as Ren opened her door, holding out a hand and clasping hers. "You ready?" he asked, and she gave a hesitant nod, trying to look less terrified than she actually was. She obviously wasn't fooling him, and he softened, squeezing her hand. "We don't have to do this."
"But...they're expecting us…and you bought the dress!"
He shrugged and she narrowed her eyes at the American expression. Ren chuckled, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and leading her toward the building. The windows were lit up, and she could already spot several members of the dark moon cast and crew. Thankfully there were no reporters at the side entrance, so he was able to usher her inside where they were instantly swept into the crowd, several of the women trying to get Ren's attention, while Director Ogata pulled Kyoko into a conversation. Hidehito Kijima, who she'd spoken to occasionally but who Ren didn't seem to be overly friendly with, managed to catch her after Director Ogata moved on, looking her up and down in a way that made her blush.
"Hey, Kyoko-chan. So I finally get to see you looking more mature. You look great!"
"Um...thank you, Hidehito-san," she told him with a slightly uneasy smile. It still embarrassed her a little when Ren flirted with her...she'd never expected Hidehito-san to do the same.
"I've wanted to see you like this ever since Natsu."
She blinked, forcing the smile to remain casual and friendly. "You look nice too, Hidehito-san."
"Just call me Kijima! Hey, I was wondering, since we won't get to work together anymore, why don't we exchange emails?"
"Oh...um…" Was that okay? Would Ren be upset if she exchanged emails with another man? Was that allowed? Why did Kijima-san want to exchange emails anyway?
"Kyoko-chan?" The hand on her arm surprised her, and she turned to smile in relief up at Ren, feeling her chest tighten a little when she caught the look he was giving Kijima-san. The arm moved to wrap around her shoulders, pulling her a little closer, and Kijima-san's eyes darted from her to Ren, widening with what she thought was understanding.
"Ren-kun." Kijima-san nodded to her boyfriend, holding out a hand that Ren took. "Good to see you. I was just asking Kyoko if she wanted to exchange email addresses, which reminds me, I don't have yours."
Ren laughed a little. "Sure. We'll have to do that later. But they're about to call Kyoko-chan and I for our interviews."
"Okay. Sounds good." Kijima-san waved, ducking his head and taking off, and Kyoko looked up at Ren, lifting an eyebrow.
"Is it already time for our interview?"
He shook his head, guiding her through the crowd of people and nodding to Yashiro who was holding a drink and chatting with the director. Yashiro waved at the two of them as Ren led them into a room off to the side. It seemed to be decorated in an egyptian theme, with a huge sarcophagus standing off to the side of the sofas that the two of them sat on. Kyoko wanted nothing more than to sit beside him, but "No, we'll be going last, and the President already spoke to the person interviewing us. He approved all of the questions, so there won't be any surprises. You just answer the questions they ask you about Dark Moon and the final episode, and I'll answer the questions about the rumors that I have a secret girlfriend."
She smiled when he did, laughing a little and sitting back against the sofa. Her feet were killing her thanks to the very nice high heels that went so well with the dress but that also made her toes go numb. Ren looked around, then stood, moving to sit beside her, his arm moving to encircle her shoulders. "Are you sure?" he asked, pulling her to lean against him.
"Are you?" That was the real question. Did her boyfriend, the number one actor in Japan, really want his name connected with hers? His eyes widened, his fingers coming up to touch her cheek.
"Kyoko, I've never been more sure of anything in my life. I love you. I want to be by your side. Forever. And I want Kijima to stop offering to exchange emails with you so that he can flirt with you." She smiled a little, and his thumb brushed over her cheek. "The only thing I'm worried about is how they'll treat you. My fans can be...enthusiastic. I'm worried about this hurting your reputation. I'm worried that people will be cruel to you. But I'm not at all worried about people knowing how much I love you."
"I...I feel the same," she murmured, her cheeks heating up a little, and he pressed a kiss to her hair. "Do...do you think people are going to hate me?"
"I think that anyone with sense can see that you are a beautiful, kind, very talented actress that anyone, especially me, would be lucky to call their girlfriend. And I don't care what anyone else thinks."
Kyoko felt as though she was in a daze as she and Ren sat on the chairs that had been placed in front of the camera for them. They kept a few feet apart, not wanting to give anything away before the announcement, and Kyoko did her best to answer the questions about Dark Moon with the answers that had been prepared for her. Her hands only shook a little as she clasped them in her lap, and she reminded herself over and over that she was prepared for this. That Ren was right there with her. That she knew what she was doing. She was a professional actress and she could answer questions in front of a camera. She and Ren took turns answering questions, his voice constantly calm and even, as though the reporter were just a friend and they were chatting on the set.
And then the question came up. The question that the reporter had been prepped for and seemed very excited to ask. "Tsuruga-san, if I may ask one more question. There have been rumors going around that you found romance on the set of Dark Moon, and that you have a secret girlfriend. Can you tell us anything about that?"
Ren chuckled and Kyoko did everything she could to keep her calm, professional smile on her face. "I can, actually." He reached out, taking Kyoko's hand as naturally as though they were at his apartment, his thumb rubbing soothing circles on the back of her hand, and the reporter's eyebrows shot up. So, Kyoko thought, she'd known about the question but not the answer. "Kyoko and I actually met quite a while before Dark Moon, but we have been dating throughout much of the filming. We've kept our relationship a secret up until this point because the relationship is still new, and we ask that our fans respect our privacy going forward. But I will say that I look forward to acting with Kyoko again in the future. She is one of the most talented actresses I've ever met."
Now Kyoko did blush, and the reporter turned to the camera, speaking as the camera man focused on her once more. Ren squeezed her hand, giving her an encouraging smile, and Kyoko did her best to return it as she prayed that his fans took his words to heart...but she had a feeling that respecting their privacy was probably not something that all of his fans were going to be willing to do.
She would just have to hope that Yashiro was up to the job of keeping Ren from being mobbed...and that he'd be willing to do the same for her.
Thank you so much for reading...and I really am sorry about the ridiculous wait.