The Last Emperors. (Chapter 25)

tle3

The Last Emperors.

Chapter 25: Reunited

By Jolie Adam

Fayme called Lorra first thing in the morning, sounding haggard and groaning in pain.

“Fun night?” Lorra asked, out of curiosity. She was still nursing a small buzz from drinking a couple of wine glasses too many with Julia.

“Whatever,” Fayme brushed her off, assuming she was being sarcastic. “I can have fun and work at the same time.”

“Never said you couldn’t. Never said you didn’t,” Lorra rebuked, amazed how quick he was to always turn the conversation around. No matter how much she tried to be friendly to him, she couldn’t stand his sour attitude.

“So I told you I’d do my best. I was able to get you separate rooms.” She smiled, feeling a mountain of pressure alleviating from her shoulders. He continued, “However, because everyone thinks you are sharing rooms, you are both going to be on the same floor.”

“I can live with that,” Lorra jumped in. Julia, Dawn and Noemie would also be on the same floor so if anything he was outnumbered.

“I wasn’t done. His room is right next to yours.” He waited for her response.

“Um, not the best situation. Actually, that’s really awkward.”

“Yes, but it’s also the most believable scenario. No one will ever know you’re not rooming together because you’ll be on the same floor and in adjacent rooms. It’s really the next best thing.”

“For who?” Lorra snapped, trying to rein in her irritation.

“At least you’re not sharing rooms.”

“We might as well be,” She retorted, feeling her temper get short.

“Be careful what you wish for. It’s not too late to make that arrangement.” Fayme said in a bitter voice, obviously more annoyed at being up so early with a hangover than he was at the conversation with Lorra.

“Whatever.” She hung up before realizing she’d actually done so and shrugged in indifference. Seemed like Fayme was going to do whatever he needed or wanted to do so she saw no point in having to be nice to him.

***

The following three days flew back fairly quickly with the girls given the time off to ready themselves for the Kyoto Film Festival. Julia, Dawn and Lorra with the company of Noemie spent the majority of that time in Shibuya and Ginza, infamous streets renowned for unique fashion trends and high ends stores collectively. The Last Emperors caused a storm in Shibuya as they were unaware there was a characteristic look designed after them. The popular shopping district was known to have streets with a different characteristic that extended from small boutiques to large department stores to miscellaneous goods shops. A modest area in the busiest section of the Shibuya Fashion Building had been dedicated to the trio and their avant-garde, androgynous and laid-back dancing gear as well as their unique, personal styles. So it was to their surprise when they arrived and a small group of people gathered around them, pointing and waving, unsure if it was really the dancing group. Once they began to wave back and respond to the crowd, more people began gathering around and approaching them for pictures and autographs. Despite not getting much shopping done due to the constant interruption, the girls made off with some free, promotional gifts from numerous stores, especially from the area commemorated to them. It gave them a unique chance to interact with their fans who were all very courteous and considerate of their space.

In Ginza, the welcome was a lot more different. Many people knew who they were however as the shopping area was in a more upscale area, the majority choose to simply observe them rather than actually approach them to ask for pictures or autographs. Even when they passed a huge L’Oreal billboard right across from the Gucci store, no one stopped to say anything, but they could feel the following stares and curious glances. Ginza held so many little delicacies shops that the girls ate more than they shopped. Starting at the eponymous Armani restaurant where they had succulent entrees, they continued their trek through the shopping center, being invited into a bevvy of little stores by the enticing aroma or the captivating decor. There was a chocolate shop that specialized in personalized, gourmet chocolate and Dawn couldn’t resist stopping for a Tiramisu slice. The smell of the ground coffee on the cake was enough to seduce her into buying the whole cake. Lorra chose to request for a chocolate bar made in the shape of  her name while Julia and Noemie stuck to the already prepared chocolate treats. The sweet shop owner, a tiny woman with rosy, round cheeks gifted them each with a cone of chocolate covered berries in exchange for a signed autograph for her daughter.

Harajuku is where the girls had the most fun. It was the perfect mixture of shopping and discovery as they entered the pop culture hot spot. Girls dressed like their favorite anime characters, costume shops filled with more than one size of Sailor moon outfits and memorabilia, music blaring on tight, crowded streets. At one point, they came across a friendly street battle and jumped in for a bit, dancing with people who still enjoyed dance for what it truly was. An expression of self through music. The streets smelled like a melange of a dozen of different aromas and perfumes, with fried pastries blending in with expensive Chanel perfume. No two people were alike in this area, in style and looks, in personality and language. It was amazing to be a part of a place where people were so highly attuned to themselves that they could truly be just that. Who they were and nothing else, nothing more.

By the end of Thursday, the girls had done their wild share of shopping and exploring and had returned to Dawn’s condo to pack. Noemie brought the suitcase Lorra had bought her along and packed it with all the new clothes she couldn’t wait to wear. She’d been on vacation since Tuesday and was eager to travel to Kyoto, without Fayme breathing down her neck and calling her all odd hours of the night to make ultra secret hotel reservations. It was going to be the best trip of her life, her intuition told her so.

Julia snickered as she walked behind Dawn who was hiding something behind her back. Noemie burst out in laughter as they passed her and she got a glimpse of what Dawn was holding. Lorra looked up, wondering what they were all laughing at as Dawn advanced towards her.

“Before you ask, no you can’t make me over.” Lorra said, presuming her giddy friend was holding a funny mask or costume she’d picked up in Harajuku.

“Oh, it’s something much, much better,” Dawn giggled, leading Julia and Neomie as well. Lorra lifted a defined eyebrow suspiciously, curious what it was that just so hilarious. As Dawn got closer, she whipped out a large, neon pink dildo with little bumps near the head. Lorra withdrew quickly, taking it what it was.

“Get that thing away from me,” she whined, “What’s wrong with you?”

Julia and Neomie were on the floor, doubling over and rolling from sheer laughter. Lorra’s face was priceless. It looked as if she was divided between her embarrassment and her fear of the massive dildo being waved in her face like a fan.

Dawn regained some of her composure and tried speaking with a serious face, “What? I just thought you might need this to make sure you don’t do anything silly.”

“Right – because I just won’t be able to keep my hands to myself,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

Once the girls finally stopped laughing and caught their breaths, Julia started,

“It’s not you we’re worried about. Loverboy might try to pull some moves on you.”

Lorra pretended not to hear and placed a loose strand of hair behind her ear, resuming her packing. Neomie looked at her, hoping to understand or hear the full story. She’d only read about their relationship in the tabloid and her guilty treat, TokyoGirl. She had been hoping that Lorra would volunteer this information and girl gossip up some day but so far, nothing had been mentioned and even now looking at her in her attempt to keep busy as her friends talked about it only reassured her that it was one of those topics Lorra would never breach on her own will.

Dawn and Julia exchanged a look and returned to their previous conversation, never mentioning Laurent’s name for the remainder of the night.

***

The trip to Kyoto began bright and early the following morning to avoid traffic. The plan was simple. The girls would travel together for the majority of the trip and stop halfway at Ogaki where one car would transport Dawn, Julia and Neomie and the other, Lorra and Laurent. The girls started their trip in pleasant moods and loose fitting clothes. The chubby driver had been nice about them singing karaoke in the back as they sipped on Japanese green tea, gushing about whom they hoped to meet at the festival. Neomie admitted how envious she was that the girls had gotten their debut with Rank as she had the biggest crush on him. Julia offered to introduce her if they bumped into him and claimed she was more interesting in the catering and the food there than anything else which made the girls cackle.

“I just want a sexy, rich and intelligent man with some bedroom skills.” Dawn declared half-jokingly.

“And I’m with Julia on this one. I just want to be fed. In fact I want to always have food in my hand so that no one bothers to talk to me. Especially you-know-who,” Lorra said casually with an air of impassivity which changed the mood in the limo. Dawn sensing this might be an opportune time to elaborate on the topic jumped right in,

“Yeah…so how do you feel about that? We’re like an hour away from Ogaki.”

“Scared. Nervous. Annoyed. My stomach is doing flip flop and I feel like I might break out in hives,” Lo smiled as if she’d just said the most normal and optimistic thing in the world. Dawn got closer to her and wrapped her arms around her shoulders,

“Awww. I’m sorry this got put on you.”

“Me too.” Julia chipped in as Neomie did her best to offer a sympathetic smile.

“I don’t know how I’m supposed to sit next to him for two hours, much less pose and pretend that we’re a couple for four whole days.”

The car was silent for a minute until Julia offered, “Maybe just be yourself. Who says you have to act a certain way or say a list of things? In two hours, we’ll see you in Kyoto and you won’t even remember he’s there.”

Dawn and Neomie nodded in unison, “She’s right.” And Dawn just held her friend until they arrived at Ogaki and the driver went round to open the door.

***

Lau was standing outside of the town car, enjoying the weather and admiring the clouds. His twin was already on his way to Kyoto without him and although this was a welcomed idea at first, he couldn’t help but feel weak, waiting nervously. They’d gotten the call two days ago and Larry had been hesitant to go back to the headquarters assuming there was nothing else that needed to be said. Lau resonated that if that was the case then they had nothing to lose by going. He had secretly been happy at the prospect of being let go from the contract. They could continue their careers independently as they’d had before and maybe even spend some time home. Many artists’ agents were reaching out to them already to offer them a place on tour or in videos and they were seriously considering working with a universally known female artist recognized for her excellent on-stage performance skills. No papers had been drawn and only the initial offer had been made but they were seriously considering it.

A guy named Fayme, which initially sounded like Femme, called and asked to speak with them. Laurent had dragged Larry along who pouted during the commute there. Fayme welcome them gaily, scooping the sight of Larry up and down with daggers of lust in his eyes which only angered the sour twin more.

After the sit down, Fayme officially introduced himself as the manager of The Last Emperors which was the second last straw for Larry who was pretty much ready to leave with a middle finger in the air. Fayme got straight to the point,

“I’ve been in this role for a couple of months and as I’m sure you can see,” he said, tooting his own horn, “I have done an excellent job at catapulting them to the level they are currently. I’m responsible for everything. Now, I know what’s going on with the contract between you and Shori Media and I also know how to work behind the scenes. What if I could extend your contract for a year under a very simple condition?”

Larry kept his expression indifferent despite his ears perking up.

“Even weeks after you,” he pointed at Lau, “and Lorra have parted ways in one of the most dramatic who-even-knew-they-were-dating breakups, the media is still hungry for the couple they never had. So we’re re-creating Lo-Lau Part two.” Laurent’s furrowed eyebrows and frowning smile diverted Fayme.

“Are you following me?”

“No, not really. What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about setting you up with your ex for press purposes. Pose for pictures, answer questions, pretend. You have heard of acting, right?” Fayme said condescendingly.

Lau couldn’t act to hide his current confusion. “Yeah but what about Lorra. She will never agree to this.”

Fayme smirked, unable to conceal his pride at his own ingenuity, “She already did.” This melted even Larry’s tepid exterior.

“S-She agreed?”

Fayme nodded and continued, “Now before you ask me what’s in it for you, here’s what I have.” He pulled out two copies of a brief contract draft, satisfied at his negotiation ability. This contract would guarantee to propel both groups of artists and everyone would be happy. Larry practically ripped it out of Fayme’s hand as Laurent drew it towards him on the table. The twins eyed the appealing offer and all that it entailed. Finally, Laurent said,

“This is very generous.” Which annoyed his twin.

“Yes, I designed it myself. I’m glad you like it. So what do you say?”

He sighed and glanced over at Larry who expressed himself loud and clear without uttering a word. Laurent turned back to Fayme and said,

“If Lorra is okay with it, I don’t mind.”

And that’s exactly how he found himself, staring out into the vast hues of blue and white of the mid-day, nervous about the sight of the town car approaching in the distance. In the past two days, he’d agonized over things he was usually mindless about. His wardrobe and accessories, his shoes, his thoughts. He didn’t know what to expect but he was prepared for the worst. There was being optimistic and plain stupidity. He didn’t want to favor the likability that it was going to be a rosy trip. He knew who he was up against and worst, he knew what he’d done to oppose her against him. His gaze fixated on the nearing car driving towards the meet location as his palms dampened in worry. Overwrought with emotion, he began to practice an active meditation technique he’d grown familiar to in hopes to slow his pacing heartbeat.

***

Neomie was the first to see the lone twin standing besides the car, facing back to Lorra who refused to take a peek. When the car stopped, Dawn got out first and waved to Lau which caught him off guard. He hadn’t known what to expect yet he was genuinely surprised by the familiar face and friendly gesture. He walked over to her, a timid smile on his face.

“Hi Dawn,” he started, unsure of how else to greet her.

Sensing his discomfort, she took a few stops towards him and offered him a hug. He gratefully reciprocated the gesture. Julia felt a little weirder about seeing him but was glad that Dawn had broken the intrepid ice. She got out and playfully patted him on the chest,

“What’s up Lau?” He laughed shyly and she complimented him in her own Julia-like way, “Damn, you’ve been lifting bricks? Your chest is hard as shit. They have you out here in Japan, dancing AND building temples.” The girls sniggered and even Lorra couldn’t help but stifle a laugh. She gave in to the playfulness of the moment and smiled which is when Lau’s eyes met hers. Neomie disrupted that reconnecting stare by jotting out her arm and offering Lau her hand,

“Hi, I’m Neomie. We never got to properly meet but I’m Fayme’s assistant.”

Lau shook her hand, “Yeah, I remember you by your hair,” he said referring to the array of exotic peacock colors reflected in her funky long side bob. Neomie blushed, surprised that he remembered her, causing Julia and Dawn to snicker at the unfaltering effect Laurent and his brother had on women. After the introduction, there was nothing else to do for Lorra but finally speak to the guy who’d taken, broken and lost her heart.

“Hey,” she mustered.

Unwillingly, he felt his face light up at the sound of her voice directed at no one else but him. His smile was effervescent as he replied, “Hi Lorra.” Hearing himself say her name out loud was another revelation in itself. The spark between them was enough to shut this entire city’s electrical system down and the girls could feel it. He could feel it. Even Lorra, despite wanting so badly to appear nonchalant, couldn’t deny it.

“Should we go?” she asked rhetorically, turning around to quickly hug her friends.

Julia, Dawn and Neomie watched as Lorra and Lau walked towards the car together, their obvious chemistry synching their steps as they walked in unison. Lau opened the door and Julia stepped in, not looking back.

Once the car was on its way towards the road, Julia said jokingly, “I give it ’til tonight.”

Dawn pretended to be offended for Lorra as she shook her head before quickly adding, “Our girl stands no chance. He is so fine. But I say she’ll hold out until at least tomorrow night. Let’s not forget this is Lo we’re talking about here.”

Neomie jumped in gaily and nearly drooled her opinion, “Maybe she won’t but I definitely would.” Julia and Dawn burst out laughing at the newbie and her honest admission.

***

The car pooled in silence, allowing nothing but the faint noises from the tires cruising on the empty road to Kyoto. Lorra settled for the left side of the back seat, fixated on the sights outside of the tinted window. Lau wanted something to say but couldn’t think of anything worthy of talking about. He’d peeked at her side a couple of times, tried to notice what she was so looking at. He realized there was nothing on the side roads that struck her attention but she simply didn’t want to bother with conversation. There was enough space between them for another body but no space for the elephant in the room. He cleared his throat, advancing his fingers on the seat toward hers. She recoiled briskly the moment she felt the slight warmth of his long fingers hovering over hers. He would’ve been mortified except in the following seconds, he’d lifted his head and caught a stretch of redness kissing her cheeks and realized she was blushing. He withdrew his fingers but held his smile….and his advances for the rest of the journey.

About an hour into the drive, Lau noticed a stretch of water as they passed the Ibi river. Without thinking, he called her,

“Look at this,” He motioned towards the large river as she got closer to his side in order to get a better view. They drank in the view together and Lau made sure to stay still so that he could feel her presence right by his side. Eventually, they drove past the span of water and Lorra returned to her side. The words were at the tip of his tongue, waiting to be released yet his mouth stayed shut as his thoughts ran wildly of all the things he wished he could say. They didn’t exchange a word until the car reached Kyoto and they hurriedly rushed to their designated rooms.

The Last Emperors. (Chapter 24)

tle3

The Last Emperors.

Chapter 24: F.A.M.E

By Jolie Adam

As the next few weeks ensued, the nation was overcome with TLE mania. There wasn’t a place in Tokyo or any other big city in Japan you could retreat to without somehow seeing or hearing them. Pictures, adverts and memorabilia were amassed from building to building and stockpiled in every convenience store. Billboards, commercials, honorary events, television shows – there was no escaping the obvious media influence of the dynamic trio. Once their secret was out, Ty Shori being the savvy business man he is, served them up on a platter and the public gobbled it up. The Japanese division of MTV kept offering them larger and larger sums of money to appear in their own reality show which the girls continuously turned down. They had learned to bargain with Mr Shori when they found the resolution for the majority of their problems. And this is exactly how it came about,

“He keeps praising the importance of publicity. I think if we agree to take the MTV deal, we can get him to shut down TokyoGirl’s blog or at least find out who it is,” Julia said and we all paused, welcoming the light bulb moment her idea provided.

“That’s an amazing idea,” Lorra nodded in agreement along with Dawn who added, “Yeah, but that means we’ll have a camera following us around every second of the day.”

“It’s no different than what’s going on now,” Lorra retorted. Although the fame went hand in hand with the success, public outings as of late felt daunting and overwhelming. A camera was bound to be thrust in our faces within the first 15 seconds of exiting the building. That was fine when the girls were dressed to the nines on their way to some formidable, sponsored event. Which was usually the occasion only one out of five times. That meant the remainder of the time, it was just the group going to practice or to a shoot, completely undone, with imperfect hair and puffy eyes. Japanese gossip was not kind to those paparazzi pictures of it and provided plenty of bashing, comical fodder for TokyoGirl to print.

Lorra frowned, reluctant to release the very last bit of her privacy for the whole nation to see. Something about reality TV rubbed her the wrong way, made her feel like a puppet whose strings were manipulated solely for others’ enjoyment and entertainment. But she hadn’t worked that hard to get to the top just to pass up the opportunities success entailed.

“We don’t even know if he’ll agree. I think it’s worth a shot, just to see if he can do it.” Julia stated.

“I’m in,” Dawn added.

Lorra sighed and said, “I’m in too.”

And thus began the girls’ attempt to annihilate the vicious, anonymous social blogger, TokyoGirl.

***

Larry watched the remnant clouds of smoke waft through the air like sensual ghost figures. He’d stayed in the library after their meeting with Ty Shori. Their 6 months’ contract was over and much to their surprise, wasn’t getting extened. Of course, he and Laurent were given generous bonuses and amazing references simply for being represented by the company in the first place. He should’ve been ecstatic – Japan was getting severely dull for the twins ever since Lau opened his big mouth and revealed the newest industry money makers. Since then, it was constant repetition of TLE this and battle TLE that to match any of the duo’s accomplishments which was becoming a nightmare for the once reigning duo of dance. He didn’t want to stay in Tokyo as much as he’d just expected he would and once that expectation came tumbling down half an hour ago, he’d been crushed. There was no reason for him to be as there was a pool of opportunities just waiting for them to dive into and choose but the sting of rejection and denial was a painful injection.

***

The Last Emperors were getting a delicious sweet taste of fame with a toxic aftertaste. The great aspects were indeed glorious and phenomenal. With each passing day, they understood that celebrity status wasn’t for the faint hearted, with its ‘normal’ eccentricities, ethical avarice, an open tomb of fictitious lies and scary truths. Julia, Lorra and Dawn had everything they wanted in the palm of their hands and at the drop of a hat and sadly most of it wasn’t as gratifying as it seemed. With multiple agents now representing them and working around the clock to build the TLE brand, with nearly non-existent personal input or opinions from the girls, gone were the days when they were hounded by Jacques’ incessant calls. These days even Jacques had an assistant to help him keep TLE’s name relevant in France – as if people could possibly forget considering the constant news revolving around them from coast to coast. The girls had publicists, counselors, make-up assistants and back-up for their make-up stylists – and it had taken all of their might and plausible negotiations to drill into the eager, meandering hands of their new unscrupulous manager Fayme, pronounced like fame, that they could do and HAD done very well without personal assistants. The media already robbed them of every ounce of public privacy they could possibly muster without crossing that barrier of personal invasion, Tokyo Girl was being rein back after they’d agreed to do the reality show, so the last thing they needed was to have little minions running around, gathering intel on them. If Tokyo had taught them anything, it was to lay all cards on the table because it was only a matter of time until someone else announced it for you. The Last Emperors’ team had everything in the last two months to pit them against Les Twins. Both groups rose in unison, constantly surpassing one another before the other retaliated with a larger success. Between the two groups’ reoccurring TV spots, ads and appearances, there were few national channels that hadn’t featured one or the other.

Recently, TLE had been announced as the new mentors in a popular dance show that commands skyrocketing TV ratings. Coincidentally, it was right around the time Larry and Lau were cast as a singular, ordinary dancer who transformed into his alter ego and had a completely different ability to dance. Both styles were excellent but as different as the moon and sun. Lorra, Dawn and Julia were secretly tired of the constant comparison and the now-tepid, over prolonged rivalry but they played along because as Fayme stated around the clock, “boring news NE-VER make the news.”

***

Lorra stared at the cylinders blocks of towers as the private car led her down the concrete arena. She was on her way for yet another meeting, this time alone, with Fayme. Kyoto was hosting a huge inaugural movie festival this year, having recently acquired the media rights for another company that usually held the festivities. Shori Media was sparing no expense to ensure everything went smoothly in the hopes that the event could produce more tourism in the upcoming years once it was established and eventually viewed in the same regards as prestigious awards such as the annual Cannes Film Festival. Despite the fact that she’d been there for over four months now, Lorra still admired the complexity of the city, how webbed the streets were onto one another, leading you into starkly different quarters depending on the way you chose. A street busker she’d always appreciated in passing was playing a Michael Jackson hit as the car slowed down to a red light. She tapped her feet silently, smiling at the fact that MJ tunes never failed to make her want to dance. The artist swayed his head to the beat of his own instrument, lost in a melodic sea, his body language apathetic to the bustling scene around him. His dreads began to shake loosely around his pale face as he hit the chorus and she smiled in admiration at his natural concentration and passionate intensity. People swept past like blowing leaves on a tree, quickly and inanimately, barely taking the time to appreciate the man’s devoted artistry. Lorra almost wanted to jump out of her seat and rush out of the car, and dance around him. She understood him, what it was like to get lost in the moment, to be seduced by a beat, a song, perhaps even an entrancing lyric that keeps repeating itself in your mind, shortly or long after you’d heard it. It was such a wonderful illusion, when music became visual and for her, it was simply magic once it became physical.

Before she could act out on her silent, little wish, the engine slowly drifted through the green light continuing her internal abyss of the power of musical imagination. She arrived at the private Shori headquarters where she found Fayme’s cheerful assistant Neomie, buying a fruitsicle. She waved gayly to grab her attention,

“Hey bitch!” Neomie offered as a greeting, flipping her fluorescent pink and green bob around.

“What’s up?”

“Gay-me,” which Neomie often called Fayme behind his back, “has me out here in this heat buying him frozen sugar water. What else is new? I’m just the muppet of the year.”

Lorra laughed at Neomie’s theatrical facial expression. The flamboyant personality was a breath of fresh air in a field of corporate rigids. She always looked forward to her interactions with Neomie and the spunky assistant had tagged along with the girls to a couple of events and outings. Neomie loved Lorra for that. When Lorra requested for Neomie’s presence or assistance, there was very little Fayme could do to refuse. This had caused some minor hostility between the two as Lorra shot down his initial idea of her getting her own assistant only for Lorra to tell him she didn’t need one yet personally request or send for Neomie. Most of the time, she would just send a car for the lively assistant that would take her to a shopping centre where she could charge to her mighty heart’s desire before being brought to Lorra’s pad where they would get dressed together and meet Dawn and Julia. She viewed Neomie as a good friend – although there was plenty that was still kept just between her and the girls. But even Dawn and Julia had to admit that Neomie brought a certain fun energy and they’d always had a blast when the four of them were together. Dawn held a little bit of jealousy towards the lighthearted infiltrator but kept her mouth shut since she was in no position to label Lorra as a negligent friend considering how distant she’d been for the first two months they’d been in Tokyo.
“Just keep thinking about Kyoto in a week!! I made sure they got us the Spirit Suite which is like a temple in a room. Room service, watching Japanese movies for four days, stargazing at night as we walk through the city, sleeping late, waking up whenever and doing whatever we want. It’s going to be a blast!”

Those were the right words as Neomie lit up like an overly adorned Christmas tree, suddenly so giddy that she jumped up and dropped the fruitsicle. This garnered another belly laugh from Lorra as the girl rolled her eyes and made her way back to the ice cream and confection truck.

“What mood is he in today?” Lorra asked pertaining to Fayme’s infamous tempestuous moods. He always made a mockery of it himself, claiming that being black and gay made his mood swing left and right, at a moment’s notice.

“Really, really happy,” Neomie replied, pointing to the fruitsicle she was ordained to go retrieve.

Lorra smiled, “Well, that’s good. Maybe this meeting will be painless.”

“No – like abnormally happy. He practically skipped into work today AND he brought his own coffee. I can’t remember the last time getting him his morning coffee wasn’t my number one job task.”

“Whatever, nothing he can say can bring me down. Girl, I’m Kyoto’d out.” Lorra grinned.

***

Lorra and Neomie took the elevator together, still laughing about one of the many inside jokes they had about Fayme. No sooner had they stepped out of the elevator onto the swanky Rosa Aurora marble tiles on the 21st floor did Fayme jump out at Lorra, slipping his smooth forearm into the pit of her elbow as if they were childhood friends. Lorra tried not to act surprised. Life, ever since Fayme became a part of hers, was nothing short of a soap opera plot.

“Hey Lo-rra,” he dragged the rr’s in her name eloquently but to her, it might as well have been a train screeching harshly onto a platform. “I love that red top on you. Very asian fusion, spicy bombshell,” he said of the tunic she was wearing that accentuated her recent tan from a girls’ weekend getaway to Onjuku beach.

“Thanks Fayme. You look, uhm…nice too,” she tried with as much conviction she could humanly gather.

“I know,” He seemed to believe her lukewarm compliment, “my no-sugar, no-carb, no-gluten, no-anything-fucking-delicious is finally working and I feel great so I know I must look phenomenal.”

Neomie picked that precise moment to point out his lie by presenting him the fruitsicle he’d sent her out to get. He scowled at her before grabbing it and taking a timid bite. Lorra smiled at Neomie’s timing.

“So, why did you ask to see just me?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing, you know — just business stuff.” He seemed uncomfortable which worried Lorra a little.

She looked at him hoping to obtain a more direct answer, “Well, what is it about?”

“Why don’t we go into the conference room so that I can explain?”

With that, he steered her towards the large conference room that held way more seats than the two of them would need to occupy.

Lorra exchanged a peeved look with Neomie who shrugged as she genuinely had no idea what he needed to talk to her about. Being his assistant, Neomie usually had the 411 before anyone else, so she would just text the girls beforehand. Usually Lorra came in prepared, ready with her agreements or retaliations, to butt head with Fayme. But today was slightly different. Even her being here by herself left her feeling armor-less.

He closed the door behind her and ushered her to a seat. Lorra ignored his direction and took the first seat she saw, facing him in anticipation. He squirmed around his gold trimmed vest, bringing his palms together as he began,

“I got good news for you.”

Lorra blinked blankly, waiting for him to continue.

“You’ve probably noticed that TokyoGirl’s backed off with her TLE bashing spree ever since that agreement was passed for the reality show. Well, I was able to get that off the table as well. The group doesn’t have to do the reality show. It took me a lot of negotiating but I pulled it off.” He stopped, waiting to see her acknowledge the great news. However, in typical Fame fashion, Lorra knew that if he ‘managed’ to pull that off, there was a much heftier price to pay which is most likely why she was here alone. She offered him a taunt courtesy smile and he began once more,

“As you know, the Kyoto festival is soon approaching and we are working endlessly, around the clock to ensure it goes off without a hitch,” Without his knowledge, he’d dived right back into his formal manners which is how she knew he was about to drop some hefty obligation on her. She took a breath, annoyed at the unsettling effect he had on her.

“I’ve been working with the management team to make sure you girls are the biggest, hottest thing on that red carpet. I want you to sizzle so much that they forget you’re not even actors. By the end of this event, everyone and their cousins will be talking, breathing and living TLE. If not, then my name is not Fayme.” She nodded, out of habitual duty and politeness. “Now, there is something we have been going back and forth about. It’s a little crazy but it’s 100% pure publicity gold.”

He paused, which is when Lorra realized she hadn’t exhaled that breath yet. What did this have to do with her? She just wanted to go and have a good time with her girls. What the heck did he want from her?

“We are all aware that there has been some unfriendly friction between The Last Emperors and Les Twins ever since the reveal,” She froze, her heart dropping into her stomach. “And since you and Laurent, have some history, the management team and I have decided to arrange a reunion for press sake just in time for the festival.”

Lorra surged out of her seat so fast that the chair took a second to rise up. She tried to hold back the magnitude of her fury despite it eating her from the inside the minute she heard Laurent’s name. “Fay-me, you know I have put through a lot of SHIT, quite frankly, ever since you became our so-called manager. We have done almost everything you’ve asked of us, albeit often questionably. But this is below me. And sadly, I really thought this would be below you too.”

“Lorra, Lorra – I know all about it,” He said quietly and sincerely, as if they were having a heart to heart, “I know he broke your heart and your trust,” She ogled him, baffled at this comment. “But you have to do this. I expected the publicist to say no and she gave me the green light. I even brought it to Mr. Shori, thinking that maybe he would say that’s going too far but he’s pushing this festival so hard that you having to go with your ex and arch enemy as a date is the least of his concerns right now. I know I get brazen sometimes with my requests of you girls but once it’s passed the accordance from Mr Shori, there isn’t much I – or you, can do.”

“But why would you do this?”

“Because I work for the news and I know how the news work. Honey, this is show business.”

“Is it? Because last I checked, I was a dancer. I started this as a dancer. All of this is just over the top bullshit that we have to deal with but at the end of the day, we’re dancers. And we’re people. You can’t just toy with my emotions and decide who to place me with or next to.” She felt bile rising in her throat, unsure whether it was due to the confrontation or the fear of being forced to see Laurent again.

“I would say think about it but unless you want to be dropped, you don’t have much of a choice. It’s just for appearance sake. They will be there anyways. Now, you’ll be going with one half of the duo. Everyone gets their fill of the press pie, fans are happy, media will go crazy. Think of it as a formality.”

“What about me? What about how I feel?”

He hesitated before replying, “Of course. Now think about how you’d feel if you didn’t have the choice to get paid to do what you love. Is it worth losing that for something so small in comparison? It’s really not my place to say but I’ve been told that Les Twins’ contract is not being renewed. This will be their last appearance under Shori representation and we want to make sure we leave the impression that it’s just friendly competition at the end of the day.” With that, he exited the large conference room, leaving Lorra there with her echoing thoughts to keep her company. She stood in disbelief, stunned at the information that had just been relayed to her.

As the hours passed and she found herself at home, in the comfort of her space, cornered by the fury of her own thoughts. Was success really supposed to make you feel so powerless about your own life? How could they twist such a plot around to lay the outcome of their contract solely based on her decision when the group clearly involved two other people? Sick of allowing her thoughts to steer her into early insanity, she picked up the phone and dialed Julia’s number. Dawn was great at listening but at this stage, it was past the cooperative, supportive, listening point. She needed the honest opinion of her blunt friend who had no benefit or care to hold back the truth.

“So how’d your meeting go with the media vampire?” Julia answered, picking up on the second ring.

“Worse than I expected and my expectations were pretty low,” Lorra replied.

“Preach. So are you going to tell me now or do we need liquor for this?”

Lorra thought about it for a moment. Alcohol was the last thing she needed right now but what the heck – seemed like there was now an entire team determining what, or rather who, she needed.

“Hell yeah. Be there in 20!”

“Already drinking,” Julia joked, before hanging up.

***

“OhshitohshitOHSHIT. Exclamation mark. No bullshit!” Julia gawked once Lorra took a second sip of the rose wine they’d just corked half an hour ago.

“Right? See how messed up that is? Actually, no that’s typical – what’s messed up is HE doesn’t really see anything wrong with it.” Lorra gulped the remainder of the wine glass’ content.

After the initial surprise, Julia looked at her friend, with a pensive face.

“What?” Lorra asked, wondering if some wine was dripping from her lips.

“Well…I mean it is fucked up…but it’s really not that big of the deal.”

Lorra stared back, astounded, “Come again? Are we sipping different things? Because your wine must be potent.”

“Yeah, I know there’s some tension between us but really, I mean, come on – it’s been like two months. We’re over it. If anything, they have a lot more to feel bad about. All you’re doing is going with him, getting out of the limo, taking some pictures together. Shit, you don’t even have to smile. Pull a Victoria Beckham on their ass. I can see it now. Headlines saying ‘Concrete lips’ with a picture of you like this,” Julia plucked her lips firmly together. Lorra had to laugh at that. Her friend made it sound easy and when it came down to the reality of it, she wasn’t that mad anymore. Her biggest concern was just being in such close proximity to someone she’d once been so vulnerable and open with.

Finding the only rebuke she could with the fairly straightforward plan, Lorra claimed, “They might put us in the same room though. I might be over it but four nights with him…that I can’t do.”

Julia eyeballed her amusingly, “Have you forgotten that we’ve witnessed the sexual chemistry between you two? Stop fronting like that would absolutely be the worst possible thing in the world. Worst case scenario, you hit it a couple of nights. What’s love got to do with it?” She said the last part dramatically, like a parody of the classic Tina Turner hit.

Surprisingly, that vivid remembrance of steamy scenes in her mind sobered Lorra up. Her breath caught in her throat and she realized she really didn’t want to share a room with Laurent. She could do all the other stuff, the planned and plotted parts of it. But the real things, she didn’t think she could stomach. Her heart wouldn’t survive it this time.

“Hit too close to home?” Julia stopped singing.

“Yeah,” Lorra said mournfully.

“Well, shit. That’s why we got wine.” With that, Julia poured another glass and the two friends toasted.

“To Kyoto.”

Lorra hesitated before repeating, “To Kyoto.”

Once tipsy and home, Lorra called her new least favorite person in the world. She’d gone over every possible scenario with Julia, and her friend’s answer to them all was topping up her glass and chanting, “You’ll live.” After indulging in two bottles of wine, she was starting to believe that even if it was horrible, she would live. Worst had happened. And regardless of what could happen, she had her girls there along with Neomie. I’ll live.

***

Fayme picked up on the third ring, sounding fairly inebriated himself. Without any greeting, Lorra said, “One request.”

“I’m listening,” he shouted back through the earpiece, trying to speak louder than the music in the background.

“I’ll do anything you say if you guarantee me separate rooms.”

“I can’t promise anything but I will do my best. The media has a funny way of getting their hands on private information so they might try to check if you’re staying in the same room. But I will work my magic and do my best. I owe you one. But after the press and coverage you get from this…you might owe ME one.”

He couldn’t see her rolling her eyes but he knew Lorra well enough to know it was exactly what she was doing. They both hung up, feeling confident about their individual approach.

The Last Emperors. (Chapter Twenty- Three)

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The Last Emperors

Chapter Twenty-Three: Encore

By Jolie Adam

The bold and brazen?

Or brilliant publicity stunt?

Hours after dance duo sensation Les Twins revealed the identity of their adversaries, fellow French dance group The Last Emperors proudly showed face at Tokyo’s Night Out biggest after-party dressed to impress.

Fans, press and celebrities at the event were shocked to discover that the talented masked group that has taken the underground and commercial dance scene by storm in France and Japan were three female beauties. The trio’s claim to fame came shortly after appearing as back-up dancers for pop sensation Rank before being signed to multi-media powerhouse Ty Shori’s talent agency where Les Twins are also currently represented. Since then, they have appeared everywhere from television and editorial ads to event performances and appearances. No words yet on whether this latest discovery will alter their current deal or impact future opportunities.

***

The secret was hot, out and buzzing from every newspaper’s front page, covered on every online blog and journal and talked about from fans and fellow dancers alike. Because of the time difference in France, they had made yesterday’s nightly news and had missed about 24 calls from their agent. With all of this energy and gossip surrounding them, the girls’ ears should’ve been on fire however they were the calmest and most settled they’d been since arriving in Japan. This little bump in the road brought them back together, as a unit, as a group and as friends. Having independent living situations enabled them to distance themselves from each other. It provided them with too much freedom that they forgot they were in this together. That they had come together, struggled together and rose to the top together. It took falling and failing together to reinstate that bond and based on the way they currently felt, what was meant to be a disaster turned out to be a huge blessing.

Waking up at 11 in the morning, Lorra slept better than she’d had in the last three months in Tokyo. Last night was a clear blur. They’d gone to the party, made a huge splash with their announcement, walked in for a few minutes – just enough to let everyone else absorb their presence and then left. Heads held high, cameras and flashing bulbs mere feet away from them and a huge smile on their face, they walked right back into the car that had brought them and left feeling like the superstars they were. Somehow, with their secret out and the fear of being exposed destroyed, they truly felt invincible. What was Tokyo Girl going to reveal now? What would they have to fear? Everything was on the table. Their identities. Heck, even the fact that Lorra had slept with Laurent was out there. No more blackmailing. They were free.

They stopped at McDonalds, grabbed a bottle of Dom on the way home and had a girls’ night in. The notorious sound of laughter, freedom, friendship and champagne glasses clicking rang well into the early morning before finally letting sleep conquer. Dawn, Julia and Lorra slept incredibly well now that all of the weight and pressure was no longer on them. The world would either choose to love them or reject them – neither of which they could control or decide.

Lorra could have used an extra hour or three of sleep but when she opened her eyes, it was 11:26 in the morning and there was a persistent knock on the door. It took her a couple of minutes to realize where she was and why she was there. A brief moment of concern rose as she thought it might be a journalist or someone who had found out where Dawn lived. Then she remembered how hard it was for her, an actual friend of Dawn to get inside this fortress of a condominium building, and exhaled loudly in relief and lethargy. Julia looked like an angel, balled up inside the huge King size cover of Dawn’s bed, on the carpeted floor and Dawn was sprawled out on the bed, like a deformed starfish, selfishly claiming her space. She was suddenly glad she’d passed out on the cozy couch.

Dragging her feet and rubbing her eyes, she made her way to the door and asked who it was. The voice behind it was scruffy but polite,

“Room Service.”

It only took a sliver of time for Lorra to remember they lived in a condo and not a hotel. She opened the door nonetheless. The security in this place was not a joke. If it turned out this was an attacker or unwelcomed guest, all it took was a push on a little button and the entire building would be on lockdown. Before her stood a well-dressed, foreign looking chef in front of a well-furnished food cart. She eyed him suspiciously, waiting for an explanation which he offered.

“Compliments of Mr. Shori,” and handed her an envelope which she accepted before allowing him to enter with the cart. Of course, once Julia smelled the food, she awakened promptly. Lorra fingered the envelope in its entirety, admiring the quality of the paper and the delicate artwork on it. She wouldn’t be surprised if the seal was made of real gold. Inside there was a folded note that read,

“Congratulations on your big night out. Secrets are like poison for the soul and yours will be validated by your talent and the work that you’ve continuously put in as a group and as artists. Shori Media is proud to represent strong women and because of this, it would be an honor to extend your contract for a year. Japan and the rest of the world could use positive and talented role models like The Last Emperors to redefine women and their power.

Best,

Ty Shori.”

Lorra stuffed the note back in the envelope and held it for a moment. Albeit the obvious fact that this is a great business move for Ty Shori, she couldn’t help but feel grateful and appreciative for the supportive words, following a night like yesterday’s. This was the nicest thing and the most he’d ever said to them in the entire three months that they’d known him and worked under him. She smiled to herself and left the note on the side of the cart, excited for Julia and Dawn to read it too. It just reaffirmed that Julia’s idea to come out was not just the only option they had at that point but the best one as well. Julia crawled out of the ball of duvet covers half-asleep and crept towards the delicious aroma of assorted foods.

“Is this heaven?” She mumbled, slowly opening her eyes and taking in the spread before her. All French foods. Pastries, cupcakes, croissants, bagels, freshly baked bread, jams, butter, cream cheese, natural orange, grapefruit and pineapple juice, vegetable quiches, ham and cheese. A platter of a large seasoned omelette was opened and she could smell all of the tantalizing spices slowly emitted from the steam.

“Compliments of Ty Shori,” Lorra repeated as she grabbed a mini cinnamon raison bagel and popped it in her mouth.

“Looks like a misplaced breakfast set meant for Marie Antoinette. Is that a tiny tiramisu cake?” Julia pointed at the assortment of cakes.

Lorra gasped girlishly in delight and ran to jump on Dawn’s bed. She groaned, annoyed at the disruption. She pushed Lorra off her arm and moaned,

“What’s wrong with you? I was having a sick dream. Terrence Howard was about to give me the business.”

“I have something for you better than Terrence…and it also starts with a T. Ti-ra-mi-su.”

Dawn got bright-eyed and looked right at Lorra, “Don’t mess with me. If I can’t have Terrence, there better b— ”

“There is tiramisu.” Lorra stated seriously. Dawn sat up and eyed the cart, suddenly giddily. She looked back and asked,

“Where is this from?”

“Compliments of Ty Shori,” Lorra regurgitated once more.

“So I guess that means we’re not fired?” Dawn asked rhetorically.

Lorra smiled and shook her head, “If anything, we’re re-hired. He wants to extend the contract for a full year.”

“Whoa,” Dawn digested the news. “One thing at a time…where’s my cake?” She was drooling now.

“You’re the only person I know who can eat cake for breakfast.”

“Still not as weird as Julia eating rice for breakfast,” Dawn rebutted.

Julia yelled from the kitchen, “I HEARD THAT!”

***

Laurent was on his fifth mile, long limbs aching and wind chiming out of his respiratory system. He was following the trail in his favorite conservatory, surrounded by lush gardens and periodic architectural water fountains. One of the secret places he’d been so eager to show the girls when they’d first moved to Tokyo. He’d been jogging slowly for an hour, intermittently quickening his pace and then slowing back down, to purposely tire himself. He’d gone to bed with blue balls and the only way to get rid of the discomfort was to exert himself either sexually or physically. His hair whipped and bobbed up and down as he ran, letting the sweat drip and soak his shirt. Last night had been such a mind fuck and in hindsight, he wished he’d stayed home, even if it meant being all by his lone self. He’d practically tagged along all night, made a huge mistake and then bathed in the aftermath, the slow repercussion of self-reprimand and guilt. He was barely managing when he spotted her, albeit briefly, he did see her. She looked gorgeous in her red dress and lips. For a moment, he forgot who she was, despite being drawn to her, and simply wanted to approach her based on instinct and attraction. He realized it was her at the same moment their eyes met and her gaze enchanted him, despite all of the malice, hurt and disappointment it held, there laid their pull and sexual magnetism towards one another. When she looked away, he nearly collapsed and gave out at the knees, ready to knead his begging forgiveness into her merciful heart. At that moment, he knew that regardless what had gone on between her and Larry, he should’ve held her in higher regards and had the decency and courtesy to guard her secret, something she had entrusted him with. Yet another part of him was glad for the solid deterrent because had it been under regular circumstances, he would’ve been guilty regardless. The things he would have done to her and that dress would’ve weighed gravely on his mind. Not to say that wasn’t the case now. His virility struck ardently, wanting to exploit the desires of his imagination and body. Laurent took another empty gulp of air, shifting his focus on proper breathing. A pulp of fresh breeze swept across his face, chilling the perspirations on his face and torso. His shirt was drenched, even his toes slushed in his damp socks, making his feet heavy adding to the lethargy of his exhaustion. At the next fountain he approached, he stopped – not to take a drink. He very well intended to deprive himself. Surely, if his body was low on hydration, it wouldn’t allow him to think so much. He was drained in every aspect which callously pleased him to a certain extent. There it was again playing clearly, that silhouette, that dress, that smile, her. He gave in and took a sip, and another. Squinting, he looked into the horizon while catching his breath and regaining composure. He’d be sore for days. It was the healthy equivalent of getting the shit beat out of him which he truly felt he deserved at this point. 

He checked his pockets mindlessly, making sure all of the contents were still in place. Pulling out his phone, he unlocked the screen to see the missed text message. It was from Larry,

“Wat u doing tonight?”

Laurent deleted the text and shoved it back in his pocket. He’d be spending the rest of the week by himself, away from his brother and the microscopic view of his personal life from the rest of the world.

***

Laurent woke up from a necessary nap due to the loud and persistent buzzing of his phone. He moaned something inaudible while traversing to a state of wakefulness, trying to grasp the vibrating electronic.

“Hello,” he mumbled.

“Did you get my text? What are you doing?” Larry asked impatiently.

“I was sleeping. What do you want?”

“There’s another party tonight. Come with me.”

“Did you not hear me? I’m sleeping,” Laurent was getting annoyed at the interference.

“Lau, we have to go. Remember that L’Oreal contract we were after, they announced today they chose The Last Emperors as their new brand ambassador.” He waited a beep for Laurent’s response.

“So?” Lau said, although he gained a little more awareness. He half-sat, rubbing his eyes solemnly, letting his eyes adapt to the overhead lamp in the hallway. The oven clock read 7:34 and the mixed hues of the departing day and the new night were married to the sky. He’d showered hastily after his run, changed into sweats, ate some left over sushi and sometime between thinking and wishing, he fell asleep on the couch. It had been the best part of his day until Larry had woken him up.

“We need to show that we’re just stronger than ever.”

Ignoring what Larry just explained, Lau retorted, “I’m staying in tonight. I cramped a muscle while running.”

“Since when do you run?”

“I’ll talk to you later.” Lau hung up and sat up. He looked around, the beautiful sky was now blending with the darker undertones of the night, crawling over the clouds like a wistful embrace. Without a spot of reflection, he felt rather than saw the dreary expression on his face. It didn’t help that he’d been nursing a painful boner since last night. Although they’d met a very nice PR agent and her friend, Laurent had declined her invitation to go back to their shared place and elaborate on the benefits of a publicist as a growing celebrity. He had gladly allowed Larry to embark on that trip by himself, going home with both of the women. Mindless fucking with faceless sex was something he’d lost an appetite for a while ago yet continued out of frivolous sport. Women threw themselves at them and they welcomed the attention, enabled the interaction and fed from that superficial, shallow lust. But Lau had wanted more for a while now. Someone more substantial. Deep down, it pained him to admit that Lorra was a good girl and that his gut wanted him to believe her over his own twin. It had been the main reason of the discomfort, knowing something he chose to disregard. Larry would never forgive him – and he would never forgive himself, had he followed his hunch and backed a girl he’d only known for a couple of months.

For a couple of minutes, he rubbed his sore joints with care and as the pain there eased, his hand moved to his rigid erection, trying to handle himself. It felt awkward and juvenile, something he hadn’t done in years. His grasp moved firmly up and down the shaft, twisting the tip and envisioning Lorra as the recipient of his feverish want. He pictured the face she used to make as he entered her, the quiet gasp and shortness of breath once he fit himself snugly inside of her warm body. Just as he begun to hear the noises and moans she made, he heard instead the vibrating buzz of his phone. The screen illumined with Larry’s name. He pressed ignored and shut his eyes. He couldn’t even masturbate in peace, apparently.

***

Lorra walked around her condo in boy shorts and a sheer black tank top, humming a vintage Alicia Keys’ song. She was reeling in the feeling of freedom and newfound openness and the lucrative L’Oreal deal. This is what it felt like to feel good in one’s skin. She was radiating happiness even if a greater part of her was a little sad. She opened the fridge and began belting out the ambitious chorus, striving to hit the note as close as she could, feeling the lyrics in her soul as she sang them to her bowl of yogurt. It can only get better, she thought, enjoying a spoonful of fresh Greek yogurt. She smiled, imagining herself in a L’Oreal ad. Who would have thought?

A timid knock sounded at the door. She waltzed over, not missing a beat in her imaginary song. Feeling fairly confident it was either Julia or Dawn or another special delivery from Mr Shori, she unlocked the door, still holding her bowl of yogurt. She wasn’t sure whether she’d wanted to drop it or dash it when she saw Laurent standing before her. His first words were,

 

“Please don’t call security.”

She hadn’t even thought of that but she sure was now.

“Can I come in? I just want to chat,” His piercing eye contact did nothing to faze her but it did make her feel bad. She could see the sadness in his eyes. And though she may not have wanted to ever see him again, her heart was singing. Luckily, she’d been on cloud nine all day so she opened the door wider, silently inviting him in. It couldn’t hurt to hear him out. He looked around, his demeanor strong and confident, even if his inner person was feeling fragile and uncertain.

“Look, Lorra, I came to apologize. What I said, I should’ve never said. It wasn’t my secret to tell and I know it probably means nothing now but that’s not the type of person I am and I’m sorry.”

“Ok,” she replied calmly, taking another spoonful of her yogurt as if it were the most casual conversation.

Lau stood there, confused and unarmed. This hadn’t been the way he’d pictured them having this conversation or the reaction he’d expected. With her in her flimsy boy shorts, showing the curvature of her toned butt, and a loose tank top that could reveal her nude breasts at any point with the slightest effort in movement. But then again, he’d also known some pretty dramatic, hysterical and crazy girls in the past. Ones that liked to expose him on Twitter with personal pictures and exchanged texts, throw stuff at him not including or limited to vile, defaming insults, and especially the ones who tried to get back at him by sleeping with his brother. Well, now that he thought at it, maybe she wasn’t that different. She fell in the last category since she’d tried to sleep with Larry but that backfired. Remembering that angered him anew, stimulating the same disdain he’d felt so strongly, the strength of it pushing him to come forth and reveal her secret.

He came closer to her, close enough to smell the scent of her body lotion,

“Why?”

“Why what?” She looked at him, unnerved, still tasting the cold blob on yogurt on her tongue.

“Why did you hit on Larry?”

She gawked at him quizzically, wondering if this was some sort of sick joke, before realizing he was very serious. All of the sudden, it all made sense.

“Is that what your delusional head case of a twin told you?”

When he failed to respond, she shook her head sadly. Laurent was a victim of his own loyalty. He knew better yet he chose to believe what he was told instead of what he knew. What they both knew. She took a deep breath,

“I think you should go. We don’t really have anything to say to each other. Ultimately, I trusted you and you fucked me over. But it worked in my favor—OUR favor, so I should probably thank you. You apologized and I forgive you because I know why you did it. I didn’t but when you asked me that question, it just clicked so I forgive you. And I want to forget you. You know the door.”

She turned around and even though his brain was caught on the things she’d just said, he also caught a peek of the flesh hanging out of her boy shorts and felt that beast in him unleash. He grabbed his crotch boyishly, trying to hide his sudden growth but she looked so sexy in that little indoor outfit, mad and expressive. Perhaps it was the wrong thing to do but he got closer to her, this time, close enough to smell the yogurt on her breath and dug his fingers in her flesh, grabbing a handful of her bottom. She yanked him away by the hair, taken back yet slightly enthused. He breathed hotly against her neck, grabbing her chin a tad forcibly and stealing a kiss, engorging his tongue in hers, knowing deep down that if he wanted her that badly, despite her disappointment, she also wanted him. She relented, seeing the opportunity for what it was. Moving away, she stepped out of her panties and whipped off her tank, exposing herself to him willingly, recuperating her power and will. She pulled his hair back, forcing him to surrender and lower himself, until he was on his knees so she could push him back to lay on the floor. Once flat, his hands roamed eagerly on her surface, touching everything as if for the first time, as she slid down his sweats and boxers at once and hovered over him. She looked at his expression as she stroked him once, twice and then slid herself down, slowly at first then accepting all of him into her warmth, enveloping him tightly, readily. He drank the image of her naked on top of him and varied his gaze between that and watching himself appear and disappear into her. He grabbed her waist in an attempt to pump and drive himself deeper into her but with a firm hand, she pushed his pelvis back, stopping him in his track. Regaining control, she lowered herself again, slower this time so he could feel every crevice, corner and fiber of her, so he could remember he would never get this again. Her insides massaged every pounding vein on his hard erection, coating it with her natural lubrication, making sure she rose to the very tip before gliding down to the base. He held her with a painful expression of bliss on his face, grabbing on to her breasts and lustily wanting to bring them to his mouth. She did this a few more times, ensuring everything was on display when she felt him jerk. A slight one at first, fairly unnoticeable but she could see his body tense, his gaze getting unsteady and his breathing, rough and harsh. She knew she had him.

“Get off!!” He stated, alarmed. Before she even fully removed herself, he came all over her stomach and chest, groaning loudly, teeth sharply grinding down. She gave a little victorious smirk, remembering his snide comment.

“I may be better in bed than I am on stage but I can beat you hands down, any day, IN BOTH PLACES.”

Taking a second to absorb the sting intended behind the comment and the strength of his orgasm, Lau understood where that had come from. He understood everything. He yanked up his clothes and got up.

“I’m really sorry for messing things up between us. I mean that.”

He left and closed the door softly behind him, staying immobile in front of it for a few minutes before actually leaving.

 

 

The Last Emperors. (Chapter Twenty-Two)

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The Last Emperors

Chapter Twenty- Two: Monsters

By Jolie Adam

The moment Laurent has announced to the press the identity of The Last Emperors, he felt great, powerful, omniscient and vindicated. The betraying words had spitefully spurted off his tongue in a great release. He was sick of people constantly taking his trust and good nature for granted. It’d been the main reason why for so long he kept women in a rotating cycle, organized conveniently by cities, countries and towns. It was the simplest way to stay unattached yet romantically occupied at the same time. Tokyo offered a change of pace, a flicker of hope and novelty, a trace of promise and when Lorra had come along, he’d felt there was finally the potential and opportunity for something more. Not initially but gradually, he began to feel as though he was appreciated and valued for being himself. Just Laurent. Not one half of Les Twins. It seemed like it had been enough but apparently not. Girls always seemed to want the ribbon on top of the icing and the cake. They wanted to date and settle with one twin but fuck the other. It’d be hypocritical of him to sit there and pretend he had never pursued or welcomed the pursuit of one of Larry’s girls. Mostly they flocked to him once Larry was through with them. It was the nomadic artist’s lifestyle and the boys fully embraced it. But every once in a blue moon, if one was to indulge in a courtship that was more than just a fleeting physical encounter, they had boundaries in respect for one another. And Lorra crossed that boundary.

Yet less than an hour afterwards, Lau sat front row to the Chanel show, guilt creeping under his skin like a spreading rash. The dark lights in the room gave him the liberty to not have to conceal his increasing discomfort. He pursed his lips and sighed semi-loudly trying to avert his gaze from the side profile of his twin. Larry hadn’t said much which wasn’t surprising but the energy between them felt weird. At a time like this, he needed his brother’s support more than ever. He wanted reassurance that he did the right thing, that Larry had his back and that everything would be okay. He kept thinking about her reaction, wondering how the media would play it out. Even though he felt like the indiscretion was justified, he couldn’t get over the fact that she would know it was him. And that it would really be over for good.

***

Lorra covered her mouth with her hand to muffle the gasp. She felt robbed of air and oxygen as her knees buckled weakly under the imperceptible pressure. Her eyes watered momentarily but she was more shocked than angry or sad. No other emotions had yet begun to surface but the sheer astonishment of what was going on. This was far worse than a little reciprocation, this was just malicious back-stabbing. Had it been anyone else, she might have been able to digest it a little more but the fact that it had come out of his mouth. The man she’d opened up to, literally – that would take some time to wrap her head around. Dawn was running her mouth in the back, profane words swirling around the room like a condensed spritz of Febreze. Her coping mechanism had been to go in defense mode and fight fire with fire. Julia was uncharacteristically quiet although as of late, everything was seemingly always a little out of character. Lorra tried to gather herself, although her frown was engraved deep in her facial traits, her nerves working hard to prevent tearing up. Julia spoke out, cutting Dawn’s angry rant,

“Lo, don’t beat yourself up. No one could’ve foreseen something like that. You only told one person. It’s not your fault he decided to tell everyone else.”

Dawn followed Julia’s reasoning, “She’s right. Even though what he did is fucked up and nasty, it’s not your fault. Relationships are about opening up and trusting and you went above and beyond.”

Although her friends were making plenty of sense in their attempt to exonerate her from revealing their identities to someone she thought she could trust, those very same things seemed foreign to her. If he could do something of the sort after such a minuscule argument, how could she even pretend or begin to believe this was someone worth trusting or opening up to? She swallowed her hurt, pride and ego, stammering as she said,

“Guys, I-I’m so sorry.” Mascara tears stained her cheeks.

Dawn approached her and wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulder.

“Lo, it’s okay. Come on, don’t cry. It’s not that big of a deal.”

Julia shook her head, also deceived. She thought she’d read Laurent so well. She wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if Larry had done this but it was just so out of character for Lau. Dawn got up,

“I’ll make us some tea.”

Julia smirked, “I have a better idea.”

Twenty-five minutes later, there was a subtle but audible knock on the door. Julia rushed to open and began a casual conversation with someone struggling to respond due to some language barrier. His voice sounded amiable and friendly. You could tell they knew each other fairly well. Julia’s roaring laughter rang through the doorway before she finally said goodbye to her friend. The girls looked at her in wonderment, surprised that she’d befriended someone and at the Ziploc bag containing two large blunts.

“Something you care to tell us?” Dawn asked, hands on her hips, attitude turned up high. They’d never experimented with drugs, not even the medicinal kind. At least never together. Dawn had gone through the occasional pothead phase during her senior year of high school. She’d indulge in a nice joint before exams or important tests to mellow out and actually focus on the questions instead of freaking out at their sight. The minute the university acceptance letters came rolling in the mail, she dropped the habit.

“I just thought we might need this right now,” A huge grin plastered on her face, she already looked high.

Dawn lowered her hands and pouted her lips exaggeratedly as if considering it.

“Fuck it, light that bitch.”

Julia moved to the island counter in the kitchen while Dawn looked in the cupboard for something to light it with.

“I have a lighter.”

Dawn raised an eyebrow, “Now, how occasional is this new habit of yours?”

“Snoop Dogg occasional.”

Dawn chuckled and mumbled something to the likes of, “Damn, Tokyo got us effed up.”

Lorra looked at her friends, glad for the welcome distraction from her thoughts and the glum moment. How distant had they all become if Julia was smoking weed and neither of them had suspected a thing? Had she been so obsessed with constant, menial considerations of Lau that she completely overlooked her friends? It certainly seemed that way which made the whole situation almost feel like a blessing in disguise. Perhaps this was the wake-up call she needed to get back on her A game.

As she arrived at the kitchen counter, Julia lit the second blunt and put the first one in rotation. She tried to emulate what her friends were doing, taking a loaded drag that filled and burned her throat, coming right back out harshly with hard coughing. Her eyes watered as she gasped for air, trying to force a passage in her esophagus. Julia patted her hand and Dawn rubbed her back.

“Take it in slowly, inhale then exhale. Let it out.”

Lo seized the blunt again with lubricated eyes and a sore throat and followed Julia’s instruction. Although it still felt harsh and brash, she could imagine the smoke blooming in her lungs like a blossoming flower, sifting through her organs in a whimsical way. That thought alone reassured her she was already high. Everything slowed down, to the point where it felt like the movement around the room was freakishly fast. Before she knew it, the joint was in front of her, being passed from the right, burning slowly at the mouth. She sucked greedily and sloppily, her senses overwhelming her logic. The taste of mildew and grass on her tongue, in her mouth and even on her lips – now numb and tingling with plumping energy. They felt huge on her face. Heavy lids, parting, smiling lips and radiant energy, she felt blissful but centered. She was here, standing and she could just picture how every nerve and vein and joint inside her body looked and functioned. The dim light in the corridor shone much more brightly, more vividly, as the amber and the yellow fused together, blending into the color of the lamp. Night lights, crazy lights, wild lights were all lights but all so beautiful. So euphorically tantalizing to look at. Even her skin felt hot, like a flaming torch, sensitive as the stillness of the room engaged her.

“I think she’s good.” Julia smiled in her direction.

“Yeah, I’m good,” She smiled, “Am I high?” She asked, surprised at the sound of her voice.

“When you ask whether you’re high,” Julia started, “You’re high!” Dawn said in unison, sending them all into a fit of ceaseless laughter.

Lorra laughed from the gut, her chest rising and falling rapidly trying to keep up, as her cheeks ached in tiredness of laughing so hard and so long. Yet she didn’t know what was so funny. Maybe it was her. Because Dawn and Julia kept pointing at her and rolling in laughter. Her skin was on fire, in fact it felt like all of Tokyo was on fire. If she was going to burn in Tokyo, Tokyo would burn with her. She closed her eyes and meditated on that thought and the calmness that ensued. She was Zen. In the midst of all it, she was okay. She would rise again.

***

An hour and a half later, they’d gone through 9 boxes of sushi between the three of them. Somehow, they’d managed to sober up enough to eat and catch up. Dawn filled Julia in about the full extent of Larry’s interaction with Tatiana and his attempted attack on Lo. Julia told them she’d been hanging out with a retired champion of Sumo Wrestling, just in case they needed back-up. And Lorra hadn’t been able to share as much as she would’ve liked since most of her stories were centered on Laurent. Fighting with him, sleeping with him, falling for me, telling him the truth and now wishing she’d never met him.

“So what do we do now?” she snapped out of reverie and asked, “They know who I am. That was our whole thing. How do we move on from that?”

“By grabbing this opportunity to come out. All cards on the table.” Julia answered. They both looked at her like there was some genius to her crazy idea. She continued, “Right now, they think we’re weak. Our secret is out. Revealing the rest of our identities is the best way to regain power and retrieve our limelight. And you’re wrong. Dancing was our whole thing. Maybe, there was some added interest because of the mystery but at the very core of everything we have accomplished is the fact that we can dance. We have talent. We know this and the world knows this.”

“She’s right. I like that idea. Let’s lay all the cards on the table. Do the interviews, answer the personal questions, and give them what they want.” Dawn added.

“How do we do this?” Lorra asked, wrapping her head around the idea.

“Right now.” Dawn interjected. “Let’s clean up and go to the after party.”

“But how are they going to know who we are?” Lorra continued her line of questioning.

“Have you seen you tonight? They’ll want to know who we are.”

“I’m in like Finn.” Julia said and they burst out laughing again, uncertain of the analogy.

***

“I think I’m going to head home. My head is spinning.” Lau finally said when the show was done. The set the DJ had played during the show gave him a throbbing headache although he could argue that wasn’t the main cause of it.

Deep down, Larry was frightened to be alone at this party. After what his brother had exposed, everyone would be on his ass, wanting to know more. But he also wasn’t gaining anything by going home prematurely. He didn’t just sit through some weird, supposedly artistic show just to go home and be alone with his ruinous thoughts. He needed something to occupy his mind.

“What are you going to do if you go home? Drive yourself crazy waiting for her to call and yell at you?” Larry instigated. He knew exactly how Lau felt. Despite trying to overcome his own feelings by disclosing Shao’s secret, he was hurt. And that hurt was rapidly evolving into guilt and remorse. The minute he was by himself, he’d inevitably break down.

“I don’t care about her.” Lau retorted rebelliously.

Larry got closer to make sure no one else would hear this, “Maybe you can lie to the press and to yourself but you can’t lie to me.”

Laurent looked his brother in the face, suddenly feeling angry at him. Not for what he’d just said but for something else even he wasn’t sure about. Somehow, he had a piercing intuition that Larry had done something. Looking right at him, he could see that something was wrong yet he couldn’t dig that far into his instinct to pinpoint what it was. Maybe his twin was right after all, maybe he was just angry at himself. That made more sense considering they were more or less alike.

“Just come, have a nice time, we’ll meet some people, some girls. I promise you you’ll feel much better than if you just go home by yourself.”

Lau didn’t take long to ponder on the idea. This was the escape from everything else he’d have to go home and face and it sounded pretty damn good.

They waited for the rows behind them to exit before beginning to make their way out. Surprisingly, no one approached them about The Last Emperors or anything of that sort. In fact, no one approached them at all which allowed them to get into the first available car and head to the after party. Lau gazed out of the window and observed the active nightlife. People crossing the streets in funky, creative and kooky outfits of all sorts. Vitality roiling above the city, trickling from the tallest buildings and skyscrapers, descending all the way to the ground where it took a life of its own and inhabited the population. It was such a lively city. Boisterous but quiet. Timid but bold. He continued looking at everything in passing and sight, admiring the synergy of the couples holding hands, laughing, talking, and walking together. He would never have this with her again. He missed her. He looked down and reverted back to his seat, focusing ahead, afraid yet anxious to check his phone, to see the extent of the damage. But he didn’t, he looked straight ahead as the driver cruised the city streets of Tokyo.

***

The carpet was black, the fashion was hot, the crowd was hotter and the night was young. A huge graffiti sign was put up on the side of the adjacent building in honor of the bustling annual event. Huge eclectic colors supported the backgrounds as the words “Night Crawlers” sprawled out from the embedding.  The media here was much more glamorous and tenured as they gracefully welcomed and complimented the incoming wave of upscale people, celebrities and associated acts and commoners. Known fashion bloggers were a dime a dozen, waiting for anyone to inquire about their online fame just so they could boast their extensive resume or exclusive rolodex. Mercedes-Benz and Louis Vuitton logos were imprinted on the black Persian carpet backdrop, standing out as the principal sponsors. Expensive labels, jewels and cars were all present as the attendees took turns showcasing their wealth in all of its materialistic glory. Tokyo’s Night Out event was looking more like Tokyo’s Richest and Sleaziest.

Laurent and Larry arrived a while ago before the other “one percent”, having done a good job of integrating themselves in the crowd briefly before entering the building. They paired well together, one looking morose and angelic, the other dark and sleek. Larry jumped right into the social scene which was so unlike him but it was the only other option besides spending the night next to a pensive and brooding Laurent. Lau tagged along, listening, watching, nodding, and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Deep down in his gut, the remorse churned sharply with the two glasses of champagne he’d downed to calm his nerves. He was on edge, catching everything that moved, looking for a familiar face, using the full extent of his sight, expecting for someone to appear in his side vision. But the night seemed to be going smoothly so far. Everything was simply copacetic. If only he hadn’t opened his big mouth. If only he had taken the higher road, he would have been able to relax and enjoy the wonderful night ahead.

***

Dawn, Julia and Lorra stepped onto the carpet looking like three million bucks. Dawn had managed to pull every single visible strand of hair into her glossy, impenetrable, rigid and high-fashion bun topping it off with huge J-Lo hoop earrings. Her makeup was simple, shimmery and finished with a high sheen and pigmented lipstick. Julia had also kept it fairly simple, embracing her tom-boy nature in loose beach waves to dress up a low cut jersey dress. Lorra stood out like a modern Marilyn in the body-hugging dress, the red pouty lips, the light gold glitter dusted on her cheekbones. They’d kept her make-up the same and just cleaned up the mascara streaks and augmented the fabulosity. Lens zoomed in on her, captured her outfit, hair, makeup and shoes from all kinds of angles, wondering what famous celebrity’s girlfriend that was. Dawn made sure to add more than she would usually because she knew the frenzy they were about to cause and luckily, being photogenic was one thing they wouldn’t have to worry about.

The paps asked who she was, who she was with, what she was wearing, if she was modeling. Lorra stood taller, sucked in her tummy a little tighter and arched her back a little further. Standing in her best pose, she released a beautiful, enthralling smile, looking at the crowd with longing, seductive eyes before stating clearly, confidently and proudly,

“I am Lorra Bernal. I am Shao Mein. We are The Last Emperors.”

Bulbs flashed furiously, trying to capture all three of them as they grinned and posed for the camera. Let it be known that strong women exist, and they exist in us, thought Lorra as she blinked gracefully, ready for her real close up.

The Last Emperors. (Chapter Twenty One)

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The Last Emperors.

Chapter Twenty One: I still love you, Lorra Bernal.

By Jolie Adam

Lau stormed off to Larry’s apartment. The last time, he’d rushed over in such a state was over three weeks ago, after finding out Lorra was actually Shao Mein and feeling the immediate need to share that secret with his brother. Now, it was a little more urgent and a more maddening stressor was hanging over his attitude and demeanor with a huge and insensible question mark. It was a delicate situation but he was feeling rogue and lacked the patience to address it accordingly. He knocked on the door like a mad soldier returning from war with the suspicion that his wife was shacking up with his best friend during his absence. The loud pounding surprised him, he hadn’t meant to be so aggressive but his heart was beating so loud that his sense of hearing felt misleading. The wait did nothing to lessen his violent energy. Why did he feel so passionate about questioning Larry if he was convinced Lorra was obviously stretching the truth, if not flat out lying? After nearly 25 years of coexistence, he would know, better than anyone else that his twin was many things but not a rapist. In the last ten years, even before they’d both catapulted to fame, his brother had always been fortunate with women. He’d never had to exercise any extreme time or effort or even devotion to seek and obtain any girl or woman he pleased. He had a charm that women were very susceptible to and received very well. Often on their backs, in various positions of his choosing. So it was just complete drivel what this girl was saying. It must be. Yet his thoughts unravel and his good faith wavering as he stood there, fists clenched and palms clammy. It did nothing but cultivate his fury as he struggled to believe his own resolved paradox. He need verbal clarification and confirmation. Facts, details, anything to assuage the unsettled and frantic stage he was in. Larry yelled on the other side of the door. The great divider standing between the two brothers, between fact and fiction, between disappointment and heartbreak.

“Coming!”

Larry opened the door, his lower body draped loosely with a thick maroon towel, sporting house slippers, hair drenched in post-shower mist and dripping all over the luxury vinyl flooring.

“What’s up? You running from someone?” Larry joked. At least one of them was in a good mood.

“We need to talk.” Even though the words were coming out of his own brother’s mouth instead of a date, the statement and tone was bitter and unpleasant nonetheless.

“About what?” Larry suddenly brought his guard up, his defense higher than the sun, his imaginary armor thick and polished, ready for battle.

Laurent thought he’d have enough time between Lorra’s place and Larry’s apartment to find a suitable way to ask what he was dying to ask but there weren’t enough polite words or impressive mannerisms in the world to confiscate the fact that it was bad decorum to place such a heavy allegation on anyone, much less your own brother, your twin brother.

He held his breath, “Lorra said you tried to rape her?” The last words came out in a manner of both disbelief and uncertainty.

Larry almost lost grip of his towel in astonishment. A large tremor crept up his torso, like a cold water drop transitioning into frigid ice right along the length of his chest. His skin felt uncomfortable and thin as if it was stretching over him at the speed of light, causing him large discomfort and fidget.

Looking at his brother’s motionless reaction, Laurent briefly contemplated what he’d say or do if this crazy accusation was true. What if his own twin had attempted to rape his girlfriend? He rewound his thoughts in the midst of an internal circus of uneasiness and assessed the fact that he’d just thought of Lorra as his girlfriend. If that was the case, she was obviously now his ex-girlfriend. Larry’s voice divorced him from his irrelevant distraction and objected assertively,

“Bro, she tried to kiss me!” The minute the lie came out of his mouth, he knew he had done something terrible. Lau’s face dropped. He knew his brother well. That was a look of disappointment and despair. Larry knew his twin cared for this girl. The determined anger in his eyes and body language when he’d walked in expressed just how much he cared. Sadly, just like rape, it was one of those things that once you threw out, it was extremely hard to retrieve without any scathe, wrath or damage. It was said therefore it was done.

“She wouldn’t do that,” Lau said in an inexact air, waiting for his brother to assure him he’d heard wrong.

“And you think I would rape her? Don’t you know me better than that?” Larry was tagging him. His tactile question was meant to tear his brother, to pressure him to choose sides, to divide and conquer. And it worked.

Lau shook his head, reeling from it all. His emotions were on a sloppy seesaw, escalating in fury against his sibling to just feeling downcast about his romantic luck. This was the first girl he’d liked in a long time but there was too much drama accompanying this relationship. Finding out she was his dance enemy. Having to swallow his pride and ego to accept that fact and still want her the way he’d wanted her before her alter ego and secret identity surfaced. Being contractual colleagues under the same multi-media enterprise. And now this gargantuan admission from both her and his brother. A part of him believed her because he just couldn’t imagine her having the malice to create such a destructible lie. But another part of him knew to whom his loyalty was owed, before everything and everyone else.

Larry having dug himself into a hole, grabbed a shovel and kept digging although he was already hitting the core of the earth. Just like his attitude regarding the whole indiscretion with Tatiana, he figured if he kept forging his way to an alternate truth that even he could believe, everyone else would to.  The only alternative was to face his reality, his irrevocable mistakes and that was too morally austere for him to even consider. Without his brother inquiring and pressing for details, his oral conviction was free and loose-lipped,

“She followed me into the library. I had just gotten away from an argument with Dawn and Lorra tried to comfort me. One minute, we were talking about how weird Dawn has been acting lately and the next, she kisses me. She’s a very pretty girl and all but out of respect for you, I told her she probably shouldn’t have done that.” Larry didn’t even recognize his voice anymore. It was his first time hearing that story but Larry looked as apologetic as he sounded. In contrast, Lau looked as if he’d just been plucked of every last ounce of good fortune. It may have been blue skies and bright sun outside but just over his head hung a dark, cloistering cloud. He wanted to hear none of it but he also wanted to hear more, every little bit. Anything to get him to see the truth for what it was and not what he kept hoping it might be.

***

 

“This what you need to do. You need to apologize to him silently.”

Lorra looked up from the magazine spread she was gazing at and eyed Dawn. Her friend had finally managed to secure every strand of hair into a tight, high bun and was now working slowly on a dramatic cat eye. Even with half her make-up done, Dawn looked sophisticated and full of grace. She waved her eye liner brush as she spoke,

“You need to dress up, show up somewhere you know he’ll be but act like you didn’t know. Casually bump into him or walk over and say hello. Like nothing happened. He’s going to be so confused. He won’t know whether to be stay mad at you or take you home. If he’s as smart as I think he is, it’ll be the latter. Give him some good break-up sex. Make it so good, he’ll want to get back together and have make-up sex.” She turned to face the mirror and finish her cat-eye.

As much as Lorra wanted to protest and pretend she wasn’t on board with the plan, the sheer thought of having sex with Laurent was enough to convince her. If he couldn’t resist her this morning with bed hair and without a trace of make-up, he’ll be hailing a cab the minute he saw her. Without any resistance, she said excitedly,

“Make me over. I think I know where he’ll be tonight.”

“You know I love a good make-over. Let me call Julia and let her know we’re on a mission tonight!”

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” They looked at each other and grinned.

“Tokyo Fashion Week!”

***

A small distance away, in the same part of town, Larry had finished doing damage control and paying the dutiful role of cheerleader. Ironically, he was also to blame for Laurent’s sour mood. After some passionate persuasion, Lau relented to his brother’s pleading to make an appearance at the L’Oreal booth for Tokyo Fashion Week. Shori Enterprises were working hard to get the twins a commercial deal with the beauty giant and hearing all the names that would be present tonight, an appearance was exactly what they needed to remind everyone just how marketable they were.

“I don’t want to see her.” Lau said adamantly.

“After what you told me you said to her this morning, I don’t think she’ll be showing her face anywhere. Don’t worry about that.” Larry convinced himself it was probably for the best. Now that Dawn had broken things off with him and Lau severed ties with Lorra, they could finally be a unit again. They could focus on what they came here to achieve and get back on track with their work. Although sad for a brief moment for what he had done, Larry suddenly began to look at the bright side. He’d just reclaimed his partner in crime. Girls would come and go but their brotherhood was forever.

***

Les twins arrived fairly early to make an appearance and to catch the Gwen Stefani performance before the three designer runway shows scheduled for the evening started. Lau was dressed in a black Balmain shirt with spikes lining the shoulder pads, black pleather pants and matte black sneakers. Larry wore the complete opposite in color contrast, looking heavenly in white. A white printed shirt, white distressed jeans adorned with a black and beige cap at the waist looped into the belt and tan sneakers. They complemented each other well, the way they were reputed to. Flashing bulbs went off within close proximity of their physical space as the photogs captured their style. Lau’s impassive expression added to the allure of the all-black ensemble, making him appear taller and sleeker. Within seconds, they were bombarded with red carpet questions ranging on a charged spectrum of superficial to intimate. Lau felt rebellious, like a lost rock n’ roll icon, seeking some sort of release through this congested area of media incest.

What brings you out tonight?

Lau: We just want to have fun and be around good people. We love Japan and we love fashion so what better place to be tonight than here?

What do you make of the allegations and rumours Tokyo Girl keeps dishing at and about you?

Larry: Nothing but free publicity.

And The Last Emperors – now that the two groups have kissed and made up, do you think they’ll reveal themselves to you anytime soon?

Larry looks at Lau who doesn’t return the glare. Lau responds, “They already have.”

The small assembly of reporters form a cluster of thrusting microphones and recording machines into the air as the entire spot seems to quieten. Suddenly, all this hype didn’t seem so glamorous to Lau anymore. It felt forced, fake, insincere, and vapid and he was quickly searching for a way to spice it up and enjoy the momentum. He didn’t have to look too far because all it took was the wrong question at the right time.

“Larry, Larry do you know who Shao Mein is?”

Larry smiles boyishly to hide his discomfort. He always assumed he’d be the one to tell but being there, in the spotlight, with an impatient crowd of journalists eagerly waiting for a response just put him off. He didn’t have the guts to do it but he heard a familiar voice buoyantly announcing,

“Yeah and she’s even better in bed than she is on stage.”

Gasps. Coughs. Uncomfortable silence and frantic, shuffling background noise. Everyone shuffling to get closer, to record the scandalous disclosure, to report the news first and leak the news live.

SHE?? Are you saying that Shao Mein is actually a girl?”

Larry was actually holding his breath, watching this all unravel with the knowing dread that this was all his doing. Even if he wasn’t the one directly announcing the news, his lie pushed his brother to do this. Lau would’ve never been this spiteful without good reason.

Laurent shrugged coyly, shaking a curl off his face, in an attempt to recreate his own, humorous version of the Kanye shrug. Before exiting, he offered his best smile – his only smile of the night so far, beautiful and gleaming, in all his charming glory and said with a sadistic and knowing chuckle,

“I still love you, Lorra Bernal.”

And just like that, the entire scene catapulted to a complete monsoon of urgent public media delivery. Pens shuffled and scribbled the name across notepads, thumbs swiped and pressed their successive touchscreens to alert their work stations, their media blogger or online journalist and even possibly Tokyo Girl.

The name was out and soon enough the whole dance world would know all about Lorra Bernal.

***

Julia arrived wearing boyfriend jeans and fitted tee. She looked casual, the opposite of what Dawn had told her to aim for. She’d been at home, eating Japanese sweets and watching sumo wrestling when Dawn called, giddy and hyper about some event they could all attend. For a minute, she let the enthusiasm and excitement be contagious as it should be and reveled in the chance to dress up and go out with her girls. Alas, the frivolous moment of joy was short-lived when she received the latest exclusive from TG. Her heart sank and she somehow knew this was going to be worse than anything else that had been posted so far about TLE. She’d unsubscribed of the notifications from Tokyo Girl but opted to stay posted for news regarding their group. Just to stay abreast of senseless slander regarding them, she figured. But as her gaze traced the words on the update, she knew tonight wasn’t going the way anyone had hoped. In fact, after tonight, it may never be the same.

TOKYO NEWS

The reigning dance group Les Twins used their spotlight and small celebrity power to finally reveal the iron-clad, navy-seal protected identity of their rivals The Last Emperors.

In a candid response to an invading journalist at tonight’s fashion week event Tokyo’s Night Out, Laurent, otherwise known as the pristine twin disclosed the name of Shao Mein, the lead of The Last Emperors, differentiated by the rest of the group by the signature red hoodie.

In a twist to seal the shocking exposé, Laurent also implied that he was seeing – or rather sleeping with the lead member of the opposing group, placing a huge emphasis on the past tense of the verb.

Dear lovelies,

Your two favorite teams have been bumping uglies. What better way to start a Sunday than to wake up to an exclusive from the paper? I wanted to be the one to tell, but oh well.

Secrets are overrated and soon enough, we’ll all know enough truth to taint every carpet scarlet with shame.

XO TokyoGirl.

***

Dawn finished the last touches on Lorra’s make-up. Looking straight into the mirror as she was being transformed, even she had to admit she looked phenomenal. There was no way Laurent would be able to keep his hands off her tonight. Maybe somewhere between the first and third round of steamy sex she was daydreaming about, she could mutter an apology. A sincere excuse for her outburst this morning. Even if Larry had crossed a line, she had really gone about things in such a juvenile way. Her words had been meant to jab but ended up stabbing and leaving open wounds. It was now her responsibility to nurture and heal them. And what’s better than sexual healing. She grinned at her reflection. Even the energy in the room felt different, monumental even. Like something great was going to happen. Or perhaps it was just her inflated ego trying to stay afloat. She eyed the décolletage on the vibrant red maxi dress she had on. Suddenly, she could hardly wait to get there and show off. To see Laurent’s reaction and just bask in the knowledge that he was going to eat out of the palm of her hands once he finally saw her. He’d seen her dressed up before, heck he’d even seen her in costume but he’d never seen her like this. She’d never even seen herself like this. The anticipation was thrilling.

A quiet knock sounded against the door which both girls ignored. It wasn’t until Julia knocked again that they realized they’d actually heard right the first time. Lorra squirmed nervously in the tall armchair, hoping Julia would’ve also forgotten this morning’s interaction. They were all due for a fun, drama-free night.

“What are you wearing? Did you bring a change of clothes?” Dawn asked worriedly.

Julia bit her lip, not having a comeback for once. “Dawn, I think we should lay low for a while.”

Without much understanding, Dawn continued, “What are you talking about? We made plans to go out. You were down when I spoke to you so what’s up now? And once again, please tell me you have a dress under that outfit.” She motioned her finger up and down to express her disapproval.

“I know we said we weren’t going to feed into this Tokyo girl bullshit and hype but you have to see this.” She held her phone up and turned the screen brightness up. Lorra looked at them, wanting to teleport herself in their intimate circle to see what Dawn was reading. She felt too far, too little, too weak to get up and see what else could’ve possibly been posted within half a day. But watching Dawn’s expression change told her what she needed to know. It was big, it was real and it was bad.

TLE Update

Hello,

First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for the huge delay in updating/posting TLE Chapters. I have been busy adapting to an abundance of life changes (all good :), losing a draft of a new chapter and also struggling to rewrite/continue composing this story as it was initially meant to be a short story that got prolonged.

Nevertheless, I refuse to quit the story so there will be a new chapter soon. There should be 3-5 chapters to the finale and once the new chapter is up, updates will be fairly frequent (bi-weekly or weekly)

Thanks for your continued support and readership. Sending you all a wealth of radiant energy! ;)

Jo