If... (05)

That night, I couldn’t sleep. Who would in a situation like mine? It might also be that the Ishikawas put me to bed early. All lights were out by 9 o’clock. Although I could remember no shit, there is one thing I know, by instinct: that nobody sleeps this early, not even children. I tossed around in bed, wide awake. My mind was restless, disturbed. The same things kept going through my mind. Who am I? Where am I? Why? The more I tried to recall, the harder my throbbings became. It might only be some mild pounds I felt on the back of my head, nevertheless, irritating enough not to be ignored. And to stop it, I must stop thinking. I tried to think of something else, nothing else. I turned to look at the windows. The linen curtains were half-drawn, moonlight coming in made the room slightly illuminated. And when the wind came, the curtains flapped, casting random shadows on the walls, and at times the floor even looked like it was dancing along.

I looked at the door, remembering how a lady had appeared before disappearing. She was the first person I saw, the first input on my mind, which was now void and empty and eager to be filled with new memories. I had not see her again until now. Ishikawa said she is his daughter. He has two daughters: Kei and her. And she is the younger one. I met Kei over dinner. She cooked and served us and ate little herself. But I did not see Rika. Did she not have her dinner? Maybe like Kei, she ate little and had left before I turned up; maybe she had no appetite and missed her dinner completely. Even so, I thought I would see her around the house after dinner, but she was no where to be seen. Strangely, as I lay in bed now, I found myself suddenly curious about her. She had a drawing quality about her; she just seemed mysterious and elusive.

I closed my eyes and tried to recall little I could make of her features. Her hair is long, straight and black. Her body, petite. Her dress, long, almost touching the floor. Her moves, nimble as she was gone as quick as she had come. And I smiled, not knowing why. No, I knew why, but that would be later.

The next day, I woke up forgetting how I had fallen asleep. The room now looked bright, and my heart sank when I saw how everything still look the same. I was hoping that after a night’s sleep, I would wake up to find myself in another room, my own room, and things had not changed, and what had happened, my loss of memory, my presence in a strange place, were all but a bad dream. But I was not dreaming. For the first time, I felt fear. I tried not to think about it.

I got up to leave the room and walked the only passage I knew around the house, toward the dining place. I didn’t know what I was expecting but I was feeling quite hungry and was hoping for some food. And when I entered and saw plates of food on the table, I broke into a smile. So glad was I to see food I had not notice at once that Ishikawa was seated around the table.

“Good morning,” he said as he looked up.
“Good morning,” I said back.
“Slept well?” he asked.
“Yes,“ I said and nodded, as perfunctorily as he had asked.
“Good, join me. Your food is getting cold.”

So I sat down and ate. Unlike the night before, we did not talk as we ate. But I knew he was watching me, the same way he had watched me before, surreptitiously yet not very clever. I almost laughed and had to bite my lips and swallow my food.

“You seem hungry,” he said.
I lowered my chopsticks and said, “Yes, I do. Sorry. If you think I eat too much.”
“No, not the least. Should I get Kei to bring you more food?”
“I’m fine with what’s on my plate,” I said.

We started to talk. Inevitably we got back to that topic, my topic. I say so now that when a person loses her memory, it does not mean that she loses her ability to think. I turned suddenly to Ishikawa and said, “I wish to go to the authorities. I’m sure they can help me, will try to help me.”

Ishikawa’s eyes widened considerably and he shifted his face away, hoping to hide it. For the nonce, I felt he was hiding something, that he might not be the good person I first thought him of. He cleared his throat, sat upright and braced himself. And then he spoke.

He said many things. So many things that even by recalling them now, I felt myself getting queasy. He raised questions and provided the answers himself. Most importantly, he said I was found without any forms of identification. I had no idea at first what he was hinting at. I told him “since I’m a citizen, they will have my data.” He shook his head and said I did not look local. It was preposterous. I could speak Japanese I almost argued. But he had his way of talking me out of it. He had his own set of theories, which was interesting enough to make a good drama from. And when he was finished, I was exhausted from listening.

Illegal immigrant! Goodness me. Which part of me looks so? Even though he had been convincing, I could not help but notice his eyes darting when he was speaking. He had behaved so suspiciously, I had conjured my own theories about him. Maybe he knew what happened to me. Maybe he was responsible for what happened to me. Maybe he lied. Maybe I was kidnapped and held captive and lost my memory through a freak accident and so he came up with this tale to continue me to stay; and if I were to insist and leave for the authorities, he would walk free of his crimes. Because his motives were so clear, all his words point to one thing: he didn’t want me to leave, he wanted me to stay.

If that was so, then maybe, just maybe, he knew…

If... (04)

“Papa, we should call in the authorities.”
“No. We’ll wait and see.”
“How can we? We don’t know her at all, and she’s not telling. What if she’s bad? Someone who screwed up while trying to smuggle herself away? No proper person would lie out there, you know that!”
“She looks harmless. And she doesn’t remember a thing. Pitiful I would say.”
“She might be faking it.”
“No, not from the looks of it.”
“Papa, you can’t be sure. Crooks don’t have the word ‘I’m bad’ engraved on their foreheads.”
“See, you hesitate now. I’ll call them.”
“No, wait.”
“Look papa. If she’s good, they will help get her back to where she’s from. We will be doing her a great favour.”
“I know. It’s just that…”
“Just what?”
“Just that since your mother passed away, I’ve never seen Rika look the way she did when she brought the lady back. I am thinking if she could help your sister, then I want her to stay…”


If... (03)

Remember how I said earlier I felt things familiar yet strange. After my first meal with the Ishikawa family, I knew why. Something was not quite right with me. I had not realized then the magnitude of my anomaly.

So, just what was wrong with me, you would ask.

I had this problem what people call ‘amnesia’ or ‘loss of memory’. I remember some things but not many things, and sadly, important things. I remember the names of things and not remember why they were there, if you understand what I mean. I recognise a bed as a bed, a chair as a chair and a wardrobe as a wardrobe. But why were they there or why were I there in the room, I had no idea.

It was during dinner time when Ishikawa asked me for my name and I had given him a blank look, just as my mind had gone blank. I could not remember. How could I not? I began to panic, just as anyone should. I suddenly felt alarmed. I should have a name, everyone has a name, but what is mine? Why can’t I remember?

“Is there anything wrong?” he asked. “Surely I’m not being intrusive here asking for your name?” he laughed slightly. “Well, not after I had gotten you back and nursed you back to health, after my daughter found you lying unconscious on the beach, ermm, three days ago.”

“No,” I said. “But what?” Too much information at any one time. Unconscious, beach, days ago… what is going on here? I looked clueless.

His smile was gone. I saw his brows come slightly together. He looked to his left at Kei, a lady whom he had introduced earlier as his daughter, and back at me again and was silent, perhaps thinking of what he should say next. I fidgeted.

“You were in a pretty bad state when Rika saw you,” Kei suddenly said.

Rika? Another name to remember. Could it be the lady who had appeared in my room before disappearing? I had no time to think about that.

“I am truly sorry,” I said. “I must have behaved badly and you must have think me rude. I wish to tell you my name. However you must believe me when I tell you that I have no idea.” I could tell him the slight throbbing I felt on the back of my head even now as we spoke as I badly tried to recall things, but I didn’t; it won’t make him believe me more nor less.

He tried to look sympathetic. “But why?” his tone was flat.

I wish I could tell him. I remained silent. He gave a sigh and got up from his seat. I could not see from his face what he was thinking, then he smiled. “It’s okay. Come join me at the living room. You can watch some television while I do some reading, and we can talk.”

The living room. It was a spacious room with tall ceilings and long walls. There were windows everywhere, but it was currently so dark outside, I could see nothing beyond. We sat in the middle of the room where the sofas were placed perpendicular to one another, forming a L shape. We sat on either side. Ishikawa took up the papers on the coffee table in front and started reading. I looked at the television which was switched on for my sake but paid absolutely no attention to the contents in it. I was very conscious of Ishikawa studying me although he appeared to be reading his papers. I fidgeted more.

I wish he could ask me outright what bloody hell is wrong with me! instead of pretending to be cool about the whole thing. I could take it no more.

“You said you found me?” I asked, quite abruptly. He seemed surprised and placed his papers on his lap.

“No, it wasn’t me. My daughter did.”
“No, my other daughter, Rika.”

Rika, Ishikawa Rika. A beautiful name. I even thought so when I first heard it. I looked around.

He seemed to understand why. “She must have gone outside,” he said. “She likes to go out there,” he smiled, “that’s how she found you. You should be glad that she does. You see, you were there in a pretty secluded part of the beach. Quite very far from here. Normally people who come stay here in the inn will not wander that far. You would have, you know, if Rika hadn’t walked that far.”

I should be grateful to her. That was what Ishikawa was telling me, indirectly.

When a gust of wind blew in, I smelt tanginess in it. I think we must be very near the sea.

Ishikawa spoke again. “But… ah… I guess I made a mistake.”


“Well,” his tone became apologetic. “I should have listened to Kei and called for the ambulance instead.”

“I guess so,” I said when I saw him pause, and only for the sake of saying something. I smiled to cue him on.

“But I thought you will come around in a couple of hours. So I suggested that we get you back here and into a bed. But you never did wake up and just slept and slept.” He laughed.

I would laugh along if I hadn’t remember Kei saying I looked pretty bad when they found me, but now, as he was saying, I looked fine. Something wasn’t right. I became wary.

“And how long was I in slumber?”

“Days. Three?” He was thinking. “We are all so glad now to see you waken. But I guess we are faced with another problem?”

He was right, absolutely right.


If... (02)

I gave the surroundings a quick look. The feeling familiar yet strange. I couldn’t put a word to it; perhaps you could if you were me. But, let me try. I was in a room. It was a simple room. Not many furnishings. There was a desk, a chair, a wardrobe and a bed, which I was lying on. My eyes became drawn to the turning blades of a fan on the ceiling. Watching it turn lazily, I tried to remember what I was doing here…

Pain. A pain that came and went quickly. Nevertheless, it was a pain excruciating enough to make me feel alarmed. A pain that I would later grow to hate and yet feel deeply attached to.


I turned to the gasp. The figure quickly disappeared behind the door, leaving the door ajar. But I managed to have a glimpse of the lady. She’s not very tall, petite and has long black hair. I didn’t see her face. I got up, stumbled and fell. My legs felt numb, my knees cold against the wooden board. I felt weak. And thirsty. And hungry. Oh God, I wonder to myself. How long had I gone without food? Looking back at the bed, I wonder too. How long had I been sleeping?

I got up again. Steadying my stance, I took a careful step forward. No problem. Then another step. Then I saw a figure appear at the door.

“Oh, you’re awake!”

A lady. She was another lady. I was sure she’s not the one before. “Ah… yes,” I finally said. She smiled. I smiled back.

“We’re having dinner soon, please come join us.”


If... (01)

It all happened very long ago. Still l remember it clearly. I hadn’t before. But not now. Now, they are back, all back; everything clear and etched on the back of my mind. And whenever I close my eyes now, I would remember, dreadly remember… how I had opened my eyes… (more...)


If... (Prologue)

I always thought it was so cliché. But now when people ask me what my wish would be if given one? I would say “I wish I could turn back the clock…” (more...)


Till then... Chapter Two - I

Gotou sat solemnly in a cushioned foldable metal chair in a dim quiet corner of an otherwise stuffy and noisy film-set studio. The air in the studio was getting suffocating, as was the air in her chest. Moments ago, she had turned down Natsumi’s offer of a mini battery-operated fan, and it wasn’t that she didn’t need it, she just didn’t have the mood to use it. Natsumi had walked off looking rather rejected, but if she had been more observant, she would understand that the turning down of her good gesture had nothing to do with the little bicker that happened among senior and junior members this morning, but more with what’s happening in another part of the studio right now.

watashi otoko da ze.

watashi otoko da ze,” Ishikawa mimicked.

chigau anta wa onna deshou?”

watashi otoko da ze,” Ishikawa continued as she looked at the camera, paying no heed to Yoshizawa, who decided that she had enough.

kanojo boshuu chuu… please apply here,” Yoshizawa stepped forward and spoke into the camera, and made a gesture with her finger pointing down marking a line as if knowing that wordings would later be added to the footage during editing. And this time, her little gesture seemed to garner the much-needed attention from Ishikawa.

“Wait, what about me then?” Ishikawa protested.

“Don’t listen to her,” Yoshizawa continued while still looking at the camera. “She’s just a friend,” she said seriously.

“Yossi, I thought we’re always raburabu together?” Ishikawa pouted her lips as she pulled Yoshizawa by the arm and swung it side to side. There was nothing else Yoshizawa could do when Ishikawa had turned cute and cherubic.

“Oh mine,” she cooed as she looked into those black lovely eyes and couldn’t help but give Ishikawa a hug, who let out soft screams of delight.

Back in the dim corner, someone felt a tight grip seizing her chest…

Yoshizawa looked around the studio and could not find Gotou. It seemed to her that Gotou had just disappeared into thin air as soon as the filming had ended. After taking a double check, she was quite convinced that her friend had indeed vanished, but to where? When everybody else, Yoshizawa counted, was still in the studio.

“Yossi?” Ishikawa, who had made herself visible in front of Yoshizawa, said. “Let’s go shopping later.”


“Come on, you had turned me down yesterday, running off just like that even though we were supposed to go out together.”

If Ishikawa hadn’t reminded her, Yoshizawa might have felt better. She stood there mulling, thousand thoughts spinning through her head; well actually, there’s only one thought: where’s Gotou?

“I don’t care,” Ishikawa said as she pulled Yoshizawa along toward the exit. Left with no choice, Yoshizawa could only follow.


akai nikkichou: 15th October 2009

(author's note: not for innocent eyes, I mean it.)

Lazy, talk about being lazy. Yes, almost everyone knows how lazy she can really be. There are times you even hear her admitting it on TV and radio or event shows that she can be really really lazy - and let me tell you, she ain’t lying about it. She can be so lazy and lethargic that you won’t believe the degree of her laziness. An example is when we are having sex and I have the strap-on and we’re doing doggie style, she’d just lie facing down instead of on her knees and elbows. Yes, down and flat like a dead fish. How do I start, you ask. Well, she’d just raise her butt a little - even so, she'd do it as if it required her greatest effort - so that we can fuck. Yes, that’s how torpid she can be. And she’d be lying still, so still and so motionless that sometimes it feels as if I were having sex with someone who’s actually asleep, except that she really wasn’t in this case, because I can’t imagine anyone being able to sleep while engaging in some mind-blowing sex. Another tell-tale: with her face lying on her side, I could always see, from where I was behind her, a lazy grin on her lips when I glided in and out of her. Even though her eyes would be closed all the time, again giving you the impression that she’s sleeping, I know she’s enjoying it as much as I do; that's what really matters. But, sometimes I do wonder... what if one day, I just lie there and let her do all the work.


Till then... Chapter One - III

“So, do you like our new single?” Even when Gotou hadn’t responded, Yasuda continued, “I heard the TV station has chosen it to be the theme song for the Sydney Olympics.” It wasn't awhile before Yasuda realized Gotou wasn’t really listening, she waved a hand in front of Gotou’s face. “Gocchan?”


“What’s wrong? Is something bothering you?” Yasuda asked as she popped a piece of lettuce in her mouth and chewed.


Yasuda placed down her fork. “Oh you’re such a lousy liar. Come on, tell me what’s wrong.”

“No, I’m ok, really.” Now, if Gotou could see herself, she would understand why Yasuda hadn’t believed her.

“Then why aren’t you eating? I thought you like Caesar salad?”

Gotou smiled. When she began to show signs of hesitation, Yasuda urged on. “Come on~”

And finally, Gotou succumbed. “Well, I’m just curious, but… have you ever been in love?”

“I knew it!” Yasuda said as she slammed her hand on the tabletop, and her action quickly sent Gotou back to her reticent self.

“No, it’s not what you think it is.”

“Aha. In a nutshell, you’re having love problems.” Yasuda resumed her eating and the glint in her eyes told Gotou that she believed nothing else. Gotou straightened her back and leaned forward, and then she began to whisper as if the people around them were all listening.

“No, you don’t understand. I don’t think you really do. I just asked what I asked because, you know, I was curious.” Emphasis was placed on the last word.

Was. So you aren’t now.”

“Yah…” Gotou drawled.

“All right, all right. I won’t tease you anymore.” Yasuda stopped her laughing and turned serious. “Well, the answer is ‘no’, but when I was in high school, there was this guy that I liked—” She stopped when the ringing in Gotou’s duffle bag became louder and louder. Looking apologetic, Gotou took out her cellphone, and after a quick look on the display screen, she muted the device and placed it back where it came from. “You are not answering it?” Yasuda asked.

“I don’t know the caller. Could be wrong number. Anyway, where are we?”

Yasuda thought she had seen Gotou smiling when she was looking at the caller’s name just now; Gotou must have known the caller, but why was she lying? Before Yasuda could continue, there was another ringing and this time, the ringing came from her bag. She dug out her phone and answered the call. “Hello? Yes. Yes.” A smile formed on her face. “Right, I’m with her. Wanna join us? Yep. The restaurant just around the corner. Wait for you.” Cutting the call, Yasuda turned to Gotou and said: “Yossi’s coming.”

The words seemed to have perked Gotou up as she looked in the direction where the restaurant’s entrance was. Silly me, she thought. She knew Yocchan couldn’t be this quick, however, she couldn’t help but look again.

Oblivious to the sudden change in Gotou’s behaviour, Yasuda continued, “ok, where were we? Oh yah. Actually, I feel it’s better if we concentrate on our career now as—”

“She’s here!” Gotou smiled and raised her hand.

Yasuda turned over her shoulder to see Yoshizawa hurrying to their table, and before she could acknowledge her junior, she received a hard slap on her shoulder.

“Yo! Check it out! CHO!” Yoshizawa said cheerfully, and perhaps a tad too loud, as some of the diners had turned to look in her direction.

“Cut it out, cho! You’re not recording now.” Yasuda rubbed her painful shoulder while Yoshizawa settled into the seat vacated by Gotou, who had shifted herself inwards, and when Yasuda saw Yoshizawa behaving nonchalantly despite the little hoo-ha she just caused with her grand entrance, she felt more pissed. “I thought you’re supposed to be with Rika-chan?” she hissed.

“Well, she dumped me.” Yoshizawa said and smiled without any tinge of sadness.

“What?” Gotou asked. “I mean why?”

“Yeah, isn’t it funny? You know, her mum called up and suddenly, she was rushing home,” Yoshizawa explained. “Oh, nevermind.”

Well, the truth was no one actually minded. Not Yasuda, although she would have preferred if Yoshizawa hadn’t slapped her. And definitely not Gotou, who felt rejuvenated. And so, the three girls made themselves really comfortable settling into their seats and they began to chat and chat. They talked and talked even when their plates were cleared and glasses were emptied and they never seemed to run out of topics: Pucchimoni, their coming trip to Sydney and their favourite, which was to gossip about Mayumi, their dance teacher and choreographer.

But when the sky had turned really dark and time had gotten really late, they knew they had to leave. Outside the restaurant, they bode each other goodbye and took a cab home respectively.

Now, the evening turned out to be great afterall, at least two of the girls felt.


Till then... Chapter One - II

In the noisy and crammed gakuya, Ishikawa Rika, who together with Yoshizawa, Tsuji and Kago had made up the four members of the fourth generation girls that was added to Morning Musume, stuffed her damp towel into her voluminous bag, looked around her makeup desk, satisfied that she had left nothing behind, and zipped up her bag. She turned to Yoshizawa and asked: “So Yocchan, where are we going to later? Dinner first then shopping or shopping first then dinner?”

The shocked expression on Yoshizawa when she looked up was evident. “What?” she asked.

“I just asked you ‘where are we going to later?’”

Yoshizawa’s eyes widened considerably, and from the look alone, Ishikawa knew that her friend must have forgotten about their yakusoku. “Jeez! You HAVE forgotten about it right?”

If Yoshizawa had tried to feign it, she had done a bad job. Oh shit… she hissed. And almost instinctively, she seemed to remember something else and quickly turned to look left, where Gotou’s makeup desk was, and saw, to her surprise, Gotou zipping up her bag with such force that she wondered if the zip could be broken. And before Yoshizawa could decipher what had happened, Gotou swung her bag around her shoulder and strode out of the room.

Now, if anyone would to ask Yoshizawa to explain Gotou’s sudden weird behavior, Yoshizawa would have guessed that Gotou must have overheard her conversation with Ishikawa; although that would be the last thing she hoped. She looked around the room again for Yasuda Kei, the other person she was supposed to go out with, and found herself somehow glad when she failed to see the latter around. Maybe Gotchan’s in a hurry to meet Kei-chan… maybe Kei-chan’s waiting for her at the lobby…

“Great! Just great!” Rika sighed. She picked up her bag, ready to leave, too, and this time she was heading right home instead of going out to have some fun.

“No, wait!” Yoshizawa called out. “I do remember,” she said, smiling. “I do.” She took a back step and sat in her chair, feeling her weight sinking into the soft cushion. She felt the same similar feeling in her heart. Well, she only had herself to blame for the double-date: if only she wasn’t this forgetful.


Till then... Chapter One

“CUT!” The voice resonated in the second largest recording studio in the building of Tokyo TV Station. Activities resumed. Spotlights were switched off and cameras were powered down. The recording crew began packing, while another group of women began heading for the exit. In the group, Gotou Maki, a pretty girl in Japanese standards, started looking around and when she saw her target, began walking towards her friend and fellow group member, Yoshizawa Hitomi, who ironically, was someone older in age yet less senior in rank. Despite her head had began throbbing from the raised voices of the other girls around her, Maki quickened her steps and soon caught up with the lone Hitomi. She tapped lightly on the slim shoulders.

Yoshizawa turned to look back, but she appeared to take a while before she found her words. “Tired?” she finally asked and felt, at the same time, funny that she had taken that long to just speak a simple word. She smiled when Gotou shook her head and, together, they headed back to their gakuya, both somehow glad that the day’s work had finally come to an end.

“Things ended early, ne?” Gotou asked casually as they turned a right corner into a long hallway, where at the end of it, was their resting and makeup room.

“Sure is. How about dinner together?”

“Great!” Gotou exclaimed, but was looking regretful almost immediately after. “No, you see… I can't. I already promised Kei-chan to go out with her.”

But Yoshizawa laughed. “That's easy, isn't it? We can go together.” It was always situations like these that made Gotou realize how she often complicates even the simplest things. She smiled inwardly when a loud scream filled the air.

“Tsuji! Kago! You two are SO DEAD!”

Gotou and Yoshizawa looked back to see two diminutive girls running past them and their leader, Nakazawa Yuuko, a few steps behind, arms on her hips, eyes glaring at the pranksters who had the slightest common sense to get away as quick as possible. Yoshizawa turned back before shaking her head, wondering how long it would take for Tsuji Nozomi and Kago Ai, her fellow same generation members, to understand that no one can mess with their nonpareil leader and expect to walk away unscathed. Though deep down inside, she knew she had respected them for their, what she would sometimes say, asinine guts; a trait she once had when she was their age, but not now, when the world just seemed wider and scarier.

“They will be all right, won’t they?” Gotou asked cautiously.

Despite not being sure herself, Yoshizawa nodded. She knew it would have to depend largely on their leader’s mood, which perhaps wasn’t that great at the moment.

“Abe-san! Shouldn’t you be keeping them in hand?” Nakazawa barked, her anger now directed at Natsumi, whose only involvement– sad to say– was because she happened to be there, nearest there, at the wrong time.

Abe Natsumi, a girl in her late teens who still had some baby fat on her face, though none of it showing on other parts of her body, knew she only was a victim of circumstances and thus, had decided not to hold any grudges against her grumpy leader. Nevertheless, she raised her left hand and pressed a spot on her wrist with her other hand. Then she leaned her head forward and spoke conspiratorially into her wrist as if there were an invisible transmitter attached. “Mummy, mummy, can you hear me? Help me here, I’m being bullied.”

Although everyone who saw it wanted to laugh, they all knew better. Somehow that seemed to make Abe more proud. “It’s funny right?” she gleamed

“What the heck!” Nakazawa cursed, and she could have gone on with profanities if she wasn’t distracted by a staff who was approaching them. The lanky man donning a pink tie against a white long sleeve business shirt came to a stop right before her.

“Excuse me, Nakazawa-san,” he said. “Tsunku-san would like to see you in his office.” He turned and walked hastily back even before Nakazawa could acknowledge with a nod and she wondered if he was in a hurry to go back to work or to somewhere else.

With quickened steps, Nakazawa hurried down the corridor and went up two flights of stairs. When she reached the floor where Tsunku’s office was, she couldn’t stop wondering why Tsunku had wanted to see her as she approached the room, her eyes fixated on the name 'Tsunku' tagged against the door of the office. Perhaps, she thought, her time has come…


Till then... (Prologue)

They strolled on the path built alongside the canal surrounding Tokyo TV station, pausing occasionally to enjoy the cooling evening breeze. They were chatting, happily at first, sharing jokes when their conversation segued to something else; the sole purpose of the person who had initiated the walk. And no one had talked since then. For five long minutes, they stood facing away from each other, their bodies leaned, their elbows resting on the rails guarding the deep and wide canal beneath, their eyes straight, staring into space, when one of them cleared her throat.

“You have decided?”
“And you want it this way?”
“Why? Aren’t you the least happy for me?”
“I am, but…” Her eyes looked down, yet watching the rapid waters gushing through the canal beneath did nothing to calm her emotions.
“It has always been my dream. You know about it.”
“I know, but what if I want you to stay?”
“Why? Are you against it? You know it is my dream since the day I joined…”

The pause was not deliberate. “But then we will be seeing less of each other…”

A laugh. “Oh come on, I’m still in haroporo.”

mou… mou ii yo.



akai nikkichou: 28th March 2008

We flipped through some of her photobooks today—just because we had a lot of time to kill—and I was reminded, once again, how beautiful she actually is. Anyway, I told her I like the photos, especially those from her first photobook and she gave me a weird look. A look that told me she’s happy to hear it. But I wasn’t lying to make her happy, I mean it, I really do: she’s beautiful. I like her straight black hair, with her fringe swept to one side, and her delicately trimmed eyebrows, drawn into this really beautiful arch which accentuates her eyes, and her sharp nose, and her sexy mouth. But of course, I did not tell her how I felt about her. I kept my eyes focused on her face in those books and gave basic compliments based on her looks alone and purposely left out any comments regarding her sexy poses, because, the truth was, I did not dare look at her body. You see, not when she’s seated just beside me; I couldn’t let her see me drooling at her body. That would be inappropriate—definitely not something a girl would do when shown photos of other girls in scanty swimming suits.

And then she asked me a question. She asked why I never had a Bikini photo book? It was a funny question. Funny because I realized she had never asked me this before even though we have known each other for seven years now. She never asked me how I managed to own two photo books in my name and yet none of it had me in a swimsuit, while all my colleagues, who had photo books, had. Why am I the exception? I guess her question caught me off-guard because I was stumped for quite sometime, and then she laughed and I followed and that question quickly became buried among all other stuffs.

But deep inside me, I am sure she knew why. I stopped wearing bikini when I became uncomfortable in it, which was back in year 2002 when my weight had suddenly gone bonkers. That really was a dark period of my life and I had since forgotten many things that had happened back then. I didn’t want to remember them. Luckily, for me, I did not take many pictures back then to have them remind me again of those days, and although I am in my best shape now, the discomfort and dread had decided to stay. And for five years, I never wore a bikini again… except for one really special case last year.

Maybe she had seen those official pictures and that’s why she asked, right? Well, maybe she hadn’t or she wouldn’t have asked. Am I confusing? But does it matter? No, it didn’t. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t seen me baring skin. We were often down to our undergarments during backstage and in futsal changing room. She had seen me partially nude as many times as I’ve seen her. But I have never seen her naked. Hey, what am I thinking? It’s a pity. I might have if I had followed them to the onsen tour three years ago. Yaguchan, Kemeko and her. I did not go because I wasn’t really close to them. Ironic, isn’t it? Who would have guessed we would be so close now? Now, if someone would to propose another onsen trip, I’ll be all ready. Wait a minute, maybe I should…

Nah, on second thoughts, that can’t be done. I don’t think we could squeeze that into our schedules. I’m really regretting now that I hadn’t gone with them. It would be so fun and who knows, we would have gotten closer even back then, instead of now… so it's very funny. Anyway, it’s all fated, because we were supposed to be close back then; in fact very very close. Then we started to drift apart and became alien. I guess that transition period when we were actually not talking anymore was important. Two very important years - it let things cool down and made me forget. I bet it did the same for her. Now I could see that she has really forgotten, too. I could sense it and my gut feeling tells me so. These things can’t be lied. Nobody could be this good in hiding her feelings unless she really had forgotten. Like her, I had forgotten about them, too. I’m not lying. Now, I only remembered something had happened back then, something big and regretful but I couldn’t recall clearly the details. The memories had all turned vague and the more I tried to recall, the more they just eluded me. The only thing I knew, those were some really unhappy stuffs. And yeah, how I’m glad we’ve both forgotten about it. Hey… why am I bringing this up again?


A simple story - their story (06) (END)

(DATE: April 2015)

At 30, Yossi was now the owner of a restaurant—an eatery which sells western cuisine and one which she co-runs with her mother. It was a humble business. One that wasn’t making a lot of money nor was it losing any neither. She had started the business four years before, thinking of just passing time and keeping herself occupied since she couldn’t think of what else to do.

It all happened six years ago when her artiste career had ended prematurely after her agency had suddenly gone bust, and for a long long time after she had found herself remaining jobless. She had tried to approach other agencies to take her in but they had turned her down, and when she had finally decided to leave showbiz and settle for simple OL jobs, she was politely that she was under-qualified. The rejections were shocking and discouraging but she knew she deserved it—it was the price she had to pay for compromising her paper qualifications when she chose to join showbiz at a young age of 15. She began to feel useless and before long, she was diagnosed to be suffering from depression. The illness worried her parents more than her and they had suggested she start a small business with the money she had saved over the years. She did, was glad that she did and felt depressed no more. And now she was grateful to her parents; her life had gone back to normal.

Still there were times when she would reminisce about her past, not for the expired glamour and fame of being a celebrity but for the happy times she had spent her teenage days and sadly too, the missed chances with her loved one. Fifteen years, that was how long she had known her. And for all these years, she had kept her feelings hidden; all because she was afraid. And she never stopped hating herself for her cowardice, for it was precisely this ‘afraid’ that was keeping them apart even till this day.

Her heart ached. She would feel this similar pain almost everyday, when she had to walk down the long stretch of shops in the shopping district to get to her restaurant. It was quiet times like these, walking alone, that set her mind wandering, making her think of the past. And she hated it. She wished she would stop the tormenting thoughts, but she couldn’t. Sometimes, she had foolishly thought time would blur the memories, easing her pain, but with each passing day, it became more evident that she was still missing her badly.

And life was ironic. Despite the years that made her learn not to be afraid anymore, fate had turned cruel; they had lost contact. If only she had a wish now, she would turn back the clock; she wouldn’t be afraid anymore and maybe, just maybe, things might end up differently.

She stopped in her tracks. Have God just heard her pleas?

She blinked and squinted then her heart stopped…

Indeed, God had heard her…

There she was, just ten metres away…

She couldn’t believe her eyes. She looked up in the sky and smiled.

Yes, Lady Luck was shining at her…
Yes, God had not forsaken her…

But when she saw the child in her arms she stopped smiling. She realised she had interpreted God wrongly. True, God had heard her but it seemed God had simply sympathized with her. God had hoped she would give up, thus arranging them to meet again… but in this way.

After six long years, after a fleeting moment of renewed hope, this was to be their ending.

Yossi closed her eyes, feeling distinctively her heart bleeding. No doubt she had longed to see her again, but now as she had, the truth was too much to bear—Rika was married. Perhaps it was now time for her to end this unrequited love. Quickly choosing a different path, Yossi hastened away, feeling the need to get away fast, fearing her legs would find no strength to do so or…


Yossi pretended she hadn’t heard Rika calling out to her.

“Yossi? Yossi?”

Rika’s voice was becoming louder and when Yossi heard footsteps running toward her, she stopped. She had to. She couldn’t bear the thought of her friend running with a child in her arms; it would be dangerous. So, she put on a smile and turned around. “Ishikawa?”

Un~ sono tori desu~

Hearing the cheerful voice and seeing the gleaming smile bring back nostalgic feelings, and Yossi couldn’t help but notice how beautifully Rika had aged. It made her lonely heart stir and at the same time, sad.

Aa~ ohisashiburi desu,” Yossi replied, trying to act surprised and happy. But when she saw how the cute child looked very much like her mother, a sad pang pierced her heart.

“Why are you here?” asked Rika, who still couldn’t hide her excitement at meeting her old friend.

“Oh, I work here,” said Yossi, pointing in the direction where she was heading.

“Where?” Rika asked again while she hoisted the child in her arms gently for a better grip.

The display of motherly love set off another tinge of sadness in Yossi. She tried not to let it show but knew her façade would collapse any time especially if she would to stay and look longer and be reminded of the lucky guy Rika’s happily married to. “A restaurant down this stretch,” she said. And then she pretended to check the time on her wrist watch. “I’m running late. Need to go…ermm… maybe next time—”

“But we just met,” Rika cut in, looking intensely at Yossi. “I… I’ve been trying to find you all these years. You just disappeared…”

Yossi’s eyes darted away. Her strong front was wavering and she knew she shouldn’t stay any longer. “Well…” she said. “We’ve met now. And I’m glad to know you’re living well.” She put on her best smile, still avoiding looking at Rika and her child. “I really need to go.” When she saw how Rika’s lips had worked into a pout she knew she was being ungraciously ‘nasty’… She thought for a moment and fished out her wallet. After pulling out a name card she handed it to Rika. “My contact, call me when you’re free,” she said tersely. But deep inside, she was hoping she would never see or hear from Rika again. There’s no point any more—she didn’t want to get more hurt.

When Rika said no more Yossi bade goodbye and turned to walk away, but her heart tore; this was to be their last farewell, despite them meeting again after six years. She quickened her steps and when she felt Rika have lost her in the crowd, she slowed down. Is this what I want? No… but what should I expect? She had moved on, I should too, she thought.

Nevertheless, she couldn’t help but feel lousy. She realised her limbs had gone numb, her chest was becoming hard of breathing and she felt like dying. Although she had come to her restaurant she just walked on and past it. She just wanted to keep walking, until her legs tired out or until her breath passed out, and hopefully she would feel the pain no more…

So, she treaded up and down the same street, and she had no idea how long she’d been doing it when she heard the familiar voice again.


She stopped. Even from the single word, she could sense the anger and worry in the tone. She quickly turned around and immediately hated her own weakness. It surprised her she was actually happy to be able to see Rika again. Such is her weakness.

“Where are you going?” Rika asked as she quickly caught up with Yossi. “I just went to your restaurant and they said you weren’t back.”

“I…” Yossi stammered.

“I think…” Rika said as she took a step closer to Yossi. “There is a misunderstanding…”

When Yossi backed away brusquely Rika was hurt but she braced herself. “Your mom told me to find and get you back.”

The surprise in Yossi was evident. “You’ve met my mother?”

“Yeah, and she said when I get you back, you’ll have to give me a treat.”

Yossi thought it was a great joke. “Only you?” she mumbled under her breath. Then she realised Rika wasn’t with her child. “Where your son?” she asked audibly.

There was a mischievous glint when Rika smiled. “Oh! You mean my nephew? He is with his mother now.”

Yossi looked up, surprised.

Rika wasted no time to explain. “After my sister returned from the washroom, I told her I’d met you and she knew immediately that I wanted to go find you. So… here I am.”

The words sounded heavenly and Yossi unconsciously leaked a smile, but she suddenly turned solemn again. “But… you do have your own kids, right?”

Rika giggled. “That’s tough, considering I’m still left on the shelf. What about you?” she asked cautiously.

“I’m STILL single,” Yossi blurted out. When she saw how Rika was laughing at her eager reply, she paused for a moment to think. Then it dawned on her—she had misunderstood things. She couldn’t hold back her joy and broke out into laughter, feeling silly and at the same time, relieved. She could feel Hope beaming at her again…

Rika continued to laugh. She knew Yossi had misunderstood her. She knew it the moment when Yossi had walked away sadly and her nephew had begun to cry looking for his mother, she found a connect between the two matters almost immediately.

Rika stepped forward and this time, Yossi didn’t try to back away but was looking back intensely. Rika shied away. She could sense something more in those eyes, something she too, was feeling. She struggled a little before speaking. “You know, I really mean it when I said I was trying to find you all these years.” As soon as the words left her mouth, the area around her eyes began to feel warm. She looked up, trying to keep her emotions in check. A tear flowed when Yossi leaned closer.

“And these years…” Yossi took Rika’s hands in hers. “I’ve been praying…”



A simple story - their story (05)

(DATE: beginning of YEAR 2002 - the rumor – part three)

No one was talking when they turned a left corner into an awaiting lift. Yossi waited, and then stepped forward to press on button ‘4’, watching as the steel doors closed before the lift started descending. She now knew why the meeting was held at the highest floor—for its privacy. The importance of it heightened. She watched their reflection in the polished steel walls, aware that Rika, whose eyes were looking at the ground, was avoiding her, and she began to wonder why they hadn’t talked, or rather, why they had stopped talking.

She reached out again, pressing on the ‘open’ button when the lift came to a gentle halt, its doors opening. She waited, allowing Rika to step out before her, her mind still wondering when they would start talking again.

Her prayers were answered, almost…

ano,” Rika said as she turned back.

Yossi looked up in earnestness, feeling all her initial dreads banished. Her happiness was short-lived; it wasn’t to make up.

“Why don’t you head back first? I’m hungry, will get a bite from the canteen.”

Yossi could barely manage a nod when Rika walked past her, her eyes avoiding contact. When she heard the steel doors close, she felt her heart sink; her feelings inexplicable yet strangely unbearable. Her thoughts were drawn back to the conversation they were having after they had left the meeting room…

“I wonder why Sakimoto-san said there might be someone you like?”
“That’s not important, I wanna know what you think?”
“Hadn’t you already said ‘no’?”
“Ya, but…”

“I just find it funny.”
“That he hadn’t asked me the same question.”
“What if he did?”
“I would have said ‘NO’ too.”

Perhaps Rika’s answer was the reason she was feeling hurt, though she had no idea why she had said ‘no’ in her answer. Was she afraid? Was Rika’s similar answer retaliation? But why had she feared? She knew why. It was the truth she feared. The truth that she would lack the courage to face things even if they turned out the way she wanted, but, now that things definitely weren’t the way she thought they might be, it seemed to hurt her like never before.

She opened the door to the gakuya, finding the usual noise and chatters suddenly intolerable. When someone groped her from behind, she snapped.


Her fists were clenched, pressing hard against the walls, the small enclosure not helping much; her battle raged on. She closed her eyes, feeling her internal struggles; her knees locked in a sitting position her only relief. Then she heard it. Sounds. Soft at first, getting louder as if emotions, long controlled, were finally released. She rolled her eyes. Why do women like to cry in the toilet?

When the sobbing persisted she found herself getting increasingly agitated, mainly from the fact that she now knew she wasn’t very alone while engaging in something she considered private. She was saved when she heard a plop sound against the water. She flushed and recomposed herself, ready to meet the weeping girl outside, someone who she thought had come to hide after a dressing-down by her boss. But what she hadn’t expected was to see this someone she was so familiar with. “Rika-chan!”
she cried out.

Rika looked up, equally surprised, but quickly turned away so that Yasuda won’t see her wiping her tears.

Yasuda saw it though. She walked forward, tapping on her junior’s shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Rika said, shaking her head, keeping her back turned.

“Come on, nobody cries for nothing.” Yasuda peered over Rika’s shoulder and saw the eyes red with tears. Rika dipped her head lower.

“Now...” Yasuda pondered before continuing. “Could it be you and Yossi had quarreled?”

There was shock in Rika’s eyes. “No,” she said feebly.

“No?” Yasuda narrowed her eyes. “Sure?” she asked again. “I just saw Yossi behaving weirdly.”

“She did?” Rika asked, knowing her tone had betrayed her feelings.

Yasuda now knew roughly what had happened. She placed a comforting arm around Rika’s shoulders and said: “Yeah~ she shouted at Tsuji when the kid tried to grope her from behind.” Then from the reflection in the mirror, she saw Rika turning pale. It was understandable—everyone in the group knows how Yossi dotes on Kago and Tsuji and how she always tolerates their pranks. “Aha~ so I’m right?” She gripped on the shoulders. “You two had a fight?”

Rika bit into her lips as she shook her head, an action that vexed Yasuda.

“Oh come on~” Yasuda threw her hands in the air, suddenly aware that she hadn’t washed them. She walked to the nearest basin, not feeling an iota of apology for having already touched Rika, and washed her hands.

With Yasuda’s back now turned Rika quickly wiped away her remaining tears and tried to recompose herself. Her efforts futile, she remained as unsettled as she now knew Yossi, too, was behaving weirdly, and that had made things worse; it had made her even more unsure of the situation.

The tap was turned off. “Now shoot! What happened between you two?” Yasuda said as she tore a paper towel from the dispenser.

“Nothing, really.”

“Yeah, yeah. Try telling that to Yaguchan.” She threw the damp paper into the wastebin and stood looking at Rika.

Rika wavered. She knew she was trapped, and Yasuda would not let the matter rest until she learned the ‘truth’. But to tell the truth was the last thing on her mind. So, she went on and on, telling a lie, with a storyline conjured impromptu. Though it only lasted a few minutes it turned out to be a convincing lie, until Yasuda could hear no more of it.

omae baka darou,” Yasuda chided. “If you’re going to let stuffs like these affect you, you’re never going to survive in this business.”


Yasuda raised her hand to cut Rika off. “Think on the bright side. As least you get the camera on you.”

Rika looked back, without the faintest idea what Yasuda was driving at.

“Look at Kaorin. That man jeers her all the time but it’s all thanks to him that people now know Kaorin is the one who sings ‘waratte’ in Summer Night Town, right?”

Rika remained expressionless.

“Now.” Yasuda held on to Rika’s shoulder to turn her around and then she looked into Rika’s eyes. “Say you’ll never let these things upset you again.”

Rika hesitated, wondering what would happened if her senior knew the real reason behind her unhappiness. She gave in when she felt the nudging on her shoulders.

“I’ll never let these things bother me again.”

“Good.” Yasuda nodded. “One more time.”

Rika cringed inwardly. She took in a deep breath. “I’ll never get upset again.”

“Very good.” Yasuda patted hard on Rika’s shoulders. “So, can we go out now?”

Rika nodded. “Thank you,” she said, but when she saw Yasuda have broken out into a genuine smile her heart was suddenly torn with guilt…


A simple story - their story (04)

(DATE: beginning of YEAR 2002 - the rumor – part two)

“Alright, that’s about all for today. Dismissed. Oh Sakimoto-san, can you stay? Need a word with you.”

Soon, the meeting room was vacated except for two stoic-looking men seated opposite each other around an elongated oak table.

The older of the men cleared his throat. “I received this fax from corporate comms this morning.” He retrieved a piece of paper from his folder and handed it over to Sakimoto.

Sakimoto accepted the paper and began to read it.

“I see,” he said after reading. “And you want me to?”

“I want to hear your opinion.”

“Then I would say it’s just those normal gossips.”

The senior man waited, hoping to hear more.

“And it’s not that damaging compared to Abe’s…” continued Sakimoto.

The chief still looked skeptical. “That’s true. But actually, I’m not asking for these. I just thought, maybe You, as the girls’ manager know some things I don’t.”

“Well, since you have asked, I’d dare say there’s no truth in this,” Sakimoto assured.

“I see.” Nakamura locked his brows, thinking. His facial expression depicting he wasn’t quite satisfied with what he had heard. “Even so, I still hope some action will be taken.”

Sakimoto paused for a moment. “How does Tsunku see this?” he asked, but when he saw boss looking affronted at him, he knew he had over-stepped his boundaries—he shouldn’t have questioned his superior. He smiled back weakly. The silly grin further agitated the older man as he slammed his fist on the table.

“Tsunku thinks the same as you. But I wanna see things done. You understand?”

Despite his sitting position, Sakimoto quickly bowed his head. “Yes, yes, of course, I’ll get it done. Do wait for my report.”

Acknowledging with a slight guttural grunt from his throat, the angry man stood up and strode out of the room. Sakimoto didn’t look up until he heard the door close. Not wasting any moment himself, he stuffed his papers into his folder and left the room. Thoughts filled his mind: there were things to be done—serious things to be done—if he wanted to keep his job. And most importantly, he had to find a smaller meeting place and get hold of the two girls, and he had to do it quick…

The atmosphere of the room was sombre though not as icy as the one he was in earlier. Sakimoto looked at his girls, trying his best to maintain his smile, his mind contemplating if this was the right approach.

“Read or heard anything recently?” he asked.

The two clueless girls looked at each other and then back at their manager, they shrugged and shook their heads.

Sakimoto was drawn back to his thoughts. Now, it would be difficult to bring up the matter if both girls had no idea what everything was about. And since they knew nothing, which was a blessing, he had no wish to break the bad news to them. To him, the girls are young, innocent and blissfully ignorant, which is why he couldn’t understand how they have become the target of those baleful paparazzi. Why couldn’t they just leave his girls alone?

“Sakimoto-san, did something happen?” Rika asked cautiously after seeing her manager had gone quiet.

All right! Sakimoto slapped his thighs. What was to be done had to be done. But when his eyes met two angelic pairs, his heart softened and he began to stammer:


An inexplicable bad omen rose instantly inside Yossi and Rika. Rika turned to Yossi, and when she saw how Yossi had an equally worried look, she gingerly reached out her hand under the table and held on to Yossi’s. They held each other assuredly and continued to watch Sakimoto quietly, their heartbeat doubling.

Sakimoto straightened his back. He knew he had to do it carefully. “Ok. Nothing much actually,’ he began. “Just a routine get together, to know how my girls are coping.” He smiled. But judging from the look on Rika and Yossi, he knew they didn’t believe him totally. He further explained. “I only called the two of you here because I thought there might be things you won’t say if others were around. You know, like conflicts with other members?”

“Oh,” said Rika, visibly relieved.

“Everything is fine,” Yossi added, and felt a light squeeze on her hand.

“I see. I believe so.” Sakimoto laughed. “Anyway, just a routine reminder again.” He became serious once again. “Okay, I just had a meeting and some points were brought up. Like I said, routine, just routine stuffs and some short reminders. Well, in the meeting, we discussed about the company’s policies.” He observed his girls who appeared to be listening attentively. “We want to know if you girls actually knew the reasons behind your group’s success?”

The girls nodded.

“And so, you will understand that to carry on with this success, you will need the continuing support of your fans but then… sometimes fans do get upset over things. And…” Sakimoto let out a slight sigh when he saw the girls looking lost in his words. “Okay. How about we do a recap of the clauses in your contract?” He uncapped his pen and began to scribble on a piece of paper.

Yossi and Rika nodded subtly, leaning forward to have a clearer view on the white sheet of paper.

“One…” Sakimoto started writing. “You are not allowed to be in a relationship.” He dotted a period at the end of the sentence with his pen and looked up.

Instinctively, the pair of hands under the table let go of each other quickly.

“Now, this is really important.” His pen proceeded to mark a few circles around the word ‘not allowed’. At the same time, Yossi and Rika began to hold their breaths.

“In showbiz, this is really taboo. I am sure you have seen many examples around you: idols falling out of fame when a bad scandal hits them. Get it? No? It is simple: if your fans’ hopes were dashed, they would stop buying your stuffs. You will lose your market value and then your company won’t see any profit grooming you anymore. You are back to square one, and most probably, you’ll end up regretting what you have done. You see, it is this cruel in showbiz and, sadly too, this is how things work.” Sakimoto stopped to take a breather and also to allow his words to sink deeper into the youngsters’ minds. “Although I had never brought this up to you, I did warn your senpai about these. You see, I thought they are more prone to making this mistake. But recently, as I realise both of you are approaching the age when you start thinking about matters of the heart, I feel that, as your manager, it is my duty to ‘inform’ you about these ‘dangers’.” He looked at both girls, expecting some response.

When Yossi nodded, Rika followed so.

“Good.” Sakimoto, too, nodded. However, he suddenly peered over at Yossi and asked an unexpected question. “Could there be, well, someone you like now?”

“No!” Yossi shouted as if she was truly taken aback. She then looked away, feeling greatly uneasy with her outburst. Rika, on the other hand, tried to keep her eyes straight even though she wanted very much to see Yossi’s expression when she had said ‘no’. When she realized her manager’s attention was now on her she softly said ‘no’ too, but suddenly felt sad, and before she knew it, she felt like crying.

Sakimoto lay back in his chair and breathed out loudly, feeling apologetic for his weird behaviour. He knew his girls weren’t lying, the reason was simple: their crazy work schedules simply don’t allow them to indulge in other activities, let alone date. But he had asked, perhaps just to put his mind at ease. He admitted that he had had his reservations when he had noticed how his superior was pressed on the matter, so he thought there would be no harm in asking, at least now, he knew the truth and could report back to his boss. However, as he looked at the girls again, he felt a great sense of guilt; Rika’s face was turning white while Yossi’s eyes were darting. He had, never before, seen such serious expressions on his beloved girls, and he started to regret his decision to call them into this meeting room, and also his cowardliness. It was his duty, as their manager, to protect the girls, what he had just done, was the opposite…


A simple story - their story (03)

(DATE: beginning of YEAR 2002 - the rumor – part one)

Nothing could wipe the triumphant grin from her face as Yaguchi slammed the magazine on the long table around which Yasuda and Abe were seated. The rude gesture drew immediate frowns from Yasuda and Abe which didn’t bother the perpetrator.

“I TOLD you. Didn’t I tell you before?” Yaguchi’s grin had grown wider.

Yasuda and Abe peered over at the folded magazine on the table. The page showed two out-of-date photos of two girls they were familiar with, one of the titles in bold read ‘よっすぃー「大切な人」は男の子?それとも女の子?

Abe quickly grabbed the magazine. As she read her eyes widened and her brows danced rhythmically. When she finally put down the magazine she exclaimed: “Goodness me!”

“And you said I was wrong?” said Yaguchi.

Abe smiled awkwardly. “I didn’t. Yasuda did.”

Yaguchi needed no reminder on that as she now looked reprovingly at Yasuda, who was frowning as she picked up the gossip tabloid to know what was causing the big fuss.

“Now you see?” said Yaguchi eagerly. To her, revenge is sweet.

Yasuda just gave the article a quick skim-through. “Yeah, I see how you’re as ludicrous as these tabloid reporters,” she said nonchalantly as she threw the useless magazine back onto the table, crossed her arms and leaned back against her chair. Her stance was challenging. “You should be in this business long enough to know you can never trust these tabloids.”

“Is it alright?” Abe asked nervously, not truly understanding a word of what Yasuda had said. “Are they going to get into trouble? I mean if they think it is ‘true’ enough to be published?”

Yasuda was inflamed. “Oh, come on. This is a small-time tabloid, there’s no credibility involved. You know they’ll write anything just to boost sales,” she retorted.

Yaguchi shifted in her chair and looked at Abe, who had turned solemn. From the facial expression, Yaguchi knew Yasuda’s words had brought back painful memories to Abe; nobody should know better than Abe who had been a victim herself.

When Abe looked down and sighed, Yasuda realised she had been insensitive. “Sorry,” she quickly apologized. She didn’t mean to drag Abe into the picture. Then she looked chidingly at Yaguchi—if only the petite gossip-monger hadn’t brought up the topic. She raised her brows urging Yaguchi to say something, anything.

Yaguchi got the cue. “maa~ I guess it is all rubbish.” She retrieved the magazine, closed it and stuffed it back into her capacious bag.

“Yeah~ this is all crap,” Yasuda reiterated. “We’re idols and idols should be reading informative stuffs, not stuffs like these; we should be paying more attention to national or political news. We can’t make Morning Musume look like a group of uneducated ignorant girls.”

Yaguchi went ouch! while Abe just sank deeper into depression.

“You know,” Yaguchi finally said to Yasuda after looking at Abe. “You should just keep your mouth shut.”



A simple story - their story (02)

(DATE: near the end of YEAR 2001)

Everyone appeared to be absorbed in their own doings, but like vultures eyeing their prey the seniors were in fact watching the juniors surreptitiously, meticulously capturing and remembering their every little action. And in this room, one particular lady was starting to get restless.

She made a wink at Yasuda and then at Abe, but that was all she could do as she deemed the room to be too crowded for any serious talk or, in this case, gossip. She pretended to go back to reading her magazine, though she would look up from time to time, anticipating when the kids would leave the room for their lunch break.

Half an hour later, her prayers were answered. As soon as the room was left with three women, Yaguchi slammed her thick fashion magazine on the table and burst out: “Now, what you girls think?”

Though equally piqued, Abe and Yasuda pretended to be unbothered and continued to flip their magazines casually. It worked because it irritated Yaguchi more.

“Come on~ We won’t be alone for long.” Yaguchi glanced over at the round clock on the wall. They would have, the most, ten minutes of privacy before the kids would come back to the gakuya.

Yasuda lazily lay down her magazine and looked at Yaguchi. “What’s it?”

Yaguchi tried not to roll her eyes, and had to use more effort to contain her climbing anger. How could Yasuda not know? They were talking enthusiastically about it just an hour ago until the crowd started coming in, interrupting their discussion. Yaguchi, in an attempt to leave Yasuda out of the chat, diverted her attention to Abe and said: “For me to decide, I think it is true.”

“Are you sure?” Abe asked, peering over her magazine. Yaguchi almost laughed at the speed how Abe’s pretense had faded. “I am not VERY sure. But I do trust my intuition,” she said, straightening her back and getting ready; she knew she had successfully started the ball rolling again.

Abe pouted her lips and nodded silently, and seemed to have fallen into deeper thoughts. Yasuda made a little cough. Yaguchi, who was still feeling sore, purposely ignored the attention-seeking gesture and continued to just talk to Abe. “You would have noticed it going on for some time now, if you’re observant.”

“I don’t think so,” Yasuda interjected loudly; she was now bent on being part of the conversation.

Yaguchi gave Yasuda a dirty look; she couldn’t stand girls who would act classy when they were, in fact, inveterate gossipers. But being a magnanimous girl that she was, she decided to give Yasuda another chance. “Why?” she asked Yasuda.

A smile flashed across Yasuda’s face. She cleared her throat, ready to share her views. “Because you can’t gauge, based on things like that! They’re from the same generation. Just look at you and me. We’re from the same gen too, which makes us generally closer, though…”

“Though?” Yaguchi challenged, raising an eyebrow.

Yasuda took a quick moment to think of a better euphemism. “We have nothing in common,” she finally said, secretly pleased with her new-found sensitivity, knowing it was better than saying they actually hated each other’s hobbies or they could never see eye-to-eye in their views.

Yaguchi paused momentarily, clearly lost for words. She couldn’t believe how easy Yasuda’s seemingly innocuous statement had refuted all her beliefs. Yasuda was right: there was no doubt that she was close with Yasuda, and if she was to see Yossi & Rika’s closeness as being an item, wouldn’t others felt the same for her and Yasuda?

She looked at Yasuda, and mimicking a retching face. She just couldn’t entertain the thought of Yasuda and her being buddy as dating. It was simply revolting.

Yasuda smirked, knowing well enough that the rude gesture was something Yaguchi could only do whenever she was on the losing end of a deal.

“But Marippe and you are different,” Abe said innocently.

Yaguchi’s eyes brightened up at Abe’s timely intervention. She looked toward Abe, her eyes beseeching.

Abe felt herself momentarily flustered by the sudden attention. She looked at Yaguchi and then at Yasuda before clearing her throat. “I can’t really explain. It’s more about feeling…” She stopped, continuing only when her listeners had shown no signs of interrupting. “Now, where am I?”

“You said we ARE different!” Yaguchi and Yasuda both said at the same time. They quickly looked at each other, surprised at the rapport they suddenly shared.

“Oh yah! You see, when you’re talking or bickering or doing things together or just being beside each other and doing nothing—like now—the way you look at each other is different from the way they look at each other,” explained Abe.

“Yah!” exclaimed Yaguchi. “So, you agree with me?” she asked, feeling herself getting excited all over again now that she had found someone who shared her views.

Abe nodded subtly.

It was now two against one, but Yasuda wasn’t going to give up without a proper fight. “Nonsense,” she challenged. “They look at each other normally. As far as I’m concerned they are just girls who happen to be good friends with each other. And the word I’m talking about here is Kinship, KINSHIP. I wonder how long the two of you had left school.” Yasuda looked disbelievingly at her friends as if their existence were as archaic as samurais. “When I was in high school, I knew girls who were very close but it was just about kinship, being sisters. People thought they were together but later, and most of the time, too, they would end up dating boys. Everything is, but a passing phase.”

Yaguchi was annoyed; she couldn’t understand why Yasuda was being obstinate. “Haven’t you heard of the word lesbian?”

The casual mention of the word made Abe cringe; in her mind, blasphemy was the other word that had popped up.

“They’re not,” Yasuda rebutted. “They’re young. They just enjoy each other’s companionship, but they don’t love each other in the sense a girl is attracted to a boy or vice versa.”

“I saw them hug each other!” Yaguchi almost shouted.

Yasuda’s look was one in great shock and it was not Yaguchi’s words that surprised her but Yaguchi’s naivety. “SO? If you still remember. I had kissed you on before! Does that make us lesbians?”

Yaguchi wanted to talk back but she looked as if she had lost her voice.

Yasuda continued on her ride. “I didn’t kiss you in the way I was attracted to you. We did it out of fun—pure fun. And I don’t see why by simply hugging each other makes you think they’re sexually attracted to each other.”

“Then how do you explain they’re always together? Or why can’t they speak normally but have to whisper into each other’s ears? Or why are they talking softly, but laughing out loudly? And their hands are all over each other!”

“You mean like this?” Yasuda suddenly struck her hand at Yaguchi’s bubby. Yaguchi dodged quickly and slapped the offensive hand away. Seeing that Yaguchi’s face had turned red, Yasuda and Abe burst out laughing.

Yaguchi felt chagrined. The tide had turned; it seemed Abe was now on Yasuda’s side. “Why can’t you believe my theory?” she insisted, stomping her feet.

“Because I was young before, I’d seen more than you. So, I am telling you they’re not!”

“Why can’t they be in love?”

Yasuda rolled her eyes. She knew the argument could go on forever. “Marippe,” she said, her tone turning serious. “We’re Morning Musume. We have fans. Teenage girls all over Japan look up to us. We’re role models. There’s a reason why Tsunku has chosen us. There is one thing I can tell you for sure and that is, ‘They are’—read my lips—‘no lesbians in Morning Musume!’”

As if to mark a dramatic closure to her statement, the door swung open with a loud thud. Tsuji and Kago, with others following behind, marched into the room, looking gleefully at their bentou on the trays they’re holding, oblivious to three pairs of startled eyes looking at them.

maa~” said Abe to her comrades, glad that their tension-filled conversation had come to a premature end.

Iida, who had walked into the gakuya, joined their table. She placed her bentou on the table, sat down and rubbed her hands together. As she looked around she wondered why three women were staring at her. “Aren’t you all hungry? You better hurry before all the nikus are snapped up.”

“I’m on diet,” Yaguchi said spitefully.

Yasuda and Abe wanted to laugh; Yaguchi never knew that she actually looked cute when she was angry.

“We’ll get her one,” Yasuda said to Abe as they left the room.

But Yaguchi wasn’t feeling an iota of gratitude. And no, she wouldn’t touch the lunch they would bring back. She was still feeling sore, her lips pouting. Why didn’t they believe her? She looked around the once-again crowded room, her eyes soon locked on the couple sharing a double-seater sofa and food.

Arghh! she screamed inwardly. Fate was playing a fool on her. Why had Yasuda and Abe left the room at this time? She pricked her ears and listened…

“Why are you giving me your ebi-fry?”
“It’s your favourite, isn’t it?”
“How about you? Your lunch box now looks empty.”
“I don’t like ebi.”
“But there are other choices just now…”
“It’s all right,” Yossi told Rika.

Then Yaguchi saw Rika looking at Yossi, smiling.


A simple story - their story (01)

(DATE: YEAR 2007)

The loud slamming of the door startled everybody in the makeshift canteen. Like everybody, Rika quickly looked around. When she failed to find her friend who had said was getting another plate of salad, she began to worry. She knew her friend had left the room, and had slammed the door when she did; perhaps she hadn’t like what she had heard. In fact, nobody else did, and somehow, the person who everyone thought possessed the best composure had been the most affected.

Not wasting another moment, Rika stood up and bolted after the escaping girl. Out of the canteen, she shouted when she saw the tall girl striding down the corridor on the left.

Half-running Yossi stopped and turned back. “What?”

Rika hastened her steps to catch up. “Where are you heading?” she said, paying extra attention to Yossi’s facial expressions as if it would tell her exactly what her junior was thinking right now.

“Toilet,” Yossi said, her tone sounding calm. When Rika said nothing, she turned and continued on her way to the washroom. She slowed down her pace though as if expecting Rika to join her. Rika did; she quickly caught up and they walked side by side. Although Rika had tons of things to ask Yossi, the latter’s body language told her that she had no wish to engage in any conversation, at least not at the moment.

She quietly followed Yossi into the ladies washroom that was located inconveniently at the furthest end of the winding hallway. Once inside the privacy of the washroom however, Yossi’s cool demeanour took a sudden change. Resting both her palms on the sink counter, she dipped her head below her shoulders and sighed loudly. Rika anticipated it; Yossi wasn’t taking the news too well.

“Why do I feel that my graduation is a jinx?” Yossi said under her breath.

Rika walked up to Yossi. She raised her hand, hesitated before putting it back to her side again.

“Why can’t she hold on to it? Is it too much to ask of her?”

Rika tried to speak, but no word came out of her mouth. When she saw Yossi’s raised head in the reflection, her heart tugged; those beautiful eyes were red. There weren’t tears, nonetheless, there was pain, or was that anger?

“I hate to see the group reduced to this state. I don’t know why bad news keeps coming. I don’t know what’s wrong with everybody. Why are they doing this? We don’t used to be like this…”

Rika knew exactly what Yossi was saying, or why she had felt sad or angry. “But people do change.” she said.

Yossi turned, looking deep into Rika’s eyes. “You didn’t. I didn’t!”

When Rika averted her eyes, Yossi turned back to face the mirror. When she saw Rika still looking away, she turned on the tap and placed her hands under it.

Silence ensued, except for the gushing sound of running water.

Rika spoke after a while, “you know things will never be the same when Tsunku-san started graduating us one by one—”

“I don’t care about them graduating!” Yossi said, looking up again, catching a glimpse of Rika in the mirror. “I just hate him for putting me in the group for seven years. Seven long years. Two years longer than you.”

When Rika remained quiet, Yossi looked back down. “I hate being a leader. I never liked to lead. I never liked to be in-charge. I never liked to make decisions. I was never good with all these. You should know better…”

“But you did a great job, didn’t you? Everyone loves you.”

“The HELL I had to go through just to do this great job! I hate it!” Yossi gripped the tap tightly to turn it off. “Why? Just when it’s time for me to pass it on she pulls this feat.”

Rika was rendered speechless; she couldn’t agree more. But she hoped Yossi would understand that not everyone shared their same way of thinking.

“I tolerated it for two years, yet she couldn’t even last for two weeks. And she makes it look like it is ALL my fault again.”

“She’s just careless. As long as, I mean, it’ll soon blow off,” Rika tried explaining.

“Shouldn’t she have known better?”

Rika looked up, appalled. “Do you mean you already knew about it?”

Yossi turned to face Rika. “No! Isn’t that ironic? That the tabloids know before us? US! As in everybody else who is supposedly close to her.”

The sound of a flushing toilet startled them. Rika and Yossi looked at each other, visibly alarmed. They had been careless to assume that they were the only ones in the washroom. Before someone would come out from the cubicle, they mustn’t make the same mistake again…

When the part-time staff stepped out of the cubicle to confirm her guess for whom the speakers were, she found the washroom already empty.



Yoshi (extras) (18)

“What do I exactly see in YOU!
You are the most unromantic person,
You sleep with your socks on,
You never bathe,
You eat in your bed,
Your jokes are lame,
You dig your nose AND
You’re getting FATTER EVERYDAY!!!”


Yossi sprung upright.

“What’s it?” a blurry voice asked.

Yossi looked at the bleary-eyed figure who was stirring beside her, and felt a never-before sense of relief wash over her body.

“Nothing, I think I just had the worst nightmare.”