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…