Author's Note: Hey guys, thanks for the suggestions you gave in the reviews! I actually have an inkling of how the story will proceed but I'll take your feedback into consideration. ^^
Disclaimer: I don't own GA, hoho.
Head Over Heels
Chapter 16: Splat
"She's obviously just out to torture me," Mikan grumbled as she threw on a simple color-block shift dress. "I mean, it was Misaki's job, but she made me go at the last minute. As if it isn't enough to steal my fiance."
Hotaru barely even lifted her gaze from the book about finances she was perusing.
"I told you never to trust a guy who wears leather pants," Hotaru said simply. "Oh, and do I need to mention how he uses more beauty products that the two of us combined? I say, good riddance."
Mikan had to laugh at that. She found it amazing how much the hurt had dulled, after being cheered up by Natsume and Hotaru. Okay, so they might not look like they were great Aunts Agony, what with one being a supermodel and the other being an expressionless ice-queen of the corporate world, but they were the only people who made her crappy-beyond-words life somewhat tolerable.
"Well, then, I'm off," Mikan declared dramatically. "I'll see you later, if I survive."
She picked up her purse, and marched out of the apartment determinedly. She would show Shina Koizumi. She would do such a brilliant cover of the event that Shina would grovel at her feet. Well, maybe not, but she would prove Shina wrong, and show her that she could draw a line clearly between work and personal matters.
When she arrived at the white building where the benefit was held, Mikan's face was red and sweaty. She had taken the bus, and gotten lost about four times before finally arriving at the Alice Centre. She had to run all the way to avoid being late. She paused and quickly checked her makeup in a side mirror of a red Honda parked by the curb. Oh God, she looked like a mess. Her carefully curled hair was all over the place, with random strands plastered to her face with sweat. Her face was all shiny and her eye makeup had run down her cheeks. All in all, she looked like a deranged panda, which was not a good look, even if the event she was about to attend was in fact for endangered pandas.
Groaning in frustration, Mikan fumbled in her bag for some makeup remover wipes and quickly took off her carefully-applied makeup. Then, while walking into the building, she tried her best to apply mascara on her eyes. The rest of her face would have to wait till later. Unfortunately, Mikan was not the best at multitasking, so she ended up with smudgy, clumpy lashes, but that would have to do until she found a bathroom. God, the event hadn't even begun and it was starting to go downhill. Mikan found the hall where the benefit was held, and, brandishing her notebook and pen, entered it.
The room was huge, and crowded with well-dressed people standing in clusters, chatting and laughing in the silly way people who have just had Botox laugh. Mikan felt way out of her depth, but nonetheless, she was there to do her job. She looked around hesitantly, then finally approached a portly man who was drinking champagne, and smiled brightly at him.
"Hi! I'm a reporter with The Tokyo Chronicles. May I talk to you for a few moments?"
Fifteen minutes later, Mikan was beginning to regret approaching the man. He was rambling on and on about God-knows-what. Mikan had stopped listening properly after about 2 minutes, but she was relying on her trusty Dictaphone to catch anything that she missed so that she could hopefully throw in some stuff the man was saying into her article. "Pandas are the most adorable animals on the planet. We must save them! And that is why my wife and I are great advocates for protecting endangered animals, and often contribute to such causes. In fact, today, I'm donating three hundred thousand dollars. My whole family loves pandas, and I would do anything, oh yes, anything, to save the pandas. In fact, the other day, my daughter organized a bake sale in her school, selling chocolate cupcakes with panda faces on them... Oh, she's such a talented girl. I..."
Mikan's eyes were glazing over, and she wanted to stuff a panda up his ass. Or maybe just yawn in his face and strut off, but Shina would murder her if that happened, and she would lose her job. With that in mind, Mikan just blinked hard to keep herself from zoning out, and nodded at random intervals to express interest. She had given up on taking notes, but the man didn't seem to notice. Mikan glanced surreptitiously around the room, hoping to see someone she knew so that she could say, "Oh, there's so-and-so! I must simply go and talk to him/her!"
Then she saw him, and Mikan could not believe her eyes. For once in her life, she was actually lucky. She closed her eyes and thanked God, then cut in as politely as she could, "Oh, I'm so sorry! There's Natsume, and I must simply talk to him." She smiled apologetically. "Thank you so much for your time. It has been such a pleasure talking to you." Before the man could say anything else, Mikan bowed her head and quickly made a beeline towards the tall, dark-haired man standing about five metres away from her. He was talking to a woman with so much work done to her face that it looked as though it would break with a single tap. However, nothing could conceal the wrinkles around the corners of her eyes, and the slightly saggy skin on her face. Her hair was dyed red, but the roots were a dirty-grey color, and she was wearing a red Couture Dior gown that was way too young for her. Her makeup looked odd as well- pale, Barbie-pink lipstick sunk into the tiny wrinkles around her mouth and scary smoky eyes that made her look as though she had been punched in both eyes. On the other hand, Natsume looked absolutely breath-taking, in a simple black suit with two buttons unbuttoned, his dark-blue tie undone and hanging around his neck.
"Hey!" Mikan said, relieved to find a familiar face in the sea of intimidating rich people.
Natsume looked blankly at her, and for a terrifying moment she was afraid he would claim that he didn't know her, but the corner of his lips pulled up by about a millimetre.
"Hey, didn't expect to see you here."
"Who's this, my dear?" the woman looked curiously at Mikan, narrowing her eyes critically at Mikan's messy hair which she had tried to salvage (unsuccessfully) by twisting it into a bun, and her sloppy mascara. Mikan felt as though she was an unidentified species, being examined by an alien.
"Well..." Natsume glanced at Mikan, whose heart leaped. What is he going to introduce me as? Her heart thumped.
"An acquaintance," he finished, and Mikan couldn't help the disappointed look that came over her face. Of course, she was just an acquaintance. What was she expecting? She wasn't even his friend. "Mikan Sakura, this is Mrs Miyazaki."
"Oh, well," Mrs Miyazaki said. "Anyway, I've been meaning to introduce you to my granddaughter. You know Riko, don't you?" She continued, as though Mikan was not even there. "She's such a lovely girl, and she's single."
Mikan didn't know what to feel, standing there like an extra while this weird old lady was trying to set Natsume up with her granddaughter. Then Natsume caught her eye, and made such an incredulous face that she had to stifle a giggle.
"Uh, well, I'm afraid I don't know what you mean," he said primly, and Mikan had to hastily convert a snort into a cough.
Mrs Miyazaki's face contorted into a weird shape, and Mikan was honestly quite frightened until she realized that the old lady was trying to raise an eyebrow, but the Botox and whatever junk she had in her face hindered her from doing so. "Well, I'm trying to suggest that you ask her out to dinner, Natsume. She has quite a few suitors, of course, but I want her to have only the best."
"I'm flattered," Natsume said flatly in a tone that indicated he was not the least bit flattered. "But I'm afraid I'll have to reject your kind offer, Mrs Miyazaki."
She pursed her lips. "It's not healthy to keep playing the field, young man. It's the best to settle down, and get married early. It's high time for you to get a serious girlfriend, my dear. Not one of those skanky women you like to hang around with so much."
Mikan noticed that Natsume shuddered at the mere mention of the dreaded M-word. She knew he was a womanizer, but to physically shudder at the mere thought of getting married? She felt a bit numb, but she didn't know why. She stared at her shoes- a pair of black slingback pumps with three-inch heels.
"Actually, I do have one," Natsume murmured. "A serious girlfriend, I mean."
Mikan looked up so quickly she got a crick in her neck, and she had to stifle a groan. He did? Since when? She bit her bottom lip so hard she could almost taste blood, and a sour feeling came over her.
"Don't try and lie to me, Natsume," Mrs Miyazaki chided. "I've known you for years, and have never seen you with a girl for more than two weeks!"
"Well, I do now," Natsume replied, shrugging. "She can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but I think she's cute. She may be weird sometimes, but she's unique that way." Natsume paused, then glanced at Mikan briefly before turning his gaze back onto the lady in front of him. Mikan's heart thumped, and almost leaped out of her throat. What did that glance mean?
"She doesn't like me for my money or my body." Thump.
"She likes me for who I am. Even if I can be a bit of an ass to her sometimes." Badump.
"Oh, she's there," Natsume said casually. "Let me introduce her to you." Mikan heard high heels clicking on the floor, but she did not dare to look up. "This is Luna Koizumi."
Splat. At the moment, Mikan felt as though her heart had fallen onto the ground, exposed for the whole world to see. She looked up, and felt as though a knife was stabbed through her heart, her head. Natsume had his arm around a beautiful strawberry-blonde, and she was leaning against him comfortably, holding an empty champagne flute, her other arm wrapped around his waist, staking claim.
"Hn, I suppose I shall have to let this go, then," Mrs Miyazaki said grudgingly. "You two are a good match. Childhood friends and all that, eh? Never mind then. Do you suppose Ruka Nogi is available? I told you, I simply want the best for my darling Riko."
"No," Mikan heard a shaky voice interrupt, and it took her brain about five seconds to realize that she was the one who had spoken up. She cleared her throat, and in a scratchy voice, she managed to say, "I mean, uh, my friend Hotaru is... um... seeing him. I... think." God, how pathetic was that? She fell silent, and could feel three pairs of eyes penetrating her, and she felt like the biggest fool on Earth.
"I must go mingle with the other guests," Mrs Miyazaki said curtly at last. "I'll see you later, Natsume, Luna."
With that, she walked away and disappeared into the throngs of people. Mikan almost shot out a hand to grab her and scream, "Don't leave me! Don't leave me with these two!" But she had to retain what few shreds of dignity she had left.
"Darling, we must simply go and visit Nobara some time. Did you know she had a baby?" Luna was saying to Natsume, as though Mikan was not even there.
"No, I didn't know that. We should go next weekend, yeah? After we grab some lunch at the usual place?"
Well, obviously, Luna was not just a groupie. She wasn't just one of those girls Natsume screwed and threw to one side. She was something more, she was special. And Mikan was nothing. Standing there, watching the two of them flirt, touching each other like it was the most natural thing on Earth and reminiscing about the past, Mikan realized she had never felt so alone and cold and invisible all her life before.
"Well!" Mikan said in an overly shrill voice that was shaky with nerves and suppressed emotions. "It's good to meet you tonight. I have to go..."
She almost said that she had to go interview some more people, but she realized how pathetic that sounded. Natsume was here with a beautiful, serious girlfriend, and Mikan was here with a notebook and pen, with disheveled hair and makeup. She could just imagine the two talking about her after she went away, talking about how silly she was. She could just imagine Natsume saying, "And she even thought that by 'serious girlfriend', I was referring to her!" And Luna would laugh and slap Natsume on the chest playfully and he would... No, Mikan thought, clutching her notebook so tightly that the edges crumpled slightly.
"My date's over there. I shouldn't keep him waiting." Mikan finished on impulse, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the long, luxurious buffet tables. Her cheeks flamed, and she hoped her hair would conceal her cheeks. She could almost feel her nose growing longer after telling such a ridiculous lie. What date? A date with the chocolate eclairs? She turned and walked away quickly, humiliated.
Oh my God, I just realized that in Chapter 1, the woman Natsume dumped also has the last name Miyazaki. XD It's purely a coincidence!