Disclaimer: Really, if I owned Skip Beat! would I be writing fanfiction?
Authoress' Notes: Sorry. This is all I will say on the subject matter of the long time between updates: I wish I had had more time to write during the Summer, but I didn't, and as soon as the school year started I knew I would not be able to write at all because of my course load. It's a sad truth, but one I've come to accept. Maybe next semester will be better, but I won't know until I see what my profs start assigning. Now, this chapter may be a bit of a let down for some of you who have waited a long time for it, because I'm out of practice and my writing is not at its best, but I hope that you can still find something to enjoy in it.
Kyoko's Fairytale is live in 3...2...1...ACTION!
When Kyoko awoke the next morning, she was momentarily surprised by the unfamiliar room she was in. Then she remembered that she had officially moved into an apartment upstairs from Ren. With a deep breath, she flipped the covers of her new bed back and set about her morning routine. Only when she was dressed and otherwise prepped for the day did she enter the apartment's kitchen and realize that though Lory or Sawara had decided to provide them with some pots, pans, cutlery and dishes, there wasn't any food in the cupboards or fridge.
She bit back a small groan. She was kind of hungry and she still had twenty minutes before she was to meet Ren for her ride. She briefly debated whether she could call on him a little earlier and beg some food from him, but decided that she couldn't possibly interrupt his morning routine, and besides, they had probably had all the breakfast food worth eating yesterday. So instead, she rapidly made a grocery list, and when that was done she set about unpacking some of her things to kill time.
A few minutes before seven, she quickly gathered up a purse with anything she might need for the day, including her new house key and recently written grocery list, and then exited the apartment, locking the door behind her. She strode over to the elevator, and pressed the button, calling it to her floor, and when it arrived, she stepped in and pressed the button for the underground parking garage. The elevator travelled down all of one floor before coming to a stop.
Kyoko moved out of the way of the opening doors, a knowing smile on her lips. Her smile grew even bigger when Ren walked into the open elevator, a look of shock on his face, though his shocked countenance was quickly replaced with a smile.
"Good morning, Kyoko-san," he greeted her.
"Good morning, Ren-san," she answered back cheerfully, though it was a little weird seeing Ren in the elevator in the building where she now lived. But just as she would get used to calling this apartment building home, she would get used to the possibility of bumping into Ren in the hallways.
"Is your apartment nice? How similar is the layout to mine?" Ren asked her as the elevator resumed its descent to the parking garage.
"It's very nice," she answered, "and much more than I expected. We have a living room/dining room, a kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and more than enough space for the three of us. I can't imagine how Takarada-san and Sawara-san could have gotten all this organized in a day though."
"Neither can I," Ren answered.
But in fact, Ren had his own suspicions as to how Lory had obtained a furnished apartment in under a day. Ren's leading suspicion, and the one that made the most sense, was that Lory had bought the apartment when it had first become available and had been planning this for a while now. Actually, that was Ren's only suspicion. Lory always schemed and plotted and had an unhealthy interest in Ren's love life and that of his Love Me members. Ren would bet that Lory was overjoyed by the turn of events.
As the two actors walked into the underground parking garage, Ren looked at the cheerful young woman at his side. Two days ago, her world had been turned upside down and here she was, walking next to him, with a smile on her face. She amazed Ren with her resilience, her talent, her personality...he could go on.
When they reached his car and he unlocked the doors, Kyoko climbed into the backseat from the passenger's side. Ren gave her a confused look.
"Don't you have to pick up Yashiro-san this morning?" she asked.
How could he have forgotten? Ren silenced his groan and nodded in response. Then he started the car, eased out of his spot, drove out of the parking garage and onto the road.
"So do you always pick up Yashiro-san from his home?" Kyoko asked Ren in curiosity when they stopped at a red light. "Or does he sometimes meet you on set or at your place?"
"Sometimes if he has to stop by the office first or take care of something on set he'll meet me there. Sometimes when I start later in the afternoon he comes to meet me at my building...our building. Otherwise, I pick him up from his place," Ren told her, reminding himself that his building was now also Kyoko's.
'Yashiro will get a kick out of that when he finds out,' Ren thought and winced ever so slightly.
Luckily Kyoko didn't notice as she was too busy nodding her head up and down, apparently taking in this new information about Yashiro.
A few minutes later they pulled up outside Yashiro's apartment building. Yashiro was already waiting outside and as soon as he spotted Ren's car, he ran over.
"I hope," Yashiro began as soon as he had opened the door, "that you had breakfast this morning Ren. If you didn't I'll tell on you to Kyoko-san."
Ren watched in his rearview mirror as Kyoko stifled her giggle. Yashiro had taken his seat in the car and he hadn't noticed her sitting quietly behind him. Ren flashed her an amused smile, without turning around, using the same mirror.
"I did eat breakfast, and you can tell Kyoko-san so right now, though I daresay it would be redundant for you to repeat my words to her when she's just heard them," Ren answered his manager.
Yashiro looked very confused for a second as he processed his charge's response. Then his eyes widened comically and he whirled around to face Kyoko who just laughed and waved at him.
"But don't you usually pick up Kyoko-san after you get me?" Yashiro asked in confusion. It was true. Though the Daruma-ya was on the way from Ren's to Yashiro's, the few times Ren had picked Kyoko up in the mornings, he had picked Yashiro up first to give Kyoko a few extra minutes to get ready.
Kyoko looked at Ren in the mirror and he shrugged. So Ren hadn't told his manager yesterday that Kyoko had been staying at his apartment, and unless Ren had spoken to Yashiro since he had arrived home last night, there was no way that his manager would know that Kyoko now lived in Ren's building.
"That's true, Yashiro-san," Kyoko answered simply, a smile still on her face.
Yashiro just looked more confused.
As Ren stopped at another red light, he turned to look at his manager. "Yukihito-san, I'd like to introduce you to my new neighbour, Mogami Kyoko," he said, motioning to Kyoko in the back seat.
"Good morning, Yashiro-san. It's nice to meet you," Kyoko replied in keeping with the little game.
Poor Yashiro still looked confused. "New neighbour?" he asked, looking between the two young actors.
"I moved into Ren-san's building yesterday," Kyoko answered after a brief pause, taking pity on the poor man after seeing that Ren was apparently more than willing to keep his manager in suspense.
"But how? Why?" Yashiro spluttered.
As Kyoko explained to Yashiro the circumstances behind her move, Ren kept glancing at her face in the mirror and saw as it turned sad, then accepting, and then happy again as she went through her story. A glance to his side revealed that Yashiro's initial confusion had now been replaced by glee. He could just imagine what sort of thoughts Yashiro was having, and he bet they probably all revolved around how the two young LME talents sharing an apartment building could be an excuse for them to spend more time together.
Ren would have won a lot of money.
The cog's in Yashiro's mind were in fact whirling at an alarming rate. Kyoko was now living in the same building as Ren, courtesy of Takarada Lory's generosity. Yashiro could kiss the man for the absolute work of art he had just engineered. Yashiro knew Ren wouldn't mind helping Kyoko or visiting her or whatever. Yashiro just needed to get Kyoko to see the useful resource she now had at her disposal in Ren. A plan came to mind and he spoke quickly, hoping to engineer some alone time for the two as soon as this evening.
"So Kyoko-san," Yashiro began as Kyoko wound up her tale, "do you have any food at your place yet?"
Kyoko shook her head. "I haven't had time to go shopping yet," she pointed out. "I was actually planning on going to the grocery store when I was done working today. Kanae and Chiori-san are both working all morning and afternoon so they'll be moving in this evening. I was hoping to get home with the groceries and then make us a meal to share." A dreamy smile came to Kyoko's face as she imagined herself, Kanae, and Chiori sitting around their dining room table sharing a hot pot or passing around the dishes of some meal she had cooked.
Kyoko pulled out her shopping list and passed it to Yashiro. He scanned the long list, his eyes flashing in triumph.
"Kyoko-san, maybe you should wait until you have some help from your new roommates to go and buy all this. It looks like much too much for you to carry all on your own," he commented, a sly smile coming to his lips. "Or maybe Ren could help you. If I remember correctly, both of you share your last scene for the day, and I know Ren doesn't have any other work afterwards."
"I couldn't ask Ren-san to help me with my groceries!" Kyoko protested as she imagined Ren trailing behind her in the grocery store, carrying the produce and packages she pulled from the shelves. The image just seemed wrong.
"What are friends for, Kyoko-san?" Ren asked, rejoining the conversation, once again glad for his meddling manager. They were pulling into the parking lot of the studio.
Kyoko opened her mouth to protest again. The idea was just too bizarre to her.
"Since we finish at the same time and since we're going to the same place it only makes sense for me to give you a ride back," Ren insisted. "We'll just stop by at a grocery store on our way home from the set."
Kyoko just looked at him as he pulled into a spot.
"If you say so," she finally spoke.
Forty minutes later, Kyoko was done in hair and makeup and strode into the school's gym, closed to the students for the day, in a typical high school gym uniform of shorts and a t-shirt. The black and pink hair of the wig she wore was tied up in a high ponytail. Ren was also dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, but his were much bigger and much baggier. A bunch of extras were dressed in the same way as them, and another actor who was to be their gym teacher wore sweat pants, a t-shirt and a whistle around his neck. He also held a clipboard.
"Remember," Shingai called as they finished setting up the scene, "Saki doesn't know anything about Yahiko yet, while Yahiko knows who she is and is using the lucky circumstances to start trying to get close to her. Action!"
"Nakamura Saki pair with...Sato Yahiko," the gym teacher ordered after consulting his list.
Saki looked around in the crowd of students for Yahiko, her face without her usual carefree smile, and frowned when she didn't spot him.
Someone tapped her on the shoulder and she whirled around to find the tall and handsome Yahiko standing there, a volleyball already in his hands.
"Saki-san," he greeted her with a smile.
"Yahiko-san," she greeted back politely, still without a smile.
They walked away from the group of students yet to be assigned to pairs in silence. When they had reached an empty corner of the gym, they took places facing each other about ten feet apart. Yahiko prepared to serve and Saki's expressionless face took on a grimace.
"I'm sorry Yahiko-san. I remember that you play volleyball very well, but I should warn you before we start that I'm rather awful and I'm afraid I won't be able to offer you much practice at all," she spoke quickly, a slight blush coming to her cheeks.
Yahiko shook his head, his warm smile still present. "Then I'll just have to teach you," he stated. "Let's start with the basics. I'll pass you the ball and you return it. Do you know how you're supposed to volley?"
Saki nodded her head.
So Yahiko volleyed the ball high in the air so Saki could get under it. She did manage that much, but when she tried to return the ball with a volley of her own, the ball merely bounced off her hands and fell to the ground in between the two teens.
"I know how I'm supposed to volley...it just doesn't work out very well," she pointed out.
Yahiko laughed. "Let's start at the very beginning then since we have the whole period to practice our technique," he told her as he cleared the few feet between them, picking up the ball along the way, and came over to stand in front of her. "Show me how you hold your hands when you prepare to volley."
So Saki showed Yahiko. In response, he clucked his tongue.
"Not like that," he said, placing the ball on the ground. Then he grabbed her hands and positioned her fingers correctly to receive the ball. "Like this," he said when they were positioned properly. Then he abruptly let go of her hands and dropped his to his side.
Saki's face bore the traces of a faint blush and she looked thoughtfully at Yahiko who was now staring pointedly at the ground. Then she smiled for the first time during their interaction.
"So like this?" she asked as she bent down to pick up the ball. She threw it in the air and volleyed it straight up, catching it when it came back down the second time.
Yahiko had looked up to watch her. "Like that," he said, and his smile returned.
The scene with Ren finished and Kyoko let out the laughter she had not allowed herself to express when she was in character. She was actually very adept at volleyball, and pretending to be bad had been fun. Meanwhile, Ren smiled at her. Filming with Kyoko in this way was...fun, and he was looking forward to more scenes of a similar nature before everything started to get more serious.
"Good work you two," Shingai called out as Ren, Kyoko and everyone else cleared the set. "The atmosphere for that interaction between you was perfect. Kyoko, when we get back to the studio, get ready for your next scene and come meet me in the editing room. I want you to watch the footage from last week to help you get in the mind set for this next scene.
"And Ren," he continued, "if I remember correctly you have a few interviews to attend to but you'll be back later to resume filming?"
Ren nodded his head.
"Good, good," the director muttered absentmindedly, already thinking of what he had to organize next.
Later, Kyoko was waiting for Shingai to press play so she could review with him some of the footage from the week before in preparation for the scenes she was about to shoot. They were supposed to directly follow the edited clips she was watching, but the inside of the set for her house hadn't been completed as of last week. Now it was ready for her and the cameras. The director hit play.
"The family restaurant?" Saki asked in disbelief, looking up at the brother who had picked her up from school.
"Yes. Mom and dad said they wanted to meet with us all here when you were done school. Apparently they have something to tell us. We're the last ones," he replied, walking inside.
"And why couldn't we just meet at home? Then I could have ridden my bike back, and Jun wouldn't have had to come to school, and then Miki-chan wouldn't have seen him, and I could have avoided all the questions she'll have about him tomorrow," Saki muttered, as she shook her head and followed her brother into the establishment.
Inside, she found the restaurant empty save for her immediate family.
"Saki-chan," her mother greeted her.
Saki took in the small table her three older brothers and parents were seated at. Her mother and father were at opposite ends, her brothers filled seats on either side of the table between them. It was obvious that her mother was exhausted. Saki's father also looked tired and sad. Her older brothers seemed as confused as she was.
"Saki-chan, take a seat please," her father told her. His voice was rough and his eyes were red. It appeared that he had been crying.
Saki complied, though not without voicing her concerns. "What's going on?" she asked. "Why are we here?"
Her father cleared his throat and looked to her mother, who stood up from her seat.
"I'm not going to sugar coat it for you kids. You're old enough to take this at face value. Your father and I are splitting up. I won't be returning to the house," her mother declared.
Saki looked from her mother to her father in disbelief.
"You're kidding us, right?" her middle brother asked, his face mirroring his sister's.
"Teruo," Saki's father spoke, addressing the brother who had spoken, "your mother and I," and his voice cracked, "we've talked about this and it's for the best."
"For the best? After twenty-three years of marriage?" her eldest brother now spoke, his tone angry and hurt.
"Yoichi, this is not something that's up for discussion," their mother replied. "Your father and I know what we're doing."
"But why?" the youngest of Saki's older brothers, Jun, the one who had come to pick her up, asked.
Saki's mother sighed, opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again. She took a deep breath and shut her eyes before trying again. "Your father's cheated on me...more than once...in the last year," she finally explained, tears coming to her eyes. "When I married him, I knew what I was getting into. I was scared and excited to become a part of the Nakamura family business. I didn't expect it to be a normal marriage, but I did expect the same standards to apply. I won't put up with infidelity, I deserve better than that. The divorce papers won't be drawn up and complete for another week or so, and until then I'm taking a much needed vacation out of the country."
Saki's face expressed her crushing sorrow.
"How could you cheat on mom, dad?" Saki asked, her voice filled with her heartbreak, her eyes wide and watering.
Her father didn't answer, he just stared down at the table top.
"You won't be able to reach me for the rest of the week. After that, I'll be at your grandfather's place," her mother said. "I need to get going if I want to make my flight."
"Aika," her father spoke, looking up, his voice pleading.
"That's enough, Arata," her mother replied, her voice shaking. "Goodbye children. I'll be back soon."
Saki chased after her mother as she exited the restaurant.
"Mom," she spoke as soon as she was outside, tears falling from her eyes.
Her mother turned around, about to climb into her black sports car, her own eyes filled with tears. "Saki-chan," she whispered.
Saki flung herself into her mother's arms.
"Shh," her mother soothed her, "it's going to be alright. I just need to get away for a while. I can't be here right now when I'm so hurt and angry with your father, but I promise I'll come back. I'm not going to abandon you."
"But it feels that way, mom," Saki said, her voice muffled by her mother's shirt.
"You're my little girl, and I'd take you with me if you didn't have classes and if they didn't need you," her mother told her, rubbing a hand on her back.
Saki took a deep breath and stepped back from her mother, wiping her eyes.
"You'll have to take care of your brothers now, Saki-chan," her mother told her, wiping her own eyes. "As well as your father. God knows they could never take care of themselves."
Saki nodded her head gravely and watched as her mother climbed into the car. Saki turned around when the car's engine started, and walked back into the restaurant as the car pulled away.
Her father and brothers were still sitting at the table in silence.
When Saki reached the table, Yoichi broke the quiet. "Jun, take Saki home. Teruo and I will stay here with father tonight to...take care of things," her oldest brother ordered.
Without ceremony, Jun nodded, stood up, and made his way for the door.
Saki glanced at her father who held his face in his hands once again, her face expressionless though her eyes were puffy and gave clear evidence of the tears she had shed. Then, she followed Jun out.
"I'm going to go back and help them out," Jun spoke out through his car's open window to Saki, who stood on the sidewalk outside of a large Western style mansion. "You'll be alright on your own tonight, right?"
Saki nodded, her face still expressionless. "I'll be fine. Just go."
Jun spared his sister one more glance before he rolled up the window to the car and drove away.
Saki watched the car disappear down the street before she turned, walked up to her home, pulled out her keys and unlocked the door.
"So, we'll pick up from when you enter the house. As you know, it will be a lot of short scenes of just you now. I'll keep the crew to a minimum so that it's easier for you to feel the intimacy of the situation," Shingai told Kyoko when the clip had faded to black. "It's going to be important for the audience to see you vulnerable so they can empathize with you."
Kyoko nodded her head. She already knew how her Saki would react in the context of the script and she could already feel the emotions coming to a boil inside her. This scene wouldn't be too hard for her. So Kyoko strode onto one of their indoor sets and took her mark while taking in the masterpiece around her.
They had filmed the scenes outside of her character's home using a Western style mansion nearby, whose owners they had paid a small fee. For the inside of the mansion though, they had finished building two sets so far. She now stood on a set of the ground floor of the house, the entire front missing so the cameras could film the interior, which had a kitchen, a dining room, and a large entrance hall with doors that led to nonexistent rooms, and a staircase to a second floor u-shaped landing with closed doors, one of which was supposed to be the entrance to Saki's room. A separate set consisted only of Saki's room, where many of her scenes would take place.
Kyoko would be moving from the first set to the second, and then back to the first, all within an hour and a half provided everything ran smoothly. Now, she waited patiently for her cue as the director ordered one of the lights to be adjusted.
Saki took off her shoes and leather jacket at the front door, and slipped into a pair of slippers. Then she headed into the large kitchen and poured herself a tall glass of water. After she took a few deep gulps, she took the glass with her up the stairs where she came to a door and reached for the handle.
A door swung open, revealing a room. The floor was a dark, almost reddish, hardwood that complimented the pale pink walls. Against the wall with the door was a large bed with a white bedspread and white pillows - a large white canopy hung over it. The open doors of a walk-in closet on the opposite wall revealed racks of clothes, shoes, and bags. A desk with a sleek new laptop sat in one corner next to a pair of curtained doors that presumably led to an outer balcony. Bookshelves stood next to the desk, and a beanbag chair and lamp sat in the corner on the other side of the curtained doors. A few pictures and paintings hung on the walls, adding some colour to the scene.
Saki placed her glass of water on the dark wood night stand next to the bed and then she flopped down onto it face first, and screamed into the sheets.
A few seconds of silence passed, where Saki just continued to lay face down on her bed, and then as abruptly as she had flopped down, she sat up, crossed her legs, and started crying.
"Why?" she muttered, grabbing a pillow and holding it to her chest. "Why did dad cheat on mom? Why is my family falling apart? What are we going to do?"
She paused for a moment, staring blankly at the comforter on her bed.
"And why is the stupid family business so much more important to all of them than that?" she yelled, throwing the pillow she held to her body at her closet, where it smacked into one of the open doors with a soft thud. "Yoichi, Teruo, Jun, dad! All of them are at the stupid restaurant waiting to meet with stupid clients and stupid family members part of the stupid business," she continued yelling, sneering at the last word.
She breathed heavily for a few moments, calming herself down. "How could I not have seen this coming?" she asked herself, shaking her head and moving to hold it in her hands. She sighed heavily and raked her fingers through her hair.
She sat in silence for a bit longer and then abruptly stood up, her face tear stained and carefully blank. She was wearing the jeans she had left the school in so that she could ride her motorcycle home. She reached into her overlarge backpack and pulled out her shiny red helmet, a set of keys, and her licence. She slipped the licence and keys into her pocket and grabbed the helmet before striding out her bedroom door.
She descended the stairs, grabbed her jacket from the floor and jammed her feet into the boots she hadn't put away when she came in.
"We'll film you leaving the house, getting on your motorcycle, and driving off after lunch with the tinted lens that should help make it look like it's the right time of day. Then we'll return here and you'll have a break while we film Daisuke and Ryo before we film your final scene for the day with Ren," director Shingai explained.
"Alright," Kyoko said simply, offering the director a small bow, before making her way to the studio's small cafeteria to grab her lunch.
After obtaining one of the boxed lunches from a refrigerator, she scanned the tables that had been set up, looking for a space to sit. Members of the crew and many of the extras from this morning's gym scene, who would be needed later were already seated and eating. A waving hand caught her attention, and she smiled when she saw Daisuke who sat alone at a small table. She made her way over to him and took the free seat across from him.
"You're here a little early for your scenes," she commented, taking her seat.
Daisuke smiled. "What can I say? I love the food," he answered, taking a bite as if to prove his point.
Actually, he was there so early because he knew Ren would not be there. Even though they had been working on Mob Daughter barely a week, already Daisuke had realized that whenever Ren and Kyoko were together on set for lunch, they would eat together. And yes, Ren's manager ate with them, and yes, it seemed that a good part of the reason why was that Kyoko seemed to feel it was her responsibility to make sure Ren ate properly - something Kijima had told him had been a regular occurrence when he had been working with the both of them on Dark Moon - but it still made him just a little bit jealous.
Kyoko smiled at Daisuke, digging into her own meal.
"So how did your scenes go last week?" Kyoko asked, making conversation. "Shingai-san wanted to show me but they weren't finished editing them together yet."
"They were great. Really easy to shoot, no NGs," he answered, reflecting on the long scene he had filmed last week that would follow Kyoko's individual scenes filmed today in the actual drama. In them, his character had gone with his father and a few other men to Kyoko's character Saki's family restaurant where his father had confronted Saki's father about stealing his jobs and clients to which Saki's father had simply brushed him off. The confrontation had continued and escalated, ending only when men around the room, including Saki's brothers had pulled out guns and said that they had exhausted their welcome. His father had left, but only after saying that Saki's father should watch his back.
Today he would film the scene where his character's father would tell him that he knew Saki's father had a daughter who attended his high school. Daisuke's character would answer that he knew who she was. He would then be ordered to try and get close to Saki and gain her trust so that she could be used against her father in some way. He would accept his orders, willing to do anything to help his father.
"That's good. I'm really excited to see the finished product," Kyoko told him, interrupting his thoughts. "Shingai-san seems so happy with what everyone's been doing, and the crew say that we're making very quick progress and have stayed perfectly on the optimistic schedule Shingai-san made."
"It's because there's some great chemistry on this set," Hayashi Ryo, the actor playing the rival mob boss and Daisuke's father, answered, plopping down into a seat next to Kyoko. "By the way, good afternoon."
"Good afternoon, Hayashi-san," Kyoko replied. Daisuke echoed her greeting, after which Kyoko spoke up again. "What do you mean by great chemistry?"
Ryo looked at the newbie actress and smiled. "Great chemistry my dear is when the actors on a set work well together without having to try hard. They play off each other easily and the relationships between them feel real and are easily believable," he explained. "For example, the scenes between you and Hiromi-san last week exemplified the great chemistry between you two. No one who watched the interaction between you both would think you were faking your emotions."
Kyoko blushed. "It's all because Hiromi-san is such a great actress," Kyoko insisted. She might know who her character was, but it was Hiromi playing her beloved mother that allowed Kyoko to feel strongly about the woman opposite her.
Ryo gave her a look. "No. It's not," he finally said. "If you weren't a talented actress yourself, Kyoko-chan, the relationship would have been one sided, there would be no deep feeling coming from your end, but there was. You work well together and there's a real connection between you, though you hardly know each other. But it's not just you and Hiromi-san. Shingai-san picked well when he put together this cast and you'll come to realize that as you get more experience on different television and film sets. Scenes have been coming along well and quickly because the actors here get along and connect. There's been no awkwardness or strain behind any scene so far."
"It's like we're all one big happy family," Daisuke added, and Ryo reached out to ruffle the young man's hair.
"Exactly," he said, looking at Kyoko who was hiding the grin that had sprung to her face when Ryo had removed his hand from Daisuke's hair revealing a ruffled mess.
"Good afternoon, Kyoko-san."
Kyoko turned around where she stood, just outside of the gym inside the school, to come face to face with Ren and Yashiro.
"Good afternoon," she answered tugging at the hem of her short skirt. She was wearing her school uniform costume. It was in the sailor suit style, but the skirt had been shortened considerably in keeping with Saki's personality. "How did your interviews go?"
"Very well," Ren answered her. He was already dressed in his own school uniform costume, ready to start filming. "Apparently it's already rumoured that I'm working with Shingai-san on his new project, and the interviewers did try a few questions in that direction, though I didn't answer one way or the other."
"There are already rumours? I guess that's to be expected though, especially for something you're involved with," Kyoko replied thoughtfully.
She was actually surprised that the entire country didn't already know about Mob Daughter and its cast, but Shingai was carefully keeping everything under wraps until the press conference on Friday. He had told Kyoko that the promotional posters were already done and would be ready to be released on the same day. She also knew that Sho's video would already be ready to debut on Friday - Asami had mentioned to her that they needed to release the single as quickly as possible to promote a new tour.
Kyoko wondered if there would be many interviewers at the press conference on Friday, and if they would have any questions for her when they saw her name listed with equal billing to all her better known co-stars' names on the posters. On the Dark Moon posters, her name had been in smaller print than the other actors' because she was a new actress with no real star billing, but she had just been happy to be mentioned there at all. Plus, it was her first credited role - in the Kyurara commercial and Sho's music video, she had been nameless.
Ren watched as Kyoko seemed to think something over and smiled at the thoughtful expression on her face.
"There are always rumours circulating about the Tsuruga Ren," Yashiro commented. "Interestingly enough, I also heard some talk about you today, Kyoko-san."
"What?" Kyoko spluttered, stunned out of her reverie.
"While I was sitting on the sidelines watching Ren give one of his interviews, I heard some of the show's crew talking and your name came up. Apparently, everyone in show business is wondering why the short article on you appeared on Celebrity Beat's website over the weekend. Despite the fact that you've worked with both Ren and Fuwa Sho and been in Dark Moon, you're still not considered a serious actress since you haven't received any leading roles - at least that anyone knows of. Everyone's wondering if Celebrity Beat is ahead of the game, or if they're just desperate for material. And because they don't know which it is, everyone is curious about you," Yashiro told her.
"Oh," Kyoko replied. She had surmised something similar after she had read Harada Tsutomu's article about her, but hearing it from Yashiro's lips seemed to make it all the more real.
"After the press conference and the release of the promotional posters for Mob Daughter on Friday, I imagine everyone will want to interview you," Yashiro continued.
Kyoko looked at him in silence as she contemplated this. It seemed like a reasonable enough assumption given the attention she had gotten from the paparazzi after the short and vague article about her had been published on the Celebrity Beat website, but she just couldn't imagine being in demand for interviews like Ren.
"Nope. That's just impossible," she declared shaking her head.
Ren laughed at Kyoko's antics. Even after she had seen the fruit of Harada Tsutomu's article, she didn't believe that a starring role would only serve to make her more popular.
"I don't think so," Ren began, "and I bet that Sawara-san will be anticipating a response from the media on Friday and that you'll hear from him before the week is out to discuss how you'll deal with it."
Kyoko just shook her head as the director came to tell them that they were ready to begin shooting the last long group of scenes for the day.
As Saki exited the gym, now wearing her school uniform, she wasn't looking where she was going, and she crashed into Yahiko, who was reading a notice on one of the bulletin boards by the gym.
"I'm so sorry, Yahiko-san," she mumbled, looking at the ground, her cheeks pink.
"Ah, no problem," he replied, shrugging it off as he looked at Saki.
Meanwhile students passed by in the background and a few more people exited the gym.
"Are you okay?" he suddenly asked, his face becoming concerned.
"Oh...I'm fine. No injuries, though it would serve me right since it was my fault. And right after you helped me so much in phys ed as well," she said, looking up.
"That's not what I meant, though I'm glad to hear it. But Saki-san, you usually smile and laugh a lot more," Yahiko told her cautiously. "I know we're not close friends, but we attended the same middle school and we have been in the same class before and even share a few classes now. I've always seen you with a cheerful disposition, but I've noticed today that you aren't acting like yourself. Is everything alright?"
Saki stared at the young man before her, and slowly, a smile came to her face, but it was clear that it was a sad smile, not a happy one.
"Yeah," she answered, struggling ever so slightly with the word. "Everything is fine. Thank you for worrying about me though, Yahiko-san."
Yahiko considered her for a moment longer and nodded his head, accepting what was obviously a lie.
"I don't mean to be presumptuous, but if you ever need to talk to someone, Saki-san, you'll find a willing listener in me," he told her, and turned away from her, taking a step down the hallway.
A whirl of emotions flashed across Saki's face. Pain, sadness, gratitude, relief. She reached out and grabbed for his hand.
"Are you free to have lunch with me?" she inquired, gazing at his face, her eyes questioning.
Saki paced back and forth on a small landing outside a set of back doors to the school, talking to herself in a low whisper: "Why did I ask him to have lunch with me? I hardly know him! And I don't need to talk about this... Oh, who am I kidding? I need to talk about this. But what am I even going to say? I should talk to Miki-chan, or one of the girls, or I could try to speak with one of my brothers... No. My brothers will say I'm being childish like they did this morning, and even Miki-chan didn't notice anything was wrong... But Yahiko-san did."
"I did what?"
Saki whirled around, holding a hand to her heart. She hadn't noticed the door opening and Yahiko coming outside.
"You scared me Yahiko-san!" Saki exclaimed.
"I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention," he replied with a grin.
Saki did not offer a smile back.
He sighed and took a seat on the short staircase that led from the landing outside the doors to the ground. He pulled out a bento from his backpack and started eating.
Saki watched him, disbelief, anger, confusion, and then gratitude flashing across her face. She took the seat next to him and watched him for a moment more. At first glance, he seemed to be ignoring her, but his attention did not seem to be on his food. It almost looked like he was waiting very patiently. She cleared her throat and he looked to her, immediately paying attention.
"I... I don't know where to begin," Saki spoke. Yahiko waited quietly. "It seems like my whole world is falling apart, and I really don't want to burden anyone with my troubles but you...you noticed...and I just need to talk about it with someone."
"What happened?" he prompted her, his tone concerned.
"My...my parents split up. After twenty-three years of marriage they just...ended it. My mom left, my dad just looks pathetic and sad, and it seems my brothers don't even care - they're just...dealing with it. But how am I not supposed to care? My family is broken," she explained staring at the folded hands in her lap.
"My parents divorced when I was twelve," he told her after a few seconds of silence.
Saki looked up into his eyes. "How did you handle it?" she asked, the words no more than a whisper.
"Not well," he said with a laugh and a sad smile of his own. "I blamed myself at first, even though I knew it wasn't my fault. Then I tried to fix it, and I had to learn that I couldn't change anything. I hated their decision and I wanted to hate them for it, but then a friend who had recently lost his father helped me to realize how lucky I was. Yes, my family wasn't the same happy unit anymore, but at least I still had both my parents in my life."
"I am grateful for that...but it really doesn't make it any less sad," Saki noted, after considering his words.
He offered her another sad smile. "No it doesn't. But you can't change their decision. They reached it for a reason, and whatever that reason was, it was strong enough to break up a long marriage. I'm not saying you should be happy about it or ignore it. But once you accept that it's out of your hands, I promise that you'll be able to start feeling better, Saki-san," Yahiko told her.
Saki rested her head in her hands. "Thank you for coming here and listening to me, Yahiko-san. It's more than I had any right to expect of you considering how poorly we know each other," Saki said, offering him a small bow of her head.
"How poorly we knew each other," Yahiko pointed out. "Saki-san, I would not dare to assume that I know everything about you, and I know we have never been close, but I help out my friends, Saki-san, and I count you among them."
Saki closed her eyes and when she opened them, they held unshed tears. She stuck out her hand, offering it to the young man beside her.
"As you are counted among mine, Yahiko-kun," she finally answered, offering him a small, genuinely happy smile.
He shook her hand.
Then they both settled into a comfortable silence as Saki pulled out her own bento and they started eating.
"Again, great work," Shingai told the two actors as they finished a fourth take of their last scene for the day. Shingai had been unsatisfied with the end of the scene between the two actors until he had decided that Saki should shake Yahiko's hand as she accepted the offer of a more than superficial friendship. "I think that's perfect now. There's a physical connection as well as an emotional one between you two."
Kyoko bowed her head and Ren nodded.
As they travelled back to the studio, Yashiro with them, Kyoko's mind whirled. She had been okay acting out friendship with Ren, but she couldn't help but start to worry about how that would change when her character was supposed to start falling in love. Sho's video had worked out well enough, but Asami was not the perfectionist Shingai was, and the woman was also not shooting a drama where the characters' emotions and interactions were the principle focus. Kyoko didn't know whether she would be able to perform to a standard that would please everyone. And even more importantly, would she be able to hold her own against Ren?
Her and Ren and Yashiro parted ways when they reached the dressing rooms, agreeing to meet up outside them when they were done. As Kyoko shut her door behind her, beginning to change out of her costume, her mind naturally shifted from thoughts of her work to thoughts about the outing she was supposed to be going on with Ren on their way home. Grocery shopping. The idea was still as bizarre to her as ever, but now she was thinking more along the lines of practicality. When they had gone out to eat the few times before, Kyoko had still been unknown and Ren was not followed by the paparazzi, so they didn't have to worry about being photographed or even recognized - people generally assumed Tsuruga Ren could not possibly walk among them, especially with a girl like Kyoko, so though they mused about his identity, ultimately they rarely made the correct assumption.
Now though, Kyoko was just a little worried. She didn't think it was likely, but there was a chance some people might recognize her now if they followed Celebrity Beat, and if they did, it wouldn't be such a leap to assume the man with her was Ren. All it would take was one person and then both of them would be in a bad situation.
She was about to slip off her uniform top to put on the white t-shirt she had worn to the set that morning when she realized she had forgotten to take off her wig. She approached the mirror and lifted her hands to her head, about to take the wig off when she realized how conveniently it masked her identity. No one would recognize her easily with long black hair for now, and though Ren had his height, if he were to wear a baseball cap, people would be hard pressed to assume it was Tsuruga Ren with the young dark haired girl at the grocery store.
Kyoko strolled out of her dressing room in jeans, her own shoes, the uniform top, and her wig and found the costume designer. She asked if they had an extra black wig and baseball cap she could borrow for the evening and received a favourable reply. The costume designer would find them and send them to her dressing room. So Kyoko returned to her room and slipped off the wig and the shirt, changing into her own white t-shirt. Someone knocked on the door and Kyoko opened it to find one of the costume designer's assistants with the items she had requested.
She thanked the young man and returned to the middle of her room so she could put the new wig on in front of the mirror. It was styled like Saki's hair, but without the coloured streaks. She grabbed her bag and the baseball cap, and entered the hallway, coming face to face with Ren and Yashiro.
"Um, Kyoko-san, I think you forgot to take a part of your costume off," Yashiro pointed out.
"Nope. The wig's an extra, and the costume department let me borrow it. And this is for you," she answered offering the baseball cap to Ren.
Both men stared at her in confusion. "What?" she asked. "If you're still going to come to the grocery store with me, I want to avoid any chance of us being recognized. We didn't seem to have any problems in public before, but now that there's a bigger possibility people will recognize my face, that increases the chance that they'll correctly identify you. I insist we be a little more careful."
Ren smiled at Kyoko. He had started to worry about the same thing as he was getting ready.
"I don't have to wear it now, do I?" he asked her, taking the hat from her hand, his voice and expression teasing.
"Of course not," Kyoko answered.
So, Ren agreed to wear the hat, and Yashiro grinned to himself, proud for setting up this exchange and the event that would follow.
"Are you sure you don't need anything?" Kyoko asked Ren for what seemed like the hundredth time as they stood in the checkout line, holding five baskets of food between them.
Ren shook his head. "I'm sure, Kyoko-san," he told her again.
Kyoko didn't even seem to have heard him. "Oh, we're up," she commented, starting to place the things in her baskets on the conveyer belt that would carry them towards the cashier. Ren copied her.
"Make sure the eggs are last," Kyoko mentioned as she continued to place items in front of her, "that way they won't get squished by everything."
Ren did as he was told and watched Kyoko as she watched the young woman behind the cash register scan everything and place it carefully into bags.
Ren did not shop for food very often, and when he did, he just grabbed a few items and was quickly out the door. With Kyoko, it had been a whole new experience. She had checked things selecting for those with the latest expiry dates, had explained to him how she chose what slices of meat to select, had checked fruits for bruises, and had carefully examined vegetables looking for the best and freshest before selecting one. She had also bought more rice than Ren thought she would need before she returned again to the store, but she had explained that since it was on sale and since rice kept well until it was cooked, she was stocking up on it now.
As the cashier rang the total up, Kyoko dug around her bag for her wallet, pulling it out and presenting the cashier with crisp banknotes. Ren was tempted to offer to pay, but knew that Kyoko would not accept. Instead, he settled for carrying most of her bags out to his car, where he placed them in the backseat and then watched as Kyoko did the same with the ones she carried. They climbed into the vehicle and when the doors were shut behind them, Ren pulled the baseball cap off his head.
Kyoko laughed. "It didn't look that bad," she told him. She still wore her wig.
Ren scowled. "But it was itchy," he told her, scratching his head.
Kyoko laughed again, just as Ren had intended, but was interrupted by the sound of her ringing phone. As Ren started the car, she dug through her bag for the phone, answering it when it was in her grasp.
"Kyoko, when are you going to be back?"
"Moko!" Kyoko exclaimed excitedly as Ren pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road.
"Don't Moko me. Chiori's mother has already dropped her off with her things, and you said you were supposed to be done work an hour ago," Kanae answered.
Kyoko looked to Ren and mouthed a question to him as she pulled off the wig: "How long?"
To which Ren answered: "Five minutes."
"I'll be there in about five minutes," she told her best friend.
"Good," Kanae answered brusquely. And then she hung up.
Kyoko stared at the phone in her hand. Why had Kanae not sounded happy on the phone? She had sounded happy enough yesterday when Kyoko had spoken with her. Were things going wrong already? Did that phone call mean that living with her friends was not going to be as fun as she had imagined? No. Kanae was probably just being her usual grumpy self.
When they arrived at the apartment building and Ren pulled into his spot in the underground lot, he once again took the bulk of Kyoko's groceries and carried them to the elevator, insisting that he would take them as far as her kitchen for her. Kyoko nodded her head in acceptance and pressed the call button and then the button for her floor when the elevator arrived since she had more freedom to move her hands.
Her and Ren rode the elevator in a comfortable silence that broke only when the elevator opened on Kyoko's floor and she saw her front door wide open, and heard absolutely nothing coming from within.
"Do you think everything's alright in there?" she questioned Ren, suddenly a little afraid to proceed forward.
Ren looked at her in amusement. "I'm sure everything's fine, Kyoko-san," he told her, just as pillow flew out the door. "Or maybe not," he took back his statement.
Kyoko stared at the pillow in disbelief. Then someone strode out of the open apartment, yelling over their shoulder: "You missed the couch!". They bent down to retrieve the pillow, picking it up before they noticed the two figures standing in the hallway, their arms filled with shopping bags.
"Kyoko? Tsuruga-san?" Kanae questioned, her face taking on a confused expression. Kanae was unsurprised to see Kyoko, but she was stunned to see Ren. Were him and Kyoko closer than she thought?
"Moko!" Kyoko exclaimed quickly, rushing to her friend and trying to hug her with her arms filled with shopping bags.
Kanae winced as the edge of some package dug into her side. "Why don't you come put those down inside our apartment?" she suggested, smirking at Ren over Kyoko's shoulder. Whatever Ren was doing here, it didn't matter because she was living with Kyoko, and Kyoko was her best friend.
Ren got the distinct feeling that he was very unwanted there, but he still had his arms full of groceries, so he followed the two girls inside where he saw a mess of boxes in the living room/dining room and another girl standing by the couch, setting up pillows, a phone cradled in one hand.
"Mom, we talked about this," Chiori whispered into the phone. "You can't come visit because that defeats the entire purpose of accepting Takarada-san's gracious offer. I'll come visit you at home at least every other day on my way home from work. Yoshimoto-san agreed to drive me because even she thinks this will be good for me... Okay?... I love you Mom. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Bye."
Chiori hung up the phone and looked to see Kanae, Kyoko, and Ren standing just inside the doorway.
"Chiori-san!" Kyoko greeted her final roommate excitedly.
"Just Chiori, Kyoko. We're roommates now. I think we can drop the formalities," Chiori replied, slipping her phone into a pocket. She offered Ren a nod. "Tsuruga-san. What have you got there by the way, Kyoko?" Chiori finally asked, motioning to the bags in Kyoko's hands.
"Oh!" Kyoko replied. She had almost forgotten about the groceries in her arms. "It's food, and I need to put some of it in the fridge. Ren-san, the kitchen's this way." And Kyoko walked into the kitchen, Ren following right behind her.
"Ren-san?" Kanae asked aloud in disbelief, her eyes narrowing. "When did they get so close?"
Chiori watched her new roommate carefully. She did not know Kanae well yet, but the two had bonded when they had first met over their mutual disdain of actors who landed roles without putting in any of the hard work they themselves did. And though Chiori hardly knew Kanae, she had already noticed that Kanae valued Kyoko's friendship - but then again, how could she not? Kyoko was special, probably one of a kind. So was Kanae perhaps jealous then of the new closeness there seemed to be between Kyoko and Ren? Chiori would just have to keep watching.
Kanae eventually strolled into their new kitchen, Chiori on her heels, where Ren had placed the groceries on the counter so Kyoko could unpack them and put them away.
"So, Tsuruga-san," Kanae began. "What brings you over here? Did you drive Kyoko home from work?"
"I did," he answered simply.
"Well that was nice of you," Chiori stated. Ren was an actor who she could respect. She had never worked with him before but his reputation preceded him. He was actually talented and gave his all in his performances, working hard to develop his characters. Of course that didn't mean that she particularly liked him, but she didn't hate him.
"It only made sense," Ren answered Chiori, though he watched Kanae. "I mean, I do live just downstairs."
Kanae felt her mouth drop open before she could pull together an uncaring facade. "Is... is that so?" she finally managed to ask.
Her mind was buzzing. Ren was living downstairs from them. Kyoko now called him by his first name. Was she losing her best friend to someone else? She looked to Kyoko and considered how happily the young woman had greeted her and how excited Kyoko was to live with her. No. It was simply not possible. And now that her and Kyoko were living together in the same apartment - even if Ren was just downstairs - she felt their friendship might only get stronger.
Ren nodded his head in answer to Kanae's question and took in Chiori behind her. The other girl just looked thoughtful. Ren decided it might be a good time to take his leave.
"I should go and let you get settled in, Kyoko-san, Amamiya-san, Kotonami-san. I'm sure you have much to discuss," he told them.
Kyoko, absorbed in putting away the food she had purchased, let her attention focus now on the friends in the room with her. She nodded her head towards Ren. "Thank you for your help, Ren-san. I'll see you..." and she paused as she thought about her schedule, "Wednesday afternoon."
"By the way, do any of you need a ride tomorrow morning?" Ren asked. He wanted to extend the offer only to Kyoko, but knew that it would be rude to do so in front of her friends. He had half a mind to remind her she should walk him to the door so that he could maybe say goodbye in private, but tonight was Kyoko's first night with her friends and he wouldn't bother her with that.
It was Chiori who answered his question: "My manager's coming to pick me up tomorrow morning, so she can take both Kyoko and me to the studio for Box "R" and we can drop Kanae off where she needs to be on the way. Thank you for the offer though." Chiori watched as Kanae relaxed minutely upon hearing her answer. A self-satisfied smile came to Chiori's lips. She was right. Kanae held some sort of antagonistic feelings towards Ren.
Ren nodded his head once more, and swept from the room and out the still open front door, pondering Kyoko's strange friends, as Kyoko returned to putting away her groceries.
"So, Kyoko. Do you have anything fit for dinner in that fridge?" Kanae asked Kyoko when Ren was gone, resolving to ask Kyoko about the actor when the two girls had some time alone. Kanae had to know what exactly was going on between them.
Kyoko smiled. "Why don't you and Chiori finish getting settled in while I make dinner. It'll be ready in forty-five minutes."
As the three young women sat around the dining room table, sharing the meal Kyoko had prepared, all of them were absorbed in their thoughts.
Chiori was thinking about how oddly right this arrangement felt and how miraculously she bore no antagonism for either of her roommates.
Kanae's mind was absorbed in a similar manner. She thought about how it actually didn't seem too terrible to be sharing an apartment with Kyoko and Chiori. She had had the opportunity to talk a little more with Chiori, just the two of them, when they had been alone in the apartment, and she had found that Chiori was the kind of person she could actually stand.
Kyoko was just brimming with happiness. She had never dreamed that she would be sharing an apartment with her two closest female friends. It was perfect. A wish come true... though it was a little strange. She had had to move here out of necessity, but Kanae had already owned a small apartment and Chiori had lived with her mother.
"Kanae? Chiori? Why are you two here? Not that I'm complaining, but don't you two already have homes?" Kyoko asked.
"How could I pass up a free apartment? My apartment was well enough but this is so much better and now I can save up for the future once this - whatever this is - is over," Kanae answered motioning her hands to the surrounding space. "But you still lived with your mother, right?" Kanae asked, directing her question to Chiori.
Chiori swallowed the bite she had been chewing. "Yeah, but when Takarada-san told me about this, I was kind of eager to get away from home...even if it's only temporarily. My mother wasn't going to let me initially, but Takarada-san spoke with her and convinced her that it would be good for my career to experience some independence and live with some other young actresses for awhile. She understands that I'm getting older and she really wants me to succeed, so that was enough to satisfy her for now. Plus, the building's in a good neighbourhood and has great security, I won't be alone, and I can go home whenever I want. It's a safe way for her to start letting me go," she explained.
"I'm amazed that they did this for us," Kanae mused. "Though I guess we can thank that Harada Tsutomu as much as Takarada-san. Still...buying an apartment for the Love Me Section? And you're not even part of LME, right? Though you are part of Love Me," Kanae asked Chiori, needing clarification. Takarada had told Kanae this would be an apartment for his Love Me members to grow. She had almost choked over the flowery language he had used to describe it to her, but had still been eager to accept the free board.
"Right," Chiori answered, "but part of the reason I get to be part of the Love Me Section is because my agency, Softhat, struck a deal with Takarada Lory. The agency's small and I'm their biggest earner so they really wanted to keep me, but I really wanted to join Love Me at LME. It's not well known, but Lory became a silent partner with a minor share in Softhat so that he too would be interested in keeping me there to see a return on his investment. Except for the fact that I'm not with LME, as a Love Me member, I'm the same as either of you two."
Kanae nodded, processing the new information.
"Well whatever your reasons, I'm glad you're both here," Kyoko told them. "And I'm glad Lory decided this would be a good investment. This is going to be so much fun. It'll be like an extended sleep over and we can braid each other's hair and have pillow fights and..." Kyoko continued to babble happily, imagining their future.
Kanae considered her weird friend, then looked to Chiori whose face mirrored her own disgust for the activities Kyoko was still listing.
Kanae threw an egg roll at Kyoko's head. Chiori copied her.
Kyoko looked momentarily stunned for a second and then she started laughing. The other girls quickly following suit.
The girls knew they were sure to have their problems, but in that moment, they also knew it would be nice to live with each other regardless, for however long they had.
Authoress' Notes: And so it's done! My longest chapter yet. I know there's not much action...it's mostly to help us get to the next part of the story. I did consider chopping this chapter in half, but there are so many scenes from the drama and in my mind those don't really count. Plus the simple Kanae, Chiori, and Kyoko new home introduction was just flowing out of me and I wanted to show how easily the three Love Me members actually seem to get along. I mean, Kanae and Chiori are not best friends in the manga, but upon their first meeting they already seem to come to some kind of understanding and I think they would get along well enough given the chance. Also to note, you probably won't get as much of the drama anymore. I'm only writing about so many scenes to set it up and get going with it...so there should be fewer scenes in the future...but don't hold me to that! If you like it, let me know and I may continue to include snippets.
Anyways. Hopefully I'll get another chapter out before my break is over, but I'm not making any promises. And also, I hope you enjoyed this one. Remember, I take into consideration everything you say in reviews and try to use it to make my story better and to make it make more sense.