Hello everyone! Wow, it feels like forever since the last time I wrote a story. I have to say, I quite miss doing this and am so glad that I have more time to do so. With this new idea in mind, I have a couple of scenarios planned out and will be trying something different than what I'm used to. Thank you for giving it a try and I look forward to your comments. Please Read and Review!
Disclaimer: I do not own Skip Beat or any of its characters.
It was only the middle of May and the heat was already unbearable. People were bustling down the crowded streets as if their feet were on fire and with the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, it might just be the case.
But she, on the other hand, had always enjoyed the sun. Even now, when every customer chose to bask in the wonderful treat of air conditioning, she chose to sit outside with her face tipped towards the bright yellow rays. Her agency would have scolded her for even trying to darken her beautiful milky skin, but she didn't mind. A little vitamin D never hurt anyone.
And as she began to close her eyes in pure contentment, her cell phone upon the table beeped once. Reaching for the slender device, she flipped it open and giggled. "Then what in the world took you so long?" she asked in a raised voice over her shoulder.
"I walked by a doughnut shop and was debating on whether or not I should indulge," a young blonde answered as she walked up from behind in heels that could easily scare off any woman. "That is, until I remembered the size of my hips." Carrie shuddered. "So, I opted for a Greek yogurt instead."
Kyoko laughed and shook her head. "You know, most girls would kill for a body like yours."
"Then they would probably sell their soul for yours. And will you please take that wig off? You're not fooling anyone."
"Fooled you, didn't I?" Kyoko retorted, moving the large sunglasses to the top of her red head, her amber gaze glistening with amusement.
"No, you didn't," Carrie replied as she pulled out the wicker chair beside her and crossed her long legs. "I knew it was you all along."
"Then why did you walk past this coffee shop four times?"
Carrie pursed her lips. "You saw and didn't call me over?"
"I figured you'd realize eventually."
"Well aren't you sweet?" Carrie said with a roll of her green eyes as she took a sip of Kyoko's latte.
"Oh please, help yourself. I wasn't going to finish that at all."
"Well, what do you know? You really are sweet," Carrie answered with a grin.
Kyoko laughed. "Only to you."
"Oh, I know. What dear ol' Bradley would do to be in my shoes."
Kyoko grimaced and shook her head. "He talked to you?"
She nodded. "I can't believe you turned him down—AGAIN. What is it, like the third movie role you've denied him? I think he's starting to suspect something. He's really not that bad of an actor, you know."
She let out a long sigh and flipped the fake, ruby tresses over her shoulder. "I know. It's not him."
"So it's you?"
Kyoko reached for her cup and took a sip.
"Are you going to tell me what's up or do I need to drag it out of you?" Carrie asked with narrowed eyes. "You've been acting strange."
"Well for one thing, you didn't show up at the agency today. And in the years I've known you, you've never once missed work before."
Kyoko turned her gaze to the busy street, watching the cars inch their way through traffic. It was the typical day in New York City, a place where being late meant being right on time. It was such a crazy place, but she understood the appeal. Life was exciting here. Life was unpredictable here. Life was an escape here.
She sighed. "I got a call today."
Carrie's eyes widened. "When?"
"What did he want?" she asked in a whisper.
Kyoko brought her arm to the table and rested her heated forehead in the palm of her hand. "He wants me to come back—on Friday."
"Friday? As in TOMORROW?"
"Are you going to go?"
"No—yes—maybe—I don't know." Kyoko groaned and ran both of her hands in her hair. "I really don't know."
Carrie sat back against the seat and crossed her arms, turning her eyes towards the street.
"I can think of a million reasons why I should stay," Kyoko continued in barely a murmur, "but at the same time…" she let out a shaky breath.
"You should go."
Kyoko turned back and saw Carrie staring at her. "Why?"
"Because it's your home," she answered in a soft voice.
"So is here."
"New York has never been your home."
"What are you talking about?"
Clasping her hands together upon the table, Carrie raised a delicate eyebrow and said, "You've worked with the same acting agency for almost three years now, Kyoko, and yet you never signed on to be a permanent actress for the company. Why is that?"
Kyoko blinked in surprise at the random, but obviously true statement, and stammered, "I d-d-don't know."
"And all those boxes in your apartment? You never unpacked them. Why not?"
"Well, I do. From the start, you've had one foot here and one foot out the door, Kyoko. Admit it, you never expected to stay."
Guilt coursed through her veins before she could help it. It was true. She never really tried to settle down. Even though she changed her style of clothes, her way of speaking, even her choice of food, she never felt like a "New Yorkian." A part of her, no matter how much she tried not to, had always thought about going back. Even though the problem was still back there, even though her feelings hadn't changed in the slightest, THERE would always be home.
Kyoko lowered her eyes in shame. "Carrie…"
Her friend let out a small smile and patted her hand. "Kyoko, I'm not mad. I'm just trying to help you see."
"That you're homesick."
She shook her head. "I left there for a reason, Carrie."
"And now you're going to go back for a different one."
Kyoko dropped her head in her hands. "It's not that simple," she murmured.
Carrie pressed her lips in a thin line. "Look, I know we both agreed that I will never ask you what happened," she began with raised hands in surrender, "but from where I'm sitting, you're ready to go back and there's really nothing here to stop you."
"It's not here," Kyoko mumbled. "It's there. The problem is still there."
"Is it ever going to go away?"
She shook her head. "At this rate, I don't think it ever will."
"Then what? Are you going to just avoid it forever?"
Kyoko laughed darkly. "I won't say I never considered it."
"That's not the friend I came to love."
Raising her head, she caught Carrie's reassuring gaze and smiled weakly. "Call it a relapse?"
"And to think, I expected more of you," Carrie scoffed, taking another sip of the coffee.
"Now you're really laying on the guilt."
"It's my job. And it's also my job to tell you what to do when you can't think straight. So," Carrie stood up and grabbed Kyoko's cell phone, "you call your boss and tell him to get the ticket ready."
Kyoko rose to her feet and stared at the device in her friend's outstretched hand. She could feel her heart beating straight out of her chest. Her legs shook from sheer anxiety and her head felt like it was filled with cotton. Just thinking about stepping off that plane was enough to get her running again. Just thinking about what she would face nearly made her want to forget again.
But the truth was, she never forgot—not once in the three years she'd been hiding.
Carrie clicked her tongue, pulling Kyoko's wide-eyed gaze back to her face. "So? You going to go or what?"
"Yashiro! Come take a shot with us!"
Cursing his luck for getting caught, he turned around and waved his hand at the group, but continued to take a few steps in the opposite direction. "Thanks guys, but I think I'm done for the night!"
"Aww, come on!"
"Live a little!"
"Don't be such a loser!"
Yashiro smiled nervously and waved once more before swerving his way through the dancing crowd. Damn, he hated parties like these. There was just no way of meeting anyone, let alone having a nice conversation. The music was hammering his brain like a meat cleaver and the amount of people cramped into this one place was sure to be a fire hazard. He really needed to find Ren and get them out of here.
After what felt like an endless maze of gyrating bodies, he walked into the kitchen and to his instant relief found his employer and friend standing at the marbled counter. "Ren!"
Turning to the familiar voice, the young actor raised his head and smiled, easily bringing the women around him to their knees. "Got lost?" he said over the thundering bass.
Yashiro narrowed his eyes and squeezed through the girls before standing beside him. "This is crazy. I can't believe you agreed to come to this."
"Hey, you're the one who said I should get to know my coworkers."
"Yeah well, I didn't think they would invite you to a house party. Honestly, how in the world is this fun? I can barely hear myself think in here!"
Ren chuckled and put his glass down upon the countertop. "Ready to leave?"
"I thought you'd never ask," Yashiro mumbled as he readjusted the leather jacket the guys insisted he wear. The heat in this room was practically gluing the fabric to his skin. What he would do to be back in his regular, cotton suit.
Ren smiled. "Alright, I'll just go tell Kenji we're leaving."
On cue, everyone in the kitchen began to whine, begging Ren to stay for just a few more minutes. But making sure to say his goodbyes to each of them, he slowly made his way through the crowd with Yashiro close in tow.
In truth, Ren didn't like these kinds of gatherings either. He wasn't old enough to say that parties weren't his thing anymore, but he was mature enough to say he preferred his nights a little quieter. So when he was a few feet away from the front door, Ren was grateful to see the host already there. "Thank you for inviting us here, Kenji," Ren said over the chatter as he approached a black-haired man dressed in a casual shirt and jeans.
"Hey no problem, man. Heading out already?"
"Yeah, early day tomorrow."
He clapped a hand on Ren's shoulder and shook his head with a grin. "Man, you look twenty five, but you act like you're forty. Is it so bad to take it easy every once in a while?"
"I didn't get where I am by taking it easy, Kenji," he answered, playfully punching him in the arm.
Kenji laughed. "Playing the 'I'm holier than thou' card, huh? Alright, you win this time Ren, but after my movie hits theaters, that number one title of yours is going to be mine."
"Or mine," a female voice interjected. "You're not the only one in the movie, Kenji."
They both turned around and smiled at the woman in a mini-black dress leaning against the archway. She brushed her auburn hair across her forehead and flashed a devious smile. "That movie would be nothing without me and you know it."
Kenji walked over and wrapped an arm around her bare shoulder. "So touchy, Ryoko. We're co-stars, aren't we? Can't we share the title?"
Laughing, she brushed her fingertips against his cheek before murmuring, "I don't share anything that belongs to me." She then ducked underneath his extended arm and made her way over to Ren. "Leaving so soon?"
"He has an early day tomorrow," Kenji answered from behind.
"And you weren't going to say bye?" Ryoko asked, still keeping her eyes on Ren's.
Ren smiled sheepishly. "We just wanted to make a quick exit."
"So this is all Yashiro's fault?" Ryoko teased as she turned to the bespectacled manager. "Can't he stay a little longer, Yashiro? You can take the car on your own, can't you?"
But before Yashiro could reply, Ren stepped forward and replied, "We both have a busy day tomorrow."
"When do you not, Ren?" But seeing the resolve in his brown eyes, she only laughed and said, "Alright, at least let me walk you out."
Ren smiled and nodded. "I'll see you another time, Kenji?"
"Sure thing, man. You both have a good night."
With Ryoko leading the way, the two men walked out of the booming house and down the cemented slope towards their silver car. Once the vehicle was in sight, Yashiro bade a quick goodbye to Ryoko and unlocked the door to let himself in.
Now alone, she turned around to face Ren and placed a hand upon her hip. "You promised me a full night and this hardly counts as even half."
Ren smiled weakly. "I know. I'll make it up to you."
"Like you've never said that before."
Placing a large hand upon her shoulder, he said with softened eyes, "Things have been a little crazy, Ryoko. I know it's no excuse, but I really do apologize for always rescheduling."
Ryoko narrowed her eyes. "Are you turning on your charm to get out of trouble again?"
"Nothing of the sort," Ren chuckled.
Laughing gently at his teasing reply, she wrapped both arms around his torso and pressed her cheek against his chest. "I miss you, Ren."
"I haven't gone anywhere," he said as he ran a hand down her sleek hair.
"But you seem distant, even more so than usual."
Noticing his pause, she looked up from under her dark lashes and murmured, "You can tell me anything, Ren. I'll understand."
"There's nothing to say."
He took a step back and flashed a tight smile. "You should go back inside, Ryoko. It's getting cold."
"I'll see you tomorrow, alright?"
She sighed. It was his wall again. She'd gotten too close and just like the many times before, Ren put up the same shield to keep her and everyone else out. Sometimes, it infuriated her. Sometimes, it hurt her. And sometimes, Ryoko wondered if there was anyone in the world who could get through to him. She had hoped that after the years they had worked together on set, the ice around him would lessen, but nothing had really changed except for the fact that she had come to feel even stronger for a man who puzzled her the more she got to know him.
Ryoko won't deny her feelings for Ren, but how could they possibly move forward when he wouldn't let her in?
Still, realizing that this wasn't the time to push him, Ryoko could only smile back at his tense expression and nod. "Tomorrow it is," she murmured.
Relaxed now, Ren touched her head one last time before turning away and walking towards his car. Yashiro rolled up the window as soon as he climbed in behind the wheel. But just as Ren reached for the keys in the ignition, Yashiro added in a soft voice, "She's right you know."
"You do seem more distant, especially today."
Ren shook his head and started the engine. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Yashiro glared. "Ren, do you realize who you're talking to? I'm not Ryoko." He let out an exasperated sigh and closed his eyes. "I know what today is."
The tension in the room couldn't have gotten any thicker. The only sound was the low rumble of the car, but the deathly silence between the two men made it hard to take in a single breath. Yashiro should have backed off, he should have left the matter alone, but he was done with giving Ren his space.
Ever since that day, Ren had changed. He became someone darker, colder, and what was worse, unmoving. Always in control, always composed, always unfeeling, Ren was now another man entirely. It pained Yashiro to watch, but even so, he understood why. In fact, he understood so well that out of respect for Ren, Yashiro decided to play along with his façade by refusing to say her name, by avoiding the topic, and by acting as if she had never existed.
But it was days like these that made it all too clear she did.
Ren's hands were clenched tightly around the steering wheel until his knuckles turned stark white. Anger bubbled up to the surface, frustration poured through his body, but worse of all, his hold on control was slipping.
Not here. Not now. Not like this.
"Ren, I know it's hard," Yashiro said gently.
"I don't want to hear this."
"But you have to! It's been three years, Ren! Don't you think it's time we talk about this? Even Ky—!"
Ren whipped his hand into his trouser pocket and pulled the phone to his ear. The distraction couldn't come at a better time. He didn't want to think about what would have happened if Yashiro continued on. Although he knew Yashiro meant well, Ren had only so much patience. So breathing in deeply through his nose, he said in steady voice, "Hello?"
"Oh good, you aren't asleep yet," a deep voice answered.
"Is something wrong, President Lory sir?" Ren asked, somewhat taken aback by the caller.
Yashiro raised his eyebrow in surprise. It was pretty late for Ren to be getting a call from the agency, let alone one directly from the head honcho himself.
President Lory chuckled. "Always on the defense, aren't you? No, nothing's wrong. I just wanted to ask you for a favor."
"A favor?" Ren repeated. "What kind of favor?"
"How busy are you tomorrow?" he asked instead.
Furrowing his eyebrows, Ren replied, "The usual, I suppose. Why?"
"Well, I was hoping you could pick up something important for me. I'm a little busy myself and am unable to make the trip."
Ren turned to Yashiro whose confused expression mirrored his own. But giving his head a shake, Ren said into the receiver, "Of course sir, where would you like me to go?"