I can't help but wonder if I should start over? Like we were never childhood bestfriends, like we were never married, like our little girl didn’t exist. Maybe that would finally make you reply to me.
Hi I’m Akanishi Jin. Yoroshiku.
Heh…I should know better. Pretending to be cute can’t help our matter any can it?
"My papa is the lamest man I know." Mao giggled as she read the letter unable to stop herself from feeling a strange fondness for the man as Meisa laughed.
"He was actually considered quite cool by everyone at the station. Now where were we?"
Meisa stood beside her car staring at the front door of the house in which lay the man that owned her soul. She couldn’t help but want to stay away from the door…but she knew her friend was waiting inside for her and without her help she could never be free.
Meisa was determined to free Toda Erika if it was the last thing she did. She may not have been her mother...but she sure as hell was her sister.
That is why Meisa did not expect the way Nao came out and stood beside her. “Meisa.”
“Nao.” She acknowledged bowing over to the senior woman. Over the years what had started as a petty rivalry over Takuya had developed into something more when Nao realized that Meisa was here to stay. Meisa still didn’t quite know what to act like around Nao. After all…what did you say to the woman whose husband you were sleeping with? What was the appropriate address for the woman? San, sama, chan?
Understanding their complications they had decided to leave it at their names.
“I heard about what Takuya’s making you do.” Meisa felt her hair shoot over her face reflexively as she turned away from Nao. She couldn’t help but hate that this woman knew. Nao was the epitome of everything Meisa had always wanted to be. Regal, elegant, strong, hell when Jin had left she had recruited Meisa in keeping his letters secret from Erika. They were all stashed away in her own apartment hidden from sight so that Erika could never find them.
She hadn’t opened them only because every time she thought of the way he pushed Erika to let him go she felt anger down to her toes. If anyone knew the type of girl Erika was, it was Jin. She was neither weak nor strong, she was bratty as hell and utterly too dependent upon those who she trusted. She threw her life in their hands and never asked for it back.
“ ‘It’s something Japan has never seen.’ ” She turned to look at Nao with a ghost of a smile on her face that if perhaps she hadn’t been actress would have looked fake but Meisa was no failure. She acted too well but when she felt Nao’s hand touch her own she couldn’t stop the way it fell.
Especially when she saw the way Nao looked at her.
It was the same way the priest looked at her.
“Meisa…you don’t have to do it. I’m not saying this out of love for Takuya because I have never loved him-“
She couldn’t bear to hear more because honestly she tried to avoid the idea of it as much as she could most days. So she cut her off. “But I have. I have loved him.” Meisa felt her eyes glass over as she covered them from the woman shaking her head. No she refused to look so weak in front of Toda Nao. “So whatever you were trying to tell me Nao please don’t…because we all knew he’d end up using me like this.” Nao looked at her with pity and that is the very look Meisa detested because there was nothing to be pitied here. Why should anyone pity her? This was her choice. She had chosen this way. She shut her eyes and heardhis whispers fly past her ears again as if they were still fresh.
‘You’re mine Meisa.’
Almost reflexively her mind came over and placed other words in her head.
‘You’re who you choose to be…is this really what you want to choose?’
These were words that resembled hope, hope another man had given her- falsely probably but hope never the less. He had never offered her explicitly what she had somehow grown to yearn from him...but he had continuously supported her.
Such conflicting words who was she supposed to believe?
“Meisa…you’re better than that.I know you don’t exactly like me but I just want you to know that. Erika should be out any moment now.” Nao turned to look at her but Meisa couldn’t meet eyes with the woman. She was too ashamed. She was ashamed of the choices she’d made so far that had led her all to here.
When she was young and naïve she had thought she could take on the world. When she’d arrived in Tokyo from Okinawa she had been exotic and different and everyone had wanted a piece of the beautiful and master deceiver that Meisa had convinced them she was.
That was when she had met Takuya. An executive in his late forties who smoked entirely too much and made her entirely too aware of herself. The first time he kissed her, the first time he’d taken everything from her without even letting her know, the first time she’d discovered here she was trapped in his cage, the first time she realized that she was living only the way Takuya wanted her to. The first time she realized she had no one else left.
And here she was- trying to free his daughter from the very prison he’d placed her in as well. Could a prisoner really free another prisoner?
Nao didn’t know. Nao didn’t have to know. Meisa would free Erika because she had always felt guilty that she had never let Erika run away all those years ago, she had pushed Jin and Erika together, and she had always listened to Takuya.
She didn’t have to listen any longer.
Not when he refused to listen to her.
They entered the palace and the moment they drove up towards the entrance a man was at their door taking the car from them and a maid motioned for them to follow her. Erika held on tighter to Mao who was nestled in her arms and Meisa rolled her eyes.
“One of these days Mao’s going to grow up and want you to let go of her Erika.” Erika laughed at her friend’s jab at her and shook her head tickling her giggling daughter.
“Well until her rebellious age I think I’ll stick with being absolutely reliant on this little one.” Mao gurgled happily in her arms staring at every single thing they passed by with a wondorous expression on her face that matched Erika’s identically.
Erika was absolutely floored by how perfectly serene the Imperial Palace was. The wooden paneled hallways, the maids running around in yukatas. Greenery everywhere. Then they were led towards a more modern wing in the palace where the ceilings were high and splattered with all the luxuries one might expect to see within a more western Royal Family. Until finally they were guided into a room where the maid made a prompt knock and the door was turned open.
“Your highness Princess Maki of Hokkaido, Kuroki Meisa-san and Toda Erika-san are here to pay their visit to the family.” The maid bowed after announcing their presence and stepped the side so that Erika finally had a full view of the young royal. Maki looked far younger now than she had earlier when Erika had met her. It might have been because she had barely been paying attention. Honestly she’d concentrated on getting away from them as far as possible but when Maki and Shota had issued the invitation after pausing for tea at their house it was all they could do to not agree as hospitable hosts.
“Kuroki-san! Toda-san! What a pleasure it is to see you two again.” The young girl was dressed in a suit of pure cream that was stitched heavenly and clung to her figure in a way that was both alluringly beautiful and tasteful. Aspects of which Erika was sure applied to her personality and the image she portrayed of Japan to the world at large.
From what little Erika knew of the Royal family she knew Shota was currently second-in-line for the throne with his brother Ryuhei the current Crown Prince. The dispute between everyone was generally larger as it had been proven multiple times that the queen was not exactly fertile and Ryuhei was said to be the son of a concubine who died in childbirth.
Still facts remained facts and as of the current moment Ryuhei was first-in-line for the throne and so far Shota had made no indication of his want for the empire of Japan. So other than his marriage Erika supposed he had the freedom to do whatever on earth he pleased. Jun was however third-in-line because Ryuhei-sama had been unable to conceive with his wife Chiaki.
“I’m so glad you two could make it.” Maki was not alone in the room and this much became apparent when the smile on Meisa’s face grew increasingly plastic and Erika recognized it as a defense mechanism she had gotten far too used to seeing on her friend’s face.
“Hime-sama, Osamu-san.” Meisa bowed her head low and lifted it and Erika followed her lead.
“Toda-sama.” Mukai tilted his head towards Erika and she smiled back noting the way he tucked his closed palms into his side before turning to Meisa and bowing low towards her as well. “Meisa.” His eyes may have stayed on her face for a moment too long but Erika wasn't sure...maybe she was looking for ways to imagine her friend happier than she currently was.
“I’m so excited you two have arrived. I think you’re probably my only event for the day that isn’t entirely boring.” Maki reached over to hug Meisa with open arms and an open heart. “I’ve always enjoyed your work Kuroki-san your portrayal of Haruhi in Anata has probably been one of my favourite performances of all time.” Meisa blushed as she bowed low again and felt her smile relax as she concentrated solely on the princess who was addressing her.
“Arigato gozaimashta.” Maki smiled and shook her head as she took the older girl’s hand in her own and explained.
“It gave me encouragement as a young girl to learn the ways of the world faster. And I did…I was a political science major at Todai until father pulled me out. I figured there’s no better position to learn in than the one I’m in though. So I suppose in the end no harm done.” She turned to look at Mao who was still in Erika’s hands and leaned forward and reached for her. “I hope you don’t mind but I’ve always loved little girls.” Mao immediately leaped forward like the friendly baby she was and as Maki made faces towards her the girl jumped happily in her arms gurgling far too much spit. Like an elegant lady however Maki seemed to have a napkin on hand as she wiped Mao's mouth and turned happily towards Erika. “I hope you don’t mind but Yui will be more than happy to take care of both Jun and Mao today so you can truly relax.” Maki offered her a wide grin and Erika wasn’t quite sure what to say but Meisa was punching her foot with her heel so Erika shook her head in approval.
“Thank you.” She smiled. Maki seemed to positively beam at Erika’s approval but her smile grew interrupted as Mukai tapped her highness on her shoulders.
“Your grace, it would probably be good to ask them to have a seat don’t you think?” Mukai hinted a smile on his face as he observed the youthful princess who seemed to be everywhere at once as she handed over Mao to the maid who seemed already enamored with the little girl in her arms.
Erika couldn't help but wonder how on earth her daughter had gained so much charisma in such a short while?
Maki burst into a small fit of giggles that was as elegant as her up-do as she guided them towards the table. “And I’ve been especially excited to meet you Toda-san.” Mukai sat down directly beside Maki and Meisa sat on his other side so Erika sat on her side a chair between them where Erika could only assume Shota would sit once he arrived.
Erika let out a small smile shaking her head. “I can’t imagine why I’m not much more than ordinary I’m sorry to disappoint.” She bowed her head again and Maki looked stumped as if she hadn’t quite expected a response like that.
“Not at all…I understand we were much in the same situation from what Shota has relayed to me.” She spoke with such conviction but Erika was being truly honest when she said she had no idea what on earth she could have ever had in common with Maki.
But Meisa was the one who jumped in for her friend. “What have you heard of our darling little Erika then?”
Maki tilted her hand forward slightly so that the tea that poured from the pot settled delicately into the cup as she passed them around. “Well… from what I hear we were in quite similar situations. At the top of our games when our fathers decided to pull the plug on us. Erika used to act and she got the principal lead in Matsuyama Ken’ichi’s Hanabi at first didn’t she?” Maki smiled widely as she leaned back into her chair. “Just as your father stopped you, my father wasn’t quite so approving of my interests.” Maki admitted a sad sort of smile coming on her face. “ ‘Women are not fit to be political figures’. Something of the like. So instead of being the first lady Japan has seen to take the prime minister position here I am a princess.”
“This is the story of almost every woman in this country. Men seem to always think that women are incapable in some form or way. If only the Japanese could learn to be as forward as some of the other countries in the world.” Meisa sighed weakly and stirred the tea that Mukai placed in front of her thanking him softly under her breath.
He didn't quite reply but Erika noted again that he did look at her face for a second too long before he started speaking once he realized Maki's attention was on him. “Either of you two could tackle any argument thrown at you in a debate. Our hime-sama has the uncanny ability to turn any insult into flattery and Meisa is the type of woman that one does not cross.” Mukai assured them and Maki rolled her eyes.
“Flattery will give you everywhere but I fear your method of aim is not quite as useful as you had hoped for.” She teased as the priest grew flustered his head shaking.
“I was merely announcing an observation. It was not my intent to flatter anyone.”
Maki laughed as she turned to look at Erika with what seemed to be a little bit of mischief in her eyes. “Maybe it should be.” She teased as the door opened and the maid marched in quickly.
“His grace Matsu-“ She was not able to announce the arrival of the next individual to their quiet party as the man leaped into the room quickly a towel swung over his shoulder. His wet locks of hair swooping down over his face that had a smile plastered on as he approached them. He was wearing brown khaki pants and a white button down shirt.
There was no word that Erika could use to describe him as other than clean. “You didn’t even have time to dry your hair Shota?” Maki teased as she laughed at her husband's towel.
“Why would I have to when your dry remarks seem to do the trick?” He teased his wife and put an arm around her and pressed a kiss to her temple before he turned to the rest of them.
“Meisa! Erika!” He stood up just as quickly again and Erika stood up on her feet quickly as well. She had to remind herself that Shota was not any normal man. “It’s nice to see you in the palace. I’m glad you two decided to accept our invitation.”
“We were looking forward to it.” Meisa bowed low and once again Erika found herself reminded of how in the presence of others she always found herself quieting up.
Shota grinned looking at Erika who was frozen silent as he added. “It doesn’t quite look like it but I’m happy nevertheless.” He settled down between Maki and herself. He had the sunniest grin on his face and he was looking at Maki as if the sun rose and sank with her.
“So why were you late this time?” Maki sighed stirring her spoon. “You were the one who had so desperately wanted to invite Toda-san, and Kuroki-san over so explain please.”
Shota rolled his eyes as he turned towards Meisa. “She might look like the epitome of a saint but she’s a little devil. She takes care of all my work though so I can’t exactly fight against her you see?” Maki jabbed him in the neck as he yelped and laughed at his wife.
“Yes while he’s off making whatever idiot script has interested him this month. I’m stuck here taking care of his true duties as a royal.” Erika couldn’t help but note the tight tone in Maki’s voice and Shota replied with a mimicked tightness that couldn’t help but make everyone else in the room awkward. Erika craved Mao’s uncomplicated sounds of happiness, older people were so much more complicated than they should be.
She was pathetic. She enjoyed spending time with her daughter more than spending time with people her age.
“Have I ever stopped you from doing what interests you hime-sama?” Maki turned to look at him as she shook her head. All of them fell silent as they tried to swerve around the awkwardness of the situation.
Finally it was Meisa who diffused the tension amongst all of them. “So Shota what is this movie you’re working on?”
Shota’s strained demeanor seemed to loosen as he leaned forward and spoke with such passion in his voice that Erika almost grew jealous as she remembered the days she used to feel like that. “It’s Matsuyama-san’s new plot. It’s amazing Meisa the characters are so well developed I had to jump into the role when he offered it to me. I’m the secondary lead but the writing was so phenomenal I couldn’t resist it.” Shota beamed with such pride that Erika couldn’t help but speak up.
“What’s it about?” She spoke softly spinning her tea in her cup and Shota smiled as he turned towards her.
“Her tongue does work." He teased and she couldn't help but feel flushed as she remembered the past two times she had interacted with him she had managed to avoid conversation. "The story is based on the life of a widow after her husband’s death in the first world war.”
“It’s ridiculous and far too soon if you ask me.” Maki immediately spoke up. “It’s almost disrespectful considering what our country has gone through the past two decades.”
“It’s important. The story is not just about the war Maki. It’s far more than that.” Shota shot back but Maki continuously shook her head.
“Mukai don’t you agree with me?” She looked towards her priest for his approval and Mukai looked conflicted as he flicked his eyes between Shota and Maki.
“It might be a little inappropriate Shota. A lot of families were affected by the war too recently and it may still be a little too fresh for them in their minds.” Shota’s jaw dropped as he looked at his wife and priest.
“You two have got to be kidding me?” Then he turned towards Erika. “What do you think?”
Erika leaned back into her chair as she struggled to decipher what she did think and what she should think. "Well as long as you pay your respects to those who have lost in the war and make sure that it doesn’t attack them but rather provides them with some form of closure I don’t see why the movie couldn’t succeed.” When she turned to look back at him after her speech he looked so positively happy that when he turned back to his wife he had an ‘I-told-you-so’ smile on his face.
“There’s only one problem.”
“Oh god he’s starting again.” Maki teased and he stuck his tongue out at his wife and Erika couldn’t quite believe she was getting to be privy to the royal couple acting like a normal couple. It seemed unreal compared to the picture perfect prince and princess she was privy to in the newspapers.
“The lead actress cannot grasp the role of Hina at all. It's pitiful and each time she attempts it Ken'ichi just asks us all to go take a break.”
“Whose playing the widow?” Meisa leaned forward and Shota shrugged as he replied.
“Mayuko…you know with her recent habit she hasn’t quite been very stable. So it’s not quite panning out the way it should.”
“So you see there’s honestly no point to him being in this movie. Not only will it probably end up being international because of his royal status...but if it's a flop it'll look horribly bad!” Maki ended with a bright smile on her face.
Shota ruffled her hair. “You never give up do you akuma-chan?”
“Not in the slightest. Until you become full-time ouji-sama my work as a hime is never complete.” Maki snickered as Mukai shook his head at the antics of his two friends.
“It would be sad though if he ever stopped acting.” Erika interrupted as everyone turned to look at her. “Shota has talent. Forgive me if I sound forward,” She looked to Maki as if to gain her permission but it was Shota who indicated for her to go on so she did. “When I first saw him drop from the hanging rope in his first play I could hardly remember what happened. I had been so engrossed that when I came out of his performance I was struck. I didn’t remember it. It’s kind of like-“ She gulped as she saw them all staring at her. “You know the people who you love the most? You can’t really tell their faces? Their exact features? What exactly you so loved about that person? It was kind of like that for me when I saw him act. I didn’t need to see more to know that he was good at what he did. But he proved me right anyways with Roberto so I think it would be real pity if Shota ever stopped acting.” She finished looking up at them all as she shoved a cookie in her mouth.
She didn’t know why but she had the feeling that she’d said too much as she looked between everyone’s faces at the table. Meisa was looking at her with wide eyes and a wider smile. Mukai looked as if he had never expected something of the like to come out of her mouth. Maki looked still as she smiled and nodded. While Shota looked the most upset out of all of them as he stared at her with a wide open mouth.
“You know Erika used to be an actress so that’s why she feels so powerfully about the profession.” Meisa jumped in to save her friend when she sensed the silence in the room.
Erika laughed “I was no professional.”
“No you wouldn’t be if you got replaced would you?” Maki’s smile fell as she turned towards her husband. “I think we should do a reading. If Erika has so much faith in you I want to see why.”
“Now. Go get your copies of the script and bring it outside.” She assured him. “After all…I’m your wife. I think I deserve to give this occupation you love so much a chance even if I disapprove of it.”
“You won’t be disappointed.” Meisa smiled widely. “Shota’s probably one of the nation’s gems regardless of his birth.” She turned to look at Shota who smiled widely at Meisa but turned to look at Erika with a more careful look as he walked away from the room.
Erika wasn’t sure why she felt as if she had ignited something that could have stayed dormant forever had she not spoken.
“You don’t understand Hina! I may have seen you three four times in my lifetime but every single night there wasn’t a moment that went by where I didn’t imagine you warming my side. Pretending to be indifferent was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! To pretend that it wasn’t your name I wanted to scream out every time my soul erupted. That I didn’t love you with every fiber in my being.” Shota yelled out angrily staring at Maki who looked back at him with stricken eyes as she looked back to the page quickly flipping it over.
“Uh- you- wait! Ah that’s the line okay. THEN WHY WHYYYY DID YOU PRETEND?” She wailed on the spot looking at him with what might have been the most pathetic eyes to ever grace the castle. Their audience winced at the sound of her shrill tone.
Shota stared at his wife and shook his head. “You should never act.” He burst into laughter as Maki threw the script at his head.
“MAMA! You’ll hurt papa!” Jun ran and sat in his mother’s lap as Erika burst into laughter with Meisa joining in as baby Mao started running towards Jun laughing along but not at all for the right reasons.
“It’s true we’ll have to send you into royal capture if you harm our beloved prince.” Mukai teased and Maki dropped her jaw.
“Hey! I’m royalty too now you know! People could be a little concerned about me!” She stuck her tongue out at her husband as she huffed. “If you think I’m so horrible why don’t you give it to Meisa? I’m sure she could do a far better job than me.”
Meisa nodded laughing as she leaned on Erika’s shoulder. “I probably could but I try not to get into other characters when I’m already portraying one. It gets confusing for me. So I’m sorry you’re stuck with Maki, Shota.” She was tearing up as she laughed remembering Maki's absolutely dismal performance.
Shota laughed as he brought his son into his lap. “Do you have any idea what we should do Jun? Your mother can’t act to save her life.”
Jun seemed to seriously ponder this as he looked back and forth between everyone who was sitting outside. “What about Erika-san? Erika-san’s just as pretty as mom.” Erika turned to look at Jun who was blushing in his father’s lap as he looked at the older woman with a sheepish sort of smile on his face.
“Is that right Jun-chan?” Mukai teased as Meisa turned to look at him laughing. “And Meisa-chan is not pretty at all is she?”
“No! No! Jun-sama thinks Kuroki-kun is very pretty too!” Jun emphasized suddenly scared that he had caused some sort of misunderstanding. Meisa's eyes widened as she laughed harder the tears seeping out. Mukai laughed along beside her as they sniffled happily and she turned quickly changing her expression to a frightening one as she looked at Jun.
“Kun?! Come here you little boy! I’m going to show you kun!” Meisa ran lifting him up from Shota and putting him down in her lap tickling him as he squealed in her grasp looking up at the others as they all sat in the grass of the royal garden. “That’s not a half bad idea though…Erika could do it.” She admitted as the boy settled down in her grasp and Mukai leaned over and clasped Jun's hand within his so both their hands rested on Meisa's knee together.
Erika laughed shaking her head. “I haven’t acted in ages. I wouldn’t be able to do it.” She looked up towards Shota who stayed silent as he flipped through the pages of the script and saw Mao running towards Jun again with her chubby baby legs from where she’d been in Maki’s hands.
“Erika I swear to god your little Mao might have a crush on our prince.” Maki teased as she pulled the girl back into her arms and Mao struggled wailing as she tried to leave and run again towards where Jun was.
“NO!” Jun yelled out obviously upset that Mao had a crush on him as he turned to look shyly towards Erika again.
“And what’s wrong with my Mao Jun-chan?” Erika leaned on her palm looking at the young boy intent on teasing him completely.
Jun scoffed arrogantly as he looked at the baby who had once more decided to dribble spit all over her chin laughing happily when she realized Jun was looking at her. “She’s too young for me.” He decided turning back to Erika to see if she approved of this reasoning of why he was rejecting her daughter.
And just as Erika was about to reply teasing the little boy again his father spoke up looking straight at the object of Jun's affections. “Erika, read with me.” Needless to say that shocked her as she looked up at him a little struck.
“I don’t think I could.” She assured him shaking her head.
“No you don’t think you would. I think you definitely could.” Shota emphasized as he tossed the script that Maki had thrown at him towards her. “Sit down beside me and read.” Erika felt her jaw drop as she looked towards his wife who nodded.
“You might as well follow crazy-sama’s orders. He doesn’t like it when people ignore what he says.” She agreed and moved aside sitting beside Meisa who still had Jun in her lap and the wailing Mao in her hands immediately quieted down staring at the child who looked extremely disgusted with her.
Erika laughed as she sat down beside Shota and flicked her eyes past the pages that he’d handed to her. “So where are we starting from?”
“Start at the top of page 28?” Shota questioned back and Erika flicked around the pages before and after as the others settled in to watch them.
She looked back up at him smiling. “All right…are you ready?”
Shota looked as arrogant as his son when he leaned back into the grass challenging her with his gaze. “The question is are you? You’re reading lines with your favourite actor aren’t you scared?”
“No. Your talent will only help me.” Erika smiled widely as she settled into the grass confidently as she felt the character from the pages she’d read sink into her as she kept her eyes glued to the words trying to memorize as much of them as she could while they kept bantering.
“Enough of you two! Let’s go! Ganbatte!” Maki cheered and Jun looked appalled at his mother’s habit. She laughed at her son’s expression. “Oh baby you were always too mature for your age.” She pressed a tight kiss to his forehead as Jun blushed and batted her away trying to look more mature in front of his woman (Erika) as she rested in the grass with his father.
Then a silence fell over all of them as Shota finally uttered the first words. “You’re here.” Shota started his eyes glazing over as he looked up at Erika and she immediately understood what he’d meant. He’d started acting already. His line wasn’t over yet though…so why had he paused? A cheeky grin came upon his face as he looked up at her as if he couldn’t quite believe she had made it. “You’re drenched.”
Erika felt herself freeze. She wasn’t drenched in the slightest it was sunny in the palace gardens- she glanced down at the sheet before looking back up. That’s true Hina came in the rain to meet Kisuke. She looked up slowly laughing trying to not let the way Shota was looking at her irk her. “Are you going to invite me inside?” She tried to keep the shaky tone out of her voice out but it only served to help her character. She looked fearful of the man in front of her as Hina might have herself. She couldn’t help herself as she felt a sneeze come on and Shota looked as if for a second he might laugh.
Though whether it was Kisuke or Shota she couldn’t quite tell anymore. The lines between their existence seemed to blur and she wondered
He spoke slowly this time. “If I said no would it matter?” Erika shook her head and took a deep sigh before speaking again. His lines in the script were frozen together were just frozen together on the script she knew in acting now there was the smallest of gaps between Shota’s lines now. “Why did you come Hina?” He leaned forward and grasped her hand under his between the soft green leaves of grass. “Did you want to?” If they had been on a stage somewhere now she would have a towel being soaked into her hair by him, if she was actually Hina.
She stayed quiet as she averted her gaze from him and stared down at her lap gulping slowly her voice barely a whisper as she spoke. “If I said no would it matter Kisuke?”
She couldn’t see but she could tell what he was doing. The silence was deafening as Shota’s breaths grew louder and he only edged closer towards her face attempting to make her turn around and face him. “Hina.”
Then he leaned his head on her shoulder and much like she imagined Hina would have she threw him off her and stared him square in the eyes. “Kisuke! STOP! I can’t let you go…you’ve corrupted me. You’ve taken every part I used to call my own and made it yours and the worst part is it was never mine to give. We could never-” She felt her eyes blink furiously as if she couldn't get a hold on the situation. She looked back at the script quickly memorizing her lines as she felt Shota’s hand leave hers resting alone in the grass. Instead he placed his hands on her face and turned her briskly towards him so he looked her right in her eyes and she couldn't help but feel exposed as if looking at him like this somehow made her vulnerable.
This time he sounded desperate and hurt as Kisuke spoke to Hina, his hands dug flat into her cheeks and his breaths landed softly on top of her bangs separating them so that she felt his hot breath hit her forehead. “You don’t understand Hina…I may have seen you three four times in my lifetime but every single night there wasn’t a moment that went by where I didn’t imagine you warming my side." That smirk was back but this time it was bitter. "Pretending to be indifferent was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” His hands slid down her neck and tilted her face upwards as she felt her eyes tear automatically…Hina would. Erika felt her own body react automatically to give Hina justice. “To pretend that it wasn’t your name I wanted to scream out every time my soul erupted. That I didn’t love you with every fiber in my being.” His last words hung like veil over all of them as she looked back at him gulping unsure.
She felt herself struck speechless as he stared at her, tears flowing down her cheeks leaving rivulets of water onto his hands. Now she understood Kisuke’s story as well as almost her own. Her voice grew hoarse and she knew this was the line where Kisuke would kiss Hina and part of her grew afraid to say it. She knew Shota wouldn’t do anything...but her mind had her feeling as if he would. She was Hina right now and she felt as if Hina would and Hina knew Kisuke was going to kiss her. She felt breathless as she finished. “Then why did you?”
The sound of a whimper came from the audience and as if a spell had been broken. Shota immediately backed off her and she was stuck looking at him, her mind invigorated by the fact that she had just done something she had not felt in too many years. She gasped letting the air that had been stuck in her chest flow out. This time when Shota looked at her his eyes immediately reverted back as if Kisuke had left his body and Erika could tell now that it wasn’t Kisuke looking at her but Shota as he stared at her struck amazed that she had done such a good job with Hina.
“You never told me you were that good.” His smile was infectious and Erika nodded weakly as he looked at Maki his grin growing more foolish with every second that passed. “Maki! She’s-“
But Maki had let out a hand in front of Shota and turned towards Erika first. “You were right…I suppose it would be a great pity to stop him from acting.” Erika smiled widely as she leaned over the grass to lie flat on her front and play with Mao’s fingers.
“I told you…your husband is a gem when it comes to the craft.” She teased.
“So are you." That was when Erika first noticed him. It was a red-haired man who was crouched down beside Maki and staring at her as if he couldn't quite believe what he had seen. She nodded unsurely as he shook his head again as if he couldn't quite believe what he'd seen.
“Toda-san you blew me away.” Mukai muttered softly as he tapped his cheeks. “You didn’t know anything about the characters or the lines but you managed to make every move look utterly meant.”
“And the feeling behind it…if your father hadn’t know it was you he would have been so proud.” Meisa finished softly praising her best friend, tears reflected in her own eyes. "Oh god I look so much like a girl. I'm crying just watching you." Meisa giggled wiping her eyes as she beamed with pride.
“That was quite a performance.” The red-haired man echoed and Erika noticed the way Maki kept looking frightfully at his arm which was in a sling.
“Thank you.” She inclined her head smiling towards the stranger who Jun immediately sat in the lap of and played with his fingers. "And you would be sir?"
Maki smiled as she turned towards the man fully as if she was happy she was finally able to look at him without having to pretend to not. “Toma this is Toda Erika…Erika this is Ikuta Toma. He used to be my body guard until his display of bravery turned him into Ryuhei-sama’s personal guard. He's resting for now though.” She turned to Erika with a wide smile on her face as she introduced the two.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She inclined her head towards him and didn’t quite understand why at the sight of his smile directed towards her , her heart skipped a beat. His eyes they looked exactly like Jin's when he'd met Shot--
No. She wouldn't think of it.
Which proved to be an easy enough task as Shota demanded her attention once more. “Erika…you took every challenge I threw towards you and turned it into your favor.” Shota looked completely befuddled as he rested his heads in his hands. “I have never ever been this shocked by a new actress.” He turned to look at her with widened eyes. “Did you study acting?”
Erika shrugged. “Being the daughter of Toda Takuya meant long days on set waiting for your father to pay attention to you…it was just another result of those days.”
Shota shook his head unable to believe that it had all come out of that. “Still…” He pressed but Erika shook her head.
"It is what it is Shota." She felt herself call his name casually and felt her eyes widen but when she turned to him, he was smiling widely again so she assured herself it was okay.
Mukai leaned over the two and tipped his head towards Erika. "You certainly have a couple of fans at your disposal." Maki nodded energetically approving as Erika laughed and grabbed Mao into her arms as she sat up.
But for the rest of their evening Erika couldn't stop herself from looking back at Shota who was every single time she realized looking at her.
Mao scoffed in shock at the story. "No way."
She tilted her head in skepticism as she shook her head. "I so did not have a crush on Jun."
"Those are the first words out of your mouth young lady?" Meisa couldn't help the small smile that touched her face as she remembered the baby Mao who had ran everywhere the young prince had been...which a little while later had been everywhere her mother had been. "And you did...as a child."
"I DIDN'T! That man has the fakest smile I've ever seen. No thank you I only like men with real smiles." She assured Meisa laughing as for a second Ryo's face entered her mind.
Ryo had a nice smile...a nice drunken smile. She remembered the way he'd looked at her when she'd asked him if he'd minded if she sat down in his lap. It was a warm look...not even really hot just warm and comforting as she'd stayed there in his arms happy just to finally have someone hugging her again.
Meisa had a smirk on her wise face as she looked at the girl who was day-dreaming in front of her. "Like the man outside? Ryo was it?"
Mao struggled to look like she hadn't been thinking about him and she cleared her throat. Meisa didn't need to know the truth...she thought Ryo was something more than he was which he wasn't. Ryo was just someone kind who was doing something nice for her who she'd happened to sleep with. Nothing more nothing less. "We've already discussed that Meisa." She bit out waving her hand carelessly. Ryo was a booty-call...
How was Ryo a booty call? She'd only met him last night and it wasn't like she was meeting him again. Ryo was a one night stand/friend ! Not a booty call! Shun was a booty-call/ex-boyfriend ! Jun was her...crush/enemy of all time/damn sexy prince?
This made no sense. She needed to learn to classify her boys better. She was using far too many categories here.
"Respect your elders. It's-" Meisa tutted her eyes narrowing at the younger girl who seemed to have no care in the world as she munched on her rice. She couldn't help but be shocked that Erika's daughter was exactly like her in some ways.
In no way did Mao ever take responsibility of herself properly.
"Yeah yeah. We got it." Mao teased loving the way the older woman looked flustered as Mao continuously underminded her every lecture.
Meisa shook her head. "If I had stayed with her that night...none of it would have turned out the way it did Mao. Maybe Jin would have come back at the right time and Erika would have continued waiting for him." Meisa sighed as she leaned forward looking through the pictures that they'd splayed out as Mao had another bite of rice.
"What happened that night?" Mao couldn't help but feel eager as she got ready to listen to the next installment in her mother's life.
"That was the night Shota and Erika kissed."