Hello everyone! ^^
Today was sooooo much fun!
I got to meet lots of famous actors and singers ^///^
We had a great performance today!
I can’t believe it’s only been a month since I started this blog!
Thanks to everyone for their support <3!
I sighed, letting the breath seep out of me like a deflating balloon.
My head hurts and my feet ache.
Stop texting me. I don’t want to talk to you.
The words get their two milliseconds of glory on the screen before I hold down the C and watch the word wrap eat them away.
“Enter.” I mouth to myself, willing myself to submit the entry before I snapped the phone closed.
Suddenly, I heard the angry buzz of a cell waiting to be picked up- and just like that, I felt my heart skip a beat. Pressing myself against the car door, I glanced over my shoulder at the Kairi-chan and Yuu, both fumbling with them bags, trying to dig their phones out.
“It’s not mine.” I say automatically, keeping my eyes staring out the window.
“Oh! It’s… this one.” I can hear the smile in her voice as Yuu she murmurs this, and only then do I realize that I was holding my breath. By the time I knelt over my seat to face the backseat, Yuu engrossed in the tiny screen of her “private” phone- the one that she wasn’t supposed to have, but did anyway. Only one person knew this phone number.
“Oooh…” Kairi-chan leaned over her shoulder, her smile even wider than Yuu’s as she scanned the screen. “’I miss you so much. I can’t wait to see you again.’” Falling back in her seat, Kairi lets out a contented breath, gazing dreamily out the window. “He is such a romantic.” She murmured, clearly already deep in daydream land. Yuu’s head gives a tiny nod in response, and her thumbs dance furiously across the keypad as she begins messaging him back.
“Ask him if he saw us perform today,” I suggested, craning my neck in excitement in spite of myself.
Just then, Kairi’s head snaps up, and she whips around, her eyes wide.
“Don’t look now, but I think Maya-san’s coming.” She warned in a hushed voice. As if on autopilot, I plopped back in my seat and heard the quiet click of a cell phone folding on itself. A second later, the driver’s seat door next to me swings open, and Maya-san grabs hold of the steering wheel as she eases herself into the car.
“Oh, sometimes I wish I were still your age.” She mutters crankily as she massages her hip. Glancing absent-mindedly into the rearview mirror as she fumbles with the key in the ignition, she eases the car out of the parking lot and the drab urban scenery starts rolling past us.
Pressing my face against the window, I watching Yuu as she stuffs her cell hastily into her pocket. Crisis averted. Sort of, at least. Out of the corner of my eye, I could still see Yuu reaching tentatively for her one and only lifeline to her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend. Just thinking those words seemed like poison seeping into my mind. No one ever said it out loud, but those were the forbidden words in our line of work.
“A boyfriend means you’re settling down. It means you’ll quit working. It means you’re not available anymore.” Ironically, Yuu was the one to pass that wise advice to me back when I first joined, three years ago. She was twelve, I was nine. To me, she seemed infinitely more mature, and in a way, she was. She had been a Juni for two years already, dancing tirelessly night after night under the dim backlighting of the stage while the stars of the show roused the audience. The night she first spoke to me, it was to yell at me for nearly missing my cue to go on stage. All I could do was bow my head- after all, I had only had a few months of training at the time, and it was a privilege for me to be allowed to perform- even if it was only for a fanclub event, which was far less formal and more exclusively attended than public concerts.
I had no excuse to defend myself as Yuu dragged me away from the camera-hogging new recruits that devoured the cameraman at the one end of the changing room, a deathly glare emblazoned in her striking features.
“What were you doing?” she demanded, crossing her arms ominously as she towered over me.
“I… I wasn’t paying attention.” I muttered as quickly as I could, feeling tears stinging in my eyes as I stared at my hands. Yuu was the oldest of the Junis at that point, and the unofficial “leader” of the group. The seriousness with which she approached her unofficial duties made her radiate with an intimidating aura.
“You were chatting with Kairi-chan.” She snapped, leaning in so that inches separated the tips of our noses. “Don’t lie to me, I saw you.”
It was true, of course. Minutes before I was supposed to prance onto stage, I quite literally bumped into Kairi on my way to my entrance spot, knocking her over and spilling the contents of her dress pocket to spill onto the ground. For a split second, I froze on the spot, torn between helping Kairi up and rushing over to my spot. With mere seconds to spare, I stuck out my hand and heaved her to her feet.
“I thought we weren’t allowed to have anything with us…” I began, scraping a few glossy pocket-sized photos off the floor. As the glare of the ceiling lights danced across the smooth surface, I squinted at the photo curiously. “Isn’t that… Hiroki Matsushima?” I looked up, staring wide-eyed into Kairi’s frightened expression. My face flushed in spite of myself, and a smile split across my face. “Wow! Do you like him too?”
Instead of gushing with me, as my school friends would have, (and to be perfectly honest, what I expected her to do,) Kairi snatched the photos out of my hand and stuffed them back into her pocket, muttering something about it being a lucky charm and dashed for the other end of the stage. Before I had time to call after her, the breathless voice brought me back to the task at hand.
“Yukigawa-san! What are you doing?!” Whirling around, I met the eyes of a red-faced fellow Juni, panting as she stumbled towards me, grabbed my wrist and dragged me on stage without a millisecond spared for protest or explanation. As I drew my lips up in a tight smile and fell into step with the tight line of Junis on stage, I could already feel my heart sinking into my stomach.
“You saw Kairi-chan’s lucky charm.” Yuu’s stern voice snapped me back to the present. Blinking, I felt a trail of wetness travel down my cheek. “Don’t you know? You can’t just say whatever you want. Even backstage.”
“I’m sorry.” My words trembled between my lips, shaking and faltering. I bit my lip, feeling a tense silence settle between the two of us. After a moment, Yuu let out a sigh. And as if her single breath held all the unspoken fear in the room, the apprehensiveness in the air evaporated.
“Listen. I know you’re new… but you’ve got to learn fast.” Yuu’s hard tone had faded into something softer as she spoke, her words coming slower now, as if it took more effort to be considerate. “You know the contract, right? I bet you’ve heard it a hundred times already. No ‘inappropriate attachments’- no boyfriends.” My mouth fell open. I knew the terms of course- it wasn’t as if I hadn’t heard of the many idols whose careers had ended in scandal because of their “inappropriate attachments” had been discovered by the tabloids.
“But I didn’t say anything about-“ I began, shaking my head.
“Shhh!” Yuu silenced me with a forefinger pressed against my lips. “There might not seem like there are cameras around here…” she glanced around the room, “but I’ve heard that some of the senpai had their contracts canceled after mic records from back stage of them saying bad stuff got in the hands of fans too. You never know what could happen. You shouldn’t have said anything about Kairi-chan’s photos. It could be taken the wrong way.” She eased herself up, clearly finished with her motherly role. “Be careful. Starting now.”
She was standing up now, and as I watched, her rigid features warmed into an innocent smile. “Come on, Azami-chan! We’ve got to go!”
I considered her outstretched hand for a moment, my eyes still fixed on her inviting gesture as I got to my feet.
“Okay, Yuu…senpai. Let’s go.” I played along, and slid my hand into hers.
And just like that, the two of us blundered into a friendship.
Even now, as I scramble out of the car with my group mates, I sometimes wonder if our friendship is for real or a big game of pretend.
“Azami-chan! Your phone!” Yuu’s hand taps lightly on my shoulder, and I whirl around. My slim cell phone buzzed angrily, caged in her grasp. I squeeze some steadiness into my fingers as I reach for it, gulping back the sour bile in my throat as I noticed that the phone was that a peeling sunflower sticker clung to the smooth pink surface of the phone.
Like Yuu, I have two phones. Both identical, except for a minor detail- one had a sticker on it, and one didn’t. Not that Kairi or Yuu- or any of the staff, for that matter- know about this. I just keep telling them that the sticker falls off on some days; that is, if they notice. To them, its just one of my little quirks they get to quip about on variety shows and add to my profile for fans to ogle at and memorize.
But to me… there’s a world of difference.
My group mates, a lot of senpais outside of the group, the staff, and even a handful of Junis knew the number on the sticker-free phone.
As for the one with a sticker…
Only one person knew that number.
“Thanks, Yuu.” I utter between clenched teeth as my fingers wrap around the slithering phone. Yuu frowns and gives me a once-over, her brow furrowed.
“Are you alright?” she asks, concern written in her round, chocolate brown eyes- her charm point, as her online profile points out.
“Yeah, just a little tired.” I reply nonchalantly, pocketing the phone. “Come on, let’s go. Maya-san’s going to yell at us if we don’t catch up.” Wiping my hand on the inside of my pocket, I grabbed Yuu’s hand (a little too tightly), and dragged her towards the swinging double doors. If she saw through my act, she didn’t show it. Within moments, the two of us fell into stride, and I comforted myself for a few moments against the rhythmic pitter-patter of our feet against the craterless floor of the building lobby, almost forgetting the weight of dread in my pant pocket… almost forgetting the slumbering monster until it growled again.
That time, I stopped dead in my tracks.
“I… I have to go to the washroom.” I muttered, letting Yuu’s hand fall limply away as I made a dash for the restroom that awaited me around the corner of the hallway. If Yuu called after me, I didn’t hear her over the pounding of my heart.
Crashing into a stall and crumpling onto the hard marble floor in the dimly lit restroom, I fumbled for the agitated monster in my pocket with a trembling hand. As I pried opened its restless jaws, the angry “New Message” icon flashed glaringly on the tiny display screen. Biting my lip, I opened the first of the two.
Meet me tonight at our usual place. I heard about your injury. How could you not tell your own father?
I clicked past to the next message.
Don’t think of skipping on me again. I checked up on your schedule. Don’t think you can lie your way out of it this time. No excuses.
Chocking back the sobs rising in my throat, I instructed it to send a new message.
As quickly as those letters appeared on the screen, I made the backspace bar eat them away. It was strange how two simple syllables could be so earth shattering. In their place, I wrote,
I never want to see you again. I’m throwing this phone in the dump the second I get out of here.
But sometimes even the truth is more frightening than it is cathartic. So I fed those words to the backspace bar too, and finally decided that it would probably best to just settle for
Sucking in air as if it inflated my courage, my finger hovered for a moment over the green button that would release the message into the world.
The monster snarled as it slipped from my feeble grasp, and snarled at me as it hit the unforgiving marble floor.
I hugged my knees and cried.
A/N: Well, this chapter certainly has been a long time in the making but better late than never, right? Truth be told, I really did have a hard time writing this chapter, even taking into account my crazy schedule. Azami is for me, the hardest character to write in this series because first of all, she's the furthest removed from my age bracket and therefore has a completely different mindset than I do- but at the same time she's mature beyond her years because of her line of work. I also struggle with dealing with the issues she has in her personal life (which are just being hinted at here, obviously), and that's partly because I've personally led a very well-adjusted life and have only investigated these issues in a second-hand manner (although I intend to portray Azami's character as realistically as possible) and also because I feel bad for her knowing that she's being scarred at such a young age.
But all rambling aside, this chapter sets up rather beautifully for the threads of fate finally intertwining for the three protagonists of Aidoru. Is Azami's harasser her father or not? And if he is, why does she have such a horrible relationship with him?
Next chapter will be coming shortly, but until then, comments are the fodder for my inspiration!