Chapter 32

Click. Click-click. "Tilt your head up a little. Stop! Right there, perfect." Click. "Part your lips." Click. Click. Click.

"You're a natural, Ikuto." Utau whispered beside me as the photographer repositioned the camera. "And to think this is only your second shoot." I looked over at her and smiled a bit, the corners of my mouth giving her a soft smile. "Don't give me that," she laughed. Click.

"Alright, a few more shots and then we're taking a quick break. Remember, think autumn romance. Change it up and make it count!"

The chilly autumn air blew through the tree above, shaking a few brightly colored leaves off as they made their way to the ground. Sunlight made its way between the leaves, coloring us in its afternoon glow. Utau moved to the side, giving me room as I lay down on the bench, my legs dangling off the side. She picked up a leaf and brought it close to my face, her own face composed but soft. I brought my legs up, resting them on the tree beside us and grabbed her hand with the leaf. Our eyes locked; purple on purple. Soft clicks of cameras murmured as she and I looked at one another, the leaves falling around us. This shoot – it was make-believe but it all felt so real; this unattainable feeling. I felt I'd never be able to experience something like this again, truly. I was all messed up inside. I knew my reason for doing this, but then why did I hurt so bad? My heart ached. It wasn't her eyes I wanted to see but the soft golden ones that felt like a dream. Could I lie to myself to make the pain go away?

"I miss you," I whispered, not entirely sure if I wanted her to hear. I was tired of these games but I couldn't seem to stop. It was a gentle breeze now, drifting through the leaves. More clicks followed and I hoped no one heard.

"Don't give me that," Utau whispered back, her lips moving ever so slightly. "You and I both know we weren't good for each other."

"Utau-" She looked away towards the camera, ending our conversation. My hand still held hers and I brought it close to my mouth, my lips gently caressing her knuckles as I too looked at the camera. Click.

"And we're done! Perfect job!" The camera crew applauded.

Utau pulled her hand out of my grasp and looked down on me, questioningly. I sat up, both of us now sitting side-by-side on the bench.

I knew what I did was inappropriate on every account, but I couldn't help myself. Ah, I felt so lonely. I understood what I was doing; the reason for all of this. I was doing this whole modeling thing so that Amu would regret, as Sanjo-san put it, her actions following her leaving. But as a man, I wanted more than that. Forget textbook regret, I wanted Amu to come crawling back, sob into my arms and beg me to take her back. The end result would be the same regardless, whether she came back to me miserable or not, but it would really make me feel better if she regretted her decision to and exaggerated extent. I sighed and leaned back into the bench, my arm slightly brushing against Utau's as I tilted my head back. I sighed again.

"Ah everything stinks." I bemoaned.

"If you're talking about my rejection, I only-" Utau started.

"It's not that," I interrupted. "That was just a momentary lapse in judgment. It's just Amu issues, the usual you know?"

"What's up? What's bothering you?"

There was a lot bothering me actually. I wasn't normally one to moan and complain about my problems, but I needed to get it off of my chest, and Utau pretty much offered to listen so why not?

"You know, I get that I'm doing this for my own personal benefit and in turn it benefits Sanjou-san and Easter or whatever, but am I really going to gain anything from this? Let's say Amu does come crawling back to me after seeing how famous I've become or how much richer I am and so on. In the end, it wasn't me that won her back was it? It was just the "shinny things" that I garnered. I don't want her to come back to me for my wealth. I want her to come back to me and want me, as I am and have always been." I exhaled heavily. "You know, I think this entire thing is a sham. Why did I even agree to this?"

"Because you're desperate, Ikuto. Excuse my bluntness, but what else could you have done? You had your chance. I'm pretty sure you've had several chances, but all you did was wallow in your own self-pity! 'Oh Amu how could you?' 'Oh Amu why did you leave me?' Moan, moan, moan. Get mad, heck – get furious! But don't you dare blame this on anyone but yourself."

Despite Utau's words, her voice didn't rise; her face gave nothing away. We were still at the photo shoot after all, even if it was technically over. Everyone was just out of earshot, but their greedy eyes saw all.

"I get it," I said. "I don't want to make a scene so I'll shut up after this, but it's hard. I lost her, it's as simple as that, and I know that it was my entire fault and that I rushed things and everything, but what her and I had was never conventional. From day one I did something I should never have done – I'll save you the gory details – and everything just kind of followed after. I'm fucking disgusting and yet somehow she came to love me after everything I did to her, but in the end that's probably the reason why she left too. Utau…Amu and I would have never been together at all if I wasn't who I was. Our entire relationship is immoral. I'd change it if I could, but fate has a way of just slapping you in the face whether you deserve it or not. This is the reality of the choices that I've made, Utau."

"If this is your resolve and you're ready to let go of Amu, I'm not gonna stop you. But if you want her, then you just have to refuse this reality Ikuto. Forget these social constricts on your life. You may not believe me and she may not know it yet, but she's waiting for you on the other side." Utau paused as someone from the crew neared. He said something I couldn't catch. "Ah yes, thank you! Good work today. Ikuto-kun and I are just going to laze around here for a bit before we head out. Thank you. Goodnight." She smiled and waved.

She'll come around in time." She continued. "All you have to do is wait it out, at least until she gets out of high school. This "thing" you're doing is not a sham. This is for revenge, sure, but it's also to show her that you're still here, that you're not out of her life completely. Soon you'll be everywhere. I'll get you where you need to be to make a difference, but you have to trust me."

My heart ached a little as I stared into her eyes. "Why are you doing this?" I asked, bewildered. It wasn't totally out of character, but Utau and I never really had this kind of relationship. It was more lust than anything else back when we were together.

"I loved you once. I still do, but this is different. We loved each other for different reasons before. Now – for me at least – it's something platonic. I'm done with all the playing around. Kukai's really good to me, and speaking of Kukai, we better head on over to dinner before we're late. He said 6 o'clock, right?" Utau stood up, waiting for me to follow. All the crew members were gone now, leaving us alone in the park. She held out her hand, willing for me to take it. I took another deep breath, stood up, and without warning, hugged her.

"Thanks," I whispered, bringing her close. She hugged me back affectionately, her arms wrapped around my waist. Her scent was familiar and yet foreign, and it only made me miss Amu more.

"Everything'll be alright. It'll work out in the end, don't you worry."

"Your two weeks are almost up. Are you sure I can't change your mind?" Chie asked again, for the millionth time.

I smiled weakly and shook my head once more. "I'm sorry about this, really." I just can't do this anymore. "I was scouted and I thought it'd be a good change. The possibilities are endless with this new job. More opportunities, you know?" Well I wasn't totally lying.

She laughed. "Yeah I didn't think I'd be able to change your mind. It's just such a shame to be losing a teacher such as yourself, but I suppose your good looks would do you better in the entertainment industry than in education. Might as well get paid for something like that."

"Thanks again for understanding."

"Of course, just don't forget about me, you hear?"

I laughed and shook her hand. "Thanks again, Principal Chie."

Finally out of that hell hole, I thought as I left. I didn't regret working there, it's just that my classroom reminded me of Amu was all. I needed something new, something that didn't make me feel depressed, and I also definitely didn't want to see Tadase's face ever again after that stunt he pulled, so good riddance my failure of a teaching job!

The car honked. "Hurry up, Ikuto. We're going to be late." Utau – in full disguise – yelled from the car. I ran up and stepped inside, the car quickly speeding off once I settled in.

"It's just a meeting."

Utau snorted. "Yeah, a meeting with some of Japan's top magazines. No big deal."

I rolled my eyes.

"Ikuto, this is a big deal! Your face is going to be everywhere; you know what that means don't you?" Utau scooted over closer to me, her face beaming as she mock punched me in the arm.

I sat back, a smile spreading across my face. I wouldn't see it happen, but I knew what this meant. "The gap is about to close, huh?" I said, grinning now.

Just you wait, Amu. You can't get rid of me that easily.