The Story of Us

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by summer dragonfly

Chapter XVII

"Who's That Girl?"

A/N: It seems that quite a few of you are unhappy with the whole Rika-Being-A-Model concept. Well, tough luck, 'cuz it's

MY fanfic!!! bwahahahahahaha!!!! *ahem* No, seriously, I thought it over and it does lead to a point, so don't worry. ^-^

Not enough Ryo-ness in the last chapter...? Yo'kay. He's back in this one...as well as a few who've been missing...;)

Enjoy.

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Rika shut her eyes tight as a makeup brush skimmed past them. She was in a chair surrounded by at least five people, all

of them either doing hair, makeup, or filing her toenails. It was maddening.

In the midst of it all, she just wanted to pull these people away and scream at the top of her lungs. But then, when

she thought about the purpose of why she was doing this, and that calmed her down, and made her reconsider.

She sighed a heavy one and opened her eyes, looking at herself in the mirror with uncertainty. *This is so not...me.*

Rika had already done a demo shoot just two days ago and had gotten herself accepted without question. Maybe it was because

her mother had been such a famous model that got people to look at her more. Maybe it was her natural beauty? No, it's gotta

be something else.

"Ok, you're all set!" The makeup artist said. "Why so glum? You look beautiful, sweetheart." She smiled at Rika.

"All right then, whenever you're ready, proceed to the cameras."

And with that Rika was left alone with her own doubts. A piercing scream from the door of her dressing room got her

attention. Standing in the door way was...who else?

"Nagisa." Rika said, forcing a smile.

"Rika! You look fabulous! Terrific! Beauti----what's wrong?" Nagisa noticed it instantly.

"Hmm? What do you mean? I feel fine."

"Oh, come on." Nagisa took a seat in the empty chair next to her cousin. "You can't be up for a photo shoot looking like

that! Cheer up!"

"I...I just don't get it, you know? This is all so new to me, and I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to feel about this."

"Don't worry 'bout it!" Nagisa said cheerfully. "This is only your second shoot, you have the right to be nervous."

"It's not nerves, it's something else---like a gut feeling that this isn't right."

"That's 'cause you're RIKA! The rebel! The tomboy!"

"The unconfident." Rika sighed. "What's wrong with me, Nagisa? So many girls dream of this oppurtunity, and yet here I

am, dreading it."

"There's nothing wrong with you. In fact, I was quite surprised that you agreed to this. Although I really wanted you to

be up for this, I had my doubts that you were going to say no. But you coming here really showed me that people are different, Rika, and people can act differently, too, even if that means contradicting themselves. And for you to do

this to make your mother proud, it makes ME proud of YOU, to see you doing something that you don't even like, just for

your mother. Whatever you decide, it's your decision. And I swear I won't bug you about it. Just promise me that you'll

at least give it a shot, hmm?" Nagisa smiled reassuringly and exited the room, closing the door behind her.

*Oh, great, just great. Now I feel guilty.* Because after all, her mom wasn't the only reason she was doing it. Was it

wrong to cling onto the perhaps false hope of Ryo even being alive? *No.* Even though her heart had accepted that crucial

reality a long time ago, her mind and soul believed it wasn't true. And she continued to believe.

Holding her head up high, she left the dressing room, and into the blinding light of the studio.

* * *

Rimie could hardly believe her luck. That cute bartender Ray who she had been crushing on for the longest time finally

asked her out! It was wonderful, no, magical, even. The other waitresses now looked at her with jealousy and contempt,

and she looked back at them with triumph.

Even Chihiro couldn't believe it. Her sister, the deceptive Rimie, had somehow managed to snare the most honest, hard working---and not to mention handsome---guy for miles around. It was a mystery how she had done it.

Ray, on the other hand, found her ambition quite fascinating. He could hardly remember knowing anyone with so much fire

in their eyes. And after all, she was kinda pretty, too...wait a moment. Now and again, he could remember a pair of beautiful

lavender eyes shining at him, something about Rimie was reminiscent of those eyes.

It was a beautiful December day as Christmas loomed ever nearer. It was a mere two days until the big day supposedly full of laughter and joy. In fact, Ray and Rimie were out shopping for last minute presents.

"Oooooooh," Rimie said, peering through the glass at the beautiful clothes in the window on the manequins. "That kimono's

LOVELY!"

Ray refrained from rolling his eyes with immense difficulty. As much as he liked Rimie, he felt that she can be too materialistic at times. As his girlfriend stood trying to eye the price tags on the kimonos, Ray's eyes strayed to a medium

sized poster with a picture of a beautiful girl on it.

He felt his jaw drop.

The model wearing the bright red kimono in the advertisement for Sakura Fashion's latest line was exactly---and he was quite certain of it---the girl in his dreams. He took a leaf out of Rimie's book and pressed his nose flat against the shop window staring at the poster while many people passing by eyed the pair of them most peculiarly.

His eyes darted from left to right of the poster, staring at every detail the photographer could enhance in the model's picture. He stopped and gazed into the pair of marvelous amethyst eyes, unlike any other. He was lost in a trance as he stood there, looking a little strange as he stared with blinking at a piece of paper taped to a window.

"Hello?! Ray, darling? Are you even listening to me?" came Rimie's voice from far away.

Ray snapped out of it. "Huh, what? Oh, Rimie. Yeah?"

"Let's go, the prices are way ridiculous here, I doubt we'll be able to find anything suitable for me---I mean Chihiro, my sweet little sister." Rimie said falsely sweet.

"Wait, hold on a moment." Ray said, and with that he dashed into the store, leaving a very abashed Rimie behind. She chased after him.

"Excuse me," Ray said when he reached the shop counter.

The saleswoman looked up from her magazine, her black framed glasses drooping. "Yes?"

"I was wondering if you could tell me who's in the poster in your shop window."

"Listen, we got lots of posters in that window, mind being a little specific?" The woman said coolly.

"Well...uh..." He raced to the window and tried to see if he could make out the lining and detail of the poster from the other side. He glanced at different angles until he had the right light, and pointed to one on the right of all the others. "This one,"

"And which one might that be?" The woman didn't even get up.

"The one of a girl with long brown hair and a red kimono on," Ray said impatiently. "Sakura Fashions."

"Oh, her!" The woman said in realization. "Yup, a pretty one, that girl. Newest modeling sensation, they say she's got the beauty and charm of her famous mother. Agencies are trying to snatch her up."

"And does she happen to have a name?" Ray said, his temper rising steadily.

"Chill out, she has a name." The woman said, slightly taken aback. "Rika Nonaka, about 23-24. Why?"

"Nothing," said Ray suddenly. "Thanks."

Excitement. Fear. Panic. All of these things were coursing through Ray's mind quickly. Rika Nonaka? Why did that sound so

familiar? He recognized that face immediately, yet drew a blank at the name.

"Rika." he whispered as he was being dragged out of the store by Rimie. The name rolled off his lips softly and sounded oddly

pleasant, like a feeling of warmth and comfort.

This was the girl's name...the name that belonged to the beautiful girl he had seen in his dream for months....but why couldn't he remember? Who was this girl, and what is her connection with him?

Rimie glanced over at her boyfriend. He looked far away and was deep in thought. She began to worry. Why was he so obsessed over that chick on the poster? She pulled on his arm harder. "Hello? Anyone in there?"

"Oh," Ray said in surprise. "Uh, yeah. Sorry about that..."

"So why were you gawking at that girl in the picture, anyway?" Rimie said suspiciously.

"Oh nothing, I just feel like I know her...from somewhere..."

"Where?" Rimie started panicking now, remembering the stories she had heard from her fellow waitresses about him dumping girls because of strange visions.

"I don't remember, really."

But he wanted to. More than anything in the world.

* * *

"Oh, they're gorgeous!" Aunt Miho cried, holding up a large picture of Rika, the same one Ray had seen earlier.

Rika groaned. "They're not that fantastic," she said for what seemed like the millionth time.

It had been a day since she did her demo shoot. Rika was hoping it would take longer for the shots to develope, but to her

exasperation, they had come early. Along with a hearty invitation from the agency to join them as soon as possible.

"Whaddya mean 'not that fantastic'?" Nagisa whipped around from her seat on the sofa, where she was previously watching the evening news. "Face it, Rika-san, you're a beauty queen."

Rika buried her head in her arms and sighed heavily. "I wish everyone'd stop saying that," she said moments after, lifting her head up.

"Why? It's certainly the truth." said Aunt Miho. "Darling, I really think you should consider taking up their offer."

"Not you too!" Rika said, with a tired look in her eyes.

"But it's so obvious!" Nagisa had gotten up and walked over to the table where Rika and Aunt Miho were sitting. "You'd get plenty of exposure, plus the cash is great."

"But---" Rika stopped there. She thought for a moment. Maybe it could get better. She didn't know why she had been so stubborn in the first place. She didn't like it, but something was winning her over.

"Good, you think about it." Nagisa said happily. "You'll see, I'm right."

"But why didn't YOU do it?" Rika asked curiously.

Nagisa shrugged. "Never fancied flashing lights."

"Me neither!" Rika said.

"But it's in your natural blood, Rika." Aunt Miho said gently. "You were born to be beautiful."

Rika smiled sheepishly. "Thanks....but..."

"Well, you DID do a first shoot, and it came back great." Nagisa persisted. "Why not continue?"

Rika wondered how many more she'd have to do before getting out of it. To think of it, she wasn't working now, and it would be a cool job, having people wait on you...

"I'll think about it." Rika said finally.

"That's what I thought." Nagisa said, winking.

"I'm tired." Rika said after some time of staring at the pictures. "I think I'll call it a night."

"Good night, Rika, dear. And don't forget: tomorrow's Christmas Eve." Aunt Miho said, picking up all the photos and putting them back into their envelope.

"I won't, we're going to have lots of fun." Rika grinned and went to her bedroom.

* * *

Meanwhile, at the Airport....

"Hey, you guys, where's Kazu?" said Jeri, clutching her bag and looking around.

"Uh, I think he went to get food." Takato said, also squinting around.

"Again? But we just had dinner on the plane!" Henry said, groaning.

"Ah well, I expect him to turn up soon." Kenta appeared from behind a large suitcase.

"Oh, won't Rika be so excited?" Jeri said, her eyes sparkling. "It'll be such a great surprise?"

"But I guess she had it coming, since she DID give us her aunt's address before she left." Henry said, sitting down on his suitcase.

"But don't forget, my family's here too so we can all crash there." Takato said happily. "We'll go see her tomorrow."

"Oh, I sure hope she's OK." Jeri said anxiously.

"Why would you say that?" the guys turned to look at her.

"Well...it's just...you know..."

"What?"

"This time, three years ago..."

They all looked down. They knew what she meant.

"She's sure to be livelier now," Henry said, standing up.

"Yeah, Henry's right," Kenta said.

"And if she isn't, we'll just have to make her lively!" Takato said reassuringly.

"Ok," Jeri smiled. "Oooh, I see Kazu! And he has A LOT of food!"

And they all rushed to him. Takato stopped and picked up one last bag. Rika was sure to be surprised, hopefully happy. They were doing this for her, after all.

...end of Chapter XVII!