So, a few things to say before I sign off. One - thanks to everyone that has reviewed/favourited/alerted/etc... I really appreciate all of it!
Second, a big thanks to 90MLLu, for the idea regarding this bonus chapter. I hope you like it!!!
And third... well, I can't remember what I was going to say. But I'm sure it'll come to me later XD
Disclaimer on profile.
TK sat beside his mother as she prattled away, explaining to him just how excited she was for this amazing opportunity and how glad she was that he was here to support her. He nodded along, appearing outwardly enthusiastic for her, but inwardly…
He was slowly withering, like an earthworm left to bake and fry on the scorching pavement during midday.
The loud, rambunctious crowd was cheering appropriately even though the show hadn't started yet. The cameramen were priming the cameras that would capture his mother's image and voice as she passionately explained to thousands of people the birds and the bees: Takaishi style. TK could only imagine it now—the perfect specimens of fruit moving across a polished table, their high-pitched voice floating through the stage and audience as his mother weaved a tale of teenage curiosity and sexual frustration.
He whimpered, and coughed as his mother powdered her face excessively, still talking to him non-stop. The powder puff came down as the lipstick came up to smear her lips in a vibrant shade of red.
Suddenly, she paused and turned to look at her son.
"TK," her serious voice said, "this is a very important day for both of us, you know." TK nodded. "And I couldn't be happier that you're here with me." More nodding. "So, I want you to be right up there with me when I go onstage!"
Her exclamation froze TK's senses and he uncomprehendingly stared at her hopeful, shining face of joy. His insides screamed for him to take the vase on the table and smash it over his head, rendering him blissfully unconscious. But alas, it was not to be. His mother smothered him with hugs and kisses as the desperation in his eyes grew to colossal proportions.
Why was this happening? When he'd heard about the talk show, he'd been mortified, but he'd gotten over it eventually due to his undying faith and support for his mother's ideas and projects. It wasn't everyday that someone he knew got to be on TV… TK just wished the topic she was going to be discussing wasn't so… personal. He could have handled it if it was just with a group of her chatty, hair-brained friends... but on television?
TK gulped, wiping the sweat from his brow and tried to steady himself against the onslaught of nausea and light-headedness. He excused himself, leaving his overly-excited mother happily applying yet another layer of mascara (wasn't one enough, anyways?) and ventured to the back exit door, where the fresh air called to him.
Outside, he inhaled the dusky air greedily, and tried to calm himself down. Now, not only was he faced with just having to be in the hellhole… no, now he was required to get up on stage to face the cameras and hundreds of audience members like it was no big deal.
The panic was most definitely setting in.
The fresh air was doing nothing to calm TK's racing heartbeat, or his infuriatingly sweaty palms. Nor did it have any effect on his reaction when someone tapped him on the shoulder unexpectedly.
TK shrieked and jumped back, stumbling over loose pebbles, but thankfully keeping his balance—there would be no embarrassing tripping incidents today.
"Chill," Matt said while chuckling at his younger brother's startled response at his simple gesture.
TK merely heaved a sigh, rubbing his hands over his haggard face. His brother couldn't possibly understand what was going through his mind right now, and he couldn't possibly do anything to make it better… unless, for some reason, Matt possessed the ability to make acid rain fall down and eat away at his flesh—thus marring TK's visage and rendering him unsuitable for the public eye.
TK's day dreams were interrupted by a young stage crew member, who grabbed his arm and mumbled about cheap coffee as he dragged poor Takeru over to one of the make-up stations to be prepped for the show. There wasn't a lot of time left before he was to make his debut—already his mother was out there, blushing for the camera and waving at her adoring fans. The talk show host was introducing her; voice booming and even from backstage, TK could just feel the cheerful aura radiating off the man.
The lady powdering his face (when had he given her permission to do that?) chatted to him, her high-pitched voice oddly soothing compared to the rambunctious laughter and clapping playing in the background. As the powdery substance coated his face, he was glad that the girl had put it on thickly because without it, he'd probably look like a ripened tomato about now. His cheeks were flushing magnificently and his palms felt cold and clammy and no matter what he did, they were continually sweaty. Pretty soon, TK would have a crisis on his hands—if the current situation didn't already count as one.
After that, TK slipped deeper into his mind, blocking his senses and concentrating solely on the building panic welling up inside him. He didn't hear when the stage crew man told him it was time to go on—he was too busy listening to his pounding heartbeat. He wasn't aware of the wafting scent of donuts as he passed by the snack table—all TK could smell was fear. He barely acknowledged the salty taste of sweat as he licked his suddenly dry lips—he'd been biting his tongue so hard that the harsh flavour of blood rested on his taste buds. TK had no idea that rushing employees were knocking into him—he could only feel a cold, foreshadowing chill throughout his tense body. And TK certainly did not see the crowd in its hundreds, coming closer and closer as his feet moved him forward—the blinding glare of the stage lights blocked his sight impossibly.
TK came to awareness slowly as he sat down in a plush, red chair next to his mother, who put her arm around her son, smiling brightly and telling the talk show host just how much she loved him. TK smiled back at her in a fake manner, trying to convey with his eyes just how much he wanted to magically transform the glass of water on the table into a gigantic black hole that would suck him up into nothingness, which was infinitely more ideal than being under the piercing lights of center stage.
TK's neck grew sweaty—a sure sign of impending doom—and he sat on his hands to stop them from shaking too much. Holding his breath, he tried to act naturally and face the audience, but he feared he was turning from cherry red to blueberry blue. The sudden release and intake of air cleared up that problem, thankfully, but TK had no more time to practice his camera skills, because the talk show host's attention had rapidly turned to him. Feeling very vulnerable, TK faced the man anxiously.
"So, it's TK, right?"
TK nodded, eyes shifting and resting on the innocent bowl of fruit placed beside the questioning man.
"Have you read your mother's book at all? You must be so proud of her success—I bet you've got tons of signed copies at home!"
TK laughed nervously because in all truth, he'd been too frightened to even consider reading such an embarrassing book. "I've, umm, definitely read it. It was great!"
He failed miserably at being enthusiastic, but that did not faze the over-happy host.
"And how did you like chapter six? Did it inspire you?"
The audience laughed along with the talk show host, and his mother giggled beside him. It was a sure sign that if he was ever to actually pick up the book, he'd have to avoid chapter six like the plague.
"Chapter six? That was my favourite chapter! I was so inspired!" TK's fake smile hid his whimper as a very outraged mother of his glared harshly; her eyes screaming at him that they'd be having a chat about this later.
The host's hearty laugh died off as he stated, "You are simply too much, my young man! Do you have a girlfriend?"
A nod confirmed this.
"Is she pretty?"
"Do you love her?"
TK paused. The audience was enraptured—young love was so exciting! He hesitantly affirmed his undying love as the entire crowd simultaneously sighed in unison. It was like the audience had been transformed into a raging mob of fan girls, out to ensure he wasn't wasting his youth on video games or junk food, but on love instead. He was glad he had their approval, but what happened next made him wish that the cloudless sky would muster up a lightening bolt, and hit him with it forcefully enough to cause sudden death.
TK became dizzy and disoriented as the host's magnified voice announced a new visitor, and as a shy head poked out from backstage to come and sit beside him. Kari's scent of spring-time flowers invaded his nose, and he silently hoped that there was a God out there merciful enough to end his unfair existence.
No such luck.
However, the show went on a commercial break right then, which was almost as good. The stage crew moved Kari and TK to a different section of the stage, where they each sat on a stool, and waited for someone to pull the fire alarm, thus allowing them to skedaddle out of this hellhole forever. They could go live out in the country, where they'd eat wild berries everyday, and do nothing but sit and stare at the blue, blue sky.
This delicate fantasy was shattered into millions of pieces when the show continued on, as it had before.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen," the host announced, "it's time to see how well these two lovebirds really know each other."
The spotlights landed on TK and Kari, who sat stiffly and uncomfortably in their chairs. They wondered if this could possibly get any worse.
And yet somehow... it didn't. As the talk show host explained the rules of the game to the couple, TK and Kari relaxed because the test to prove their knowledge of each other was the exact same one Ken had used on them not too long ago. And now, they were prepared for anything he could throw their way.
His first question, directed at Kari was, "How often does TK shower?"
Kari grinned and replied into the microphone, "At least once a day—I make sure of that."
Signalling that she'd gotten the answer correct, he turned to TK, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "What colour of underwear is Kari wearing today?"
"Today's Saturday, isn't it?" TK hummed as he thought. "I'll have to go with green polka-dots."
The crowd rambunctiously laughed as the host wondered aloud how exactly TK knew that piece of information. TK chose not to comment.
The next question for Kari was, "What is TK's favourite kind of fruit?"
She answered simply, "Pineapple, with a side of barbeque sauce."
TK smirked, mouth watering at the thought of that delicious, juicy pineapple, dipped in the barbeque sauce and shovelled into his mouth not-so-delicately…
The questions went on, each one answered correctly, honestly, and above all, with a confidence that could only be obtained when one knows the answer like they know the back of their hand.
Once the last question was done, the talk show host turned to them, laughing gaily as he declared for all to hear, "You two are perfect for each other!"
Kari giggled and poked TK's side, gesturing to the bowl of fruit. A large, scary-looking orange sat directly on top of the bunch. TK smiled, imagining Ken's face plastered to the orange's surface as he replied, "Yeah, I guess we kind of are."
Yeah, so... weird ending, I guess. But I needed to include Ken in there somewhere, right?