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Author Topic: Love x 2 (the entire series) [easy navigation on 1st page] Complete  (Read 44432 times)

Offline OTN1

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I started this story in December, 2005, and I have continued it up until just recently.  Since many of my stories are continuations of this world, I want to post them all together in one thread in the order they were written.  Also, some people can't access the forum where most of them were originally posted, and they're clean enough to be here in this fanfic section.  I've gone through the entire thing and done some re-editing.

Without any further ado, I present the epic (i.e. way too long) series known as Love x 2, starring Aya and Miki, and with lots of help from Shiba-chan.

For easier navigation:
Love x 2 (Story 1)
Love x 2 (Story 2)
Love x 2 (Story 3)
Love x 2 - 1 (Story 4)
Love x 2 = ∞ (Story 5)
My Own Private Funeral (Story 6)
What Needed to be Done (Story 7)
Friday's Children are Full of Woe (Prequel.  Story 8)
Past the Barrier and to the Left (Prequel 2.  Story 9)
Why (Friday's Children are Certainly Full of Woe) (Alternate story.  Story 10)
Why II (Friday's Children are Certainly Full of Woe) (Alternate story.  Story 11)
Restart (Love x ∞ Part II)  (Final story.  Story 12)
...

A Brief Interlude: Requiem for Three (ridiculous parody written to demonstrate my "cruel and morbid" nature)

Love x 2
story 1


Chapter 1 of 3

Saturday, June 25, 2005.
Kobe, Japan


At last, we finish the concert.  I'm laughing so hard the whole time because I'm in such shock.  All these surprises just happened.  Most of them weren't in the script.  My reactions have all been very, very real throughout the night. 

I thank everyone a million times.  I really do love them all.  We shuffle off the stage to the tune of the latest shuffle single and are immediately surrounded by the backstage staff.

I have my own change room, which is nice.  The other girls are divided two per room, but since we're an uneven number, it makes sense to let the top soloist be alone.  After the immediate post-concert gathering, where we eat my birthday cake and chat with the staff for a few minutes, we walk back into the bowels of the theatre to go and change.

My change room is the last one, right at the back of the building.  As we walk down the hallway, the girls, pair by pair, peel off from the group and enter their rooms after hugs and more happy birthday wishes.

Finally, it's Aibon and Nono's time to leave.  They always make me laugh, those two.  They sing me a silly song they've composed for me, and they threaten that when I turn thirty, they'll make a full orchestral version.  I laugh, hugging them both hard and telling them I'll see them soon for the ride back to the hotel.

I'm on my own now, just like I usually am onstage.  Humming "All For One," I round the corner and blink.  At the far end of the hallway, just outside the door to my change room, there is someone standing there.  His (or at least I think it is a guy) back is turned to me so I can't tell who he is.  He's wearing more clothes than someone should be wearing in this summer's heat. 

I sigh inside.  All I want to do is change out of this sweaty clothing, wash my face, and go out for dinner with the girls.  Maybe I don't even want to go out.  I'm tempted to go back to my hotel room and just sleep until we have to wake up for breakfast.  As much as I love to chat with people, it's difficult dealing with complete strangers when you're sweaty and exhausted. 

I walk slowly to my change room, trying not to make any noise.  It's inevitable, however, that he hears me, and shifts, starting to turn around.  As I get closer, I realise he isn't a he.  It's a girl standing there.  I scrunch up my face in a frown and wonder who it is.  With her long hair dyed brown, it could be almost anyone.  I get closer as she turns around, and as if I haven't had enough shocks for one night, I receive another one.

"Heeee…?"  I stop in my tracks and jerk back in surprise.

"Hi," the girl says, smiling.  I look behind me and then all around.  We're the only ones there.

"Wh- what are you doing here?  Are you here to see me?" I stutter in shock.

What is Miki doing in Kobe??  Isn't she busy elsewhere (elsewhere being way more north than here)?

"Yeah, I dropped by to see you," she says simply.

"'Dropped by'?  Miki, where did you come from?  Tokyo?  Further?"

"Er, Tokyo..." she says a little nervously.  I just stare at her.  "I wanted to wish you a happy birthday..." she says shyly.

I can't help it, and my defence mechanism starts up.  I laugh.  She knows that I do this when I'm shocked, so she looks amused.

"Miki, that's really sweet, but you could've just mailed me.  Or called," I laugh, a dorky smile on my face.

I finally walk up a little closer and hit her gently on the arm.  She looks embarrassed and she looks down at the floor.

"But that's what I did the last few times for your birthday since we were both working.  It gets monotonous, Aya," she murmurs.

I smile and take her hands and pull her to me.

"You are the best friend I could ever hope to have," I say.

She looks up at me and laughs gleefully.

"So, happy birthday, Aya-chan," she says, and she shakes my hands off of hers, giving me a big hug. 

This is a secret I've never told anybody, but Miki's hugs make me feel good.  Frighteningly good.  I feel happy and warm and even a little safe when she hugs me.  My body always tingles, but I try not to pay attention to this.  I don't really want to understand why it happens.

I hug her back tightly and enjoy these feelings that run through me.  I think Miki makes me too giddy.  I feel so out of control when she's around.  She finally lets go and I'm somewhat disappointed that it has to end.

"How about we go inside," I say, pointing to my change room.  "As much as I love the hallway, I need to get changed and sit down." 

Miki smiles and nods, and we enter the room.  I take a step back and look at her, remembering she's wearing strange clothes.

"Miki, you look like a boy," I say, brushing a stray piece of bangs out of her eyes.  I have this uncontrollable habit of doing that to her.

"Oh... I just wore this to blend in," she says, not making eye contact.

"Blend in?  What did you do... go to the concert?" I ask, expecting her to laugh and say 'no.'

She looks at me embarrassedly and looks back down, her cheeks slightly red.  I laugh and impulsively hug her tightly.

"You did!" I squeal.  "Why?!"

I let go of her and she stumbles backwards slightly.

"Because, um, I don't know.  It's a special day."

I shake my head in disbelief.

"I can't believe you came and sat in the audience. You could've just said something to me and come and watched it from backstage."

"But I wanted to see it from the front.  I wanted to experience what you said to the fans..." she trails off. 
Interesting.  I look at her slyly.

"How was it?" 

"It was amazing," she gushes with a dumb grin on her face.

I'm surprised at first and then I laugh heartily.

"What was your favourite part?"

She gets all quiet and doesn't answer.

"'Nikutai wa shoujiki na eros'?" I tease her.  She flushes slightly and shakes her head.

"But that was pretty sexy, Aya-chan.  Didn't know you had it in you," she bites back.

I roll my eyes at her.

"You know I'm damned sexy.  Don't deny it," I retort. 

She giggles (which I find so cute) and pats my cheek.  She puts her face right up to mine so that our noses are touching and I scrunch mine up.

"Of course you are," she says.

It's supposed to be said jokingly, I think, but it comes out sounding a little serious.  I'm glad because sometimes I wonder if I can pull off sexy.  If she really thinks so, then I think I've managed to pull it off. She's a good judge of such things. 

It's then that I become aware of her proximity, and my stomach does a strange flop.  I bump her nose with mine and pull away quickly before I do anything weird.

"But really... what was your favourite part?  Your favourite song?" I prod, hoping that staying on topic will make me forget that strange feeling in my tummy.

She hesitates, but she finally says, "Your performance of 'zutto suki de ii desu ka.'  That's my favourite song of yours..." she trails off.  She sounds so serious.

"Thank you," I smile, blushing and looking down.  "That performance meant a lot to me."

"Me too," Miki says quickly, and then she looks like she wishes she hadn't said that. "Um..." she starts again, "because it's a touching song, and... it's always nice to see your best friend sing something so deep." 

"Thank you.  Very much.  I'm glad that you could hear it today, too," I say without even thinking.

Oops.  Did I just say that?  It guess it's not that big a deal.  She probably won't even notice.  She looks up at me like a little puppy dog.

"Really?"

"Of course," I shrug, trying to downplay it a little.

She smiles at me and it's so cute that I want to do something, but I don't know what. 

This happens a lot, especially lately.  I just want to do stuff.  I want to show her how much I love it when she does all these cute things that only I am privy to seeing.

I settle for a grin.  I'm about to try and find something to say when she suddenly speaks.

"I wish I could've been onstage with you... and I wish I could've sung for you, too.  I wish I could've sung with you.  And, uh, I just want you to know that you looked beautiful up there.  Absolutely gorgeous and cute and mature..." she trails off.

Something's up with her.  She's not usually this weird.  Nevertheless, I take her compliments to heart and smile even more.  My face hurts from smiling so much today.  I lift her chin and make her look at me.

"Thank you, Miki," I say seriously.  "I wish you could've been onstage with me, too.  That would've made the perfect birthday gift." 

She smiles and reaches into her pocket.  She pulls out a paper and hands it to me.  I open it up curiously.  Scrawled at the top is, "Dear Aya" and a little red heart beside my name.  I read the sheet of paper.

No way.

"Tomorrow?!" is the first thing I blurt out.

Miki laughs at me and nods enthusiastically.

"Are you nuts?!  Are you joking?  Are you on drugs?  Do you even have time?  Where'd you get the money?!"

I can't believe it... This girl is insane.  I never thought she'd actually do it.  I once told her a long long time ago that I wanted to go to the most expensive hot springs in Hakone.  A fairly good deal costs over fifty-thousand yen for one night.  This crazy girl (who I think I'm in love with now) just went and booked us both two nights and two days at this place. That's hundreds of thousands of yen.  I know we get paid nicely, but can she really afford to throw that all away?

The paper is a printout of the confirmation.  I guess she has booked and paid already.  But my god, I can't believe her.  I really can't believe her.  I'm absolutely speechless.  I stare at her with the paper in my hand.  She takes it back from me, pulls out a pen from her pocket, and scribbles something on the paper.  She hands it back to me and I look at it.  "Surprise," it reads.  It has a little heart drawn around it. 

An incredibly mushy feeling comes over me.  I want to hug her. I want to kiss her.  I want to throw myself at her and tell her I'll do anything for her.  It's not because of the price and the rarity of the gift, but because of her kind heart.  Her thoughtful sentiments.  Her caring attitude towards me.  She treats me better than I deserve. 

I can't control myself, and I do throw myself at her.  I grab her in a tight hug, kiss her cheek, and then squeal happily.  She laughs and tries to hug me back, but we're way off balance, so she just stumbles around and tries to steady herself.  It must look funny to an outside observer.  I let go and look at her and she grins and I hug her again.  She goes "oof!" as she doesn't expect the second hug, and I continue to giggle madly.  I calm down eventually.

"You didn't have to do this, you know.  You didn't have to give me anything.  Especially something so huge," I murmur into her shoulder.

I feel her shrug, and her hands climb up my back as she has found her balance and can now hug me back.

"I wanted to," she replies.

I pull back again and she hesitantly lets go.  I find that hesitation very sweet.

"I didn't know what to get you anyway, so I figured I may as well go with what you said you wanted."

"The fact that you came to visit me just now is the best birthday present you could ever give me, you know that?" I ask. 

I smile and I suddenly feel so shy.  I can usually control myself when I want to say something weird like that, because it sounds a little scary.  Maybe she'll get freaked out.  This time it just slips out.  I don't think she minds, though, because she looks happy and she blushes.  So cute.

"I'm sorry I couldn't come earlier.  Work," she rolls her eyes.

"Idiot," I say, hitting her.  "You're here now.  That's all that matter...s..." I trail off because this is starting to get really mushy.

What the...?

Sometimes I have these thoughts.  Thoughts about Miki... and me.  It's probably just me being silly, right?  I imagine us in situations or, if you like, different scenarios.  We usually have lots of fun in my imagination.  Sometimes, though, it's really serious, and I say things to her I'd never say in real life, no matter how good friends we are.  Sometimes I catch myself thinking about her in a... different way.  Not as my best friend, but the other kind of bf.  My boyfriend.  Which is strange, 'cause she's such a girl with me.  Sometimes I tell her, "If you were a guy, I'd so be all over you."  Sometimes - and this is something I don't even admit to myself very often - sometimes I wonder why I can't be all over her even if she isn't a guy.

Ugg.

"Well, I'm glad I could come and watch.  Nothing could've made me happier," is Miki's reply.

We sound like two year olds.  What the hell is wrong with us?

There's an awkward silence where we both look at the floor.  I suddenly become aware that my face is very hot, and that I'm still sweaty from the concert.  I clear my throat.

"I guess I should get changed," I laugh nervously.

She laughs along and agrees.  I head to the sink in the corner of the room and I clean my face quickly, re-applying my make up, although not in massive theatre quantities.  Miki takes a seat on the couch on the other side of the room.  I look at her out of the corner of my eye, and she's staring at everything in the room but me.  At one point she's staring at a pillow intently, and I just want to burst out laughing and go and pinch her cheeks.  I don't, though, because then it would be obvious that I'm watching her. 

I grab various clothes from hangers and the counter top.  I hesitate for a minute.  I don't know why.  We take baths together, for heaven's sake.... but for some reason, changing alone in full view of Miki makes me feel very strange.  Very embarrassed.  I look away and change my clothing as quickly as possible.  I run a brush through my hair and figure I'll just leave it down.  It can wait for a shower.  I don't smell that bad. 

I finally turn back to Miki, and I catch her looking at me innocently.  She looks away quickly and then looks back.  I smile and her and she smiles back guiltily. 

This is crazy.  What's going on here?

I walk over to the couch and sit beside her.

"So, want to go out somewhere?" I ask.

She looks at me nervously.

"I don't have much money on me, actually..." she admits.

I laugh and put a hand on her thigh.

"Don't worry about money.  I brought a lot in case I did go out."

She blushes and looks even guiltier.

"I couldn't-" she starts, but I lift my hand and slap her leg to shush her up.

"Don't you dare start with that.  And don't you dare not stay in my hotel room tonight.  I know you don't know anyone in Kobe to stay with.  Now come on, where do you want to go?" I ask, getting up and tugging at her hand.

She gets up and laughs in my face.

"You're the birthday girl.  You tell me."  I stop and think for a minute.  "Aren't you going out with the girls anyway?" she pipes up while I'm in mid-thought.

"We thought we might, but I just want to spend my time with you," I say honestly.  Oh my god.  Stop saying embarrassingly corny things, Aya.  "I mean, I just spent the whole day with them.  I'm sure they're sick of me..." I quickly cover up.

"Sick of you? Hah.  As if," Miki mutters.

I grin and I let go of her hand (which I didn't realise I was still holding) and gather my things.

"We can just drop our stuff off at the hotel, and I'll tell them I have other plans."

She nods.  I guess it sounds like a good plan to her. 

We quickly leave my change room as she tells me about her day and the silly recording she did with Takahashi and Yoshizawa for some TV show.  I get a little jealous of them sometimes because they get to spend so much time with Miki, but such is life.  Oh well.  It makes my time with her even more special. 

Ugg.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2007, 12:46:30 PM by OTN1 »

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2007, 10:10:48 AM »
Chapter 2 of 3

We get to the back entrance of the theatre and there's a van waiting there to take us back to the hotel.  All the other girls are already seated and waiting.  I laugh and run into the van with Miki.  All of the Melons look surprised to see her there, but Nono and Aibon just grin and wink at Miki.  She grins back.  I stare between them suspiciously.

"You two knew she was coming to visit and you didn't tell me?" I accuse them.

They giggle.

"But isn't it better as a surprise?" Aibon cackles.

I roll my eyes and hit the two on their heads and laugh.

"You two are really something else, you know that?  I love you both," I say.

"I guess this means birthday celebrations with us are off," Hitomi says with a grin.

I feel guilty all of a sudden.

"Yeah, leave the two lovebirds alone," Masae teases us.

I think I probably turn bright red at that comment, but I try not to let it bother me.

"I never said anything like that," I defend myself.  I roll my eyes for effect

"Nah, it's ok.  I'm actually exhausted.  I don't think you could drag me out for any more fun," Hitomi laughs.

Ayumi yawns and rests her head on Megumi's shoulder.  I study them all and they really do look beat.

"Well, I'm not asking you to stay in your hotel rooms.  If you want to go out with us, come along," I say.

I look over at Miki and she looks a little confused at all this.  Frankly, I'm a little confused, too.  Why am I suddenly inviting all the girls out when I said I'd tell them I have other plans?

They have a silent powwow and they decide that rest is probably the best thing right now.  I sigh inwardly in relief.  I look over at the top two.  Aibon looks up at me sweetly.

"Will you be eating cakes and sweets?" she asks.

I look at Miki and we shrug at each other.

"We'll probably just have some dinner.  Maybe go for coffee," I say.

Aibon sticks her tongue out.

"Then forget it.  Nono and I are gonna order room service and eat the best sweets Kobe has to offer us."

I roll my eyes.

"Don't overdo it, guys.  Remember last week?"

I see Nono visibly shudder at the memory of the two gorging themselves on so much candy that they couldn't fit into their costumes the next day because their stomachs were bloated.  Miki snickers at this and they glare at her. 

We pass the rest of the ride in silence.  Everybody seems to fall sleep.  It's been a long day for us, and it was a very emotionally charged performance.  In a good way, of course.  I doze off on Miki's shoulder and I wake up to the sound of the van stopping.  I move my head to look up.  Miki's eyes are closed, but I don't know if she's asleep or not.  She opens her eyes slowly, leading me to believe she did fall asleep, and we share a smile. 

We exit the van and head into the hotel.  I say my goodbyes to the girls, they repeat the whole well wishes thing, and this time Nono and Aibon sing a harmonised version of their special, silly birthday song.  Miki looks entertained, which is always a good thing. 

Finally, we're in my room.  We drop our bags on the floor and I fall back on the bed while Miki takes a seat at the desk.

"Hey, if you want to just stay in, that's fine with me.  You must be exhausted," she says quietly.

I roll up.

"Nonsense.  You came all the way to Kobe.  You are not leaving without going out and having some fun."

"But I came here to see you.  I am having fun," she says even more quietly.

I don't really know what to say to that, so I just smile and pretend it's a normal thing for her to be saying.  I get up and grab Miki's knapsack and throw it at her.

"Come on.  Get changed.  Let's go."

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" Miki asks, glaring at me.

I know she has the full intention to change, but she's being stubborn because she just gets like that when I "boss her around."

"You look like a boy," I roll my eyes at her.  "I'm not going out with no boy tonight.  This is a girl's night out."

Miki laughs, defeated by me, and opens her bag.  She quickly changes her shirt but leaves the jeans on.  She's so hot that she can pull the look off perfectly. Carpenter jeans and a tight tank top, with those amazing shoulders and beautiful skin and... and why am I thinking like this?  I scare myself back to reality and I run a hand through my hair, trying to calm my overactive nerves.

"Okay, now that we're dressed decently," I look at her pointedly, "let's go." 

We leave the room hand in hand and we literally skip down the hallway.  In the elevator, we decide that a hearty dinner of meat is in order, so I suggest a place that I know.  I've been to Kobe a few times before, so I'm a little familiar with the area.  I'm able to lead us to a decent restaurant that will serve us meat, rice, and vegetables to our hearts' content.  It's unfortunate that not all cravings can be satisfied so simply.

The meal is good as far as meals go.  We sit in a cosy corner and chat about this or that.  It's what we always do.  It's nice to be able to fall into that comfortable, familiar groove with her where even my strange feelings of wanting to do strange things have no effect.

Once we've had enough, I pay the bill, after which Miki thanks me gratefully like some starving child who eats once a week.  I tell her to be quiet.  Of course, I always shoot her down with a big smile so that she knows I'm not serious.  It's unnecessary, though, because I'm fairly certain she already knows I only kid.  She's demonstrated on many an occasion that she can read me fairly well.  I just hope she can't read me that well when I think things that I wouldn't even think I thought…

We go out into the dark streets and wonder as we wander.  We don't know what to do.  Miki says she'd suggest karaoke, but that I've been singing all afternoon.  I agree with her that being locked up in a stuffy room is the last thing I want.  As much as I love to sing, I also like to breathe air.  We settle for wandering around the city.  The air is a bit nicer down here.  Unbearably hot, but it's real, fresh air.  I grab her hand and swing it playfully as we walk in the dark, listening to the sounds of Osaka Bay at night. 

I wonder when the last time I went out like this was.  Probably with Miki.  We do everything together, it seems.  Sometimes we even have week-long sleepovers depending on where our work takes us.  We both live near different studios, so sometimes it's more convenient for me to stay at her place (and vice versa) when we have early starts.  Our sleepovers are always fun, but lately, perhaps within the past few months, they've been awkward for me.  They've been awkward because I can't stop thinking about Miki.

I hate admitting it because it's plain weird.  Who thinks about her best friend all the time?  Who changes her schedule so it works out with said friend?  Who gets all tingly and excited when said friend so much as looks at her?

Ugg.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2007, 10:13:13 AM »
Chapter 3 of 3

We get lost because I'm so distracted by my thoughts.  This ends in us tugging at each other in opposite directions, demanding that we each know the way back.  I finally win the battle.  Of course I'm right. 

We decide to head back to the hotel.  It's getting late and we do have to get up early tomorrow to get back to Tokyo.

"You know," Miki says as we reach the front entrance of the hotel, "we didn't do much partying tonight."

"Well, we went out for a good dinner..." I point out.

"Yeah, but we didn't drink or sing or... I don't know.  Party stuff."

"I'm not old enough to drink," I scold her.

"Didn't stop you those other times," Miki says slyly to me. 

"That's because we weren't out.  We were at somebody's place."

Miki rolls her eyes at me and I just ignore her playfully.  She tugs at my hand.

"So what now?  Sleep?"

"I could go for a bath," I say, yawning suddenly and letting go of her hand to stretch my arms in front of me.  "Get into bed, watch some TV, maybe order room service and eat sweets like Tsuji and Kago are doing right now..."

I'm kidding about that last part, but I have to admit that those two girls sure know to live the good life. 

"Is it really ok for me to stay with you tonight?" Miki asks suddenly. "I figure you need some down time.  Er, alone time.  That concert must've taken a lot out of you.  You probably don't want to hear people talking or even moving around you."

I screw up my face and look at her weirdly. 

"Sure I don't want to hear just anyone talking or moving.  But I want to hear you talking and moving.  Of course I don't mind.  I'd be lonely on my own..."

She smiles and squeezes my hand, and I make a New Year's resolution half a year early to stop saying cheesy things.

We reach my room again and Miki watches TV while I run a bath, going all out with the hot water and the soapy bubbles.  Sometimes I love UFA and its generosity.  Without them, I wouldn't be staying overnight at a five star hotel in Kobe at no cost.

"Bath time!" I announce cheerily, and I start to strip, this time feeling no embarrassment.  Nothing can keep me from wanting to jump into the most appealing bath I have seen in ages.

"You can go first," she says distractedly, eyes glued to the television set.

I frown.  I thought we'd take a bath together.  That way it's not boring.  It's always nice to have someone to chat with.  I stalk over to her and grab her by the shoulders, pulling her up and dragging her towards the bathroom.

"Let's go," I say, and she stumbles along with me.

I close the bathroom door and continue to strip.  She rolls her eyes and strips as well. 

That's when I suddenly feel very shy and flushed. 

We quickly wash ourselves up and then slip into the bath.  It's nice and soapy so bubbles drown our heads as we giggle and splash water at each other.  For a moment, I forget all the wild things going through my head and I sigh and close my eyes, resting my head back.  If only life could be this ? dinner, walks, baths, concerts once in a while...

When I open my eyes again, Miki's staring at me, but this time not innocently.  There's something different in her eyes.  She swallows and looks away after a delayed second.

"What?" I ask, my voice cracking.

She shakes her head and stays quiet, but then changes her mind.

"You just look so peaceful."

I'm pretty sure that's not what she was thinking.  Or is it that I hope it's not what she was thinking?

"Do you like watching me sleep?" I tease her jokingly, trying to relieve this pressure that's building in my head.  It feels like we're in a plane that has just taken off.  Can't stop it, can't speed it up...

I don't think she's actually going to respond to my question until she nods her head.  I blink and blush, lowering my shoulders and neck deeper into the water.

"You do?  When?" I quiz her.

She looks frightened now.  I want to tell her it's okay and that I'm not creeped out, but I decide to let her sweat it out a bit because I've been sweating about it all evening.

"Just... uh, sometimes when I can't sleep.  Or... uh, when I wake up before you when we're sleeping over at each other's places," she mumbles quickly.  "When I see you sleeping, it calms me down a bit if I watch you."

I nod pensively.

"Mmhmm.  I see.  Interesting," I say in a methodical way.

It's the completely wrong thing to say, but I don't know what else to do.  I think I shoot her some sort of strange look, because she hits the water angrily.

"Don't give me that look," she growls at me.

I frown.

"What look?" I ask, clueless.

"That look," she repeats.  "The look where I've just said something weird and you try to pretend its normal.  That condescending look." 

But I didn't think I...  Oh dear.

"Miki, I don't think you're weird..." I mumble in disbelief.

"Then why do you do that?"

It must be either the summer heat or the intensity of this whole evening that gets to me because I snap back angrily.

"I don't know.  How am I supposed to reply to something like that?  I don't exactly have a repertoire of stock phrases in my head.  Don't blame me when you say abnormal things I have no answer for."

I take a breath and immediately regret saying that.  It's completely not how I feel.

It's too late, however.  Miki stands up angrily and walks out of the bathroom, draping a towel around her body carelessly.  I grit my teeth in frustration.  This is not exactly the best start to my nineteenth year of life.  I hear her getting dressed and zipping up her bag. 

I get out of the bath quickly and wrap a towel around myself, running out of the bathroom and after her.  She's halfway to the door when I grab her bag and pull her back.

"Where are you going?" I demand.

"I'll find some other place to stay," she mutters angrily.

I'm about to yell at her and then I suddenly lose all my anger.  I let go of her bag and look down.

"Fine, just go," I mumble in a tired, sad voice.

I can sense that she hesitates for a moment.  She doesn't move.  I look up and she's staring at me, looking worse than I feel.

"I..." she starts.

"Do you always have to react like that when you don't like something?" I ask her straight out.  "Is it possible to wait a few minutes and get an explanation for something you might be misinterpreting?"

"I'm sorry," she whispers like it hurts her to say it.  I shrug.  "But I'm sorry for saying all that stuff in the first place.  It was weird."

I shake my head.

"No, it wasn't.  Why do you think so?"

"Because it just is.  I mean, come on.  Staring at you while you sleep?  Don't tell me that doesn't creep you out," Miki deadpans.

"Should it?"  I ask.  "It's you.  Not some creep."

"Yeah, but..." and she doesn't know how to finish that sentence.

I wait expectantly for her to finish, but she doesn't.  She drops her bag on the floor, looking annoyed, and looks me in the eye.

"What did you mean by your answer, then?"

The truth is, I don't even know.

"Just that... Well, it's a surprising thing to hear.  I don't mind, Miki.  It's nice and not weird to me at all..." I trail off.

I don't really know what's happening until I'm suddenly being hugged gently.  I twitch slightly and calm down when I realise it's just her.  I hug back tentatively, and my towel starts to drop.  Oops.  I reach down for it quickly and wrap myself up again, blushing furiously.  Miki laughs at me, her cheeks tinged pink. 

"I didn't mean to get angry, but sometimes you can be really frustrating," Miki says honestly.

"...I know."

She's the only person I'd ever admit that to.   I continue.

"But you know better than to get all fiery when I say something questionable."

She sighs.

"It's my nature."

We both roll our eyes at that.  We both know she uses that excuse all the time for being hot headed.  I smile forgivingly at her, and she smiles forgivingly at me, and wordlessly, we apologise and forgive.  She playfully pushes my shoulder.  My bare shoulder.  I giggle and push her back.  She pokes me in the side and I shriek and jump back.  I hit her arm, and she's poking at me more.  She cackles like a crazy teenager and full out attacks me.  I jump back and fall on the bed, and she's suddenly on top of me and we're grappling.  I don't even think what this could lead to.  I'm too busy trying to keep her hands off of me since I'm horribly ticklish. 

She has the advantage of gravity, though, so I fail miserably, and she's able to reach my stomach and sides and tickle me while I screech with laughter.  I squirm about, and by some miracle, my towel doesn't come off completely.  Tears start to run down my cheeks because I'm laughing so hard, and I'm sure that any minute, our fellow hotel customers are going to come barging into the room to tell us to shut up.

Miki stops abruptly.  I catch my breath and wipe at my eyes.  A change comes over her face.  She no longer has that wild, let's-attack-Aya-today look.  Instead, she has a kind face.  A gentle face.  She looks at me almost tenderly, like maybe she's proud of me for my performance this evening.  I look back up at her as she studies my face.

"Well... Anyway... Happy birthday," she smiles softly at me.

I turn my head and check the alarm clock on the small bedside table.  It's already past one o'clock.  I stick my tongue out at her.

"It's already the twenty-sixth.  It's not my birthday anymore," I say mischievously.

She smiles a bigger smile.

"Okay.  Happy start of the first full day you'll be nineteen years old," she says in one breath.

I smile shyly.

"Thanks."

She looks down at me some more and then spontaneously, gently kisses my lips.  It's brief, like a whisper of air.  Barely there.  It's a friendly gesture, I'm sure.  She looks back down at me.  I smile at her, probably a little nervously.  It's suddenly very hot, despite the air conditioning.

I stop smiling slowly as I'm filled with these weird thoughts again.  These weird urges.  Her smile slowly drops from her face and she stares at me, her mouth slightly open.  She bends down again and kisses me again.  A dry kiss.  Quick, like the last one.  Maybe it's a test.  I don't say anything and I stare back at her.  It's like a face off.  A game of chicken.  Who will get grossed out first? 

I'm suddenly very aware of her entire body pressed into mine.  She licks her lips ever so slightly.  She bends down again and this time kisses me for more than one second.  It's a more real kiss.  It's not the kind of kiss you give to your friend.  It's definitely not dry.  She pulls back after a few seconds and studies my face again, looking for reaction. 

My heart is now pounding like mad.  What are we doing?  Are we just playing around?  Or is this for real? 

She shifts slightly on top of me.  Oh, this is definitely real.  She continues to look down at me.  I think she's waiting for some sign to continue.  Waiting for me to continue.  I pause.  Do I want to take that step and twist our friendship into something else?  Isn't it already something else?  We just haven't gone through the motions yet...

I wrap my arms around her back, clasping my hands at her lower back, and pull her into me.  My lips seek hers again, and this time we kiss hungrily, as if years of sexual tension are being released suddenly.  I pull her in tightly to me as I learn just how good a kisser she is.

She's good.

My mind becomes a blur.  Any thoughts of this being wrong, gross, or a game disappear from my mind as I pull her in tightly to me, my hands going up under her shirt and grasping at her bare back.  Her hands ride up my torso and she's suddenly undoing the towel from around me.  It comes off partially, and I flush with embarrassment, but I don't stop her.  I'm enjoying it.  She touches me in a few ways that maybe she's touched me before, but not with the same intentions.  Well, maybe she did have those intentions, but it just didn't have the same outcome as it's having now.  They were "accidental" after all.  And now it's prolonged... ongoing...

My body is melting. 

My mind is also melting, but it suddenly begins to spin with thoughts again.  Why am I doing this?  Why am I here?  Why am I messing around with my best friend on a bed in a hotel in Kobe after a concert while wearing nothing but a towel? 

Why am I enjoying it?

She breaks away from my lips and kisses my neck, and I think I just about faint as her hands touch me in all the right places, moving swiftly and, it almost seems, learnedly.  I wonder if she's done this before.  With a girl. 

We share a lot of things and we claim to have no secrets between us, but sometimes things can be conveniently "forgotten" or "just not mentioned" because they are "not that important."  For example, we obviously both have felt the need to do what we are doing now, yet neither one of us ever brought it up.  At least not in a serious way or in anything beyond teasing hints. 

She kisses down my neck lower and lower, and suddenly she reaches my chest.  She seems to hesitate for a brief moment, and I wonder if she's going to stop out of awkwardness.

No, she doesn't stop.  She continues, and I'm almost convinced she has to have done this before since, well, guys don't got what I got.  I roll my eyes at my thoughts and then tell myself to shut up, stop analysing, and just enjoy it.  She'd kill me if she knew what I was thinking right now. 

Before I can stop myself, though, I blurt out, "Have you done this before??"

She stops abruptly and sits up on my stomach, her legs straddling me on either side as they support most of her weight.  She looks down at me and frowns and seems a little freaked out.  I think I just shattered the moment.

Great going, Matsuura.  You're a real star tonight.

"No..." she mumbles embarrassedly.

I raise surprised eyebrows.  She seems to get angry.

"I thought we had no secrets between us.  I would've told you," she insists.

"Well, it seems like we kept this all one big secret," I say weakly and nervously.

She looks flustered.  Oops again.

"That's... that's different..." she mumbles.

She looks like she's going to get off me, or something, so I put my hands on her knees to make her stay.

"I know," I say, even though I don't really.

Miki opens her mouth to say something, but she looks flustered again and stops.

"Miki-chan, it's okay.  It's all very weird to me, too," I reassure her.

She scrunches up her nose and gets off me quickly.

"God, what am I doing to you?" she asks, suddenly seemingly disgusted.  "Oh my god..."

She shakes her head and grabs her bag and walks quickly to the door. 

I'm horrified.  I feel sick.  I call for her to come back, but she keeps going.  I grab my towel and wrap it around me and watch as she leaves the room.  I quickly slip my clothes back on.  Just my jeans and tank top.  No times for underwear or a bra.  I run out the door and catch her walking away quickly.

"Miki, wait!" I yell angrily.

She ignores me and keeps going.

"Why are you leaving?  Stop."

"I'm sick, Aya.  This isn't right.  Just leave me alone," she growls back at me, not even turning around.

"What the fuck is the matter with you?!" I scream. 

She stops abruptly, probably shocked at my language and the volume of my voice.  I don't care if the management comes up and kicks me out for that.  I'm so angry and frustrated right now that I need to let it out.  I walk up to her like I'm stalking a prey.  She stands there, shoulders stiff.

"First you drop in unexpected with some mushy reason and a birthday gift, and you act as if it's the most important thing in the world, treating me like a princess.  Then we go out and have a lovely night and get back and take a bath where you throw a fit, I win you back, we get all sexy on the bed, and then you jump up and get mad and leave again.  What the hell?  Are you bipolar?  Do you like me or hate me?"

I'm now standing in front of her, and she's got a hard expression on her face, staring back at me stubbornly.  I sigh and throw my hands up in the air.

"I don't know what we're doing either, okay?  But why can't you just go with the flow?  Don't tell me you weren't having fun just now." 

She stays silent, teeth grit. 

"What is your problem, Fujimoto?  Just tell me."

"My problem?  Is that I like you too much," she growls back.  "And I have for a long time.  Longer than you'd care to know.  And it's all wrong because you don't really like me that way."

"... How the hell do you know that?  Have I even said anything to you about it yet?" I ask hotly, completely forgetting the fact that what she just told me is what I've secretly wanted to hear for so long.

"No, it's because I made you do those things just now.  I set it up so it would happen." 

I feel woozy (in a bad way) all of a sudden and wonder what she means.

"What do you mean you set it up?  What are you talking about?" I ask angrily and perhaps with a little fear.

She glares into my eyes and I feel cold.

"I'm pretty sure if Maki or Yossi had given you that gift and come all the way to see you and sweet talked you like that, you would've been flattered out of your pants, too."

I stop completely.  The anger and the fear drop right out of my body. 

I can't do anything but laugh.  That's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life.  She looks angry that I'm laughing at her, but nevertheless, I giggle uncontrollably.

"Ew," I say.  "You think I'd do that with those two?  Or anybody else, for that matter?"

I clutch my stomach and have a good chortle until I can't breath.  Miki's face softens slightly.

"Miki, I'll tell you one thing right now even though I'm still pretty confused about it all: I wouldn't let anyone - anyone- touch me like that.  Nobody but you."

She doesn't say anything, but I know what she's thinking.

"Why?" I voice her question myself.  "I don't know.  I guess I really like you.  A lot."

 Miki's shoulders drop, drained of tension and anger.

"But you're confused..." she says stupidly.

"Well, of course.  You've been confusing me for a while, you know?  Every time you do something that I like, I get these strange feelings, and I don't know how to deal with them.  You make me feel things I don't feel when I'm around other people.  I thought it was just because we knew each other very well, but..." I take another breath, "Obviously I was enjoying our foray into the unknown just now, so I guess it's a little more than just a friend thing, don't you think?"

Neither one of us speak for about a minute.

"Come on, we're waking the other guests," I say lightly.

I turn around and head back to my room, praying that she'll be sensible and follow me back.  I hear silence from behind me for about ten seconds, and then I hear her start walking after me.  I inwardly thank whatever power it is that let this be, and keep my pace steady.

I reach for the handle of my door, but Miki has caught up with me and she puts a hand over my hand over the doorknob and stops me.

"Are you sure you want me to stay here tonight?" she asks gravely as though she has some wasting disease that I might catch.

My stomach drops and my heart speeds up.

"Are you sure there'll be no more big secrets between us?" I ask back.

I trace a finger along her jaw and up along the scar on her forehead.  I've never gotten a clear or direct answer about that scar, not that I'm asking for one now, but she gets my meaning.  She nods and lets go of my hand so that I can open the door.

We walk into the room slowly.  For a minute it feels like some sad ceremony for which we have to remain completely serious.  A funeral, or something.

Miki drops her bag in the corner again and she sits on the bed.  I go and sit beside her. 

Now it's just awkward.  We can't jump back in where we left off.  We sit there for about half a minute before I start to giggle.  It's contagious, and she starts to giggle, too, so we both clutch our stomachs and giggle together.  Once we're done with that moment of silliness, we feel better.  Or at least I feel much better.  We lie back on the bed and stare up at the ceiling of the room, talking about, of all things, candies and sweets, and what kinds we'd love to have right now.  I guess it's the Tsujikago effect.

I feel really close to Miki.  I roll onto my stomach and drape an arm across her stomach, snuggling into her and closing my eyes.  I feel her reach over and turn the light off using the switch just above the middle of the bed.

"You should get some sleep, Aya.  You've been up since... what?  Seven?"

"Six," is my muffled reply. 

"Ouch."

I take my head off of her shoulder where it is resting comfortably.  The room is dark, but there's enough light coming from outside that I can see her face just fine.

"But I'm okay.  I don't feel tired.  I feel, er, energised..."

I blush and hide my face again.  She pries me off her shoulder and kisses me.  Well, I have to admit that I'm glad one of us finally took the initiative.

It starts gently... experimentally... but it turns insatiable and desperate.  We can't seem get enough of each other, which is understandable since we've both needed this for a long time.  We tug at each other's clothing, and soon, we're both naked, the bed sheets twisted at our feet.  The air generated by the air conditioner can't do much to cool us down now.  We don't care.  We keep going.

Miki turns into a complete pushover in the dark... in bed.

Evening time Miki likes to be dominated.  Evening time Miki is gentle.  Evening time Miki is delicious.

She lets me take the lead.  God knows I have no idea what I'm doing, but I have confidence in myself, so I ride on that. 

I get to run my hands all over her body and do all those things to her that I've daydreamed about and tried to repress the memories of.  In turn, she does the same to me.  There is absolutely nothing I want to repress about it.

We mess around, giddy, high on love, needy, gentle, tender... but most of all, it's honest.  We don't do anything we don't mean.  It's all for something.  It's all for each other and our own selves.

Everything builds up.  Feelings intensify.  We've gone nuts.  We can't keep off of each other.  This has to be more than just lust, though, because my body aches not just for Miki's touch, but the warmth that comes with it.  I want to cry because for once in my life, I am experiencing something so mind-blowing that I'm sure life can never be the same afterwards.

Minutes apart, our worlds explode, but the real climax of the evening begins after that of the body's.  As we hold each other tightly, breathing heavily, she lifts herself up weakly, puts her mouth to my ear and starts whispering secrets to me.  Painful secrets.  Big secrets, small secrets.  Things that matter, things that don't.  Things about her life before I met her.  Things about her life since I met her.  Things she loves and hates about herself...

I lie on my back and listen to every word she has to say, not judging.  Simply taking it all in.

When she's run out of things to say, she rests her head on the pillow and shuts her eyes.  She looks amazingly calm for someone who just spilled all her secrets, but then again, we are in a sharing mood tonight.

I stroke her hair and she smiles without opening her eyes.  I smile back even though she can't see me, and I snuggle in a little closer, pulling the sheets up and covering us.  I close my eyes, and slowly, lazily drift off to sleep, wondering what sort of world will greet me later in the morning.

-The end of story 1
« Last Edit: June 01, 2007, 08:33:01 AM by OTN1 »

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2007, 10:14:43 AM »
Love x 2
story 2


Chapter 1 of 3
 
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Kobe


I wake up to the sound of the phone ringing.  I groan and reach out blindly to pick it up.  My hand touches soft skin, and I open my eyes in surprise, looking beside me.

Oh.  That's right.  I'm in Kobe.  With Miki.   And we...

I blush as I remember just exactly what happened.  As the memories continue to flood my mind, I grope for the phone.  Miki looks like she's still asleep, and I'd like to keep it that way if possible.

"Hello?" I whisper into the receiver.

A loud receptionist's voice informs me that this is a wake up call and that it's six forty-five.  She hangs up.  I mutter a few curses at whoever set us up with wake up calls this early and I hang up the phone.

I sigh and turn onto my side, watching the exquisite girl sleeping next to me.  She's lying on her stomach, head turned towards me, one arm just above her head and the other right beside my body.  She's breathing slowly and steadily, muscles relaxed, totally vulnerable.

She's such a heavy sleeper that it amuses me.  I don't see how that loud ringing couldn't have woken her up, but oh well.  We each have our own sleeping habits.  At least right now she's not doing those weird things she occasionally does.   As funny as it is when she makes gestures and has full conversations while in deep slumber, I sometimes like to see her completely at peace.  Completely innocent.

Funny.  After last night, I don't know if I can even associate the words "innocent" and "Miki" with one another ever again.  I study her face some more and I guess everyone does have their innocent moments, especially when they're asleep.

I pull the sheets up a bit because it's chilly in the room.  We left the AC on all night by accident, so it's still going at full force.  I make sure Miki's covered, too, because I want her to wake up feeling comfortable, not like a popsicle.

She stirs in her sleep and my heart leaps as I wonder what our conversation will be like once she wakes up.  I hope it's not awkward, although I'm afraid it might be.  She might feel strange when she realises she told me all those personal things last night.  She might feel strange about what we did.  I have to admit that I do.  A little.  Not a bad kind of strange, but just a little surprised that any of it happened at all.  All I know for certain is that if she feels awkward, I'm going to feel awkward, too.

She doesn't wake up, though.  I wonder how long I should let her sleep.  We do have to meet up with everyone else and head back up to Tokyo.  From there, it looks like Miki and I are going to Hakone for a couple of days of R&R. I wonder just how much rest we'll get.

She begins to mutter something.  I roll my eyes.  Oh great.  Here we go again.  Miki's eyes open and she stares straight at me, her expression blank.  She flips around onto her back and closes her eyes again.  She continues to mumble.  I hold in a laugh and I bring my ear closer to her so that I can hear what she's saying.  I can't quite understand.

"Speak louder, you dummy," I tease her under my breath.

To amazement, she speaks a little more loudly.

"...you... ya... love... Aya... Love you, Aya.  Love you, Aya.  Love you, Aya..." she repeats.

My heart speeds up and I blush and smile.  Is she dreaming about me?  That's so sweet. 

I move my head away slowly to rest it on my pillow and watch her, but she suddenly opens her eyes again and I freeze.  This time she smiles at me and keeps repeating the phrase.

Huh?

I frown in confusion, and she stops muttering and raises a hand to my face.  She pats my cheek.

"Good morning," she says.

I stare at her.  I'm not sure if she's awake or asleep or... What the heck?

"Are you asleep?"

"No."

I don't know whether to believe her or not.

"Who's the prime minister?"  I ask suspiciously.

"Who cares?" she replies languidly, rolling onto her side and putting an arm around me.

"Are you messing around with me?"

"No, but I'm just about to start," she grins wolfishly, her hand travelling to my ribs.

"Okay, wait.  What were you just saying?"

"My mantra.  Do I get a good morning kiss, or what?" she asks impatiently, putting her face right up to mine.

Yes, I think she's awake.  I ignore her advances and pull back from her.

"How long have you been awake?"

"Since the stupid phone rang.  How could anybody sleep through that?"

I groan and drop my head on the pillow.  Innocent, sleeping Miki?  It was too good to be true. 

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"Because I like it when your guard is down in the morning," she smirks. 

Ugg.  It's true, though.  I guess that was the "real me" for those five minutes I thought I was alone.  I close my eyes and start to chuckle.  Well, at least our conversation isn't awkward.  Miki puts her head down on my pillow and asks me what's so funny.  I open my eyes.

"You.  You are so... weird."

She pretends to look hurt.

"But," I continue, improvising.  "You're forgiven because I approve of your mantra."  She looks happy again.  "Anything that mentions my name has to be good."

"You're so full of it, you know that?" she glares at me.

"Whatever."

We lie there staring at each other for about twenty seconds.

"Did you have fun?" she asks suddenly.

"When?  Last night?"  She nods.  "Yes, I did," I say quietly with a silly smile on my face.

"Good," she says happily.  "Me too."

A silence.  I don't know if you'd exactly call it awkward.  It's more shy, but my mind does race to try and find something to say.  She beats me to it.

"So when's breakfast?"

If I it wasn't so early in the morning, I'd hit her for being so unromantic.

"Seven-fifteen, maybe.   I think that's what my manager told me yesterday.  Is food all you think about?"

"Maybe," she replies, turning her nose up in the air.  I shoot her my most not amused expression. "But it's ok," she continues, pushing me onto my back and climbing on top of me.  "I don't mind breakfast in bed."

I wonder if she makes up these cheesy/dirty lines, or if she reads them in magazines.  Being completely honest, though, I don't care where she gets them from or the fact that they're cheesy or dirty.  Her voice is just another way she leaves me breathless without even having to touch me.

And so we're busy for a while and miss the real breakfast for which I'm sure Nono and Aibon arrive early.  Our absence is probably as conspicuous as ever, but because of the amount of fun I'm having now, I really don't care.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2007, 10:15:17 AM »
Chapter 2 of 3

At eight-twenty-five, we rush downstairs, bags in hand, hair wet, clothes thrown on hastily.  While "breakfast in bed" isn't of any irregular duration, the shower we try to take afterwards turns disastrously distracting, so we're massively behind schedule.

This is something I'm going to have to get used to - mornings with Miki.  I think we're going to have to wake up a whole hour earlier whenever we stay over at each other's places because I can't see how we'll ever be on time for anything again if we wake up feeling so... excitable.  I wonder what it's going to be like from now on.  I wonder how different our sleepovers will be and how different our daily lives will be.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled.  We already spend as much time together as possible, and with this new element, we have lots more stuff to do besides shopping, purikura, and watching movies on the television set.  I will no longer dread bedtime (I've always thought bedtime is boring, what with having to stop all your fun just so that you can lie on a mattress while you essentially pass out for six or seven hours), and I'll look forward to the mornings a little more if they're as fun as this morning is.  I won't have to be lonely anymore.  I won't have to be worried that wanting to spend too much time with her might freak her out.  Now I know that she doesn't mind.  No longer will I be frustrated, annoyed that I'm single, and all that jazz.

On the other hand, I'm a little scared.  I don't want anything to change.  I want to be able to hang around my regular, cute Mikitty who giggles and turns into a soft, bashful, girly girl around me.  I want to have normal moments where we're both sitting on the couch, bored out of our minds and unsure of what to do.  I even want us to be able to go out and have fun without wishing the day was over and that it was bedtime so that we could tear each other's clothing off.  I want to be able to enjoy regular, fun (and even mundane) life as friends with her.

Finding a healthy balance now might be difficult.

I'm also scared of everyone we know finding out about us.  This is something that I feel is reasonable to worry over.  It could affect our relationships with other people as well as our careers and the entire Project's national image... But that's a whole other matter that I'm going to try not to worry about for at least another few days

Right now we're late.

Laughing, minds still a little foggy, we run to the back entrance of the hotel and spot my manager.  She's looking incredibly pissed off.  She spots us and points to her watch frantically.  We gulp and run up to her.  She wastes no time with pleasantries and leads us out the building and to a taxi cab.  The three of us get in.

"You're so late," she scolds us.

I bow my head down.  I hate letting her down.

"I'm sorry.  We slept in," I lie.

I justify my lie by telling myself she really does not want to know the truth.

"Where's everyone else?" Miki asks, bringing to attention the obvious absence of the other girls and staff members.

"They went ahead.  The shinkansen leaves soon."

I feel really guilty again, this time for keeping my manager back.  I know she's very busy and would like to get home as soon as possible.  If we miss the shinkansen, it'll be my fault.

The taxi speeds along the streets as Miki, my manager, and I sit, staring out the window silently.  My manager seems distracted enough that I take Miki's hand and hold it as I look out the window.  She squeezes it tightly and we sit peacefully for a few minutes, our lateness forgotten and everything else remembered.

We get to the train station and run.  Miki has to go and argue with the shinkansen ticket sales office to get her ticket changed for the one that leaves in five minutes.  By some lucky miracle, it works, and the three of us make tracks for the tracks.

We jump into the train as the warning bells are going off.  Seconds later, the doors close, and I solemnly vow to set all my clocks at home ahead by ten minutes in case waking up an hour earlier doesn't work.

My manager gives me a look that says "you're of the hook this time" and I hang my head guiltily.  We find our seats and rejoin the group.

Miki is luckily able to sit with us and not in the car for which her ticket is.  The agency found it necessary to book off a few extra seats around us.  It's frustratingly unfortunate that we didn't have the tickets for the seats when we were running late, but such is, as they say, life. 

Aibon and Nono are the first to greet me, practically jumping on top of me and asking me if I had fun last night, how it feels like to be older, and going on and on about things I don't even understand.  It's amazing how they rarely act their age.  They're not that much younger than me.

Miki sits back and watches with a smirk as I try to explain what we did last night (before we got back to the hotel) and answer all their other weird questions.  I look at her helplessly and desperately, but she smiles innocently and closes her eyes, leaning back and seeming to fall asleep.  I curse her and turn my attention back to the top two.


Things settle down after an hour.  Miki is asleep, most of the Melons and staff members are either sleeping or reading, and Tsujikago are sitting in their seats, earphones in their ears, entranced by something they're playing on an mp3 player.  I get up and wander down the aisle, a little bored and restless.  I'm eager to get back to Tokyo.  I go out and stand in the small space between cars, staring out the window as the scenery whizzes by at an incredible speed.

I think about Miki, of course.  Perhaps not so much about her alone but her in the context of us.  I've seen the different sides of her personality and am fortunate enough to know some sides that others don't.  Yet as well as I know her, I feel I don't know her enough.  Why else would last night have been such a surprise?

Or maybe it's just me that I don't know very well.

I sigh and wonder what life will be like after we get back home, because at this point, we really haven't had any time to process anything that's happened.   We also haven't had time to talk about anything.  Well, we've had the time, but we've been busy doing other things.

"Aya-chan..." a voices comes from behind me.

I almost jump and I look behind me.  It's Shibata.  She's looking at me with a slightly worried expression.  Maybe she thinks I'm brooding because I'm standing alone, staring out the window.  I give her a big smile to show her that I'm perfectly happy.

"Shiba-chan, coming to enjoy the view?" I ask, pointing out the window.

She remains serious, though, and steps up beside me.

"Aya-chan, was that you I heard last night?

"What?!" I exclaim, suddenly so embarrassed that I can barely resist the urge to run away.

I want to die.  Why is she bringing this up?  How could she hear me if she was five doors away?  I wasn't that loud.

Shibata gives me a strange look.

"In the hallway, yelling... some time after midnight..." she elaborates.

Oh.  Phew.  I wipe the proverbial sweat off my eyebrow.  She's talking about the argument in the hallway.

"Umm..." I stall.

What do I tell Shiba-chan?  She gives me a very serious look and puts a hand on my shoulder.

"Aya-chan, you shouldn't have to put up with something that makes you that angry.  And the fact that it was your birthday..."

I blink internally.  Well, crap.  This just isn't right.  She has no idea why I was angry, nor the fact that the problem has been solved.

"Oh, we, uh... Miki and I got into a bit of an argument, but it's okay.  It was completely my fault," I reply, hoping to sound convincing.

I hate lying, especially to a concerned friend.  Shibata has been nothing but kind and supportive ever since I met her, when she could just as easily tell me to shove off and stop stepping in her potential spotlight.  For that, I've always been grateful.

She gives me an unsure look.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," I smile.  "Trust me, it takes a lot more out of her to really piss me off."

She seems to look convinced and relieved.  She takes her hand off of my shoulder.  I expect her to excuse herself and go and sit down again, but she stays beside me, watching the world go by.

"You two are pretty close," she says out of the blue.

Oh, this is painfully awkward...

"Yeah, we are."

At least that's no secret I have to keep.

We look out the window for a while more before continuing.

"Do you have any other close friends like her?" she asks.

I wonder why this sudden curiosity from Shiba-chan.  I think about my friends and try to give her an honest answer.

"Maybe.  Or... not really.  Or at least I used to," I stumble.

Being honest is sometimes very difficult.

"Before you moved and became a star?" Shibata asks.

She doesn't say it in a teasing, bitter, biting, or mean way.  I think she's just genuinely curious and trying to get to know me better.

"Yeah," I nod.  "But also back then I was little more... trusting.  A little more willing to befriend anyone."

"And then?"

"And then," I sigh before continuing, "and then I realised that not everyone is as understanding as they may say they are."

"Best friend back at home dumped you?" Shibata asks with a flat tone.

"Pretty much," I reply in the same tone.  "A few months after I moved."

I have a suspicion as to why she's asking me all these things.

"Did that happen to you?"

"Yeah," she sighs.  "And the sad thing is that I don't even live that far away from them.  I guess they just got fed up because I'm busy all the time."

"Was this recent?"

"No.  A long time ago.  Some time after my debut."

 I guess it's happened to a lot of us.  It's not something we Project girls talk about, though.  At least not with the girls we aren't as close with.  Something must've reminded Shiba-chan of it lately, though, because I can't see why she'd be talking about it now.  Probably the fact that Miki came to visit made her start to think about best friends.

"I'm sorry..." I say.

We both realise it's a futile phrase.  Shibata smiles and waves it off.
 
"It's okay.  I'm over it.  I guess it's a good thing that it happened.  That way we know who our real friends are.  In the end, they weren't worth it, huh?" she says. 

She stares out the window, touching the glass gently as though reaching for some distant memory.  As much as I'd love to believe her when she says she's over it, I know that there's still a tiny part in her that regrets it had to happen.  I know because it still exists in me.  We're not too far apart, Shiba-chan and I.  We're both a couple of girls in the middle of walking down this crazy path called "youth"...

 I put my arm around her shoulders and tell her she's right, rubbing her opposite shoulder.  As I suspect would happen, a tear runs down her cheek.  She wipes at it quickly.

"I never cried about it when it happened," she says, laughing softly.

"I did.  It helped," I confess.

Wait a minute.  Aren't these sorts of talks supposed to be reserved for Miki?  Of course I've told her that stuff already, but it feels weird opening up these parts of myself to people other than her.  I guess it's okay to be good friends with more than just one person.  Shibata and I get along well enough that I wouldn't mind knowing her a little better.

"It's harsh, especially when it happens at such a young age," Shibata says sadly.

I nod in agreement and let go of her shoulders.  I put my hands on the window and lean towards it.

"That's why I like Miki-chan," I say before I can stop myself.

Shibata waits for me to continue.  I guess there's no harm.

"She's not like other people.  She can be mature.  She knows she doesn't have to pretend with me, and usually if I do something wrong, I'll be sure to know.  I think that's a sign of a good friend."

"And so therefore, new best friend to fill in the blank spot," Shibata winks.

I smile shyly.

"I guess.  Also, the fact that she understands the idol life really really helps.  She's there.  She knows."

"A couple made in heaven, huh?"

I can't tell if she's joking when she says that or if she's hinting at something.  I laugh and push her arm and hope that she's just joking with me like some of the other girls like to do.  Even Miki and I joke about being a couple, but we just do that because it's cute.

The next stopover is then announced, and Shibata and I decide to go and sit down since this area will become busy in a minute with boarding and disembarking passengers.

We get back to our seats and I find Miki awake.  Shibata thanks me and then goes to join in a card game with the rest of her group.  I sit back down.

"How long have you been awake?" I ask.

"Ten, fifteen minutes."

Just about as long as I was gone.

"Feeling rested now?"

"I'm exhausted," she replies with a mock sad expression.

"Me too."

We share a secretive laugh.

"We can sleep tonight," I reassure her.

"Are you kidding?" she says quietly, a devilish look in her eyes.

The breath leaves my body and I feel faint.  I swallow hard.

"Okay, we can sleep in tomorrow morning, then," I correct myself, barely even able to talk.

She pokes my leg, and I wish we were alone. 

I scold myself for letting my hormones get the better of me and I look around.  Everyone is distracted.  Miki and I are sitting at the front of the car, and Hitomi and Megumi, who have seats behind us, have moved further back to play cards with Shibata, Masae, and some of the staff members.  Tsuji and Kago, who are across the aisle from us, have fallen asleep with their earphones in. 

I wonder if Miki and I should talk.  Don't people usually do that after a night like that?  Maybe we don't need to.  We just did what was natural.

Maybe?

I take a hold of her hand loosely.  We fall asleep.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2007, 10:24:05 AM by OTN1 »

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2007, 10:16:17 AM »
Chapter 3 of 3

"The conductor would like the attention of her majesty queen Ayaya," says a distant, snobby voice.

I stir into semi-consciousness, wondering who is talking to me.  I open my eyes and see Aibon's face about ten centimetres away from mine.  It scares me and I yell and jump.  My forehead hits her nose, and we both yelp in pain.

"Kago!" I growl, rubbing my forehead.

"I'b beed indured" Kago moans, holding her nose.  "Helb!"

I forget about my injury and tend to Kago.  I see Tsuji looking on curiously, more amused than worried.  I also notice Miki has woken up and is glaring at us for waking her up.

"Kago-chan, are you all right?" I ask, grabbing onto her wrist and pulling her in front of me.

I move her hand from her nose to make sure nothing's seriously wrong.  It doesn't look broken and there's no blood.

"You have a hard head," Kago glares at me.

Tsuji's eyes narrow, too, in a comedic defence of her sister, I guess.  Great, everybody's glaring at me now.

"You're too soft," I bite back.

She sticks her tongue out and puts her hand back over her nose.

"I was just trying to tell you that we've arrived."

I look up and realise that we're slowing down and entering Tokyo Station.  I get excited for a moment, and then I go into my frenzy mode.  I apologise to Kago for hitting her (even though it's completely her fault), and I grab my bag from the rack above us.  I figure I should grab Miki's while I'm up.  I quickly take out a brush and run it through my hair, check my makeup briefly, apply a few eye drops because my eye and contacts have become very dry, and I smooth out my clothing.

There.  I'm ready to make an exit.  I take one bag in either hand and go to join our disembarking group when a cough comes from behind me.  I turn around and see Miki still sitting in her seat.

"I can carry my own bag," she says to me.

I realise that I'm holding her bag.  I laugh and drop it beside her.  She gives me a shifty look, puts her knapsack on her back, and gets up.

"That whole five minute makeup and hair check was just priceless," she mocks me.

"You'd benefit from it once in a while," I retort.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means your hair is a mess."

Miki quickly feels her head and does her best to straighten her hair out with her fingers.  She looks at me, hoping I'll act as her personal mirror.  I guess it looks decent now.

"It's okay now.  Let's go."

We get off the train.

Tokyo is like a breath of fresh air, which is funny because it probably has some of the dirtiest air in the country.  I don't care whatever "coolbiz" campaign is going on.  The simple fact that a gazillion people live here is going to keep that air nice and dirty with all those CO2 emissions.

Nevertheless, it's home.  Or at least one of my homes.  Home is where the heart is, after all, and my heart is attached to many places in this city.  Lots of memories have been made here.

I wonder if I stop hanging out with Miki maybe I'll become less cheesy.

Everything goes by like a blur.  We're carted off to different exits where different rides await to take us home.  We move through the hoards of people quickly and try not to be recognised.  We wear our hats and sunglasses indoors (which I think makes us look much more noticeable, but I don't say anything because I like being recognised in the streets).

Before I can say three words, Miki, Masae, and I are in a black car and being driven to our homes.  Masae and I happen to live in the same general area, and Miki is with me at the moment.  It's a little cramped in the back seat.

We reach my apartment, say our goodbyes and thank yous, and ride the elevator up while laughing and placing bets on what colour Masae's hair will be next time we see her.  I open my door and sigh happily as my familiar entrance greets me.  I remove my shoes and I toss my bag into the corner, collapsing on the couch.  Miki follows and stands just beside the couch.  I'm surprised she hasn't jumped me already.  Maybe she wants to say something.  If so, I'll let her bring it up.  I could just about fall asleep...

It feels like only two minutes pass before I jerk awake.  Oops, I fell asleep.  I look at my watch.  About ten minutes have passed since we arrived.  I hear the TV and I turn around.  Miki's sitting on the floor in front of me, remote control in hand and flipping through the channels.

"Uh, sorry..." I say aloud in a hazy voice.

Her shoulders give the tiniest, barely perceptible twitch so I know that I've surprised her.  She turns around.

"That was quite the impressive display there, Aya.  You hit the couch and fell asleep in ten seconds flat.  I didn't even realise it until you didn't reply to me," she laughs.

"Sorry," I mumble again, stretching my arms above my head and cracking my back in the process.  "It just happened."

Miki pokes my stomach and I yelp and bring my hands back down to protect myself from any further assaults, fearing a repeat of last night's attack.  She doesn't do anything, though.  I'm not sure if I'm happy or disappointed about that.

"So anyway, as I was saying," she says, as I look on quietly and curiously, wondering if this is going to be awkward.  "What time do you want to leave here?  We can arrive at the place any time after three."

Oh.  I thought she was going to say something else.  Like maybe start some sort of painfully awkward talk about us that I'm actually starting to dread... or perhaps I'm just building that up in my mind too much.

"Oh... It's about one-thirty now. How long does it take us to get there?  An hour?"

"Probably closer to two."

I mull it over in my mind.  I wouldn't mind leaving right away.  The more time spent at a hot springs resort, the better.

"If we leave right away, we can spend more time there.  I wouldn't mind that."

Funny, I don't think I just spoke out loud.  Wait, I didn't.  She said that.  I look at her feeling like a love struck idiot.

"I agree!" I gush enthusiastically.

She laughs at my face and I get all red.  Sometimes I wear my heart on my sleeve without realising it, and when I do, it never fails to embarrass me.

"So I'll go home and pick up some stuff now," she continues.

Go home?  Right, she doesn't have all her things - her clothing, toothbrush, and so on. 

"Can I go with you?" I ask stupidly.

"As if you need to ask," she laughs.

She climbs up on the small couch and lies down, leaning into me.  I shift a bit so that I can hug her to me, hands clasped at her stomach.

"So we should go now," I say in a tone that I would describe as unconvinced.

"Yeah," she replies lazily, closing her eyes and obviously not getting ready to go.

A completely defenceless, helpless, tired, cosy Miki is just sitting in my arms.  I wonder if now would be a good time to-

RIIIIIING.  RIIIIIING.

I groan.  My phone is ringing.  My cell phone.  Miki's eyes open and she looks annoyed.  I smile apologetically and push her off of me so that I can stand up.  She grabs the remote again and turns the TV off.

I take my phone out of my bag and open it angrily.

"Hello?"

It's Tsunku.  He's asking me to do a late night benefit show tonight followed by an interview.

What?!  I kneel down on the floor beside my bag.

"Why is this so sudden?" I ask him, not even caring if it's out of place to ask.

Tsunku doesn't seem to mind my question.

"They called last night.  I spent all night figuring out schedules.  All the other girls are busy.  You're the only one free tonight," he replies.

He sounds so tired.  He probably didn't sleep at all.

I know that he's asking a question that I could technically answer "no" to, but it's my job to say "yes".

I sigh and muster up all my positive energy.

"Of course.  What time?"  I ask, reaching for a pen and paper.

He gives me all the details and I take notes.  I can sense Miki watching me from the couch, probably curious and maybe worried.  I don't dare look at her.  I read back the information I've written down to confirm it, and I'm certain that Miki has figured out that we're not going to Hakone.  Not together, at least.

We say goodbye and hang up.  I stare at the paper in my hand for a brief moment before getting up.  I look at Miki.  She's fiddling with the remote control, putting the batteries back in after taking them out for reasons I can't fathom.  She doesn't look back at me even though I know she knows I'm off the phone.

"Miki-" I start. 

"I know," she says quietly.  "You can't go."

I feel like jumping off the balcony right about now.

"I'm sorry," I apologise weakly.

She finishes putting the batteries into the remote and puts it down on the couch.  She finally looks up at me.

"It's okay."

It most certainly isn't, I want to reply.  She looks back down at the remote and studies it.  I go and sit beside her on the couch, keeping a bit of distance between us.  I feel awful.

"I'm sorry," I say again, lost for words.  "He doesn't have anyone else to-"

"I told you it's okay," she interrupts me.

She sounds annoyed.

"No it's not.  You're upset," I reply matter-of-factly.

She looks up at me.  She definitely looks upset.

"Of course I'm upset," she replies.

I look down.

"I'm sor-"

"Stop apologising.  It's not your fault."

"But I have to cancel, and it cost you so much to-"

"It's not about money, Aya," Miki cuts me off again.  She's starting to sound angry.  "I couldn't care less about how much it cost.  I'm upset that we can't go together.  That's all.  That's the truth.  I'm not mad at you.  Not even close."

I feel like crying.  Crying because I'm upset that my plans have been ruined, but also crying because somehow I ended up with someone like Miki, who may seem temperamental and harsh, but is in fact a softie at heart.

I don't cry, but I move the remote control out of the way and move closer to her, resting my head on her shoulder.

"I'm upset, too."

"Yeah.  But we shouldn't be.  We should expect this sort of thing to happen, right?"

It's not even a pessimistic statement.  It's simply the truth.  She plays with my hair for a minute and then pushes my head up.

"Okay, go get ready.  Your ride will be here soon."

Now I know that she has definitely heard the entire phone conversation if she knows a detail like that.  But when did she turn into my mother?

I don't complain, and I go to pack the things I'll need.  The benefit concert is far away enough that I'll end up spending the night in a hotel.  Tsunku needs me to go early since the tech rehearsal starts in four hours.  He's arranged for my ride.

I finish packing and ignore the growling in my stomach.  I'm so hungry. We skipped breakfast and slept right through lunch.  I'll have to pick something up on the way.

I tune out and suddenly I find myself at the doorway with my freshly packed bag.  I'm ready to go.  Miki comes over to the doorway.

"Can you lock my place up later?" I ask, giving her the extra key that I keep in a box at my entrance.

She takes the key with a smile.

"Of course.  I'll be leaving in a few minutes."

"Oh, you don't have to go.  You can hang around if you want.  You seem to like that remote control," I tease her. 

She laughs.

"Well, I'll see.  Don't want to overstay my welcome."

I hit her upside the head.

"You could never do that."

I pull her towards me in a big hug.

"I know you don't want me to apologise, but I'm still really sorry this happened.  I'll make it up to you," I say quietly.

I can just sense her rolling her eyes at me.

"Well, I'm sorry that you feel so bad."

I let go and look at her sadly, but she replies with a big supportive smile.

"Go.  You don't want to be late.  Good luck, and call me when you get back."

I nod, give her one more apologetic look, and then quickly slip out the door. Before I can close it, Miki grabs me by the arm, pulls me back into my apartment, kisses me, and then pushes me away in the direction of the elevator.  She closes the door quickly with a tiny "hurry!" so that I can't even see her inevitably laughing at my surprise.

I drag myself to the elevator, wishing briefly that my job didn't require so much time and responsibility.  My ride is waiting for me when I reach the street.  I open the door and slide in, greeting the familiar driver.  He begins to drive.

I sigh.  Why does Tsunku have to do this to me?

No, not Tsunku.  It's not his fault. 

Why does the public have to do this to me?  I know the answer already, though.  It's because it's my job.  It's because they love me.  It's because if I slip up and say or do something wrong, they'll write even more articles about me and my scandalous behaviour.  Disrespecting the stagehands and buying Keita groceries... I shake my head.  They love to see me fall.  They don't love me.  Not the real me, anyway.

I stop this unproductive line of thought because getting all depressed over one show and an interview isn't worth it.  I know that not all the public wants to see me in moments of failure.  I know that the newspapers that focus on my shortcomings aren't credible.  I know that my family and some of my friends - the important people in my life - love me unconditionally.

And then I remember the conversation I had with Shiba-chan not too many hours ago.

"Also, the fact that she understands the idol life really really helps.  She's there.  She knows."

I smile.

Maybe it's okay after all.  The person that means the most to me - the person who I just let down minutes ago - understands.  She won't hold it against me.

The life of an idol is very hard.  I know this.  She knows this.

And that's what makes it all work out okay in the end.

-The end of story 2
« Last Edit: October 09, 2007, 10:25:11 AM by OTN1 »

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2007, 01:12:16 AM »
Love x 2
story 3


Chapter 1 of 16

Another night, another show, another interview.  Tomorrow I'm going to call Tsunku and order him to order me to take three consecutive days off.  I'm absolutely exhausted.

After the benefit show (which is some fundraiser for some charity devoted to curing some illness that I can't even pronounce), I have my interview.  It is the most painful hour of my life.  The same sorts of questions asked, the same sorts of answers given.  There is one interesting question about my opinion on my personal growth as an artist, but I still don't feel comfortable answering things like that honestly.  I have certain rules I have to play by, and as much as I sometimes hate them, if I don't follow them, I'm out of a job and left in a world where I potentially have a bigger chance with another company, but also have the potential to fail miserably.  I think I'll hang on to the Project for a little while longer.  I still have room for growth.  I just can't brag about it in magazines.

After the interview, I'm accosted by several more magazine writers who also want interviews.  My publicist (who has had to clear her schedule suddenly for the evening to come and be here with me), tries to shoo them away, but it takes half an hour.

I get back to my hotel room at two-thirty am.  I kick my shoes off, drag myself over to the bed, and fall on it, not even bracing my body for the impact.  I lie there, face buried in the sheets, and I start to curse.  Why can't I be in Hakone with Miki?  We'd be sitting in a hot spring as our tension would drain away from our muscles.  We'd be surrounded by peace and quiet.  We wouldn't have nosey journalists at our backs wanting to ask us the same questions over and over again.

No, wait.  It's half papst two in the morning.  We'd probably be in bed.

Sleeping, of course.

Hah, there's no point in lying to myself about what we'd be doing.

I pick up my heavy body and drag it over to find my cell phone.  I go back to the bed and fall on it again, this time on my back.  I flip open my phone and find one message that was sent an hour ago.

Sender: Miki
Message: Hi.


I roll my eyes and sigh.  I type back a message.

Hi.

I close my phone and my eyes.  Thirty seconds later, my phone rings.

Sender: Miki
Message: Finished your show?


me:
Yeah, finally.

Sender: Miki
Message: That was long.


Me:
I know.  I'm beyond tired.  What are you up to now?

A minute later

Sender: Miki
Message: Just went to bed.  You woke me up.


Me:
Sorry.  Didn't realise I'd wake you.

Sender: Miki
Message: Don't worry.  I stayed up late on the off chance that you actually could come home tonight.


I wonder where she...

Me:
Where are you?

Twenty seconds later.

Sender: Miki
Message: In bed.


Me:
Your bed?

A minute later.

Sender: Miki
Message: ...No... I'm at your place.


I feel happy and angry at the same time.  Happy that she's over at my place just because she's Miki, and everything she touches is gold.  Angry because I'm not there.

Me:
Call me now using my landline.

I wait half a minute and my phone rings melodically.  I check the display even though I know what I'll see.  Sure enough, it's my own home number.

"Hey," I answer the phone.

"Are you mad at me?" is the first thing out of Miki's mouth.

"For what?  Staying overnight at my place?" I ask incredulously.  There's a glum silence, indicating that I've guessed correctly.  "Not at all.  I told you you're welcome to stay."

"I was too lazy to leave," she says guiltily.

Oh, come on.  I bet she missed me and that's why she stayed.

"Did you sleep at all?"

"Huh, a bit in the afternoon right after you left."

I giggle at her laziness and feel a pang of jealousy.  I have had no time to nap, not even during the ride down to the venue.  I had too much to go over in my mind regarding the performance.

"What did you do for food?" I ask curiously.

There's a nervous silence and I wonder if she's burnt my kitchen down.

"Um...  You have an interesting stove."

Yup, she burned something.  I'm not sure I even want to know what.  I stay silent.  She continues.

"Er, and now you have one less frying pan..."

I blink.  How did she manage to destroy a frying pan?

"Did you melt my frying pan?" I ask in amazement.

"Er, not quite... It just, um, found a new home..."

"Found a new home," I repeat back.

"Out the window..." she says weakly.

I don't even want to know what frustrated her enough to throw my frying pan out the window.  I don't say anything for a minute as I try to imagine how the scene played out.  I think she takes my silence for anger or disapproval.

"I'm sorry, it was on fire and I took it to the window to pour water on it, but I burned my hand and let go of it..."

I wonder what my landlord is going to think if he ever finds out a flaming frying pan was dropped out of my window.  I giggle.  I had no idea Miki was this klutzy.  She's usually a well-coordinated person, and while a little fiery at times, she has common sense.  Doing something like that is beyond the level of idiocy that she occasionally stoops to.

"I wish I could've been there to see that.  Then again, nothing would have caught on fire if I'd been there."

She laughs at that.  She asks me more about my performance, so I ramble on about what I sang, what I wore, who was there, what the interview was like, and so on.  She says she agrees that interviews can be such a drag because they're so repetitious.

I don't bring up the other issues I've been thinking about because of the interview.  Issues of me in the Project, scenarios of leaving, and my growth as an artist.  I'm not really sure how to talk about these things with her because first of all, I don't want to worry her into thinking I'm unhappy with my job.  Second of all, I don't want to unwittingly strike any nerves.  While she's made it clear she doesn't detest me because I got to keep my solo career while she got stripped of hers, I still feel bad rubbing my job in her face too much.  I don't think she needs an overconfident, seemingly egotistical Aya saying that she could leave the Project and be even more popular and loved.

It's not even that I want to leave.  The more I think about it, the more I love my position in the Project as a leading soloist.  I also get to interact with the other groups and soloists, so my work and life aren't completely lonely.  I get unique opportunities being under this giant umbrella of talent, and I get to see Miki more often than I would if I worked for another company.  It's a little scary to think of how much that (seeing Miki around) is a pull factor for me staying in H!P.

And I realise I've gone completely silent on the phone because Miki is calling my name and asking if I'm still there.

"Sorry, I tuned out," I apologise.

She asks me what I'm thinking about.  I sigh and wonder if one day I can be as brave as her and tell her all of my secrets and all those things that I never mention but that are often on my mind. 

"Don't worry about it." 

"What's wrong?" she asks, suddenly on alert.

I cringe.  I don't mean to concern her.

"Nothing bad.  Just boring stuff I'll tell you later when I see you."

That might end up being a lie because I don't know if I'll ever bring it up.  I hate myself a tiny bit for it. 

She asks me if I'm sure.  She sounds a bit hurt that I don't tell her what's on my mind even if it is boring.  I suck it up and reassure her that it's nothing important.  To change the subject, I ask her what she's been up to this evening.

"I watched a couple of those cheesy DVDs you own and I read your girly manga," she snickers.

I groan.  Lately, she's been getting her kicks from teasing me about these things I've gotten into.  It's not fair.  She's just as bad as I am.  I know she enjoys all those cheesy films and comic books.  She just thinks that she's so tough and cool because she's in Gatas.

"Yeah?  Which ones?" I ask.

She names a couple of DVDs that I've bought recently.  One of them I haven't even watched yet, and I groan about it and ask her how it is, but she remains tight-lipped and says that I'll just have to see if for myself since she doesn't want to spoil it for me.  She says the manga she read was okay, but a little corny.  I tell her she reads the same kind of stuff, and she denies it like crazy.

"So what time are you coming back?" 

I reach into my pocket and take out a messily folded schedule my manager faxed to me (it was a last minute thing that she printed out, which I think is very considerate of her to have done at all on such short notice).

"Breakfast at... oh god.  At six-thirty in the morning?  Who runs this hotel?" I mutter.  "And it says we'll leave by eight-fifteen.  It takes a few hours to drive back..." I trail off.  "You're still free today, right?"  She hums in response.  "Okay, then I'll just meet up with you when I get back.  We can figure out something to do later."

"We could just stay at your place... watch movies," Miki suggests innocently.

So many kilometres away, and she can make me blush like crazy.

"We could..." I reply innocently.

"In that case, I think I'll go to sleep now so that the time until then passes more quickly," she laughs.

Oops, that's right.  It's nearing 4:00am.  We've been nattering on for about an hour.

 "I have to wake up soon.  This is not fair," I growl.

She laughs at me some more and tells me to get at least some rest because she doesn't want me coming home and crashing on the couch like I did yesterday.  I mumble that I will.  I'm suddenly overcome with exhaustion again, and not even talking to Miki can stop it from taking me over.

"See you tomorrow, then," I yawn, ready to cut the line.

"Awww, what?   No sexy message?  You're not going to tell me to have sweet dreams?  That you miss me?  That you wish I was there with you?  That what you'd really like to do instead of sleep is grab me and take m-"

"Good bye, Fujimoto," I say strongly into the phone.

She hushes up like a good girl and apologises in a cute voice.  I'm not angry with her and she knows it, but it's a little game that we sometimes play, although this is the first time she's ever said anything like that on the phone to me.

"Okay, good night, Aya-chan.  See you later," she says sweetly.

"Good night, Miki.  Sweet dreams, I miss you, wish you were here with me, and I can't wait to get home do whatever it was you were going to say I want to do," I grin as I speak quickly and sexily, and I then hang up before she can reply.

I roll over onto my stomach and put my phone beside me and stare at the alarm clock.  Nine past four.

A minute later, my phone rings.  I check the new text message.

Sender: Miki

Her message consists of a purple smiley face, and attached is a picture.  I open it.  It's her, grinning like a cheesy idiot, hair messed up, and looking tired.  I recognise my room behind her and my pyjamas on her.  What a moocher.  Well, at least she looks cute in my pyjamas.  I smile, save the picture, and send her back a red heart.  After that, I close my eyes, and before I can change my clothes or wash my face, I fall asleep.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2007, 01:12:41 AM »
Chapter 2 of 16

It's the second day in a row that a hotel telephone has woken me up.  This time I jerk awake and grab the phone.  A man tells me it's a quarter past six and that this is my wake up call.  I thank him loudly and hang up before he does.

I spring up from my bed, my brain not quite working well because of two hours of sleep but excited and ready to get home.  Again. 

I realise that I fell asleep without taking a shower or changing.  I scrunch my nose up and jump into the shower, scrubbing my body clean of sweat, dirt, and makeup.

I take too long.  By the time I get out, I realise I've wasted twenty minutes.  I get dressed and reapply my makeup within fifteen minutes.  If only I could match the speed and efficiency at which Miki and I got ready yesterday after that shower, I'd be downstairs having breakfast already.

I run down to the dining room and greet my publicist.  She's almost finished with her breakfast.  I grab a tray and go and see what's left on the buffet table.  My horrible luck with food continues when I find that most of the food is gone because all the other patrons attended breakfast right when it started.  I grit my teeth and take a few surviving pieces of fruit and go to sit with my publicist, trying to cheer myself up with some conversation.  Luckily we get along because she's fairly young and hip.  We always have some stories to trade.  She asks me why I'm not eating much and I just tell her I'm not that hungry.  I refuse to admit that I made the mistake of coming late. 

I finish my "meal" quickly and we say goodbye.  She's heading even further south for work.  I'm heading back north.

I grab everything out of my hotel room and go downstairs to wait for my ride.  I'm ten minutes ahead of schedule, but the driver is there already.  Since I'm the only one being driven, we leave early.

I am wide awake.  I look out the window and check the time every minute.  I rummage through my bag and look for things to pass the time.  There's nothing to do.  I get antsy and sigh, resting my head back against the seat and closing my eyes.  Why?  Why?  I groan in my head.  I can't even message Miki because I don't want to wake her up. 

If I was home right now with Miki beside me, I'd wake her up.  She'd be angry at me for waking her up so early (because she's so lazy in the morning), but then I'd put on my cute, innocent face and I bet she'd crumble and forgive me.  Then she'd ask me what was wrong and I'd tell her that I couldn't sleep and turn onto my side.  Maybe she'd hug me from behind and tell me to just close my eyes, so I'd snuggle into her and close my eyes and pretend to fall asleep while being held.  But... secretly, I'd stay awake so that I could cherish every single second of it.

Maybe she'd also secretly stay awake.  Maybe twenty minutes later, I'd open my eyes and look up to find her watching me.  I'd blush and ask her why she was watching me, and she'd say something stupid because I'd catch her unprepared.  Then we'd stare at each other and silently dare each other to make the first move.  Neither of us would, so we'd stare for two whole minutes.

Then finally I'd look down and smile shyly and she'd grin and kiss my cheek.  I'd turn my head away and act as if that wasn't good enough, and she'd lean over and nibble on my ear and kiss down my neck.  She'd pull back and ask if that was better, and I'd nod and say it was a little better.  She'd wait a minute.  Then she'd free one of her hands from her hold around me and touch my face and neck and collarbone.  Then she'd drag her hand down to my tummy, rubbing it and tickling me ever so slightly so that it wouldn't make me laugh too hard.  She'd kiss the nape of my neck and move down slowly, making funny spitting sounds as my hair would get into her mouth.  I'd laugh.  She'd reach my shoulder and rub her cheek against it.  She'd kiss her way to my arm and then ever-so-gently bite down on it.  It would feel good and strange, and so I'd say something about it.  Maybe something about how she may love food, but that I'm not food, so please don't chew me.

She'd put her lips right against my ear and whisper to me that I'm better than food, that I'm better than chocolate or any kind of sweet, that there's nothing as superbly-tasting as me.  I'd shiver and she'd kiss my ear again.

She'd dig her hand in under my ribs and turn me around slowly to face her.  I'd curl my arms in front of my chest she'd hold me as if she owned me.  She'd look at me with that proud face again, and I'd smile back at her, proud to be hers.  She'd run a hand from my shoulder all along the side of my body as far as she could reach.  She'd rest her hand on my hip.  She'd pull herself in an inch closer to me.  She'd let her feet play with mine, and they'd soon come to a rest, gently tangled with mine.  Then she'd move my hands out of the way and pull me in towards her so that our bodies were right against each others.  She'd wrap her hands at my back.

She'd breath out something... something about me.  Something about how she can't get enough of me.  Something about spending all our time together and feeling desperate when she can't see me.  The words would be music to my ears and I'd hug her closely, unable to let go of someone who loves me so dearly.  I'd tell her that there's nobody else in the world as important as she is to me.  That there's nobody else worth doing anything big for.  That there's nobody else in the world who has made me want to keep improving myself.  That there's nobody else in the world that I could ever love as much as this.

She wouldn't speak for a long time.  I'd feel her move a little.  My shoulder would feel wet all of a sudden.  I'd pull away from her and she'd bury her face in the pillow, but not before I would see a tear running down her cheek.  I'd put my face right up to hers and whisper at her not to cry because it's true.  She'd then look up at me, ashamed to be crying, but unable to look away from me.  She'd say that she's wanted to hear me say exactly that.  She can't believe I've just said it.  I'd tell her that it's been the truth for a while, but that I was just too scared to admit it to myself, let alone her.

She'd smile and tell me that I'm perfect, and I'd deny it vehemently.  She'd keep saying it, and she'd keep piling praises on me, telling me everything that she thinks is wonderful about me.  I'd keep denying it all, and suddenly she'd attack me with soft kisses, mumbling about me and how much she loves me between each kiss.  I'd try to respond to her words, but I'd be distracted by her wandering hands.  She'd push me onto my back and ease herself onto me.

I'd wonder why she's so submissive at night but so controlling in the mornings.  She'd continue to kiss me with a burning desire that is suffocating (in a good way) and flattering.  I'd grab her tightly, digging my fingers into her back, pulling her in for more closeness or pushing her away to look at her face.  She'd start to kiss my entire body, leaving nothing out, as if memorising me so that if I wasn't around, she'd be able to remember every centimetre of me.  As if worshipping me for reasons I can't understand... don't even want to understand... and just accept.  And we'd continue to do this for eternity...

And then two hours later, I wake up from this day-fantasy-turned-dream.  My face is flushed, I feel warm, and I'm worried that I may have said something inappropriate aloud while deep in sleep.  The driver doesn't seem to be paying any attention to anything but the road, so I sigh with relief.  Even if I did say anything while sleeping, he'd be courteous enough to never mention it to me or anybody else.

We're not quite home yet.  Traffic keeps us another hour on the road.  I don't mind.  I just had the best two hour dream of my life.  But while dreams are lovely and all, I have to say that the real thing - the real Miki - is much much better.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2007, 01:13:08 AM »
Chapter 3 of 16

I arrive home from the south for the second time in two days.  It's almost eleven.  I open the door ever so quietly and close it with just as much stealth.  I go through the routine of removing my shoes and just leaving my bag by the door.  I tread softly, heading for my bedroom.  I pop my head into the doorway (the door has been left open). 

There's Miki lying all alone in my bed, still wearing my pyjamas and still asleep, tangled up in the sheets.  I resist the urge to squeal because it's such a cute scene.  I walk over and carefully sit on the bed beside her, watching her sleep.  I doubt she's pretending again.  She's not one to play the same joke twice over.  Now this is the real innocent, sleeping Miki.

I touch her head just to make sure she's real and not just some exhaustion-induced fantasy.  She's very real.  I bring my legs up onto the bed and then smoothly lie down right beside her, trying to pull some of the tangled covers over me.

I intend to lie there with her until she wakes up.  I don't care if she sleeps until two in the afternoon.  She's beside me, I'm home, and the AC is running.  My priorities.  I lean in to her so that my head is resting against her arm.

I nod off and wake up about twenty minutes later.  I open my eyes and find that she's turned around and is now on her stomach.  I roll onto my side, put a hand on her back and drift back into a dreamless sleep.

Another half hour later, I wake up again because she's moving.  This time she's turning over to her back again and kicking her legs out.  I wonder why she's so restless today.  Probably dreaming about underground sea worlds again.  I let my hand stay and it now rests on her stomach.  I don't mind at all.

I don't fall asleep again.  I just think.  Nothing in particular.  Just various random things from my performance last night to Ogawa's latest hairstyle to Miki's nose.  In a way, I don't want her to wake up for a while.  This is so relaxing.  In another way, I want to wake her up now, and I can think of a few sexy ways to make it happen.

I wait.

I don't have to wait long.  She stirs in her sleep and makes a little sound at the back of her throat like a tiny groan.  She's waking up.  She rolls over on her side, my hand now resting on her side as a result, and her eyes open slowly.  She sees me, smiles, and then closes her eyes again.

I laugh silently.  She doesn't realise she's awake and that I'm real.  She looks amazingly happy for a few seconds and then she frowns and opens her eyes again.  She looks straight at me and her frown turns into a smile more brilliant than before.

"Are you really here?" she croaks out, her throat dry and her voice scratchy from sleep.

"Yes," I reply, tickling her ribs lightly.

She giggles sleepily.

"You are!" she tries to cry out in a bright voice, but it just cracks.

She lazily sidles up to me and snuggles into me, her head in my stomach, her arms wrapped around my back.  As usual when we're just sitting there, I play with her hair.

"What time did you get in?" Miki asks.

I can feel the vibrations of her voice in my stomach.  It feels nice.

"An hour ago.  I fell asleep a few times," I admit.

"Why didn't you wake me up?" Miki asks, looking up briefly.

"Wake you up before twelve on a day off?" I gasp with false shock.  "And risk getting my head chopped off?"  She glares at me and returns to her snug hold.  "I was tired, too, and I figured we could both use some rest."

"That was very considerate of you," Miki croons sweetly.

"I know," I grin.

We stay like that for a bit while she continues to wake up.  Eventually, she pulls herself up and rests her head by mine, taking me by the hand and staring up at the white ceiling.

"You have the entire day off today, right?" she asks.

"Yes, you already know that."

"Well, you were supposed to have the entire day off yesterday," she says in an accusing voice.

I feel guilty again.

"I'm really sorry..."

She squeezes my hand tightly.

"If you apologise one more time..." she threatens me.  "I'm just saying I hope nobody calls you and steals you away from me again."

"So what do you want to do today?" I ask, seeing if she's changed her mind.

Her stomach suddenly growls.  I remember my hunger as well.

"Cook breakfast," she laughs in immediate response.

I let out a loud guffaw because food seems to come up between us at the best times.  We decide a real breakfast is in order, so we get up and look around the kitchen.  I don't have anything in the fridge because I've been out of the house so much these days.  We act like scavenging vultures and retrieve what we can- one egg, a quarter cup of canned corn leftover from a few days ago, and a fraction of a box of juice that will expire tomorrow. I don't even have any instant noodles.

We fry the egg up in my surviving frying pan- a very big one since Miki killed the smaller one.  The egg looks so small and lonely as it sizzles in the centre of the pan.  I wonder if we'll fight over the yolk.  We warm the corn up beside the egg in a separate pot.  When both things are done, we put them on plates and take them to the table where we've put our juice.  It's a pathetic meal.  We don't fight over the egg yolk because it breaks and spreads all over the plate anyway.  I'm still so hungry when we're done eating.

"Miki-chan, that was the saddest excuse for a meal.  I need to go shopping," I say, leaning back against the couch and grabbing my empty stomach.

She joins me in leaning and mutters obscenities under her breath.

"I'm serious," I say with a start, getting up quickly,  "Let's go shopping now."

She looks at me like I'm an alien, and I just stand there, shooting an impatient look back at her, waiting for her to get up.  She groans after a minute and gets up slowly.

"Do I have to go?" she complains.

"Well, fine.  You can stay here all alone while I go off for an hour to buy us food in this heat."

I hope that hits some sort of guilty nerve.  It does.  She looks sorry.

"Okay, just give me a minute.  I can't go out in this."

She points to the pink and blue pyjamas she's wearing and I wonder if she'll ever wear them again because they look beyond adorable on her.

"Er, can I borrow some more clothes?"

I roll my eyes at her and tell her that of course she can.

She changes quickly, I grab what I need for grocery shopping, and we head off.  We go to the big supermarket at the station.  Since we're so hungry, we end up buying six thousand yen worth of good quality food, and lots of it.  We run wild around the store, picking up whatever makes our mouths water, which is pretty much anything, considering the empty states of our stomachs.  I have no idea how I'm going to manage to eat all of this by myself, so I decide happily that Miki can sleep over for the rest of the week and we can eat scrumptious, home-cooked meals every day.

I tell her this, and she acts all surprised that I want her to stay over so much.  Is she missing too many brain cells?  Of course I want her to stay over as much as possible.  Why wouldn't I?

We pay for the groceries, get recognised by a little eight year old girl (even her grandmother recognises both of us, which is always a nice experience), and go home to cook.  We only have one frying pan, but we make do.  We cook and cook and cook, and two hours later, after we've eaten and drunk to our hearts' content, we can barely move.  I feel absolutely sick, and I sit propped up against the couch, groaning about how I'm never going to eat again in my life.  Miki is in a similar position and is also saying similar things.

Twenty minutes later, Miki rolls over to the TV and pops in the DVD that I haven't seen yet and comes back to sit against the couch.  She presses play, and I ask her if it's okay to watch a movie that she just watched not even twenty-four hours ago.  She tells me it's perfectly fine.  She wants to watch the movie with me anyway.

We watch it.  It's sappy and cheesy.  I love it.

I think I realise why Miki wants to watch it with me.  It's because she's not really watching it.  Once in a while I catch her watching me.  Every time I squeal or giggle, she laughs, but she's looking at me, not the TV.  I'm astute.  I notice these things.  So I call her on it.

"You really like me, huh?" I ask.

She blushes and asks why I'm asking.

"Because you seem to be more interested in me than in the movie."

She mutters a little "Oh," and then more loudly she confesses, "Your reactions are cute.  I can't help it."

I crawl up onto the couch and sit down.  I pat the space next to me and she crawls up, too.  She lies down and puts her head in my lap so that she can look up at me.  We watch the rest of the movie like that- or I watch the rest of the movie like that.  She just watches me.

Once it's over, both of us are too lazy to turn the TV off and the remote is just beyond our reach.  We sit there with the DVD menu screen playing its soft, silly music.

"Hey, Aya-chan.  Imagine we were in Hakone now.  We'd be soaking in the best hot water you could ever bathe it..." she says dreamily.

"Are you trying to make me feel guilty?" I sigh.

She grins up at me and mouths a silent "no."  I tap her on the nose.

"Yeah, I'd love to be there.  But it can't be helped, right?"

"Right."

Miki looks pensive for a moment, looking away.

"What's on your mind?" I ask.

She looks back at me and looks startled that I interrupted her.  Then her expression turns timid.

"I was just thinking about stuff to do this summer..." she trails off.

I can tell that she has something she wants to tell me.

"So what do you want to do this summer?" I ask, playing along.

"Well, I thought we could take a trip somewhere together," she suggests.

"Which we tried to do today but ended up failing at," I roll my eyes.

"I mean somewhere further away."

"Like where?  Australia?  Korea?" I ask, wondering where she thinks we're going to get the time off to go anywhere far away.

"Well, not that far away.  Like... maybe to Hokkaido," she mumbles.

"A trip home?  Miki, that's not very exciting and new.  We've done that before," I laugh.

"No, I mean, not to my home.  To the city.  We could just hang out there and go shopping for a few days.  I don't know.  Maybe not,  It's stupid," she looks a little defeated.

I laugh some more.

"It sounds good.  When do you want to go?"

Her face lights up like a little kid's.

"You want to go?"

"Yes.  I am a fashion queen, after all.  I have to see what all the hip people are wearing in Sapporo in order to be a well-rounded individual," I say snobbishly.

She makes funny gagging sounds at me.

"Maybe I'll just go alone," she threatens me.  "I'm not into people with big heads."

I put my hands on either side of her face and rub them in opposite directions.

"You liar."

She laughs and tells me to stop.  I do eventually.

"So you want to go?  I know it's not exciting like Hawaii or Hong Kong, but it would be nice to be far away from here even if it's just for a weekend."

"Of course I want to go.  And this time I'll make sure not to get called away on business.  I just won't answer my phone for the whole day before departure."

Miki looks happy.  We continue to chat about this potential trip, and then we move on to other topics.  It's in the middle of what seems like a soliloquy about the increasing number of younger children and girls at concerts when I realise that I am almost alone because Miki's dozed off.

The domesticity of the scene suddenly hits me, and it scares me a little.  But it's not too bad.  I could get to enjoy this.  Waking up together, shopping together, cooking together, watching movies together, planning trips together, and then taking siestas together.  It's normal life.

Well, not really.  It's weekend or day-off life.  I'm sure this week is going to be very interesting because we have busy schedules.  Luckily we're in the same building for some of it, and on those other days where we're apart, we both end at fairly decent hours. 

Call me crazy, but I can't wait for work to start up again because then this won't seem like unreality anymore.  It'll become something solid that I can touch.  Then as a result, I'll be able to say, "yes, this is happening."

Because I still can hardly believe it.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2007, 01:13:38 AM »
Chapter 4 of 16

Sunday is a lazy day.  We stay in and lounge around, watching TV and talking.  At night time, our characters undergo a drastic change as if the setting of the sun means we can let go of all our inhibitions, and we stay up until three in the morning.

The next day we sleep in late and then go out in the afternoon.  I can barely even remember what we do.  We walk around the neighbourhood, do a bit of shopping, and then come back to my apartment to cook some more of that food that I have in my fridge.

Miki goes back to her apartment afterwards because she has to wake up early for filming the next day.  The studio is near her place, and we figure some sleep is a good thing, or else she'll have magazines and fans going on about the bags under her eyes and how she's now hooked on drugs.  I stay at my place because I also have to be up early for a dance rehearsal in the morning.  The great thing is, in the afternoon she'll come over to the same studio because she and her group have dance rehearsal while I'll be hanging around for practice with a few of the girls.

Tuesday morning comes around.  My alarm clock wakes me up, and I sigh with a bit of relief that it's not my phone.  I feel too lazy to get out of bed, so I lie there and wonder what the day is going to be like.  Rehearsal starts at eight-thirty.  I have an hour and a half before I have to leave my apartment, and it takes me thirty-five minutes to get there on the train.

I wonder who I'll see, what we'll do, where we'll go for lunch (if anywhere).  I wonder what it'll be like to see Miki at work, surrounded by everyone we know.  The idea excites me.  It's thrilling to have a secret that nobody else knows. 

I'm lying in the middle of my bed.  I look to either side just to check.  No and no.  No Miki.  I check because I've realised that she hasn't given me back my extra key.  I'll have to get it from her because I actually need it.  Sometimes I forget where I put my regular key, and if I'm in a rush to leave, I know I can always rely on the spare key at the door.  It's nothing personal against Miki.  I really don't mind if she drops in unexpectedly.  I just need to be a little practical.

I stretch out my body and reach my arms and legs out towards each corner as far and hard as I can.  I then fall limp and roll off the side of my side.  I drag myself through my morning procedure and leave my apartment a little early.

Dance rehearsal is strenuous.  The first hour and a half is just me alone.  Tsunku talked to me a few months ago and wanted me to level up my dancing, so I've been having more rehearsals lately.  I'll admit that dancing isn't my forte, although I have improved greatly since my early days.  I have a new teacher for these extra rehearsals.  She's in her late thirties but doesn't look a day over twenty.  I envy her.  If I'm not careful, I'll probably end up showing my age when I'm older.  People already think I look older than I actually am.  It's a drag to hear that all the time.  I need to talk to my mom soon and find out what she did when she was in her twenties.  She must've used some good remedies because now she looks ten years younger than her age.

Miki still looks like a little kid.  Well, not for filming and photo shoots.  She looks sexy and mature there, but first thing in the morning when she's just woken up and her face is all puffy from sleep, she looks like she's fifteen years old.  It makes me feel like I'm robbing the cradle, when the exact opposite is the case.

Rehearsal ends and I take a break.  At ten o'clock, the Melons arrive and we start up our rehearsals within half an hour.  This time, we go over our concert tour material since there are still some things that need tweaking.  I love how little things in these tours are constantly changing.  It's not big enough to be noticeable to the audience, but we certainly feel it.  Each one of us has our own habits that we have to get out of, so our teachers will always remind us, and we'll have it on our minds for the next performance.

Today is a particularly trying day.  For some reason our teacher is working us hard.  It almost seems as if she's angry at somebody.  As one o'clock approaches, I keep getting distracted and looking out the window on the door.  I see people walking by once in a while.  I wonder if Morning Musume has come to the building yet.

I guess it becomes painfully obvious that I'm not paying attention because the teacher goes and stands by the door and starts assigning us complicated drills.  I sigh and pray for a quick end to this rehearsal.

At twenty-five past one - twenty-five minutes overtime - we're finally let go.  We file out of the room and go back to the change room where I drink so much water that I feel like I'm going to explode.  I sit in my chair beside Shiba-chan, and we complain about how sensei always seems to take things too personally and then takes it out on her students.  We know she's dedicated to seeing us succeed, but she's too hard on us sometimes.

"So, what have you been up to, Aya-chan?  You look happy," Shibata asks.

I can't help but smile widely.  I look happy?  That's nice to hear.  Much better than "you look tired" or "you look stressed", which are two that I often get.

"I've just had a relaxing couple of days off."

"What did you do?" Hitomi butts in. 

I shrug noncommittally and reply, "Relaxed around the house, watched some movies, cooked, went shopping..."

"With whom?" Hitomi again.

This time she looks at me slyly.  Oh brother.

"Why does it have to be with anyone?" I ask, trying not to sound defensive.

"Because you are way too happy for just having two days of alone time," Masae bellows from the other side of the room.

I wince at her loud voice and I wonder why they're picking on me.

"I didn't hang out with a secret boyfriend, if that's what you're thinking," I state.

"Okay, I can believe that you spent these last two days alone.  But... who are you seeing?"

Jesus Christ, Hitomi.  Lay off.

"Nobody," I reply firmly.

"Bullocks." 

"It's the truth."  I laugh inwardly at her term.

Then the questions come at me non-stop so I barely have time to think.

"What time did you get home last night?"

"Seven."

"Did you speak with your family this weekend?"

"Yes."

"Where'd you go the day after our concert?"

"Yamanashi."

"Why?"

"Benefit concert."

"Did you sing?"

"Yes."

"Are you in love?"

"Yes."

There's an electrified silence in the air as the girls looks at me in surprise and I realise what I've said.  I have to remember to think before I speak.

I force a loud laugh.

"Hahaha, I got you.  Joke!" 

The girls aren't sure what to think.  I could be telling a joke, or I could have really slipped up and said that and am now trying to cover up.

Shibata eventually laughs.

"That was too obvious to be a mistake.  I guess Aya wins this round!"

"Huh, wasn't a very funny joke," Masae mutters.

Everyone goes back to changing and I sigh with relief.  Shibata shoots me a strange look, though, and it leaves me feeling slightly uneasy.

I change into more presentable clothes quickly and we decide to go out and grab lunch.  We have a few hours to kill before our next rehearsal.  As we walk through the building, I try not to make it obvious that I'm keeping an eye out for someone.  I'm so focused on looking at the entrance that I barely notice a group walking from the opposite direction.  I happen to glance just before we step out of the building, and I catch sight of Yoshizawa's familiar head poking above a crowd of shorter girls.  I stop in my tracks.  Where there's Yoshizawa Hitomi, there's...

"Miki-chan!" I call out.  "I'll catch up in a second," I tell my lunch group.

They all nod and continue walking out the building.  I walk over to the group of five musume.

"Aya-chan," Miki says with a plain smile.

"Good morning.  Er, afternoon," I say brightly.

I address everyone, but I look at her the longest.  A chorus of "good afternoon" replies.

Miki nods at me, smiles, and then there's an awkward silence between us.  The other girls keep walking in the direction of the elevator.

"Did you just get here?" I ask.

"Uh, yeah.  I have to go and drop my stuff off," she says, pointing to the group of girls waiting at the elevator.

"Oh," I say, realising that she wants to catch the elevator with them.  "Uh, okay.  I'll see you later, then?"

"Yup," she says quickly.

She runs off to jump into the elevator just in the time.

I'm left feeling rather let down.  I scold myself.  I shouldn't have expected anything grand and sweeping.  It's just a brief encounter in the hallway.  I shake my head and go and catch up with the rest of the Melons.  They're standing around outside and they start to walk once I catch up. 

We head for the usual place we go to when we're here for rehearsal.  The owner of the restaurant knows us and we're never bothered by anyone.  We take a seat at a large table, and suddenly Hitomi, Masae, and Megumi all go to the washroom, leaving behind me and Shibata.  I feel uneasy again.  I don't want to be left alone with her.  I'm afraid of what she might say to me.

"so what did you really do all weekend?" she asks me immediately.  I swallow hard and try not too look frightened.

"I told you already."

"Okay.  Then with whom?"

"I hung out with Miki-chan for a bit and then spent the rest of the time alone.  Nobody else.  I swear on my life."

I think I convince her.  She smiles.

"Sorry.  It's Hitomi's fault.  She keeps saying that you've got some fling going on.  I guess I started to believe it," she apologises.

I breathe a sigh of relief, but I'm curious to hear what Hitomi has to say about it all.  I'm not going to ask, though, because asking invites questions aimed at me.

"It's okay."

We sit in silence as we decide what we want to eat.  The others come back soon, and we have a nice conversation about travelling.

After a pleasant lunch, we pay and head back to the change rooms.  I keep an eye out for Miki.  I don't see her, but I see Konno.  I decide to ask her where Miki is because I know she's usually very aware of things going on around her.  She tells me she saw Miki going upstairs to the warm up room with Yosssi and Takahashi.  I thank her and head up to find my girl.

I wander into the room and see the three girls spread far apart from each other, stretching their muscles and warming up.  I head straight for Miki, who is in the corner of the room by the mirror-covered wall.  I sit down right in front of her.

"Hey!" I greet her quietly but cheerfully.

She looks up, startled, and returns a smile.

"Hey."

She looks around the room a little nervously.  Silly.

"Where'd you go?" she asks

"I went for lunch with Shiba-chan and company," I reply.  "Same place we always go to."

"Hmmm," Miki hums thoughtfully.  "I wish I'd had time for lunch."

I give her a scolding look as I always do when she doesn't take care of herself properly.

"You can come over tonight and we can cook," I grin.

I think of all the food in the fridge.  She nods and smiles warily and looks over at Takahashi, who is currently in the splits.

"Miki," I say, moving my head in front of her line of sight.

She pulls back and blinks, not expecting my movement.

"It's okay," I comfort her.

I put a hand on her leg, and her eyes shoot towards Yossi.  I rub her knee.

"Don't worry," I mouth at her.

She looks at me painfully.

"Aya, I've gotta go," she says.  She gets up and looks down.  "I'll see you later, okay?"

She walks out the door.

What the hell?  Okay, maybe she's just grumpy.  She probably didn't get much sleep.  People are usually unreasonable and paranoid when they're tired.

I stand up, smile at Yossi who looks over curiously, and I walk out of the room.

More rehearsal, more sweating, more distraction.  I drift back up to cloud nine and stay there for the afternoon. 
When our break at four o'clock rolls around, I wander down the hall way to the vending machines, thirstier than ever.  I walk by Miki, Takahashi, Yossi, and Tanaka.  We say hello and stop to chat.

Tanaka, who I barely know, likes talking to me for some reason, so she asks how things are going and I reply that things are good.  I comment on the difficulty of my dance rehearsal.  Takahashi asks what sorts of things I'm doing, and I explain a little bit about the technique I'm learning.  Yossi looks on interestedly.  Miki just fidgets the whole time.  She stares at Takahashi for a while, then Tanaka, and then Yossi.  She looks over at me a few times, but she looks almost angry.

The five of us walk to the vending machines together.  I try to latch on to Miki's arm, but she shies away from me smoothly.

I think she's overdoing it.  It's not like we're not allowed to look at each other or touch in public.  We always have before.

We stand around and drink.  The girls suddenly start giggling about some inside joke they have, and I'm left out of the joke.  I lean against a wall and watch them.  Miki laughs along, but she quiets down after a while, as Yossi and Tanaka continue with some antics targeting Takahashi.

I tap Miki's arm from where I am.  She turns around and looks at me guiltily.  She backs up to stand beside me.

"You're completely ignoring me," I state quietly so that the other girls don't hear.

She looks down.

"No I'm not," she mumbles.

"Yes, you are," I say, poking the side of her head.

She looks up at me and looks like she's in agony.

"I'm sorry."

I snort out a laugh.

"Don't be sorry.  Just stop doing it.  Makes me feel yucky."

She doesn't say anything.

"Listen, Miki-chan.  You don't have to overcompensate.  Just act normal, okay?  Nothing's changed between us as friends."

She nods and smiles a little.  The other three girls are still giggling.  She takes my hand and squeezes it, letting go right away.  She checks her watch.  Break time is over.

"Yocchan," she calls out.

Yossi stops and looks over at us. 

"Time's up," Miki says, pointing to her wrist. 
Yossi lets out a groan and starts to head back to their studio.  Tanaka and Takahashi follow, and for a moment, everyone's back is turned to us.  I look over hopefully at Miki.  She gives me a warning look.  "Don't try anything," it says.  I wink, kiss the air between us and then push her away towards the three girls just as Takahashi turns around.  Miki stumbles in front of her, looking stunned, and Takahashi gives her a funny look.

"What did you drink?  Vodka?  Come on, Fujimoto-san."

They disappear around the corner and I go back to the Melons with my mind at ease.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2007, 01:14:03 AM »
Chapter 5 of 16

The end of the day rolls around.  Six pm has never looked more appealing to me on a clock in all my life.  As soon as we're dismissed, I run out of the room.  Hitomi yells after me that I should hurry because I don't want to keep my boyfriend waiting.  I tell her to shut up and she grunts some sort of retort.

I reach the change room first and grab my phone.  I text Miki, telling her to meet me up at the front as soon as she's changed out of her sweats.  I get changed before the rest of the Melons even arrive, and I pack up my bag as they come in, staring at me in disbelief.

"Okay, I don't believe this.  You have a date now, don't you," Hitomi says.

"Will you drop it already?" I cry out.  "I'm going home.  I'm starving, exhausted, and just ready to collapse."

"Okay, okay."  Hitomi lifts her hands in defeat and changes out of her clothes.

I finish gathering my things and I say goodnight, walking out the door.  Shibata runs out the door after me and confronts me.

"I'm not convinced anymore," she states firmly.

"Uh, I know.  It's all in Hitomi's head."

She shakes her head.

"No, I'm not convinced by you.  There's something going on with you."

I shoot her a genuinely annoyed look.  She doesn't stop.

"Listen, Aya-chan.  Whatever it is, it's fine.  Just don't let it affect your performance because you know what'll happen if you are discovered to have a life outside of this Project."

I think back to Mari's incident.  I'm sure she's referring to it.

"Tsunku-san won't drop me from the Project," I risk saying.

It's a brazen statement, but I'm irritated and don't feel like being modest.

"You're right.  He won't," Shibata agrees with me.  "But UFA won't think twice about doing it."

Low blow.

"Fine.  Then I'll go to another company," I say carelessly.

"It's not that easy, Aya-chan.  You're associated with this Project.  It's unfortunate because you're one of the few girls that could leave it and be successful.  If only the stigma wasn't attached to your name."

This has suddenly turned into a very real and dangerous conversation.  I'm treading on thin ice.  I can feel it cracking beneath me.  I don't even know what I want anymore.

"Shiba-chan, I..."

I can't think of anything to say.  I've blanked out.

"I'm not sure what you want because we've never talked about this before, but I do know one thing.  You could be so successful if you were let loose.  I know you know that."

She's completely serious.  She's not mocking me.  She's not baiting me.

"I wasn't being serious before.  I can't leave this place," I say quietly.

"Can't or won't?"

There's something fierce in her eyes.  She stares me down.  I've never felt this uncomfortable about my position before.

"Can't," I say firmly, trying to convince myself and her at the same time.

She shakes her head.

"Aya-chan, you have to figure out your priorities.  You're meant to be something a lot greater than what you're being allowed to be."

It's a mouthful of a sentence, but I get it as I swirl it around in my mind.

"I wouldn't be anything if it wasn't for this agency.  I'd be sitting in some junior college classroom learning how to become a flight attendant or a nursery school teacher."

"Okay, granted," Shibata allows me.  "But... you've outgrown it.  You have to admit it."

Damnit, she's right.  I can't let her know that I think so.

"Shiba-chan, I really appreciate the concern, but I'm not going anywhere right now.  I'm staying right here.  There are things I have to do, and that's that."

She looks at me thoughtfully.

"You're a smart girl.  I hope you know what you're doing."

My face hardens.  I wonder if she's not trying to be a little condescending.  She smiles, breaking the tension. 
"Sorry to bring it up.  I just felt I had to talk to you about it."

I wave my hand in a nonchalant gesture.

"Have a good night," she says, and she just leaves, going back into the change room.

I stand there for a whole minute and let the waves of shock pass through me. 

Where did that come from??

I continue my walk to the front lobby, but this time, my mind is steeped in thoughts of leaving H!P and finding my own way.  The more I think about it, the more tempting it sounds.  I know I could do it... But I don't want to leave H!P.  It's a comfort zone.  It's my first agency.  Miki's here.

I find a seat in the lobby and plunk myself down in it as I try to review the entire conversation with Shibata.  Miki makes an appearance five minutes later.  I push all the problems out of my mind and decide to just have fun this evening.

We go to my place, cook, stuff ourselves (although not too much as we have learned our lesson), take a bath, and then plunk down in front of the TV for lack of anything better to do.  We watch a drama that neither of us follow regularly.

I find myself not paying attention to the show.  Shibata's words keep echoing in my head.  I almost start to think that I'm getting a headache.  How intrusive.

Once the drama is over, commercials start playing before the next show and Miki looks over at me.

"What's on your mind?" she asks curiously.

"Huh?" I blink and come back to reality.

"Looks like you're thinking hard."

"Uh, nothing.  Just tired.  I think I'm getting a headache," I say.

I don't want to worry her with my problems.  It's on par with my thoughts from my magazine interview a few nights ago.

"You sure?" she asks, rubbing my head gently.

I nod and smile.

"I'm fine."

Miki wiggles her way behind me on the couch and her cool hands take me by the head as she starts to give me the most wonderful head massage.  Whatever headache is forming in my mind because of my thoughts is quickly forgotten as a result of this massage.  I lean back and let her spoil me.

The head massage turns into a shoulder massage, which turns into a back massage, which turns into a full body massage.  It remains entirely clean the whole time, though, and I almost fall asleep as my tension drains away from my muscles.  Once she's done, I sit back up to make some room for her on the couch and we end up watching some Chinese drama that has been dubbed over.

I drift away again, eyes open but mind completely gone.  What would happen if I left H!P?  What if I successfully joined some other agency?  I could sell millions of records.  I could gain national respect, not just fame.  I'd be a true star making it based on her talent, not because of the weight of the promotion behind her.

But I'm too entrenched in this thing called H!P that I can't get away.  Shibata is right.  There is a stigma attached to the name, and I'm associated with that name.  It's hard, if not impossible, to escape it.

And then there's Miki, who I wouldn't want to spend any less time with than I already do.  I think about the fun we have when we get those rare chances to work together, and I can't imagine having a more perfect job.

I feel a hand take mine.  I look up and see Miki looking at me, half amusedly but half worriedly. 

"Aya, what's up?" she asks, her tone brooking no argument.

I sigh and rub the side of my head.

"Nothing.  I'm just really tired," I reply.

She looks at her watch.

"It's nine-thirty.  A little early to go to bed," she says.

I nod distractedly.  She gets up and pulls me up with her.

"It's okay.  I'm tired, too."

I'm not even in control of myself as we lie down.  I don't know what we talk about because my mind isn't there.  It's with Shibata, repeating our conversation over and over again.

I snap out of it again when Miki snuggles into me and asks me to just drop whatever it is I'm thinking because I'll never get any sleep if I keep it on my mind.  I look down at her and briefly feel bad for not being great company tonight.  I apologise and make up some dumb excuse.  She laughs, kisses my forehead, and then turns off the light.  I pretend to sleep, but I remain awake long after Miki's fallen asleep.

I'm meant to be something a lot greater than what I'm allowed to be now?

Maybe.  Do I even want that?

Maybe yes.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2007, 01:14:54 AM »
Chapter 6 of 16

I drift off at around one-thirty am.  Three and a half hours of just lying and thinking while wrapped in the arms of the person to whom I want to both tell everything and not say a word is like pleasant torture. 

I wake up to Miki shaking me by the shoulders.  I struggle to open my eyes.  I feel so tired.  She's kneeling beside me looking rather tired herself.  I groan and turn away from her.  I look at the alarm clock.  Half past five.  What is she doing up so early, and why is she waking me up?  I close my eyes again, but she yanks me by the shoulder and rolls me onto my back.  I crack my eyelids open and glare at her.

"What?" I grumble.

"Good morning," she says cheerfully.

"...That's it?" I croak in disbelief.

She shrugs and smiles.  I wonder if she'd feel guilty if she knew how much sleep I got last night.

"Why? So early..."

My speech faculties aren't quite awake yet.

"Early to bed, early to rise," she says wisely.  "I figured the early morning mind is free of stress.  Whatever was bothering you last night can't seem like a big deal now."

She has to remind me.  Shibata's words flood my mind again, just as fresh as they were four hours ago.  I twitch and groan.

"There was nothing..." I tell her.

I'm too lazy to finish my sentence.  She looks at me with a neutral face.  I shrug.  She shrugs, too, and lies down with her head on my stomach.

"You know that you can tell me anything," she reminds me lightly.

She looks up at me for a moment as if she's expecting me to say something.  I don't offer anything.  I detect a faint sigh as she crawls back up and rests her head by mine.

"Just so you know."

"Thanks," I reply gratefully.

I close my eyes and try to drift off to sleep.  She doesn't let me.  She somehow gets behind me and grabs me by the armpits, hefting me up into a sitting position like a rag doll.  She sits behind me, her arms trapping me and her head resting on my shoulder.

"Let me sleep," I grumble, trying to pull away from her.

She ignores my protests and hugs me.  She puts her nose in my hair and inhales.

Weirdo.

I'm not in the mood for anything but sleeping, but somehow she manages to change my mind quickly.  Within a heartbeat, I am completely at her mercy.  Soon enough, I decide that waking up so early isn't such a bad thing when you have good company.  Without even knowing it, Miki is able to make me forget all my worries.  I don't even have to ask.

At a quarter to seven, we get up and make breakfast.  We take turns taking showers (for time's sake).  I go first.

I turn the hot water up as far as it will go and I let it pour down on my pale skin, telling myself that today I'll start fresh.  I'll forget yesterday's conversation with Shibata.  I'll pretend it never happened.

The problem is she has piqued my interest, and now I can't help but think about leaving Hello! Project.

I get out of the shower and get dressed quickly as Miki goes for her shower.  I flip on the TV and brush my hair.  I don't want to see Shibata today.  I know that I'll be tempted to talk to her, and I don't need any more to worry about.

We leave my place at eight.  We're waiting on the train platform when Miki changes the flow of our mindless chatter.

"I've been thinking of graduations recently," she starts.

"Oh?  Your own?" I ask curiously.

"A little.  I'm wondering what it'll be like.  For what reason.  Will I go solo again?  Will I join a group?  Quit altogether?"

I swallow the bad feeling I'm getting.

"I'm sure you'd go solo again," I offer my input.

"I wonder..." she muses.  "Imagine a Miki without H!P.  I'd be jobless.  I can't do anything else!" she laughs.

I scoff at her and tell her she can do whatever she wants and then gently steer the conversation away from the volatile topic of leaving H!P.  While I don't mind discussing her situation and helping her out, I don't want to field any potential questions about what I think of my situation.

The morning passes uneventfully.  I have singing lessons with my main vocal instructor and then a meeting at lunch with Tsunku.  Tsunku really seems to value and respect me.  I wonder what he'd think if he knew what ideas I was toying with in my mind. 

In the afternoon, Maki and I have a rehearsal together.  It's a big hushed project, but there are some rough plans in the works for us to release a collaboration of some sort next year.  The two top soloists of the Project could potentially sell a lot of records.  It's like Gomattou, except it's missing a third of its constituents- the most important part to me, but I would never tell Maki that.  I love her, too.  Just not that way.

I can't even remember how many times this past while I've been frustrated because Miki's no longer a soloist.  She should have been there in NUN with us.  She should have been there for all our promotional TV appearances and events, and for the concerts... Instead, she got sidelined.  She was tossed into a barrel full of sixteen year-olds and made to babysit them.

No, I don't like thinking like this.  Morning Musume is the biggest act of H!P.  They get the loudest cheers.  They're not a demotion.  It's an honour.  It's what she auditioned for in the first place.

But to Miki, being a soloist is more important.  She told me so.  And to me, especially now, it would be so much more fun if she was a soloist.  Of course this is something I'd never tell her.  I don't want to make her feel bad, regretful, or helpless about a situation she has little control over.

I have too many secrets from too many people.

I go the whole day without seeing Shibata, although I know for a fact that she's around.  I saw her name on the schedule. I bump into Miki once.  She's much more relaxed than yesterday and acts her normal self.  We steal ten minutes of each other's time and walk around the building, hand in hand, updating each other on our mornings.  Miki's there for voice training, too, although with a different teacher.  I get the feeling that whoever makes the schedules tries to get us in the building on the same day because it often happens that we're scheduled for the same days.  He or she probably knows we're friends.

"By the way," Miki interjects before we have to part, "Shibata was around asking for you."

The smile on my face freezes.

"Er... What did she want?"

"I don't know.  I told her you were in studio D and she thanked me and left.  That was about twenty minutes ago." 

I nod slowly.  I'm sure I'll be getting a visitor later this afternoon.  Miki asks if I know what it's about.  I tell her I don't know and suggest that it probably has something to do with our current tour.  She accepts my words immediately.  It makes me feel strange because I'm not telling the entire truth.  However, I'm just doing it because I don't know how to think of everything yet.  If I told her the real reason why I think Shibata's looking for me, she'd probably react badly to my thoughts of being able to leave the agency and becoming more successful. 

Miki's not as secure as she'd like everyone to believe.  I've always known this to a certain extent, but after that night in Kobe listening to her secrets and confessions, I learned just how deep seated the insecurity is.

It's not at chronic levels, nor does it reflect a bad childhood or anything traumatic like that, but she's extremely humble and modest with herself.  The last thing she needs is some bigheaded person going on about quitting a huge, multibillion yen agency and becoming even bigger on her own because she's such a good singer/actor/entertainer. 

"Aya??" I hear a distant voice call out.

"What?!" I ask loudly, blinking.

Miki's face is about a foot away from mine and I jump back.  I vaguely remember that there was some nose and forehead trauma the last time someone woke me up like that.  Poor Aibon.  No, wait.  Poor me, too.

"Aya, what's the matter with you?" Miki asks, exasperation in her tone.

"I spaced out.  Sorry," I say in an unapologetic tone.

"No, really.  What is wrong?  You're starting to freak me out a little.  Is everything okay?"

She's got me backed up against a wall (not in a sexy way) and she's looking at me like I'm ill.  I almost expect her hand to start touching my forehead, checking for a fever.

"Miki, I'm fine.  I promise you."

And with that promise, I feel like I've broken a part of my own heart.

"I don't know, Aya.  I'm just worried you're going to walk into traffic or onto the train tracks if you keep this up.  Didn't you sleep at all last night?"

All the exasperation has been wiped off her face.  Nothing but worry and caring can be seen.  I may as well admit something to her.

"Yeah, I didn't sleep much."

"Why not?  You said you were tired.  We went to bed early."

"I don't know," I grumble.  "I just couldn't sleep."

Miki takes me by the hands and leans in closely to me.

"You have to learn how to relax.  You're always doing two million and one things.  No wonder you're so uptight."

I sigh and smile, wishing that it was just regular stress.  She matches my smile and it actually de-stresses me a little.  That's one of the effects of her smile.

"Hey you two!" yells a voice.

I try to jump back, but I bump my head on the wall and I wince in pain.  Miki drops my hands and stumbles backwards.  We look and see Maki coming at us from the other end of the hallway.

"Get a room!" she calls out teasingly.

I glare at her and I touch my head carefully to feel for blood.  I'm okay.

"Nice to see you, too," Miki growls her greeting at our approaching interruption.

Maki reaches us and stops.

"I came to find you, Aya.  We're starting practice and you're off having a secret rendezvous with the rival group," she says in a mock threatening tone.

Miki snickers at this and gets ready to retort, but I jab my elbow into her side and her face goes from absolutely sly to absolutely pained.  Those two can act like the best of friends, but sometimes they tear into each other like cannibalistic piranhas .  It's just how they carry out their friendship, although sometimes I get a little worried and wonder if they're crossing the line with their insults.  Sometimes they look so fierce that I'm scared they'll start hitting each other.

"I'll be along soon," I inform her.

She gives me an amused look.

"Aya, I don't think you have a choice.  You have to come now.  Sensei's getting medieval on my butt, and I haven't even done anything wrong."

"Urrg.  Okay.  Miki, I'll see you later," I say, and I walk to Maki's side.

Miki doesn't reply.  I turn around and she's standing there with her arms crossed, glaring at me as if to strike me down where I stand.  I give her a bug-eyed "what?!" look.  She points to her injured ribs.  I roll my eyes.

"Later," I mouth.

I wink, and then turn around, latch onto Maki's arm, and we walk quickly down the hallway.  I can just see Miki fuming at being ditched.  She'll get over it.  I know she loves to play around like this anyway.

We stay at the studio until six.  Maki has to leave then, and I tell her to go ahead.  I want to practice some things for a few minutes.  At six-thirty, after belting out some of my favourite songs (many of which happen to be my own songs), I'm ready to call it quits.  I walk out of the practice room and I don't know why I'm even surprised to see Shibata standing outside waiting.  We make eye contact.  I reach for my phone and message Miki, telling her I'm going to be a while more.  I tell her to go home and I'll meet up with her later.  I switch my phone to silent mode and then approach the front girl of Melon while trying to stay calm.

"Did you get some rest last night?" she opens up politely.

"A little."

"Good," she smiles.

Then her face turns serious.

"Did you think about what we talked about?"

"A little," I reply in the exact same voice.

"I'm sorry for saying those things yesterday.  I think I was a little rude.  A little out of line."

That's not what I expected her to say.

"No," I cry out quickly.  "It had to be said."

"So what are you going to do about it?" she asks, seemingly relieved that I'm not angry.  "Still willing to stick it out here?"

I think long and hard about my answer.  I look warily around the hallway.  She gets my hint and we walk to the couches and chairs in the main area of the floor.  From there we can see anyone well ahead of the time they are within hearing range.

"I can't leave, Shiba-chan.  You said it yourself.  My name is attached to this Project.  It's nearly impossible to leave without bringing all the unfavourable things along."

Shibata smiles.

"Aya, I was playing devil's advocate when I spoke to you about it.  I'm doing it for your own good."

It's true.  She did switch from warning me to stay to urging me to leave.  I do have two questions I need answers to.

"Why me?  Why now?"

"Because I noticed.  You grew up suddenly.  I've been working around you for a few years now and I've seen huge improvements in the past half year alone.  This whole tour I've been blown away by your performance.  The truth is, you're better than all of us."

I lower my head.  I like compliments, but there's a point where I get embarrassed.

"I've noticed, though, that you're restless.  At least it seems like it.  And whatever sort of romance you've been involved in the past little while, it's done you good."

"What do you think I should do?"

I'm the unsure, inexperienced youngling.  Shibata is the wise senior.

"Honestly, I don't know.  If you want to grow more, leave.  If you want to explore this new, mature side of yourself in a safe environment, stay.  If you don't want UFA to kill you, keep your love life secret," she winks after the last part.

"There is no romance.  No affair.  Okay?" I state firmly.

Shibata shrugs.

"Fine," she says sounding unconvinced, probably because I'm such a bad liar.  "Just be careful."

I won't concede, so I drop that topic by ignoring it.

I cross my arms and look up at the ceiling, thinking.

"I don't know what to do," I say finally.

Shibata urges me to go on.

"On the one hand, I want to leave," I lower my voice, "and try a new company and make it on my own merits.  Be loved by a wider range of people.  But then on the other hand, I have so much to do in H!P.  So many reasons to stay."

Thoughts of Miki dominate my mind.

"There's no guarantee I'd have any chance if I left."

"You're right, but then you can never know until you try."

"So I should try?"

"No, I didn't say that."

"You're really not going to help me," I say with a touch of a joking glare.

"I'll help you if you want, but I think I'm more useful as a bucket.  Just pour your troubles in and forget about them if you want.  Or alternatively, try to solve them by seeing them outside of yourself."

I never thought Shibata could be that poetic (if talking about buckets can be considered poetic).

"Have you talked to anyone else about these things on your mind?" she asks me.

"No.  Just you," I shake my head.

"Nobody?"

She looks very surprised.

"Nobody." 

Not even Miki.  I know she's thinking that, but she's too nice (or maybe surprised) to say it.  Or maybe she even understands why I can't talk to Miki about it, although I highly doubt it.  Shibata's bright, but she doesn't know Miki the way I do.

"So what's your next move?" she changes the subject.

What kind of question is that?  I don't have much of a choice at the moment.

"Finish the tour," I reply as if she's dumb.

"You don't have to wait until the tour is over to start doing something about it."

This piece of seemingly obvious and oversimplified information hits me like a sack of bricks just as Shibata's phone rings.  She checks her message and sends one back quickly.

"Rika-chan's waiting.  We're going to catch some dinner with Megumi and Hitomi.  You're welcome to join us," she offers, standing up and arranging her bags.

"Thanks, but I'll pass," I smile.

"Other plans?" she asks with a wink.

I try not to look away.

"I'm just busy," is all I give her.

Shibata raises an eyebrow.

"Don't get caught.  Later!" she skips off quickly.

"There's nothing to get caught over!" I call out after her, but she doesn't turn around.

I sigh and sit back on the couch.  She's right.  I don't have to wait until the tour is over.  I just have to figure out what it is I want to do. 

I pull out my phone and see two messages, both from Miki.  The first one is a simple "okay" in response to my earlier message.  The second one is her telling me she's on the train.  She sent it to me less than five minutes ago.  I decide to wait to message her after I'm ready to leave the building. 

I stroll over to the change room and pack all my things, changing out of my sweatpants and putting on something more appropriate should I suddenly be photographed by a gossip magazine.   I touch up my makeup and brush my hair.

Once out, I message Miki and ask if it's okay to drop by her place.  An instant reply comes: "of course!"

I know the way to her place as well as I know the way to mine, so I'm able to drift off and not pay attention.  I start thinking of all the possible scenarios.  If I decide to quit H!P, I need to time it correctly.  It has to be between tours.  It has to be done quickly.  I have to be firm about it.

I almost scream out loud in frustration.  Why am I even thinking this?  I can't leave.  I see all the girls in my mind.  I see Tsunku.  I see our accomplishments.  I see the years of work I've put into this Project.  I see Miki.  I can't abandon anything or anyone.  H!P needs me as much as I need it.

But... "what if", right?  I'm not making decisions today.  I'm just wondering.

If I left, I'd have to start now.  I'd have to level up on my own starting now.  I'd have to start reaching out subtly and making contacts now.  I'd have to start preparing myself for the battle against my current employers now.

I'd have to tell Miki now.

And that last one is what probably keeps me from making the decision now.  By having it all up in the air and undecided, there's nothing solid to not tell.  I feels less like I'm lying to her.

However, if I stay in H!P, I can devote my own time to my personal improvement.  I can study on my own.  Maybe I can write some songs, learn new techniques, broaden my musical horizons... I can push the mature and adult image more and more.  I can become stronger.

As I plan this out, I arrive at Miki's front door and I ring the doorbell.  The door opens and the most delicious smell assaults my nostrils.  I'm about to ask Miki what she's cooking, but she gives me a flirty grin and pulls me into the apartment.

"What time do you have to be at the studio tomorrow?" she asks me without delay.  I think for a minute.

I'm filming a brief TV appearance in mid-morning.  I have to be there early.

"Eight," I reply, taking my shoes off.

"Can you stay over?" 

I figure I can borrow clothes and there's nothing I need from home for tomorrow.

"Yes."

"Good."

Her eyes sparkle and I instantly feel eighty-five percent better.  I drop my bag off at the front like I'd do at home and let her lead me into the apartment.

"Hungry?" she asks.

I nod vigourously.  She points to the couch and I sit down obediently while she wanders off to the kitchen area.  The TV is on so I watch.  It's a documentary about lemurs in Madagascar.  I stifle a laugh and wonder if Miki was really watching this or if she just turned it on for background noise.  It's cute either way.

Before I know it, dinner is served.  I relocate to the floor to sit at the table and we change the channel to something a little more interesting after I mock Miki about her geeky TV program tastes.  She scoffs and says she's allowed to have layers.

I start to eat a plate of yakisoba and I wonder where Miki learned to make noodles that taste so delectable.  I've always been under the impression that she couldn't cook.  Actually, I know for a fact that she can't cook.  There are very few things she's ever cooked that I've tried that have tasted really good.

"Did you make this?" I ask.

"Um... I didn't make it," she admits.  "Maki brought it over last week and I froze what I didn't eat."

I giggle.  Maki has a habit of doing that.  She'll make something delicious and then choose a lucky winner and give her a week's supply of food.  She once made takoyaki and brought over a container of it to my place.  We stuffed ourselves silly while chatting.  For the rest of the weekend, takoyaki was on the menu for all my meals.  As good as it was, I didn't eat takoyaki for months after, and I'm a girl who loves octopus.  That's how sick I got of it.

"Well, it's really good.  Why can't you cook like this?" I tease.

Miki pouts.

"Don't compare me to her in cooking.  Nobody can beat her," she huffs.

"Okay, that's true.  Maki makes us all look like idiots in the kitchen, but you're still really really bad for the daughter of parents who run a restaurant," I continue.

She pouts again.

"I know how to cook the important things.  The other stuff... I'll leave that to the pros."

"The important things?" I ask.

"Yakiniku."

"That doesn't count.  That's easy," I roll my eyes.

"Easy?" she cries.

She launches into a rant.  It figures.

"It's not easy.  First of all, before you even cook it, you have to make sure that the cuts of meat you choose are premium stuff.  Then when you do cook it, you can't do it over too-high heat or else you'll burn it.  When you cook it, you have to make sure not to leave it on too long or it'll be too tough to enjoy.  The ideal yakiniku should be well done on the outside, but the inside should be soft and mo-"

I grab her shoulders and kiss her to shut her up.  I can feel her wanting to pull away and continue her rant, but I push her against the couch, and we forget about dinner for a minute or two.  It's disgusting because we've been eating, so of course there's food still stuck in our mouths.  I've never kissed someone like that.  To put it mildly, it's an interesting experience.  I break it off and make a disgusted face.

"That was gross.  I don't know why I did that," I say.

"Heh, yeah," she drawls back at me dreamily with a smile.

Ugg.  Of course something gross would turn her on.  She's so weird.  But I love that.  I wipe my mouth and drink some water.  She complains that I'm rude.  I just tell her that I like chewing my own food and not swallowing other people's chewed food no matter how close I am to them.  She huffs and continues eating, ignoring me and watching the TV.

"I wonder what the rest of Morning Musume would think if they knew what a big baby you really are," I muse aloud, trying to get a rise out of her.

It certainly works.  She shoots me a glare.

"I don't act like a big baby."

I raise my eyebrow and just look at her.

"I don't!" she cries out.

"Look at you now.  Whining and complaining.  Getting into a huff because I'm teasing you.  That's definitely big baby behaviour."

She opens her mouth to yell again but then stops.  She smiles.

"So if all I am is a big baby, why do you stick around me?"

"Hmm..." I pretend to think about it.  "Because someone has to babysit you when mommy and daddy aren't around.  You're fun to play with."

"Oh?" Miki raises an eyebrow.  "I think it's fundamentally wrong to sleep with the kid you're babysitting.  Maybe I should get another babysitter."

I must turn the colour of a tomato. 

"That's not what I meant..."

Oh, there's no point.  She's won this one.  She grins and knows I know victory is hers.  She turns her attention back to her food and keeps eating while I sigh and continue as well.

The television program we're somewhat watching ends and a talk show starts up.  On it is some new, unheard of singer who has just released a single.  She's talking about how fulfilling it is to be signed up with a small label and that she feels so much more freedom than she would if she was signed up with Avex or Sony.

My heart skips a few beats.  What if I signed up with a small, unheard of label, too?  I could do whatever I wanted.  I push the idea out of my head, though.  I'm confident in myself, but I don't think I could handle that very well.  Not yet, anyway.  Jumping from a huge label to a practically non-existent one would be a shock and would take adjusting to.  That would take up my precious time.  No, if I move, it has to be to one of the big ones.

A thought occurs to me.  What if the bigger labels don't want me?  Even if they can forget about my H!P association, what if they don't need more people like me?  It's not that I'm bad at what I do, but they have a big pool of people to choose from.  I'm sure they can choose others who are like me.  I begin to wonder what I can do to make myself even more unique.  What points of mine can I sell?  I feel a familiar headache coming over me.

Then I feel something hit my shoulder.  I look up, startled, and see Miki lying back on the couch.

"How...?"

How did she get up there?

"You either really like this new singer on TV or you spaced out again.  I've been trying to get your attention for ten minutes," she says to me.

She doesn't sound necessarily disappointed, but she seems a little worried.

"Sorry, I..." I don't know what to tell her.

"You're tired and you spaced out," she finishes for me.

I shrink into the floor and wish I was a centimetre tall.

"Aya, I wanted you to come over so that you could just relax.  A bit of homecooking, TV, and just sitting around doing nothing should do the trick.  Whatever is on your mind, just let it go.  It's not important right now.  There's nothing you can do at a quarter to eight in the evening."

I put a hand on my forehead and rub my temples.

"Headache again?" she asks.

I nod.  She rolls off the couch and sits beside me, putting an arm around me.

"Tell me what I can do to help you," she pleads.

If only she could help me.  I think the only way I can relax is to be very aware that she's beside me so that I can't drift off into my own thoughts.

"Just stay here," I mumble.

"Easy enough.  I live here," she jokes lightly.

"No, I mean just stay beside me."

It's horribly corny of me to say something like that, but it's what I need right now.  Physical evidence that I'm not alone and therefore cannot float away deep in thought.

"If you want to talk..." she says hopefully.

I shake my head.

"There's nothing to talk about.  I'm just stressed over work."

It's not a total lie.  It's not a total lie.  It's not a total lie...

"Okay."

She definitely sounds let down, but she doesn't move from my side.  She puts her head on my shoulder and squeezes my opposite shoulder tightly.  She has got to be the only person in the world who could feel hurt or denied and yet still offer all of the comfort she can give to me.

We sit there without talking for almost an hour as the TV belts out commercials and TV programs.  I watch it, but I don't pay attention to it.  I focus on Miki and her arm around me and all the good things I can think of from the past few days before I talked to Shibata.  I think of all the good times we've had over the past few years- all our goofy jokes, our silly sleepovers, our adventures out in the city, getting lost, watching concerts, and seeing movies.  I think about all those little things that Miki's done or said that indicate she likes me a lot.  I think of my obliviousness, and I think of her not being aware at the time that half the things she was saying and doing could be read that way.  Those things make me laugh inside.

After that hour, she asks me how my headache is.  It feels a little better, actually.  If I don't pay attention to it, it goes away.  I tell her it's mostly gone.  She kisses my head as if to help it along to becoming one hundred percent okay.  We then get up and change into pyjamas, set the alarm clock, and get into bed where the pyjamas come right off.

As she's on top of me, playing with my hair and studying my face, she asks me if I'm okay.  I smile and say I'm fine now that she's here.  It's absolutely the truth.  I've forgotten everything except me and her, here, now, in this apartment, in this bed.  She asks hesitantly if I want her to just leave me alone so I can go to sleep, and I hit her arm and tell her not to start things she doesn't intend to finish.  She tells me I'm the one who likes to do that, and I think back to all the projects or hobbies I've ever started and then lost interest in midway through, not continuing any of them.  That's a lot.  I begin to think again of the good times we've had.

While I'm distracted, she kisses me to bring me back to the real world.  She asks me what I'm thinking.

"The past three and a half years," I reply.

"And what in particular?"

She knows what my answer will be or at least its general idea.  She just likes hearing me say it.

"You, among other things," I say, pointedly emphasising the second half of my sentence.

"What other things?" she asks, getting dangerously close to my face, reminding me who is in control now.

"Fun stuff we've done," I say quickly.

I don't want to fall victim to Miki's teasing.  She's much worse than I am.  She gets physical about it.

"But not as fun as this past weekend," she grins evilly.

I blush at her words.

"No, a different kind of fun."

I think of everything we've done the past week, and suddenly I see Shibata in my mind again.  This time I hear today's conversation.  She's telling me I've grown up and improved so much in the past half year.  She's telling me that my love life has done good things for me but to be careful to not get caught.  I'm starting to hate the sound of her voice because it won't leave my head. 

"Okay, I hope the look on your face doesn't tell me how much you like what we've been doing the past few days because if it does, I'll just excuse myself and go sleep on the couch."  Miki makes as if to get up.

I have a serious problem in that I can't stop thinking about my problems.  I have to stop that.  I'm in the middle of something here.  It's plain rude of me to be frowning or wincing, or making whatever negative expression I currently have on my face.  I grab onto Miki's shoulders and hold her there firmly.

"No, that's not what I think about it.  I think-" I pull her down and kiss her hard and deeply.

I break away quickly.

"-about it."

Miki doesn't look quite convinced yet, but I kiss her again and her hug her strongly.

"You sure?" she asks.

"Positive."

I might not be able to lie very well, but I can be very convincing about the truth.  She smiles and draws circles on my head with her finger.

"You're still a confusing person to be around.  I'll hack into your brain someday," she says a little sadly.

Sad, I guess, that she can't hack in right now.  I feel extremely guilty.  I feel like telling her everything, but I don't because she looks at me in an understanding way even if she's not entirely happy with me holding back.  It makes me feel good.  Just plain good.  Miki asks for little and gives so much.

I pull her down to me and whisper softly that I'm sorry.  She can interpret the apology however she likes.  I know I'm saying it for everything I feel I've done wrong, which to me is a lot.  We hush up and continue to communicate in a different way.

A wave of gratitude passes through me as Miki touches me and whispers things for my ears only.  All worries and thoughts of my problems dissipate.  They vanish for the night because she makes them go away.

Over these troubled waters, Miki is my bridge.  She just can't know it.  Not now.

Offline OTN1

  • ecchi
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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2007, 01:15:57 AM »
Chapter 7 of 16

The alarm rings at six am and I grudgingly obey it, getting up after pushing Miki off of me.  She wakes up, looks up, and then pulls the sheet over her head, continuing to sleep.  She doesn't have to be anywhere until half past nine this morning, the lucky girl.

I go through all the motions of getting ready.  I suppose it's odd doing it in somebody else's home alone, especially when you have to rummage through the closet and drawers to find clothing to wear for the day.  However, I got over it a while ago since I've had to do it before.

I'm all ready.  I've showered, dressed, broken fast, and put on my makeup.  I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth and I stand at the doorway, looking out into the living room.

Out of the corner of my eye I see movement, and I'm surprised to see Miki walking (or shuffling) towards me.  She reaches me and I expect that she will hug me or greet me in some way, but she walks right past me with a grunt and goes to the sink, putting some toothpaste on her toothbrush and coming over to the doorway to join me in my teeth brushing.  I look at her oddly and she just squints back.  She's definitely not a morning person.  Neither am I, but I think she's worse than I am.  I think she really had to make a big effort yesterday to wake me up at half past five, that ungodly hour.  It makes me like her that much more. 

I try to say something to her but it comes out as a garbled mess.  I cup my hand around my chin where toothpaste is now dripping down and I scramble towards the sink.  I spit out the rest of the toothpaste and wash my chin and rinse my mouth.  I come up to see Miki beside me, waiting for me to make room.  I move out of the way quickly and she spits and rinses.  When she's done, she looks up at me.

"Pardon?" she asks politely.

The first word of the day from her to me are "pardon".  Is that cute or is that annoying?  I'm not quite sure.

"I was going to say 'good morning'," I inform her.  She "hmm"s at me.  "So I repeat: good morning."

"Good morning."

And now that's settled.  We've said our good mornings.  I move off to go and make sure my bag is still at the front entrance.  I open it up and check the address of the studio I'm going to today.  I've been there before once, but a lot of time has passed since then.  I study it for a moment and decide that I remember how to get there.  I check my watch.  Not much time left before I have to leave.

"When do you have to leave?" she asks.

She's standing right above me.  I didn't even notice her.

"Ten minutes," I reply.

There's a moment of silence.  I look up at her and she's looking at me wickedly.  I shake my head.

"Miki, I don't have time for anything," I say firmly.

She makes a sad face and I instantly feel bad.  I get up and hold her hand and pull her over to the couch.

"Going home right after rehearsal?" I ask.

We both have separate dance rehearsals scheduled for the afternoon, but hers ends earlier than mine.

"No.  I have futsal practice, remember?" she grumbles.  "I'll be back late." 

That's right.  I forgot about that futsal thing.  I puff my cheeks out and then let all the air out.

"Tough day."

"No biggie," she shrugs.

Just like her to stubbornly not admit that she's going to be tired and sore later on.

"You want to come over later tonight?"

"Or you could come over to my place.  I still have all that food, and I'm not going to be home all weekend to eat it."

She nods an "okay" and we decide that she'll just head to my place after she's finished her training. 

I check my watch again. seven-twenty. Time to leave.

We say our goodbyes, and Miki hangs onto me like a baby.  I laugh and try to pry her arms from around me thinking that she's just being silly.  She tells me to be careful, and I reply that I always am.  She starts saying that she doesn't want to let go of me ever.

It's all very sweet, but I'm going to be late.

She doesn't stop there, and I realise that she's not just playing around and hanging off of me to be a cute pest.  She sounds desperate.  She tells me that she doesn't want anything bad to happen to me, that she doesn't want me to be scared or worried, and that she wants me to know that I can come to her for anything.  It's almost a hysterical monologue.  It's as if I'm walking off to my death and she's trying to stop it from happening.

I finally manage to pull away from her and I look into her eyes.  They are full of worry and uncertainty, and I'm sure that if she'd continued talking, she would have been on the verge of tears.  I put on my brightest smile and thank her for being there.  I tell her that I'm okay now and that I'll see her in the afternoon and we can hang out and talk then.  She still looks worried, but she knows she has to let go of me.  She does with a small smile, and I quietly slip out of the door with a wave.  No grand exit.

I walk away from Miki's door and my smile completely disappears.  If I didn't feel bad enough before, now I'm feeling wretched.  Miki is worried almost to the point of crying, and here I am telling her everything's okay when that's not what she wants to hear because she's knows it's not true.  Sometimes I truly disgust myself.


"One more time!" the teacher yells over the music.

It's no surprise to me that I can't concentrate.  I keep making huge mistakes in the choreography, so we have to keep repeating it.  I feel bad for keeping the other girls back.

I avoid Shibata's gaze at all costs.  It's pretty obvious what she's thinking: Aya's distracted by her secret affair.  Okay, it's a little true.  But mostly, I'm just wondering what the point is of being at this rehearsal.  I'm not learning anything.  All I want to do is curl up with a book about the entertainment industry and learn as much as possible.

Minute by minute, I find myself wanting to leave more and more.  This morning's filming further rubbed that into me.  I filmed it with a few other singers, all of whom are successful without H!P.

"Okay, break for twenty minutes," the teacher calls out while we're in the middle of dancing (and I'm in the middle of zoning).

He looks directly at me.

"Some of us really need it."

Sensei makes little shooing gestures at all of us.  I thankfully run out of the studio, glad that he doesn't want to speak to me alone.  I pause to see what direction Shibata is going in.  I choose the opposite direction.

I wonder if a big book about the entertainment industry exists.  I should check it out at the library if it does.  If it doesn't, I'll have to find some other safe way to look up information.  Maybe the internet.  But I'm not very good with the internet.  I type too slowly and it's such a hassle.  I decide to go to the library after work today.  Miki won't come over until much later, so I'll have plenty of time.

Miki.  I look up.  I'm at her change room.  I knock.

"Yeah!" a muffled voice calls out.

I open the door and walk in.  She's surprised to see me.  She gets up and ambles over to me, scratching her head distractedly.

"Hi," she says, like she can't believe I was able to find my way to her.

I try to act normal and cheerful.

"Hi," I reply brightly.  "You're on break?"

"Rehearsal got cut short.  Our teacher got pulled out for an emergency," she explains.

"Lucky," I snort.  "I still have an hour."

"Hey, at least you don't have to go and kick a ball around for two hours afterwards," she relaxes and snaps back in a playful tone.

I feel this ball of happiness in my stomach burst open, and I forget everything but the moment.  I grab Miki and pull her towards me, surprising her once again.  I drape my arms around her neck.

"How much time do you have before practice?"

"Two and a half hours."

"What are you going to do 'till then?"

She shrugs.

"I don't know.  I'll probably end up going out for food with Yocchan and whoever else."

"No fair.  I want to join you guys.  No, wait.  I want to have you to myself," I pout.

"You'll get me all to yourself later," she grins, sneaking her hands onto my waist and squeezing me gently.  "If you even bother to pay attention to me," she adds on.

The smile drops from my face.  She thinks I'm ignoring her on purpose when I space out?  I let go of her neck and back off slowly.

"Aya," she says with a question in her voice.  "I didn't mean..."

I shake my head.

"It doesn't matter."

"I didn't mean it like that," she says gently.

"It doesn't matter what you meant," I say stubbornly.

Bad idea to be stubborn around the queen of stubborn.

"Well, if it wasn't true, then I wouldn't have said it," she says coldly.

I shoot her an angry look.

"I'm having a rough week.  You could at least be a little more sympathetic."

"I'm trying to, Aya, but you won't let me."

My phone rings.  I pick it up.  Message from Shiba-chan.  She wants to talk to me.  Just great.

"I have to go," I tell Miki.

"I thought you had a longer break," Miki says in a neutral voice.

"I do.  I have to go see someone now."

She walks over to the dresser and starts looking through papers, probably just pretending to look for something. 
"Come on, Miki.  I'm not ignoring you.  I'm not ditching you.  I just have to go," I sigh.

"Okay.  Bye."

I leave without saying anything.  I hate fighting with her.  Why is it that we've confessed that we mean more to each other than the world, and suddenly we're at each other's throats even more?  At each other's throats in a bad way.

I meet Shibata in the foyer.  I do a double take when I see Masae and Megumi with her.

"Matsuura, good.  You're here," Megumi says.

I walk up to the trio slowly.

"What's up?" I ask warily.

"In celebration of romance," Shibata begins with a twinkle in her eyes as an argument starts to erupt from my mouth, "we're going out for dinner tonight."

I hold back my complaint.  What is she talking about?

"Huh?"

"Hitomi finally scored last night!" Masae cheers.

I cringe.  Does she have to be so crude?

"And he called her back this morning," Megumi adds on.

I start to laugh.  These girls are nuts.  I know that Hitomi hasn't had a boyfriend in over a year, but I find it so funny that her friends get just as excited as she probably is.

"You missed her gushing about it this morning while you were off in TVland," Masae continues.  "But she met him at a convenience store of all places and they went out for drinks after, and then at night he went over to her place and they h-"

Shibata delivers a sharp jab to Masae's side, which shuts her up.

"Aya-chan doesn't need to hear the details from you.  She can hear the details from Hitomi-chan tonight at our celebratory dinner," she grins.

I sigh and am about to say that I can't make it, but I remember Miki won't be around till later.  In fact, I don't even know if she's going to bother to come over after what just happened.  I find myself nodding and laughing and saying I can't wait.  Maybe a night out with the girls will make me forget everything.


No such luck.  After our rehearsal and not hearing a peep from Miki (not even an angry text message), we go out to a fancy Italian restaurant where they don't check for identification.  We eat a huge meal and wine flows generously.  I only have a few sips because I really can't handle alcohol.  Masae and Hitomi really know how to chug it, while Shibata is a little more conservative than them, but does partake in several glasses.

Halfway through the night, Masae and Hitomi are drunkenly gushing about past and current boyfriends and Shibata turns to me.  Her face is rosey pink and she's smiling a little more widely than she would if she was entirely sober.

"You know, I was thinking of all the stupid things I've done before," she starts.  "And then I realised that talking to you about leaving wasn't one of them."

I giggle despite myself.  It's such a funny thing for her to say.

"I'm glad to hear it."

"I want you to know," she says, clasping a hand on my shoulder, "that whatever decision you make, I will back you up because I believe in your talent."

She sways a bit and I wonder if she's not a little more drunk than I first suspected.

"I'm only telling you all this because I originally wanted to be you.  I wanted to have your job, but then I realised I wasn't good enough, so I figured I may as well see you make the most of it because you're a nice girl."

I'm sure she wouldn't be telling me this if she hadn't had half a litre of wine.  I'm flattered, but I feel bad.  Really bad.

"Shiba-chan, you're good enough to do anything," I tell her.

"Nooooho ho ho, I'm not," she chuckles as she shakes my shoulder.  "So if you need to leave, then leave.  Be the biggest star you can be.  Me and the girls, we're cheering for you.  We always want you to do your best.  So do your best."

And then I almost start to tear up.  Shibata is such a good person.  Any doubts about her true intentions all this time have been wiped away.  I grasp her hand and squeeze it tightly.

"I'll do my best for you and everyone," I promise her.

Now if I can only say that to Miki.

She giggles and continues eating the pasta on her plate.  I watch Masae and Hitomi become increasingly drunk and I start to feel terrible again.  Here I am talking to Shibata about all these things I should be telling Miki.  It's like I'm carrying out some sort of intellectual affair, except not really.

I sigh and completely lose my appetite.  I push the food around on my plate and try to make it look like I'm having fun while Hitomi continues to give us details about this new boyfriend of hers.  He sounds like a nice guy, but then again, we all tend to talk about the good things at first.  It's okay.  Chances are he won't end up being complete sleaze. 

Ugg.  I hate how negative I'm being.  I pray for the night to come to a quick end so that I can go home and watch a movie.  Maybe fall asleep reading manga.

As if a messenger descending from the heavens above, my mother texts me.  She doesn't say anything important other than "hello", but I use this as an excuse to leave.  I tell the girls that my mother has to call me and she wants to call me on my landline since it's cheaper.  I excuse myself at seven-thirty and head home.  I get there just after an hour and I collapse on the couch.  I can't reach the remote and I'm too tired and bothered to move.

This lasts until the doorbell rings twenty minutes later.  I wonder who it could be.

I get up reluctantly and open up the door.  There's Miki, hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, face a little sweaty, and wearing a tracksuit.  She's holding a sports bag in her hand.

She's a poster girl for the ultimate sexy, messy athlete.  My knees feel weak.

Her face betrays no hint of emotion as I let her in.  It's like she's fulfilling an obligation.  She said she'd be here, so she's here.  It feels awkward, but I tell myself that it's the same old Miki that I know.

"What time did you finish practice?" I ask, trying to break the ice between us.

"About thirty minutes ago," she says in a low voice.

There's something strange about her.  It's like there's something in her just waiting to burst out.

"Did you eat dinner?" I ask.

She shakes her head.

"We can fix you up something if you want.  I ate already." 
She shakes her head again.

"I'm okay," she says in a final tone.

I don't argue.  She puts down her bag and takes her shoes off.  I tell her to come in and have a seat.  I feel like I'm letting a casual acquaintance into my home, not Miki.  She sits on the couch and asks what I was doing.  I tell her I was about to watch TV.  She grabs the remote and turns the TV and finds a variety show.

"I wanted to have your job, but then I realised I wasn't good enough, so I figured I may as well see you make the most of it because you're a nice girl."

Maybe that's how Miki feels, too.  She told me something similar last Saturday in Kobe.  She told me she'd idolised me before knowing me.  Maybe she wanted to be me, too, and then realised she couldn't because the Project and the Producer wouldn't give her a chance...

Stop thinking about it.

Miki looks over at me as if she can sense the internal battle going on inside me.

"If you're still bothered about today..." she mutters grudgingly.

I frown.

"No, I've forgotten about that."

In all honesty, I have.

"Then can you say something to me?"

"Like what?" I ask, completely confused.

"Anything.  Just tell me something."

I'm not sure what she's getting at, so I figure some gossip would be a safe way to start.  I mention to her that I went out with the Melons and that Hitomi got a new boyfriend.  Her reaction shows that this isn't what she wants to hear, but I really don't know what else to say.

"Could you tell me something else?  Something about you?  Not other people?"

She sounds very demanding.

"Like what?  What do you want me to tell you?"

I really don't know.  I'm starting to get annoyed.

"Anything!" she cries out.  "For heaven's sake, Aya, just talk to me."

"Um... I spilled water all over my outfit during a break in filming today so I had to dry it quickly," I say stupidly.

I wish I hadn't said that.  She glares at me and then continues to watch TV.

She's angry.  Very angry.  I can tell.  She won't admit it, though.

We both shut up for the rest of the TV program.  At one point, I think it's sad how our relationship has been reduced to this- sitting on a couch, not talking, and watching TV while we're angry or confused.  Then I remind myself that everyone has their bad days.  Every pair of friends or lovers or brothers or whoever has their low points.

The anger doesn't seem to go away.  The program ends and Miki gives me the strangest look.  She stares at me angrily, her eyes flicker to my bedroom briefly, and then she stares back at me once again.  I'm not sure how to interpret that.  If she's so angry with me, why would she want to do anything with me?  Why would she even be here?

We get up and get ready for bed.  I want to smash my face into the ground because it's so uncomfortable right now.

As we brush our teeth, remove makeup, and put on pyjamas, her movements are brisk.  Quick.  Cold and calculated.  I rarely see her like this around me.  The few times that she's gotten like this, I've turned timid.  It happens again this time.  I don't know how to deal with an unstable Miki.  The minefield Miki.  I don't know what to say or what to do.

We get into bed.  The lights go off.  She turns onto her side, her back to me, and mumbles goodnight.  I'm torn between wanting to tell her to stop being a child and just turning over to my side and going to sleep in hopes of a fresh start in the morning.  I do neither.  I stare up at the ceiling for ten minutes. 

Then I act - perhaps out of spontaneous stupidity - and crawl up right behind her back.  I put a hand on her arm and run it down to grasp her hand.  I kiss the back of her neck gently.

She rolls onto her back, eyes open, looking perfectly awake.  She stares at me blankly.  I don't let it stop me.  I kiss her neck and move up as she does nothing.  I lift myself up with my arms on either side of her head.  I kiss her lips- her cold, unmoving lips.  They don't respond in any way.  They don't register my presence.  I move one hand and play with the hem of her tank top.  I pull it up slightly and put my hand on her stomach. 

Just as I begin to move it up, she reacts.  She grabs my hand in an iron grip and takes it out of her shirt.  It surprises me.  She then pushes me onto my back and climbs on top of me, grabbing my hands and pinning them over my head.  She looks down at me, her face no longer blank but alive with feeling.  Aggressive feeling.  There's a hungry - no - feral look in her eyes.  I feel like she's going to attack me.

This is a side to Miki that I've never seen before.

She bends down and kisses me roughly, biting down on my lips and pressing into them hard.  It almost hurts enough to cry out, but she doesn't draw any blood.  Her hands squeeze mine tightly.  I open my eyes and see hers staring back.  She looks like a tiger.  An angry, famished tiger.  My heart skips a beat in fear.  Has she gone psychotic?

She lets go of my hands and pins me down by my shoulders.  She bites her way down my neck, sucking at my skin mercilessly.  It's too late to remind her to be careful not to leave any marks.  She veers off and bites my shoulder and then my arm.  I don't make any cute comments about food like I did in my dream a few days ago.  She changes course again and crushes her lips against mine.

"No matter what you do," she growls, "you still drive me crazy."

I guess that's a good thing.

"You turn me on like mad."

She continues to consume my lips with hers and I try to keep up with what's going on.  Her hands move and they're now on either side of my head. I want to tell her that what she just said is the same for me about her, but I'm too scared and too shy to say anything right now.

I carefully put my hands on her back at waist level.  She doesn't flinch.  Instead, she takes her hands and drags them across my entire body.  She grasps at my torso, my arms, my legs... any skin she can reach.  She's rough with me.  This isn't the sweet, sometimes needy, affectionate caressing from before.  This is some sort of twisted, desire-filled touch that demands absolute submission.

I can feel what she's thinking through her hands.  She's angry.  Angry at me.  She's so angry that she feels like she should hurt me, but she would never hurt me.  She makes me feel the pain but muffled by ecstasy.  Muffled by bliss.  It's twisted and perverted and sick, but it feels good because not everything is okay with me at the moment.  I deserve the pain, and I need the good feelings that come with it in this violent sex.

Her nails drag across my stomach followed by her hungry mouth.  I feel like I don't own my body anymore.  It's hers to do with as she likes.  She won't let me do anything to her, though.  I try to, but she pushes my hands away forcefully.  I'm only allowed to rest my hands on her or hold her while she consumes my entire being.

After what seems like endless hours of being brought up and down and up and down, she calms down, but she's still forceful.  Still a little ferocious as she kisses me. 

"At least I can have you this way," she murmurs.

I have no idea what she means by this.  It seems to fuel her on, though, and again, she's rubbing my entire body in an agonisingly painful but gratifying way.  Unable to take it anymore, I cry out for her to stop, but she doesn't.  She knows I don't really want her to because my arms are clutching her to me, not letting her move away.

And that's how we spend this night.

I'm not sure if I black out or if I just fall asleep.  I don't remember.  All I know is that one minute I'm in the middle of a high, and the next, I'm out.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2007, 01:16:41 AM »
Chapter 8 of 16

The next morning I wake up to nothing.  No alarm clock, no phone call, nobody shaking me.  I open my eyes slowly and stifle a groan.  My body is on fire.  My skin feels raw.  The space beside me is empty.  I'm alone in my bed, completely wrapped in my covers.  I know that I'm wearing nothing.

I wonder if it was all a dream.  Some strange, self-punishing, guilt-induced dream that Miki came over last night and did those things to me.  I turn my head to the side and bite my lip in embarrassment as I remember what she did.  I'm even more embarrassed because I liked it.

My delusion of her visit being a dream is shattered when Miki walks into the room, dressed for the day, her hair wet from a recent shower.  She has her eyes set on a pile of clothes on the floor and doesn't seem to notice that I've woken up.  I watch silently as she picks up her pyjamas and folds them carefully.  I almost laugh.  She treats those pyjamas more kindly than she treated me last night.

As if alerted by some unknown force, she suddenly looks up and sees me with my eyes open, looking at her.  I blink.

"Morning," she says, her face betraying nothing.

"Good morning," I reply automatically.

"I have to be at the studio early this morning," she explains before going back to folding.

She's acting as if nothing out of the ordinary happened the previous night.  Maybe nothing happened.  Maybe it was a vivid dream.  Maybe we had some fun before falling asleep and my subconscious mind took over out of guilt and created a colourful happening.

I roll up and swing my feet over the edge of the bed, standing up shakily.  Miki continues to fold as I timidly walk past her and to the chest of drawers.  I quickly slip on some sweat pants and a tank top and leave my room.  I go into the washroom and splash cold water on my face, taking a few gulps of it while I'm there.  My mouth is dry.  My lips feel like they're bruised. 

I look up into the mirror.  It definitely wasn't a dream.  Not if the marks on my neck and shoulders are any proof.  I panic for a moment, wondering how I'm going to cover them up.  I look around for some tanning lotion, but I have none.  Then I forget about the whole issue of covering up my secret life.  I suddenly feel very strange.  Whatever happened last night was not normal.

But how can Miki be acting like this?  Like it didn't happen?  I'd almost feel better if she was still angry at me, or even if she'd just taken off early and not said a word to me.  She all but tore me apart last night, and all she has to say is "good morning. I have to be at the studio early"?  I wonder if she is still mad at me.  She has to be.  The way she treated me last night was based on a kind of anger that couldn't disappear overnight.

God, it was so good.

Beyond rough.  Beyond violent.  Beyond ecstasy.  Not just physically, but also mentally.

I liked it.  I liked it because I've been feeling so guilty these days.  It was like her revenge.  We're even now.  I've kept a secret from her.  She's hurt me for it.  I don't think it's healthy, though.  It can't possibly be.

I don't know how to talk about this with her.  What am I supposed to say to her?  "Gosh, you really beat me up last night in bed.  It was sexy.  Let's do it again next month" isn't going to cut it. 

I inspect the red marks on my neck.  There are quite a few.  I'll have to pull out the turtleneck tank top that I bought last month.  I knew it would come in handy.  My arms, however, won't be covered.  I could wear a blouse, but I have yet another dance rehearsal today.  I can use make up to cover it up as best as I can.  It won't do much good, but I'll try.  I realise that I'm never going to hear the end of this from Shibata.  I'll see her this morning.

I walk back to my room, stalling and praying that Miki leaves it soon.  I get back and she's now cleaning up the room.  She's got a small pile of clothing in her arms and she's trying to figure out where to put it.  Wordlessly, I take them from her.  They're my pyjamas.  I put them on the bed and go to fold them, but I realise that they're torn.  Ripped off of me.  By her.

I'm thrown back onto the mattress after trying to get up to turn the AC on.  I'm overheating, and Miki being all over me and smothering me is not helping.  I try to tell her I'm hot, but she puts a hand over my mouth and squeezes my forearm with her other.  She drags her hand down from my mouth, down my chin, down my neck, down my breasts, down to my stomach.  She grabs the ends of my shirt with one hand and pulls it up viciously.  I hear the distinct sound of cloth ripping...

My body temperature jumps a few degrees as I quickly shove the pyjamas under my pillow.  I look up to see if Miki saw.  If she did, she's not paying attention anymore.  She's picking up the alarm clock and some miscellaneous objects and putting them back on the small table I have beside my bed.

My arm shoots out as she bites down on me hard.  I inadvertently hit everything off of my bedside table.  I make sounds, half from pain, half from enjoyment.  I pull my hand back and try to push her away because my mind is confused.  It hurts but it feels good.  She bats my hand away without looking at it, and it hovers in the air for a while before coming to a rest on her shoulder.

I promptly exit my room again, going to the kitchen.  I pour a tall glass of cold water and drain it dry in seconds.  I'm frazzled.  What do I do?

Miki walks out of my bedroom a minute later while I'm standing in the kitchen.

"I'll see you later," she says.

I look up, startled, and watch as she gathers her bag and puts her shoes on at the front door.  She leaves and closes the door behind her.

What the hell?

I stand in my kitchen for a while wondering what to do next.  Should I call her?  Should we talk?  Should I pretend what happened last night doesn't matter?

Shibata comes to mind.  I bet if I told her this, after the initial disgust and shock, she'd have some great advice.  I automatically rule out that option, though, simply because I don't want to involve anyone in this.  I don't want anyone to know.  It's our secret.

I take a shower.  I smooth soap over my body gently.  It feel like the times when I get a sunburn and my skin is tender and hot to the touch.

Sucking and biting and nipping and scratching and...

I wince as I remember everything.  I want to shut it out of my mind.  It wasn't right.  It's still not right.

I finish my shower and get dressed, my brain in a strange state of calm.  I don't think of anything.  I eat, brush my teeth, take the train, and arrive at the studio.  I don't think I'll see Miki today.  I didn't check with her this morning, but I think she's off filming some futsal-related appearance.  I don't even bother to check for her name on the rehearsal schedule.

I miss her.  Even with the awkwardness I feel between us now, I miss her.

I drag myself up to the change room I share with the girls at this studio.  I walk in.

"My god, Aya, you look like hell!" Masae yells out when she sees me.

I'm wearing long sleeves and my turtle neck tank top underneath, so she can't possibly tell that anything happened.  I guess it's the aura around me that she can sense.

"Shut up," Hitomi groans from the corner.

I look over and see her sitting in front of the mirror holding her head in pain.

"Good morning," I glare back at them.

Murata and Shibata aren't here.  I change quickly while Masae goes over to comfort Hitomi and feed her some sort of medicine for her hangover.  I tell Hitomi to take care and get some rest before we start, and then I head for the warm-up room.

My mistake.  Shibata is there.  She's early.  I didn't notice her things in the change room.  I walk into the warm up room and she sees me immediately.  I can't turn around and go back.  I smile at her and start to stretch, willing her in my mind to just not talk to me.

"You're lucky you left when you did last night," she pipes up.

I sigh resignedly in my mind and respond.

"Why?  What happened?"

"Masase started buying Hitomi shots of something.  I have no idea what it was, but it did its job well.  They made me have a few, but Hitomi downed about ten.  We were pretty gone ourselves, but we had to drag her back home because she could barely stand."

I'm so glad I didn't go with them.  I'd probably have said something I would regret saying later.

I mutter some sort of stock reply saved just for such stories of such occurrences, and I continue stretching.  I take my sweat shirt off after a few minutes since the AC isn't working very well in this room.

The room goes still.  I feel the atmosphere change.  My stomach drops and I look up slowly, sweating.  Shibata looks at me with a spark in her eye.

"Somehow I don't think you went home and called your mother last night," is all she says.

She continues to stretch.  I grow angry.  What business is it of hers?

"Shut up, Shibata," I grumble in a grumpy voice.

I hope she'll leave me alone.

"Aya-chan, if you try to convince me you fell down while vacuuming last night and that's how all that" she points to me, "happened, then I'll slap you upside the head."

"Leave me alone," I say.

I stretch my legs in front of me and pull my face down to my knees.  I hear Shibata get up and come and sit beside me.

"Are you going to tell me anything?   Or do I have to keep guessing who he is?"

I look up at her and give her a warning look.

"I'm not in the mood for this."

Shibata shrinks back.  Maybe I look very angry.  Well, I am angry.  I'm angry at her for butting in.  I'm angry at her for being the cause of all my confusion.  If she hadn't said anything to me about leaving, I wouldn't have had to hold it back from Miki, who wouldn't have a reason to get mad at me and therefore wouldn't have satisfied some sadistic desire or anger by hurting me in the most gratifying way.  I wouldn't be worried now, disgusted with myself for surrendering to that deep, dark, and unknown masochistic side of me that I never new existed.

"Okay, sorry," she gives up.

I sigh with relief but also feel guilty.  Again.  She's just being a silly, curious girl.  She doesn't realise, though, what sort of thing I'm involved in.  She edges away from me a little and we continue to stretch in the room, close to each other but worlds apart as I piece together the previous night in my mind.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2007, 01:17:01 AM »
Chapter 9 of 16

"...Three four!  Five six!  Seven eight...!"

Turn, step back, half turn again, arms up, bring one down, step sideways, snap back up, roll head...

...I'm thrown against the mattress after I try to get up again.

"Don't leave me," she whispers in a guttural voice, kissing my ear and biting at my earlobe.

There's a double meaning there, and I'm not sure how to take it.  I try to push her off me.

"Stop it."

"No," she almost snarls.

I let her keep going.


"Again!  One two!  Three and four! Five...!"

Shibata and Murata step forward, Ootani and Saito step back.  I stay where I am.  Pause for three seconds.  Sing.  Go forward a step.

And then I pull her into me and tell her timidly that she's hurting me.  She doesn't reply with words, but she eases up a little.  She stops digging her teeth into me so much.  Her weight on top of me, however, overwhelms me and I feel trapped.  I start to breathe hard.

"Matsuura, move out of the way a little before this point and then run back up to centre stage.  That way Saito can make it in time to reach Shibata."

"Right."

She's sitting on my stomach, looking down at me.  She's still clothed.  I'm wearing nothing.  She leans forward and rests her hands on my chest, pushing down slightly.  I feel trapped again.

The only tender moment of the night comes then when she runs a hand gently down my cheeks and over my lips.  She stares at me sadly, but I'm in too much of a strange space to be sympathetic.  She gets off of me and lays herself down beside me.  She draws her face close to mine and puts her cheek on mine, her ear at my mouth.  Maybe she wants me to say something.  I don't know what to say or what to do.

I move my hand slightly and touch hers with my pinky finger.  I take her hand gently in mine and squeeze it.  She lifts her head up and her sad face is still in place.  Her eyes change, though, and she reverts back to her angry self.  She squeezes my hand and brings it up over my head.  She holds it there tightly, cutting off the circulation while her other hand tickles its way down my body.


"Good work.  You girls were on the ball today.  See you later."

Funny.  None of us are in peak condition today.  The Melons are all suffering from hangovers and I'm... well, I'm suffering from one, too, but a different kind.  I was intoxicated last night.  A sensual intoxication, the after-effects of which are mental.  Mostly.

The change room is quiet.  Hitomi excuse herself quickly and runs to the bathroom.  Megumi runs after to make sure she'll be all right.  Masae changes and says she'll meet us downstairs for lunch.  I'm getting sick of the coincidental events that occur in order to ensure that Shibata and I are left alone.  I brush my hair and try to be invisible.

"I think you have to leave," Shibata declares into the tense atmosphere.

"Excuse me?" I ask, putting my brush down and looking up at her.

She's standing at the other side of the room holding her sweats.  She's changed out of them.

"You have to leave H!P.  You shouldn't be doing stupid things to get caught while you're part of one of the strictest groups in the industry.  I don't mind what you do after hours, but UFA does."

I swallow hard.  I hate her because she's right as usual.  I quickly put a shirt on over my tank top to cover myself up.

"It was a mistake.  We all make them."

She laughs bitterly and shakes her head.

"You can't afford to make mistakes.  I know that we're only human, but other people don't understand that.  They don't want to see their precious Aya sleeping around with some guy who's going to mark his territory in such a loud way."

I stand up angrily.

"Would you leave me alone?  What is your obsession?  Why are you so concerned about my private life and my job?  I thought you said you wanted to see me do my best."

"If you can't get it right, none of us can.  You set the standard.  You're the highest rung in our ladder, and if you're placed low, there's nowhere for us to go but lower.  I don't want to be stuck there.  It's a bad place."

So it's a selfish thing?  Her reasons.  Her concerns.  They're all for her?  I'm blinded by my rage and I lash out.

"Maybe if you didn't just accept things so passively, you'd have a better chance to be placed higher on your stupid ladder.  Don't blame me for where you are." 

It's a terrible thing for me to say, but I can't erase it now.  Shibata bristles up, but she's much better at controlling her anger than I am.

"I'm not blaming you," she says through grit teeth.  "I'm just asking you to be a team player."

She's got guts telling me what to do.  I grab my wallet and walk out of the change room.  The halls are empty of people and I feel like screaming.  I reach the foyer of that floor when I hear footsteps chasing after me.  I whip around angrily to see Shibata coming at me as if to bulldoze me over.  She stops short of crashing into me and glares at me.

"There's one thing I don't get," she says, breathing a little faster from her run.

I look at her blankly, letting her continue.

"Why are you so mad at me?  What did I do?"

"What did you do?" I snort.  "You opened up this huge dilemma for me.  You've made me lose sleep over it."

"It can't be that bad.  Don't lie to me and say you haven't toyed with the possibility of leaving.  I'm just trying to help you," she counters.

"Fine.  You want to know why I'm so angry?"  Careful, Aya.  Don't say more things you'll regret.  "I'm angry because you're talking about these things with me that I can't talk about with anyone else, not even a close friend like Miki-chan."

There.  I've finally said her name.

"I can't take it anymore."

"I'm not stopping you from talking about it with other people," she reminds me solemnly. 

"But they wouldn't understand.  You're the one who approached me first, so I know you believe in the possibility.  They'll see a delusional nineteen year old with big dreams and no way."

"Then convince them!" Shibata yells back at me, finally raising her voice.  "Don't blame me because you want to leave H!P but you're too scared to do it.  Don't blame me that you can't tell your best friend that you want to leave.  You put those things in your own mind.  I didn't do it.  Maybe you're not ready to leave."

"I do want to leave!" I cry out.  "I want out of this Project.  I've outgrown it.  I have outgrown everything we're made to do.  I can't stay in it any longer if I want to go anywhere in my life.  I'm just worried that there'll be no place for me out in the real world."

"Stop coming to me and telling me you want to leave.  If you want to leave, go talk to our boss.  Go quit like you want to.  Go rise above us in every way possible."

I clench a fist and am about to reply when a slight thumping noise makes me stop.  Shibata and I turn sideways.  Miki's standing there with her bag.  It's resting on the floor, the strap held loosely in her hand.  She's staring at me with a blank expression.  My ears start to ring as my brain feels like it is being sucked out through my eyes.  What is she doing here?  Did I mistakenly assume she wouldn't be in the same building today?  She stares me down, looks at Shibata for a few seconds, and then returns her attention to me.

"You're quitting H!P?" she asks in a hollow, unreadable voice. 

I want to yell out that everything she just heard is wrong, but I can't.  I'm frozen with fear. 

"Were you going to tell me?"

At this point, Shibata excuses herself softly.  This no longer has anything to do with her.  Miki and I are now alone.  She continues to look at me with her oppressive gaze.

"Is this what has been bothering you all week?"

I finally look down at the floor.  That's my answer.

"Why didn't you say anything?" 

I have no good answer for that.

"It was just a thought," I say quietly.

"Just a thought?!" she explodes.  "It's not 'just' anything.  You've been distracted for the past week for reasons I haven't been able to understand.  I thought it was me.  I really thought it was because of me.  I thought I'd done something you didn't like.  I was wondering why you were bothering to spend any time with me and pretending to enjoy it.  Ever since Monday.  I haven't stopped worrying about it.  You've made me so angry."

Miki clenches her fists.  She is livid.  I give her some time and let her calm down.  I look up and watch her taking deep breathes.  She still looks angry, but not ready to rip my head off, so I speak.

"Are you mad at me for wanting to leave?" I ask.

"No," her harsh reply comes.  What a liar.

"Don't lie."

"I'm not," she says dangerously quietly.

She shoots me a cold, accusing glare.

"I think it's probably the best thing for you to leave.  I know you're made for something better."

Why is she saying something like this?  Why is she complimenting me when she's so angry at me that I thought she was going to break all my bones and throw me out the window?

"Then..." I trail off, wondering what to say.

"You'd rather not tell me what's going on and have me worried sick about you?  You'd rather have me think you didn't like me?" 

I shake my head.  There's a deafening silence for a minute.

"Why don't you ever tell me what's on your mind?"

Her question sails through misty waters.  I can't see where she's taking this.  I take too long thinking about the question because she continues.

"I've told you everything on mine."

I start to clue in to what she's talking about.

"I've been nothing but honest with you since, well, last Saturday.  I told you everything.  I haven't held back anything."

"You've been holding back your anger until now.  Or last night," I shoot my mouth off without thinking.

"That's because I felt I had to!" she yells. "If you could at least trust me, then I would have told you I was worried and angry.  Things wouldn't have gotten like this between us!"

That hurts.  I don't trust her?  That's wrong.

"I trust you," I say evenly.  "I don't know where you got the idea that I don't.  Why would I let you stay at my place when I'm not there?  Lend you my extra key?  Let you do things to me like you did last night?" 

She shakes her head at my every word and I grow angrier.

"What do you want me to do?" I demand.  "Give you my bank PIN?  Okay.  It's 723-"

"I don't want your damned bank PIN!" Miki yells, shutting me up.  "I don't want permission to stay over when you're not home.  I don't want your extra key.  It's fine if I can't have those things.  What I want is for you to open up your heart to me once in a while.  Lend me the extra key to that and I'll be happy.  Let me stay overnight there.  Don't just give me things- things like PINs and keys.  That's not what I want.  That's not what I've given you."

I have just had the sense beaten into me.  Her words cut into my skin like knives laced with poison that will overwhelm me with guilt and make me hate myself.  I clench my fists and dig my nails into my palms.  I grit my teeth in anger and pain.  Anger towards myself.  Pain that I deserve.  Pain that I've probably caused her tenfold.

I'm too busy feeling sorry for myself that it's too late for me to say anything.  Miki walks away.  I don't even chase after her.  I don't know what to say.  I don't think an apology is going to do any good at this moment.

I sit down on the couch and stare at the area around me.  How many times have I been here in this building since before I even debuted?  I've always been here with a bright smile and letting nothing get in my way to perfecting my talents. 

Now I'm having one of the most miserable moments of my life.  It feels wrong to be here and be so down and out.  I close my eyes and let the ghosts of the past surround me.  I can see myself at different ages drifting in and out of rooms and studios, wandering the hallways, and riding the elevators.  Curious.  Happy.  Always set on improving myself.

Now I sit in this chair in this familiar foyer having just had a fight with Miki, my best friend, my... I don't even know what to call her.  She's a lot of things to me.  I'm a lot of things to her.  Unfortunately, I've also become a stranger to her.

How could I have been so careless?  I know that Miki's not the tough girl she pretends to be.  I know it because she hardly ever tries to keep up that facade around me.  I've made the careless, cold-hearted mistake of mishandling her heart, which she all but tore out of her chest for me.  I've left it unprotected and alone on the top of the bookshelf.  I have done to her what I fear being done to me. 

Baring your soul to someone is not easy.  You become very vulnerable once you've done it.  I've been holding back from doing it because I'm afraid of people who hurt the people who do it.  It turns out I'm afraid of people like me.

I have taken her for granted.  Miki.  I have used her to comfort myself and make myself feel good.  I haven't considered her feelings.  I haven't considered the possibility that she wants me to bare all to her, too.  I'm starting to think that I should have done the same she did for me- told her all my secrets and wandering thoughts.  She was right last night- I gave her my body and let her have me that way completely.  I didn't, however, give her anything else she wanted. 

I have no idea how my problem has gotten this bad.  I guess I can blame my old friends from back home.  They ditched me.  I can blame myself for overcompensating and not opening up easily to others.  Always keeping them at a cheerful and friendly distance.  I can even blame Miki for making me feel these outrageous things for her and making my mind simply not work when I'm around her.  I can blame her for taking that first step towards this rollercoaster ride we've been on since the evening of my nineteenth birthday.

I become angrier that I'm just sitting here and feeling sorry for myself.  I have to figure out what to do.  I stand up and go back to the change room to collect my things.  I place a quick call to the woman who is handling schedules today.  I tell her I'm feeling intensely ill and that I have to go home immediately.  She doesn't sound thrilled, but she lets me go.

I go home and think.  While my own life may come to a grinding halt, my work life doesn't.  I have my next set of concerts this weekend.  I have to make sure to be well rested for them.

I lie down on the bed that Miki made this morning.  I try to think about my situation, but I'm a blank stone. Maybe I'm in shock.  My mind drifts as I stare at the ceiling.  I tell myself that I'm screwed.  There's no way to fix this situation I'm in.

My home phone rings.  I don't pick it up.  The person I want to talk to now is not going to be calling me on that line.  I let the answering machine pick up.  It's my mother.  I block her voice out of my head.  She can't help me with my problems now.  Nobody can.  Miki is my problem.  Otherwise, I'd go to her for help and comfort.

I put my palms down on my bed and hold onto the top sheet.  Miki's slept in this bed.  So have I.  We've slept in it together many times in the years we've known each other.  Then in the past week, we've slept in it in a different way- wrapped around each other, attached to each other even when we're not even touching.  My life has revolved around her or the thought of her this past week.  Now I only have my thoughts.  Maybe that's all I'll ever have. 

I start to cry.  I hate crying because in comparison to many others in this world, nothing in my life is so terribly wrong that I have to be depressed about it.  I'm lucky.  I should think about the things I have.

However, the heart can be a very selfish thing.  It cries for itself.  I turn around on my stomach, sob into my pillow for a while, and then fall asleep.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #15 on: May 24, 2007, 01:18:23 AM »
Chapter 10 of 16

"Thank you!  This has been Matsuura Aya!  Thanks!"

I laugh, smile, and wave at the crowds.  I'm caught up in the moment.  I feel absolutely wonderful.  I've forgotten everything but this concert right now.  Me and them.  Those people out there.  The people I'm onstage with.  I can't give up this spectacular feeling.  Where else do I have a chance like this?  This is a unique venue, and I work with some solid people.  No, I can't leave.  I belong here!

Running off the stage, I grab onto Kago's hand, and she tows Tsuji along.  We pass through the wings and hug joyfully.  In imitation of last week, they slap my butt simultaneously.  We laugh.  The Melons join us and we all celebrate another successful weekend.  We calm down and chat while making our way to our change rooms. 

I avoid Shibata like the plague.  We haven't talked since Friday.  At least not about anything beyond tour-related business.  I've successfully avoided all situations where I'm left alone with her.  It hasn't been hard.  I've been spending a lot of time on my own, lost in thought, moping.

I reach my empty change room.  My heart sinks just a little to see nobody waiting for me in front of it.  As if I should expect anything.

I sit down in my chair and the high wears off.  My adrenalin levels drop and I'm flung back into a pitiless world where my life seems like a mess.  I feel cold in this thirty-seven degree heat.  There's nothing I want to do more than to curl up on my bed at home, cry, and feel sorry for myself.  Acting my usual cheerful self is so draining.

I hurry up and change and go to the meeting place.  Some of the staff is there.  I sit in the van alone and read a book.  I'm not actually reading it.  I'm holding it in front of me in order to ward people off.  Masae is the first to arrive and I breath a sigh of relief.  The others quickly gather and we're driven to our hotel.  We're silent.  They're quiet because they're tired, but I'm quiet because I'm trying desperately not to think.

Our partings are also quiet and soon I'm alone in my room.  I shower, re-do my nails, watch TV... I do anything to take my mind off of my problems.  Distracting myself helps me to deal.

I check my phone messages.  Three from my sisters.  Nobody else.  I toss my phone on my bed and walk around my room, frustrated.

I don't know what I want anymore.  Tonight's performance has made me realise (again) that I love what I do here.  I don't want to leave the Project for various reasons.  This great feeling about performing a H!P concert is one of them.

Knock knock.

My heart sinks again.  I know who it is.  I could very well ignore the door and pretend that I'm asleep, but I'm craving human communication.  I need to talk to someone about something other than the tour.

I open the door and let Shibata in.

"Come in."

"Thank you."

We're so polite that it's awkward.  I have to start.  I owe her some sort of explanation for my behaviour the other day.

"Is everything all right with you and Miki-chan?" she asks before I can even phrase an introductory sentence.

"I hope it will be," I reply, not wanting to give too much information.

"She seemed pretty upset you hadn't told her anything," she observes.

I nod warily at her and change the topic.

"Ayumi-chan," I rarely call her by her first name, "I'm really sorry for getting angry at you the other day.  I was very rude," I say with a self-scolding look.

"It's okay.  We all lose our tempers," she replies understandingly.

"I didn't really mean what I said-"

"Heat of the moment," she says, brushing it off.

I still feel terrible because she probably believes what I said.  It was a little exaggerated, though.

"Did you argue with Miki-chan, too?" she asks me.

I feel uncomfortable again.  Either I'm being paranoid in thinking that she suspects something, or she is just concerned.  I nod at her.  No sense lying about it.

"We did argue."

"Are you still arguing?"

"We haven't talked since Friday," I shrug.

Shibata frowns.

"Didn't you say that she's reasonable and mature?  That she can handle situations like this and that's why she's your best friend?"

I swallow and look down.

"It's a little different this time," I say.

It's all about trust.  I've lost hers, I think.  All because she thought she'd lost mine.  No, she did lose mine.  That was a mistake made unwittingly by me.  I wish I could change it and show her that I trust her more than anyone or anything.  Once you lose trust, everything else follows after- sensibility, cohesion, friendship...

"What's so different about it?"

I swear it's as if she knows something is going on between Miki and me and she's urging me on to say it.  However, when I look at her, I see nothing but curiosity and concern written all over her face.

"She doesn't trust me anymore.  Like I said, she's always honest with me, but this time I wasn't with her.  That hurt her."

God, that sounds like we're a fighting couple.  Shibata shrugs.

"It's not like she has any control over your decision to leave," she points out.

She's so wrong.  Miki unknowingly has a huge grip over the lever that I have to pull either up or down.  Stay or leave.

"No," I say, "but I basically lied to her the entire week when she kept asking what was wrong.  I kept saying there was absolutely nothing..."

"But I don't understand.  Why didn't you just tell her?"

"I didn't want her to feel bad about it because-" I cut myself off.

Should I bring up the whole no-longer-a-soloist issue?

"I get it," Shibata says.

It seems like I don't have to explain it.

"Sensitive issue.  But it's still a relatively small thing."

She doesn't understand the whole picture.  There's so much more to it.  How do I tell it?  Miki told me all her secrets after we fucked each other's brains out in Kobe?  And that I didn't return the favour by telling her anything?  I'm filled with anger directed not towards Shiba-chan but towards myself.  I'm remembering all my stupidity now.  I'm remembering what I have lost.

"She's just really big on being open.  She tells me lots of personal things, especially recently, and I didn't let her know anything.  We had, uh, an agreement.  You know, as friends.  We should feel okay telling each other anything."

"Aya-chan," Shibata sighs, "I've never had a remarkably close friend like that, so I really can't judge this situation clearly, but I can't help but think it's all a little exaggerated."

If I just told her what was really going on, she'd probably change her mind…

"Shiba-chan, Miki-chan and I... well..." I trail off.

I sound so weak and fragile.  Where's my strength?  I can dance around like a nut in outrageous costumes and belt out songs about love rangers, but I can't say a couple of sentences to Shibata without collapsing in embarrassment?  The world is full of irony. 

Shibata looks mildly curious about what I'm going to say.  She probably has no idea.  Then again, she's surprised me a lot lately, so maybe she knows and I'm not just being paranoid.

"Miki-chan and I are, uh, really good friends," I chicken out completely.

Shibata looks at me strangely and waits for me to continue, but I don't know what to say after that.

"I know that," she half laughs at me, half frowns.

I shake my head.

"Never mind.  I just mean that there's a lot that can't bust up our friendship, but there are a few things that could hurt anybody no matter how close they are."

It's not exactly what I wanted to say, but that's okay.  I don't have to give away my whole life if I don't feel like it.

"Well, all I know is that you two had better fix things up come Monday because if you can't stay good friends, nobody else in this world has a chance."

My heart melts to hear that.  I smile gratefully at my friend.  This girl who before was a co-worker and an acquaintance and who now is a friend and confidante.

"Miki-chan can be bull-headed and difficult to deal with.  I hope you don't go nuts trying to solve your problems."

I very well might. I thank her for her vote of confidence.  I suddenly don't want to talk about this anymore.  I can't do anything at this time of night short of mailing Miki, and I don't think that's a great idea now.  It's not a good idea to apologise for something so big over mail.

"Want to watch a movie?" I ask Shibata, and before I realise it, we're laughing over some Hollywood comedy that we order from the front desk.

We don't really talk much during the movie.  We make the odd comment about how American humour is so strange, or laugh about a particular scene.

When it's done, I feel so much better.  It's quite late, so Shibata says goodnight and goes back to her room after I apologise to her again for being so rude before.  She insists that it's already forgotten.

Just before she leaves the door, though, she turns around.

"Just tell Miki-chan what you feel, okay?  Tell her everything you've told me.  Tell her more.  Whatever you want.  Just get better.  The both of you."

She leaves.  I stare after her wondering just how much she knows. 

Eventually I close the door and change into my pyjamas, snuggling under my covers, lonely, a little chilly from the cold hotel air.

I decide that I simply need more friends like Shiba-chan.  It's not to fill a big empty space in me (that space is reserved for one person and one person only), but just because it's healthy and it makes me feel good.  I don't have to tell them every single deep and dark secret of my life in order to call them friends.

I fall asleep thinking of one person and one person only.  I have sad dreams that carry me me through until the next morning, when I go home.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #16 on: May 24, 2007, 01:18:52 AM »
Chapter 11 of 16

Three rings and an answer.

"Yeah?"

"Hi... Miki?"

"Yes?"

"Can I meet you?"

"What is it, Aya?"

"I just want to say some things to you.

"Does this have to do with work?"

"Not exactly."

"Then I'll talk to you later.  I don't have time for this right now."

I swallow my tears down and away while I listen to the dial tone.  How busy could she be at lunch time on a Sunday when she's obviously at home?  Too busy to talk to her until-now best friend?

I throw out the food I've prepared for lunch.  I'm not hungry anymore.  I decide to go for a walk.  Sometimes that helps me settle my mind, although sometimes it has the effect of making me withdraw even further into myself.  I head in the opposite direction of the station and find myself in a park.  It's surprisingly empty for a Sunday afternoon.

I'm starting to remember how terrible I felt a few years ago when my best friend in Himeji simply stopped being my friend.  I was so lonely.  I felt like nobody loved me.  I felt like I was incompetent when it came to keeping friends.  I felt I would never have another good friend again in my life.  I didn't want to have another good friend.

However, this time I feel even more awful because I think the situation I've gotten myself into could have been prevented if I'd done a little more thinking- or rather a little more caring.  Also, this time I've lost a lot more than just a friendship.  I've lost some sort of integral part of life that is as essential to me as air or food or water.  Or rather, this part of my life - this person - has not been lost.  I'm the one who has wandered off and gotten lost in a jungle that I can't find my way out of quite yet.

I sit on a park bench and watch as two friends walk by, arm-in-arm, giggling about something.  They don't notice me on the bench as I stare at them walking quickly.  They're probably going shopping.  I want to go shopping.  But I need help first.  I need to solve my problems.

I can't do this alone, but there's nobody else I want help from but Miki.  She's not going to help me, though.  I already got too much out of her before.

My phone rings.  I sigh and reach for it, flipping it open.  I blink twice at the display screen.  I must be imagining the number.  I answer the phone.

"Hello?"

"What did you want to tell me?" Miki asks impatiently. 

I know this game.  I've tempted her with some juicy information and she doesn't want to care, but she does... so she gives in.  Now she'll try to get it from me without trying to show she cares (which she already has shown by calling).  I won't play any games now, though.  I want to make this as painless as possible.

"First of all - and I'm sure you must know this - is that I'm sorry.  I'm sorry for not telling you what was bothering me all week.  I'm sorry for not trusting you more.  I'm sorry for not telling you anything that was on my mind.  I'm sorry for taking everything and giving nothing." 

It's painful for me to say these words because I still can't believe I acted that way.  I wait for her to say something, but all I hear is silence punctuated by slight breathing, which at least lets me know that the line is still open.

"And thank you for being a better friend to me than I am to you and for comforting me during this really bad time when you didn't even know what was happening." 

She still doesn't say anything.  There's not much more that I can say.

"I never lied to you about anything else, though.  Everything I've said to you... about loving you and being happy around you and all that... It's all true."

The sound of the cicadas, which I haven't noticed until now, overpowers the silence.  It emphasises the silence.  Emphasises Miki's refusal to respond.  I hold still and wait, my heart on pause, my stomach floating in its place, my sweaty hand gripping my phone tightly.  I know that she can probably hear the insects, too.

"Why'd you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Not tell me that you wanted to leave."

This is the painful part.  I have to say it eventually, though.

"First, I didn't want to make you feel bad that you lost your soloist title and therefore didn't have that same opportunity to break away.  Second, I didn't want you to get angry and think that I was ego-obsessed and that I thought so highly of myself that I could leave H!P far behind without a worry."

I hold my breath and wait for a reply.

"I told you I didn't care about that anymore.  I'm not going to jump in pain every time someone or something reminds me I'm not a soloist anymore," she beings, her voice growing louder. "And do you think I'm going to judge you right away and call you stuck up or something because you recognise your own talent?  You'd think I'd know you a little better than to automatically assume that.  You think I'm stupid enough to get angry about something like that?!"

She sounds very angry for someone who's saying she's not angry.

"Have you ever heard of insecurity, Miki?  Maybe you're not the only one to suffer from it," I explode.

I completely forget I'm sitting in a public park.  At least I don't think there are people around me.  I don't care anymore, though.

"Insecure?  You're trying to play an insecure card when you're telling me about how you think you're good enough to go beyond the Project?   You know, I have no problem with you acknowledging your own skills because I'm in full agreement that you have them, but trying to throw bullshit around about being insecure in order to get me to believe you... That pisses me off."

"What bullshit am I throwing around?  Yeah, I think I'm good enough to separate from everyone, but I still feel insecure talking about it with you because I don't want you to dislike me.  That would ruin everything.  Your opinion is important to me."

"Don't do this to me.  Don't pile it on anymore," Miki groans in a hollow voice. 

"Miki, I don't like talking about this on the phone.  Can we please just meet up?" I plead, trying to calm down, hoping that she'll at least agree to argue in person.

While it's painful, I find it easier to argue in person because I can see the physical reactions my words have, but also because I can use my own gestures and expressions to help make my appeal.

"Win yourself an invitation to my place by using any spectacular words you may have, if you want.  Convince me that I should give you a chance... if you can use that head of yours to think of something other than yourself," she retorts.  There's no hope for me with that tone in her voice.  I don't have anything.  I really don't.  I've told her everything I think she'd want to know.

"There's no need to be rude," I say quietly.

"Rude?" she laughs.  "Rude?!"  She's possibly gone crazy.  "Oh no.  Rude would be asking something inappropriate of you.  Rude would be if I told you to tell me how far you really went with that stupid boyband singer of yours."

What the... Where did that come from?

"Miki... I told you ages ago that there was nothing.  For god's sake, it was a couple of dates."

"Yeah, but he still got house calls.  Service at his own front door.  Groceries and who knows what else," she spits out caustically.

"M... but... your...I told... Miki!" I sputter half in anger and half in shock.

"Was he any good?  You never told me the details.  I should know so that I can have more things to be angry about.  What was it like sleeping with him?"

I start to shake and I feel like throwing up.  She has gone too far this time.  First of all, it's my business what I did with him.  Second of all, I already told her whatever was important about that part of my life.  Third of all, she's bullying me, and she's never done so in a purely mental way.  I can only think of only one (recent) case of a combination of mental and physical bullying that I'd rather not think of in detail right now.

"I told you everything already," I say quietly into the phone.

"Really?" she snorts.  "I hardly believe that you only kissed him a few times."

"And why not?"

"Because I know you better than that," she answers darkly.  "I know you have a taste for action.  Don't lie to me and tell me you don't.  I've seen it."

I can imagine the look on her face.  She's probably deriving a whole lot of satisfaction out of this attack on me, and I can imagine it would show on her face as a big, wicked, bitter smile.

"Why would I outright lie to you about it?" I demand, trying to control tears from falling and trying not to let her intimate knowledge of me get to me.

"Maybe you were embarrassed to tell me.  Maybe you didn't want me to think badly of you- that you were a slut or really easy or something for sleeping with him after 'a couple of dates'.  Hmm?" she taunts me.

Tears spill out of my eyes.

"Stop it," I cry into the phone.

"Why?  Why can't I know?  Aren't I your best friend?  Didn't you sleep with me, too?  I deserve to know."

"I didn't sleep with him.  I told you the truth.  And even if I did, you don't have any right to be angry about it."

"I have every right to be angry about it!" 

What do you say to someone who is being unreasonable?  Miki is in a rage-filled frenzy trying to pick at everything she thinks I've done wrong, and here I am just about to go into hysterics while trying to use common sense with her when she is momentarily beyond it.  I feel the jungle vines wrapping around my arms and legs, holding me tighter and tighter the harder I struggle.

"If that's supposed to be some misguided, jealous statement, then I have to remind you that there was nothing between us back then at that moment."

"Nothing between us?!  'Closest friends in the world' means nothing?" she almost screams. 

"You know perfectly well what I mean," I shoot back.

"No, I don't.  Please elaborate for me.  Just to be clear.  How did you think of me back then?"

"Closer to you than to anyone else," I answer truthfully.

Somewhere in my conscience I can hear my sisters and mother asking me why it's not them.

"That's all?" she asks in disbelief.

I don't answer.

"Is that all?" she annunciates slowly.

"Stop this," I whisper quietly.

"You felt something, I know," she says in an evil, gleeful voice.  "You couldn't even believe it yourself."

I stare at the ground.   I already told her before that I felt something for her for a while but that it was only recent events that made me able to admit it.  There's no need to rehash it all.  Not now.

"And you fucked him despite not even being sure where your heart was."

"You are being ridiculous!" I finally release my full anger and I yell at her despite my very public location.  "You're making up things that you wouldn't have even considered a week ago.  You're painting me as some bad guy here.  Yeah, I lied to you.  About one thing last week.  Nothing else.  Now as for your insecurity, there-"

"Insecure?  Hell, yes, I'm insecure!" she yells.  "How can I ever be sure you like me if I know you're just going to hide the truth from everyone?"

"It was one instance!" I cry out, frustrated.

"One leads to two leads to three... Maybe I should just become friends with Shibata.  Maybe she'll let me know what's up with you."

"You're sick."

"Am I?  You're the one who trusts her more than you trust me."

"That's not true.  I promise you."

"I don't trust you anymore.  Your promise means nothing."

Silence.

"Then it's your loss.  If you don't trust me, hang up the phone right now," I growl.  "Hang up right now and go on thinking that-"

She hangs up.  I can't believe it.  She actually hangs up.  I slam my phone shut and throw it to the ground in an uncontrolled bout of pure rage.  It lands on the dirt, making a small thudding sound and bouncing away.  It doesn't shatter like I wish it would.  I put my head in my hands and cry silently but hard.

After a while I get up, pick up my phone, and walk back home.  I don't hide my tear-stained face from anybody walking by.  How can I care about that right now?  I curse everything about my life.  I curse misunderstandings, I curse insecurities, I curse H!P, I curse my talent, I curse Shibata, I curse Miki even more,  I curse the fact that I ever met Keita, I curse Miki again and all the things I ever did with her.

I hate myself.  I hate myself so much.  I don't see how I can ever climb out of this hole of misery that I've been thrown into.  It's too deep, the sides too slick.  An unforgiving, dark, empty well.  I sit at the bottom of this well in my mind for three days after calling in sick with the flu.  UFA tries to send over their henchmen to come and care for me, but I lie and say that my mother has come up to spend the week with me.  She's taking care of me.

I wish she was able to.  I wish there was a cure for the pain I feel.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #17 on: May 24, 2007, 01:19:37 AM »
 Chapter 12 of 16

I don't know why I answer the phone.  I don't recognise the display number.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Aya-chan."

That's Miki.  That's a very friendly, not angry-sounding Miki.

"H-hi..." I stutter.

"Aya-chan.  I wanna say I'm sorry," she slurs into the phone.

I sigh, sitting up on my bed.

"Are you drunk?"

She giggles at my question.

"Yes." 

Well, at least it's an honest drunken admission.

"You're going to regret it in the morning."

"No I won't.  Drinking's fun," she laughs.

"No, not the drinking.  I mean calling and apologising."

"No I won't.  'Cause... I'm really sorry," she says a little more quietly but still unsteadily.

I don't say anything.  I feel odd.  It's exactly what I want to hear her say, but I don't want her to be drunk when she's saying it.

"You know," she starts up again, "I was stupid to say all those things.  I was wrong about everything.  People... people.  People like us shouldn't say those things lightly."

She adopts a lecturing tone.

"If I were you, in fact... If I were you, I wouldn't forgive me.  In fact.  I mean me as in 'Miki'.  If I were you.  Not me.  Right," she stumbles along.  "So the question is, now that I've said sorry, can you forgive me?"

"I think the question is, can you forgive me first before that.  For not telling you any-"

"Shhh!" she demands loudly and then giggles.  "I already forgave you for that with my apology.  Now I want to know if you still want me," she says and then breaks down into giggles at her mistake, "I mean if you still want to forgive me."

"Of course," I say in a choked voice.  "I don't want to fight with you."

I feel warm hands climb up my back.  I look behind me and there's Miki wearing the kind of clothing we'd wear to go out for a fun girl's night out.  I'm just in my simple pyjamas. Her face is flushed as she crawls over to sit in front of me.  She turns around and leans her back into me.  She crosses her legs underneath my own crossed legs.  From time to time we sit like that.  In public.  Now that I think about it, it's somewhat scandalous, but I don't care.  I love the way her skin turns darker in the summer and how I keep mine as light as possible.  When we sit together, our legs pressed up against one another's, we're like milk and chocolate...café au lait...

I hug her to me, my hands held at her bellybutton as I plan what to do next.  I think I'll start by taking her tight, black shirt off and pulling her down on top of me, rolling over... letting her get another taste of what it's like to submit to me.

I continue to imagine what I'm going to do to her as the sun rises and rays of light pour into my bedroom through the cracks in my curtains.  Miki pulls out of my embrace and stands up, no longer drunk.  She walks to the window.  She pulls the curtains apart and lets the sunlight spill into the room.  For a split second all I can see is Miki glowing brilliantly in the light, her face calm, her eyes looking at me as if she's some benevolent goddess whose favour I'm in. 

I close my eyes after that split second in automatic reaction to the sudden brightness, and when I open them again, she's gone.  The light slowly dims and I lie down on my back.  Soon it's pitch black.  I wonder why Miki can't be here when it's dark.  I'm terrified, suffocating, forgotten.

I close my eyes and wake up.

I'm lying on my back in my bed, the sheets gripped tightly in my hands,  I slowly release my hold and turn onto my side, curling into a small ball.  The alarm clock tells me it's five-thirty in the morning.  The sun will have fully risen soon.

I try to forget my dream.  It's the fourth one in three days.  Different situations, same type of conversation, same ending.  The symbolism of that ending is not lost on me.

I've taken three days off, and I have to return to work today.  I'm probably drastically behind in everything.  I've received peppy get well messages from some of the girls like Abe, Nakazawa, and Maki, but none from Miki.  She knows I'm not sick.  Tanaka even messages me on my second day telling me to hurry up and getting better because Miki is moping and not being her usual self.  I resist the urge to tell the girl that Miki would probably feel better if she was told I would never show my face at work again. 

I roll around onto my other side.  I feel so very alone.  So cold.  So unhappy. 

I'm burning mad at Miki for saying everything she did on Sunday- for acting so ridiculously childish and for hurting me with names and accusations.  However, the truth is that if she called me up and said she wanted to talk to me, I'd forget every word of it.  If she would only forgive me.

I turn onto my stomach and take up as much room on my bed as I can.  I wish I couldn't because I'm reminded of what I don't have.  I'm reminded of Miki.  If everything had worked out like we wanted it to, we'd be together right now.  Maybe I'd be at her place.  Maybe I'd wake her up now to keep me company until we'd have to get ready to leave.  Maybe...

Too many maybes.  Not enough action.  I grab on to one thing from our ferocious argument.  One thing that gives me hope.

"Win yourself an invitation to my place by using any spectacular words you may have, if you want. Convince me that I should give you a chance..."

It's my only hope.  I won't let it go.  Now instead of maybe-ing and what if-ing, I have to start doing.  In order to do, I must think and plan.  I decide to do that right now.

Nothing comes to my head, though.  This might take a while.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #18 on: May 24, 2007, 01:20:07 AM »
Chapter 13 of 16

My return to work is bittersweet.  The girls are happy to see me, but one isn't, and that's enough to ruin it for me.

I stumble upon a group of Musume in the cafeteria at lunchtime.  I say a general "hello" to everyone and then move to the next table where Rika, Yui, and Nono are sitting.  We chat idly and I eat quickly.  I feel like everyone has their eyes one me as if they know something is up, but I know that it's all in my head. 

I finish my lunch before everyone else, and I go to put my tray of dirty dishes away.  I have to walk right by Miki.  I do, looking at her from the corner of my eye.  She continues to eat silently, not flinching or looking up.  I leave the room quickly.  If she keeps acting like that, everyone will know by the end of the day that we've fought.  There's nothing I can do, though.  I'm not ready to talk to Miki, and she's not ready to listen to me.

At the end of the day I realise I've completely forgotten all my previous problems about leaving H!P.  Shibata's sudden appearance at my side reminds me as she pulls me aside while everyone is busy changing.  We go for a walk and end up in the warm-up studio.

"Feeling better?" she asks, taking a seat on the floor and starting to stretch.

I can tell from the tone of her voice that she doesn't believe for a second that I've been sick.  I shrug and mumble a stock phrase about feeling rested.  I sit down across from her.

"Aya-chan, you know me better than that.  You know I know you're not sick.  Want to tell me what's wrong?"

She must know what it's about.  There's nothing else that could be wrong.

"Is it Miki-chan?"

I nod.

"It went from bad to worse.  She was pretty rough on me," I sigh.  "Um, in an argument we had on Sunday.  Said lots of nasty things..." I quickly add, my face suddenly feeling hot as I think back to a few days before Sunday.

"She's being a hell of a bitch, isn't she?" she laughs.

I bristle up.  How dare she say that about Miki?  I count to ten before speaking, though, because I remember that it's true.  Miki's not being very nice.

"She is being very difficult," I say.

"For heaven's sake.  When was the wedding?  I swear I missed it about sixty years ago because you two fight like an old married couple," Shibata laughs.

I feel like I should get mad at her for making light of the situation, but I can't help but reply to her silly statement.

"You sound so much like Masae that it's not even funny," I say, deadpan.

"But really, that's what you two sound like.  Are you sure-" she cuts herself off.

The warning bell goes off in my head.

"I'm sure we'll get over it," I say quickly.

"Aya-chan, sorry to break it to you, but you've been arguing about something trivial for how long?"

"It's not about length.  She just won't talk to me now.  It'll take some time," I insist stubbornly.  "And it's not trivial.  It's actually important."

"Then what are you going to do?  You just said she won't talk to you.  If you write a letter, she'll probably burn it.  If you call, she'll hang up.  Where do you go from here?  How long are you going to wait?"

"I don't know, but I'll win her back somehow, okay?  I've managed to before," I huff.

"You shouldn't have to 'win back' your friends, Aya.  They should be more understanding."

I see her point, but I still can't help wonder what Shibata would say if I told her the absolute truth.  I think I'll try.

"Shiba-chan," I say weakly.

She looks at me sharply.

"Miki-chan and I... We're kind of..."

"Kind of what?" Shibata asks.

I really hope she's not freaked out by what I'm about to tell her.

"Kind of... really... badly in trouble."

Strike two for me.  No freaking out for today.

"I can't explain it, but believe me, there's really more to it than you think."

Shibata eyes me suspiciously.

"Aya, I'm mighty curious and I'd almost ask you about it, but I won't.  Your relationship - your friendship - is your own business.  All I can do is give you advice based on what I know for sure," she says to me frankly.

"And if you speculate and give advice based on that?" I ask apprehensively.

I can't help but believe she's already figured out what I'm trying to tell her.

Shibata takes a moment to think about it.

"Then I'd say go and do something about it now, because talking with me won't get you anywhere.  She obviously cares enough to get that angry.  No matter what horrible things she's said to you, you can't stop loving someone that suddenly.  Trusting someone, yeah.  It's easier to lose trust, but love?  No.  Too complex and full of history."

"Who said anything about love?!" I blurt out nervously.

"Well whatever you want to call it.  Close friendship, I don't know."

"So it'll be okay?" I ask hopefully.

"To be honest, no," Shibata says.

My heart falls.

"She might still care, but even that eventually disappears.  If you say or do something wrong, it might make it worse.  If you get angry with her, you can kiss your friendship goodbye."

"So what should I say to make it better?"

"I don't know.  You're the one who knows her.  I barely do," she says sounding a little exasperated. 

I apologise for bothering her.

"I just never would have taken you for one who needs this sort of advice.  You're  a pretty strong girl, I think."

"I'm not strong enough to handle Miki like this.  She's really... really really stubborn," I mumble.

Shibata shrugs and we sit there silently.  Then she gets up.

"Well, call me if you need anything.  Good luck," she says quickly, and she gets up, heading for the door.

"Thank you, Shiba-chan," I call out to her.

She waves a hand over her head without looking back.

"Let me know how it goes."

She walks out and I lie down on my back, stretching out my arms and legs.  I think of what I could possibly do to get Miki's attention and make her listen to me for a minute.

I could do something whacky like apologise in the middle of my radio show broadcast like I've seen people do in the movies.

Then again, I'd get fired and the whole country would know too much information.

I could write a twenty page essay about why I think she's important.

But she wouldn't read it.

I could send her yakiniku.

She'd eat it and continue to ignore me.

I could send her a singing telegram.

But that's just stupid.  Also, I don't even know if those really exist.

Or I could do something as simple as ignoring her terms and going to her apartment, knocking on the door, and talking to her.

Brilliant in its simplicity.  Daring in that I'm inviting myself over.  Direct enough in that I'll be standing right in front of her.

I roll up and walk back to the change room.  Maybe I'll do that.  But not today.  Tomorrow or some time later.  Or maybe not at all.  It sounds stupider and stupider the more I think about it.

I need more time.

Offline OTN1

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Re: Love X 2 (the entire series)
« Reply #19 on: May 24, 2007, 01:20:24 AM »
Chapter 14 of 16

I avoid the problem for a week.  The weekend comes around and I have neither seen nor spoken to Miki.  Concerts happen and I continue to pretend I'm okay.  I enjoy myself, but not as much as I should.  When I sing the songs that mean a lot to me, I think of how Miki wouldn't want to be hearing them right now.  I become sad even if they are happy songs.

Tsuji and Kago notice that I'm not my usual self, and they ask me if there's anything wrong.  I cheerfully assure them that I'm fine, although a little tired from a long week.  They buy the story because they can't imagine what could possibly be wrong.

Monday is my day off this week.  I'd go and talk to Miki then, but I know that she doesn't have the day off.  Her day off is on Tuesday.  Shibata told me this.  She actually got angry at me for not having talked to Miki all week.  She yelled at me, scolding me for putting things off and being too chicken.  I told her I'd do something this week.  Shibata means well, but I wish she wasn't so right all the time.  It makes me feel so stupid.

On Sunday night, I take my phone out and type up a simple message.

Hi, Miki.  Can we talk this week?
-Aya


I wait for two hours before bedtime to hear back from her, but nothing comes.  I go to sleep feeling let down but angry at myself for thinking that she'd want to reply.

On Monday morning I wake up after a particularly strange dream.  Some of it I'd like to remember.  Some of it I'd like to forget.  Some of it... I wouldn't mind if it happened in real life.

I roll over and check the time.  It's nine am.  I really slept for a long time.  I reach for my phone and check my messages.

I have one!

It's a reply from Miki.

No, I don't think so.

I start to analyse the response.  I can't tell how she means it.  Maybe it's a sad and apprehensive "no", which might mean she wouldn't mind talking to me.  Maybe it's an angry "no", in which case I wouldn't want to infuriate her further.

Nine o'clock.  Hello! Morning filming just started.  I jump out of bed and get ready quickly.  If I time it right, I can catch her right at the beginning of lunch break.  I take a long shower and then hurry up to get dressed. 

I leave my house and make my way to the studio.  I get there right at half past noon, ten minutes before lunch break usually starts.  I get through the front door with no problem from security, and I head up to the change rooms.  I find Miki's and knock.  No answer.  I try the door and find it unlocked.  I let myself in and close the door after me.

At this studio, everyone gets their own change room.  I know Miki's very well because I hang out here all the time when we're in the building at the same time.  My change room is on another floor higher up, so it's easier to hang out here instead.

I look around briefly.  Her clothes are in an unfolded but neat pile on the table.  She's left her water bottle and snacks on the dresser.  It looks the way her change room always does.

I sit down on the chair at the table and rest my chin on my hands.  I haven't thought of what to say to her, but I guess I can improvise.  As long as I don't yell at her, I should have a chance.

I try and think of what to say, but all I can do is imagine her forgiving me.  If we can talk and get it all over with in the first twenty minutes, we'll have thirty-five minutes of her lunch break left to ourselves.  We can do something silly.  I've always wanted to make out in a change room, and I start to blush as I imagine it.  As I'm deep in pleasant thought, the door opens.

"Huh?  What are you doing in here?" asks a surprised voice.

I raise my head and turn around.  That's not Miki's voice.  I see Yossi at the door and I frown.

"Um, Yossi, I was waiting for Miki," I reply unevenly.

She eyeballs me.

"Is she expecting you?"

I shake my head.

"Okay," she says slowly.  "Well, she asked me to pick up something for her while I was up here.  She's not going to come back here till later this afternoon when we're done."

"Oh.  Okay," I nod as if it's all fine with me.

"Do you want me to tell her you're waiting for her?  I'm sure she could spare-"

"No!" I exclaim, quieting down before continuing.  "No, I'll talk to her later.  Don't mention you saw me, okay?  Don't want to worry her."

Yossi shrugs.

"Okay."

She goes to the drawer and pulls out Miki's cell phone.

"I'll see you later," Yossi says, giving me an uncomfortable smile.

I smile and wave at her.  When she's gone, I groan loudly and let my head fall into my hands again.  What lousy timing.

I lose my nerve and leave.  I don't want to sit around all day, and talking to Miki after filming would be extra bad.  She'd be tired and probably a lot less willing to be friendly. I'm also very hungry now. 

I get up and go home.  I make myself a small lunch and watch mindless television.

That night as I lie in bed I realise that it's tomorrow or never.  I must go and talk to Miki tomorrow on her day off.


Tomorrow comes.  I'm in vocal training all day, and I don't see any of the other girls for the entire time.  I'm relieved about that because I probably look as nervous as ever.  I'm going to go pay a visit to Miki in the evening to get things sorted out once and for all.  I fully believe that by the end of this day, we will either be friends again or we won't.  I'm that determined to figure everything out.

Time goes by excruciatingly slowly.  It's painful for me because my head is a blank.  I can't think of the right things to say.  I become filled with panic that I know is irrational but that I can't help feel anyway.

6:00pm rolls around.  Finally.  They let me out and I rush home to drop my things off and take a five minute breather.  After four and a half minutes, I put on my shoes and leave again. 

I sit on the train, my stomach a nervous knot.  This is stupid.  I shouldn't be so scared about going to talk to Miki.  Sure, she's angry at me, but it doesn't mean that I don't know her at all.  I go through the motions of leaving the train station and walking to her apartment.  The familiar route…

I see it looming over me.  Her home.  I walk up the stairs one by one, slowly, apprehensively.  I reach her door.  I reach out a hand and let it hover over the door bell.

"Hi, Miki.  Can we talk?" I practice saying in my head.

I bite my tongue, take a deep breath and ring the bell.  A few seconds later I hear footsteps.  The door opens.  Miki sees me.  I see her.  We look at each other.  Her eyes narrow in an almost undetectable way.  Her face hardens the slightest bit.

I hear the sounds of the TV in the background as we have our showdown.  I swallow and open my mouth to speak.  I have no clue what I'm going to say until I go ahead and say it.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2007, 08:33:25 AM by OTN1 »

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