Title: You Never Know
Rating: T for language, may change in later chapters
Full Description: Serena Laraway gave her career up in hot pursuit of love. Three years later, the ex-supermodel returns to L.A. alone and heartbroken, with only a screenplay-in-the-making to her name. She's swearing off love this time, but what she doesn't know is that love's been waiting to snag her back at home all along..and it comes in the form of Darien Scott!
Author's Notes: So I know I told myself I would never do this, but I am going to use some of the North American dub names.. though I'm not exactly fond of them! As for pairing.. I don't know what the relationships between each character are going to be like yet, I'm pretty much just going to go with it.
Also note that the following portion of this fic is meant purely for character development. The good stuff is yet to be revealed.
If there are any comments or questions you want me to respond to, you can either leave a review or message me. I don't have a preference, so both ways work just as well. Right, on to the story!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story.
As soon as she stepped out of the club she was ambushed by photographers, cameramen and reporters.
Flash. Flash. "Serena!" Flash. "Serena!"
She clutched onto her bodyguard's arm tighter, trying to ignore the urge to respond to her name. Serena Laraway, the only daughter of the famous on- and off-screen couple of the seventies, Michael and Emilie Laraway. She had inherited both her father's French good looks and her mother's Spanish lean, sinuous body--which was looking very alluring in a dark wash denim skirt with black lace trimmings, a pink corset and a pair of black anklestrap stilettos. Not only had she appeared in People magazine's "Sexiest Women Alive" feature (A/N: don't sue me, I don't own People either), she also had a decade of experience in runway and print modeling.
But after she turned nineteen she'd disappeared from the celebrity world and no one knew what she had been up to. Not her parents, not her friends, no one. It was therefore easy to forget her name and face because, simply put, "out of sight, out of mind."
Three years later, someone recognized her at the Dark Rose, obviously an exclusive, high-profile club in L.A., on the day trendy fashion designer Mina Bellamy was throwing her very own twenty-third birthday bash.
Knowing that the two were childhood friends and co-workers until they simultaneously retired from the model industry, reporters were alerted and were waiting vigilantly outside of the club until she made her exit. Much to their delight she had company, and it looked like she was taking them to a private after-party. To put it this way, the media was having a field day with Serena Laraway's return.
She didn't think her presence would cause this much attention and immediately flashed her friends an apologetic smile. "Sorry," she sheepishly said, picking up the pace.
"Oh, who cares?" Mina casually replied, flashing smiles at the cameramen and looping her arm into Serena's free one. "The limo's only a few feet away." She walked excitedly in her chrome anklestrap sandals, her silver-sequined mini skirt riding up her thighs. Readjusting a strap to her silk, black and flouncy tank first, she tossed her bright blonde hair aside, indicating that she was done with the press.
Another girl mimicked her, raven hair blocking her face. "And besides," she snorted, "Mina enjoys having everyone in the world know her business."
"Rei!" The blonde laughed heartily.
Serena had to laugh, too. That was their Rei, hot-tempered, sarcastic and an overbearingly protective friend.
To everyone else, she was just Rei Hino, an exotically beautiful Japanese actress fit for foreign martial arts movies. No one cared that the most praised choreographed moves she dished out on-screen were ones she came up with on her own. All they cared for was the image of her that night, her tiny frame accentuated with a silk, red and backless mock turtleneck, a white leather mini skirt and matching red peep-toe pumps.
Too bad the cameras missed the bruises under her creamy skin, souvenirs from new stunt training she underwent that morning. 'Yeah, she does her own stunts!' Serena fumed uselessly at the crowd collecting behind them. Unlike most, she was a natural, and that was just something that the critics overlooked.
"I would've defended you if it wasn't so damn funny and if it wasn't the truth," the brunette behind them said, turning every once in a while to wink and pose at the photographers in a jade babydoll halter dress and gold strappy platforms. Like Mina, she was enjoying the spotlight. She was never one to live without it, anyway.
Melita--Lita to them--Cunningham had become the leader in runway after Serena and Mina's retirement. Her height, unbelievable figure and grace were what the competition in her field envied. She was strong both physically and mentally and was an independent woman in practically every way.
A shining example of that statement was how she went about making her dream house; she helped create the structure of her one-point-two million dollar home, had paid for it herself and maintained it as much as possible on her own. Had she not been a runway model she would've been an excellent homemaker.
Then again, Mina, Rei and Lita weren't the housewife type. 'Far from it,' Serena corrected herself. These women had tried, failed, tried again and made sacrifices since they were small to get to where they were. They were born leaders, determined and empowered women. That was how they succeeded at being famous, inspiring and incredibly sexy. Together, they were a female force to be reckoned with.
Serena smiled, allowing her friends to enter her limo first, then getting into it herself. She was very proud of each of them, being at the top of their game and still making time for one other. It was so easy to get carried away, or to run away as she had.
Yes, she admitted and sighed, there were a few reasons why she returned to L.A. but everyone, including her friends, were clueless as to why.
Joel, her bodyguard, closed the door after her, knocking her from her darkening thoughts. And for the first time, her friends had gone quiet, staring her down with intent eyes.
As usual, Mina was the first to speak up. "You're been awfully quiet this entire time, Ren, and I don't think it's the drinks."
"Tell us what it is," Rei said.
"And where we're going," Lita added as the car lurched forward.
Serena stared wide-eyed at them before bursting into laughter. "You guys should look at yourselves. Your faces.. They look so serious, like as if I'm kidnapping you!" she choked between fits of giggles. They did switch glances, mouths twitching in suppressed smiles. Serena had a way of making them smile even when they were trying their damned hardest to be stern with her.
The matter was quite serious to them, however, keeping them sober, at least in the emotional sense. Serena had somehow managed to coerce them into leaving Mina's party over a handful of words. "I've a surprise for you ladies. Two, in fact."
She was never the type to leave them hanging about anything. Usually she would simply burst with whatever secret she was holding inside and report it to them in somewhat of a newscaster manner. For Serena to hold back and act reserved was.. disorienting.
Her laughter died when she realized they weren't going to show any visibly sign of lightening up. "Oh come on, I thought I could surprise you," she pouted.
"I don't like surprises," Rei spat back.
"I don't either," Mina agreed, "especially on my birthday."
Serena groaned at the look Lita gave her and flung her arms out in mock defeat. "Fine. Well if you hadn't noticed, we are one short of our party team, and--"
Before she could finish, her sentence was overpowered by three voices of laughter. "Please tell me you aren't taking us to the hospital to see Ami while she's working," Rei said, barely sobering up.
"Not only are we intoxicated.." Lita began.
"..but we're kind of, sort of, you know, famous," Mina finished.
Serena maintained the pout, crossing her arms in growing irritation. "Don't be too cocky."
"It's not being cocky," Lita corrected, "It's being well-known. And well-known people have been, well, known to give not-so-well-known people heart attacks with unexpected guest appearances."
Serena replayed that sentence over in her head just to make sure she didn't confuse herself. "Well, we'd improve business for the hospital if we did show up and that were the case--"
"Serena Catherine Laraway!"
"--Just kidding! Good thing we're not going to the hospital and I booked us a fancy hotel suite for the night."
"I can't believe you--wha?" Rei stopped in the middle of her impromptu tirade.
"Ami's already there, waiting for us and the last surprise I have for you ladies," Serena added before being swooped in one of Mina's tight hugs.
"Great idea, Ren, you've made my birthday!"
"But did you have to be so mysterious about everything?" Lita commented.
"Yeah," Rei said, "that's so unlike you."
Serena smiled wistfully at her tipsy friends. She looked serene albeit tinged with sadness. "Things change."
The four celebrities had arrived to the 'fancy hotel suite', which had turned out to be a penthouse suite at the top of the building, where a slightly timid young woman was waiting.
Ami--Dr. Ami Jones to be exact--had shoulder-length blue hair, smoky gray eyes and a tiny frame. Unlike the rest of her companions she dressed modestly in a black, calf-length pencil skirt, a white camisole under a black cashmere wrap and black kitten heel slip ons. Also, in contrast to Mina's long silver chain, Rei's red dangling earrings, Lita's chunky jade bangles and Serena's black lace choker, the only jewelry she possessed was a white gold wedding band, a ring given to her from her American architect of a husband.
Like Rei, Ami was a Japanese native who had come to the states to pursue her dream at a young age. When Rei was visiting Serena during her freshman year of college, they collided--Ami was starting her post-baccalaureate years at the same institution--and the three instantaneously became friends.
Though the women's lives were crazy-busy they kept in constant contact, and when Rei and Serena introduced her to Mina and Lita after one of Lita's runway shows, the "party team" was created.
Mild in nature, Ami responded to Serena's outburst, "Dr. Jones, Dr. Jones, calling Dr. Jones!" with a laugh. "If only I were as drunk as you are right now," the doctor uncharacteristically said.
"As you wish," Lita said, handing her friend a glass half-full of champagne from the limousine. Joel watched as another party began to unfold and took his post at the elevator-slash-door.
Three hours later the girls gone wild were starting to wind down. Half-dressed and completely sloshed, they relocated up in the loft, sprawled out on whatever was comfortable and started to talk.
"So the chief hasn't made you change your uber-rebellious hair color yet?" Mina, who had found comfort in laying against the doorframe connected to the bathroom, asked her blue-haired friend. She looked over to see that Ami was laying on her stomach on a very plush loveseat.
"Surprisingly no," came the somewhat slurred answer. "Guess it's because I'm the youngest there, and I'm still just a resident. Plus, my hair's always covered and held back during surgery."
"Our Ami, a neurosurgeon in training," Rei said, sighing in admiration from her spot on the floor. They all went silent, exchanging warm smiles, until out of nowhere, Lita's voice put one particular friend on the spot. "Ren," she called out from the foot of the bed to the head, "you never did tell us what you've been doing these past three years."
The blonde in question swallowed a lump in her throat as the others sat up to gaze at her. She blushed a nice rosy color. Endearing to them, heart-wrenching for her. "Oh, you know, going to college. Without a bodyguard," she joked and loosened up as they laughed.
"Where'd you go?"
"AUP, the American University of Paris."
"And you graduated?"
She was tempted to snap at Rei, but knew it was a sincere question. "Mm-hmm."
"With what degree?"
"Film studies. And a minor in theater and performance."
"Wonderful! Congratulations!" Ami beamed. Serena smiled. "Domo, Dr. Jones! And on that note, I have an announcement to make."
Everyone loaded onto the king-sized bed and scooted in, eyes curious, asking, "Wha-at?"
Serena laughed, lifted her hand to silence them, then said, "Drumroll please." The four did the best they could under the circumstances--drunk, curious and in mini-skirts--and were left agape when Serena suddenly declared, "I'm making a movie!"
Her friends' delayed reaction came in a single, shocked wave.
Serena grinned, glad that she caught her usually clever friends off guard. "While I was in college I wrote a script for an independent film. It's a quick-witted, dark romance that I'm sure you'll love when it comes out. Anyway," she said, stopping herself from rambling, "I sent a copy of the script to Brandon and as soon as he read it he told me he'd produce it."
"Brandon? You mean--"
"The one and only Brandon Logan!" the blonde affirmed happily. She was pleasantly surprised that Ami was the first one to figure out who she was talking about.
In the past Serena made sure that they all had an earful of Brandon Logan, movie producer and owner of his own film studio. It was he who brought her parents together.
Back then, he was only a director, but when he saw the talent oozing from each of the two actors in the previous films they had done, he coerced his fellow casting director to beg them to couple up in his next film. His theory and reasoning for this: "Stars naturally shine brightest when shining together."
In any case, Michael and Emilie signed on to the cast, met and immediately took a liking to each other. The rest was, as they say, history--and a little bit of chemistry.
The result of such a matching was pretty amazing. The movie was a hit. In fact, it was number one at the box office for four weeks straight! The movie and its leading couple received many nominations and awards for its creativity and their roles. Michael and Emilie were the talk of the year, especially when they announced that they were getting married.
Brandon stayed close friends with them, even inviting them to star in another smash hit film, and when Serena was born, he was given the honor of being her godfather. So whenever Serena ran away 'indefinitely' or wanted to talk about things she couldn't bring up with her parents, she went to him.
As if she read her mind, Mina asked, "Do your parents know?"
She shook her head only to get a collective, "Ren!"
"My parents know I'm in town," '..or at least they'll know by tomorrow..' "they just don't know that I'm involved in a screenplay. Not only would they be pissed that Brandon's funding the whole project, they'd probably be disappointed that I didn't go back to runway and print instead."
Silence. After all, the four women couldn't tell Serena how her parents would react to something like this.
"Aren't you guys going to congratulate me? For once stupid Serena did something on her own without having to be told what to do and you guys are acting like I've haven't worked my ass off for the past three years!"
Silence. Which she interpreted as unacknowledgment. "Jerks."
A pillow whacked her on the side of the head. It came from Rei, and she was looking just as angry as the blonde. "That's for calling yourself stupid." The two stared long and hard at each other, Serena wondering whether she should be flattered or irritated and Rei, whether or not she should smack her again.
An evil glare dissolved into an impish grin and suddenly every pillow surrounding the five was tossed in the air.
Gone. Before she even knew, before she even realized it happened. Without a word, without any kind of forewarning. Just gone. Like him.
She slid to the ground. Every muscle had turned to jelly as shock rippled down her spine. Yes, shock, because the news hadn't sunk in and neither had the ride back home until this moment. The world was moving on its own accord, leaving her behind instead of carrying her away like it used to.
Her mind was stumbling backward. She was thinking too fast, of her happiest moments, of the shittier times, especially of last night, and then it all rushed together in one fatal blow. With a pathetic yelp she started to cry. It started off soft and built toward a series of loud weeps and shudders, each intake of breath racking her body.
Her face felt hot, cooled only by the tears splattered on her face. Who knew she could feel such immense pain? That breathing at this point could feel like a punch in the gut or that crying could make her head feel like it was exploding? Her realm was colliding into a single truth, an acute sense of loss.
'Let me die!' her mind screamed, 'I can't stand this much punishment!'
There was no argument. No piece left in her mind to tell her she didn't deserve what happened or that she shouldn't give up. It was nothingness, and she succumbed to it readily..
As if by some miracle, something broke through her thoughts. The distinct sound of the phone ringing.
She stared at the phone long and hard, wondering if this was a sign of some sort. Logic betrayed her, because she began to think that maybe it was him. Maybe.. maybe he was calling to say he was coming back and that he would help her get through this. Even though she secretly knew it was a wasted idea, the thought of him honestly was her last string of hope.
In desperation she grabbed the phone and held it to her ear. "He-Hello?"
No, it wasn't him. "Brandon," she said, trying to lower her voice an octave or two. Disappointed. Here she was in the middle of her darkest hour and her godfather called out of the blue.
"Serena, are you okay?"
'Far from it, Brandon.' "Yeah," she said, coughing in attempt to make herself sound normal. Her crying session left her congested, and her head hurt at the temples. "Yeah, I've got a cold, though."
"Sorry to hear that."
She tried not to choke up again. "Me too."
"Well, then, I'll be brief," Brandon said gently. "It took me a while to get to your script, but I finally read through it. I have to tell you, Ren, it's brilliant. I love it. I couldn't put it down, and yes that meant I even took it with me to the bathroom."
She forced a laugh before coughing and feeling the weight of the month's events on her heart again. Sniffling a few times, she brought a hand to her steamed forehead and shakily inhaled. "I'm taking that as a very good thing."
"It is. I--we, have to put this on a screen. It's too good of an opportunity to pass up."
Her breath caught in her throat after realizing what he was saying. "Seriously?"
"You're not just saying that because you love me?"
Brandon chuckled, releasing some of the tension in her high-strung frame. "I'm saying this script should be turned into a movie from a professional standpoint. I'm saying I'm proud of you because I love you."
She smiled softly to herself, though the pain unforgotten in her mind may have turned it into a grimace. "Thanks. This is wonderful news. I mean it."
"Good. So does this mean that you'll come out of hiding, return to L.A. and help me produce this thing?"
Produce? That was probably the farthest thing from her mind right then. After a few weeks without word from Brandon she started not to believe he would ever take time to read her script. And of course he would after her life had crumbled into little bits of pieces.
She bit her lip, really contemplating what she should do. She was done with college now, her script had been approved for production back home and she had no lingering ties left in Paris. 'He's not going to call,' she finally realized, her eyes threatening to swell up in tears again.
In a split second she made a decision that would change the direction of her life. "I will."
The phone call ended soon after that promise. As she replaced the phone back on its cradle, she sank against the wall. Karma was a kick in the face.
The next morning Serena had woken up to an insistent pounding against the door. She heard Mina groan in her sleep, trying to drown it out. "Turn it off," Rei mumbled, complaining as if the noise was an alarm clock. Serena chuckled, sitting upright with ease.
The sun was up, peaking through the half-drawn curtains. She guessed that it was only eight. Three hours of sleep and she was quite awake, though it could've been the dream--thud! Thud thud!
That damn pounding! It was coming from the door, she realized and then mentally slapped herself for her stupidity. Obviously the breakfast she ordered had arrive. So much for being awake and aware.
She cleared her throat and called out, "I'll be there in just a sec, Joel!"
She looked down and gasped. She was a mess! Her corset was twisted so that the inseam was straight down her stomach and her skirt was resting dangerously high. While she was fixing these two things she spotted a bathrobe and quickly flung that around her body. Running her hands through the ends of her hair undid most of the tangles and she pinched her cheeks to make them look rosy and alive.
By the time she descended from the loft to her and her friends' buffet-style breakfast the bellboy was quite upset. Until he saw an apologetic Serena looking disheveled in a bathrobe and stilettos and handing him a Benjamin Franklin. "Thank you so much for being patient with Joel here. Making a delivery with him around is always difficult. I-uh.. yeah. Thanks." she stuttered out.
The bellboy took one more look at her, the one hundred dollar bill she had given him and tilted his head to catch a handful of barely-dressed women coming down the stairs. Not only that, they were covered in feathers from their pillow fight. Serena blushed, stepped in front of his view, and politely ushered him out.
She took one look at her feather-decorated friends and realized what she had missed on her way down. "Joel?" she asked, fearing what the young bellboy was trying not to look at.
He nodded, plucking two feathers from the top of her head. "Argh!" she cried, finding another one behind her neck. 'Great! Hopefully that bellboy didn't have a camera!' she fretted.
"Aspirin?" Lita called out, sinking onto the closest couch.
"I lived in France, Mina's a party slut, Rei's, well, sake master and Ami's a lightweight and not complaining. What the hell happened to you?" Serena asked in disbelief. Once Joel nodded that she was good to go she walked back to the cart the boy had left behind and investigated the covered platters. Seeing that nothing was missing, she motioned for them to dig in and eat.
"In all fairness," Rei said later between bites, "Lita did take the brunt of all that action."
"This is true," Mina nodded, "But only because Ami was ducking my swings right in front of her."
"Hey!" Ami cried and was answered with a few laughs.
The moment was cut short when Joel approached the five with five handbags that were ringing off the hook. Serena thanked him, took the bags and dispensed them out. Simultaneously the women opened their bags and dug inside to find their cell phones. After turning each of their alarms off, they took a look at their task lists with set jaws.
"So.. what's the day looking like?" Serena prompted.
Ami was the first to reply. "Two surgeries, maybe three. Who knows when I'll be out."
Then Lita. "Yoga at nine, cardio at ten, a fitting for that New York show at one and tonight Marco wants to take me out to dinner."
Followed by Mina. "In the office from nine to seven and then I have to make a few calls tonight." Few meaning twenty or more, Serena noted.
And lastly Rei. "Training all day." From what Serena gathered before they left the Dark Rose and were too drunk to remember Rei had been training for a month and a half for an upcoming film. She was especially excited about this one because she was cast to play the bad guy.
"What about you, Ren?" Mina asked, genuinely interested.
"Just a meeting with Brandon at ten. I think he wants me to go over the list of actors we're thinking of inviting to try out."
She said it nonchalantly but again, all attention was on her.
"Now that we're sober and fed, you have to give us more details about that," Lita half-begged.
Serena mentally compartmentalized herself, knowing she would have to sound as detached from her story as possible so as to not leak out any excess information. 'Here goes.' "It was the summer before my last year at the university. Didn't feel like taking summer courses and as you know I couldn't get a part-time job as a local waitress. I was bored and didn't know what else to do.
"One day I went out to a small cafe. It was supposedly one of those 'hot spots' for young people to go to, and that night was what they dubbed "Open Mic Night". I walked in and sat in the farthest corner, watching as talented individual after talented individual went on stage and read poetry, performed songs and acted out skits. Most of it was about relationships, love and romance.
"Then one young man went up there with his guitar and played one of the most beautiful songs I've heard. It was wordless, sad but sweet at the same time, reflecting all sorts of emotions you'd feel in a relationship that took off and crashed miserably. It was really inspiring to me, so when I got home that night I wrote.
"I wrote and wrote for two weeks straight and when I was finally done I had the full script. It took me a while to find someone I could trust and edit it properly for me. When I got the final copy back school started and I forgot about it.
"It wasn't until my last semester that I sent it to Brandon to get his opinion on it. He didn't call me until after I graduated, but when he did he told me he loved it. Said he had to make this script into a film and not anyone else. And, seeing as how I was done with school and all, I came back this past Monday."
She left the story there, seeing as how she had rambled for at least seven minutes. Quickly she glanced from friend to friend, hoping to find some sort of positive reaction in their eyes.
"I missed you," Mina blurted out.
Serena laughed shakily, thankful that they hadn't noticed the pauses in her story where important parts were skipped. 'They're not angry that I left, just glad that I'm back. I suppose I should be, too. I should be thankful they aren't asking why I left in the first place.' "So, who am I taking and where first?"
A glimpse at the next chapter, Part One. The Meeting.
Serena had no idea who would have the audacity to take her own drink from her hands as she was going for a sip until she slowly spun to confront him. Six foot one, slim frame, chiseled features, dark raven hair and midnight eyes. Darien Scott. She smirked. 'What an asshole.'