The Last Emperors.
Chapter Twenty : Tokyo Girl
By Jolie Adam
Dawn came out of the shower, hair wet, tangled and undone. She grabbed the large toothed comb and brushed her wild tresses gently and even slower on the knotted ends. Even without makeup, her skin still glowed like an Amazonian goddess covered in nature’s finest oils. The last few weeks had been bizarre and very reclusive, especially on her part. Having individual apartments gave the girls a sense of freedom and independence at first but now she could see it causing a drift. Had they been still within a compact living arrangement, the girls would’ve bothered and questioned her until she broke down and admitted what was on her mind. And boy, did she have a lot on her mind lately! In fact, she thought, I could use some relief. All this damn tension. She glazed over her sinewy body, admiring the toned and taunt curves and musculature. She looked better than ever, even she could see that. So why the hell was she here in a gorgeous condo in Tokyo all alone? With no girlfriends and no man. Not even a boy toy in sight to call for a quick session.
“What the hell?” she sighed deeply, talking to herself in the mirror. “Let me call my girls and hit a movie or something.” She remembered the first time they’d gone to a Japanese movie theatre. It was right at the beginning of their trip when the boys and the trio got along and they all still liked each other enough to go out together. The five of them sat and giggled throughout the entire film like a bunch of uncultured, stoned and ignorant foreigners. Julia would make a few inappropriate jokes and they would all crack up in joyful laughter. Either at the same time or following the rib-tickling effect of one other like a pack of uncoordinated dominos. By the end of the film, they were five pounds lighter in spirit and all had sore abs and cheeks. Wistfully, she wished things could be that simple again. When she and Larry would soil countless public and private facilities, surfaces, establishments. A quick flashback of a time he fucked her right against her large living room window for all of Tokyo to see trailed in her mind, making her look back briefly at the spot as if the imprint of her full breasts or the smudge of her cherry lip balm would still be there. It wasn’t so much that Larry was a good lover as much as he was a delectable dirty talker. That man used to say things that could make a room full of porno stars blush. She dialled the numbers, listening as it rang without an answer.
You’ve reached the voicemail of “LORRA”, please leave a message after the tone.
Dawn exhaled in disappointment and was just about to speak when someone buzzed her place.
“Hey gorgeous, I was hoping we could hang out today, do something fun. Just the three of us. Someone’s at the door. Call me back. Bye!”
She stomped to the door to accept the buzz hoping it wasn’t another unsolicited delivery. Ever since she’d faced Larry at the party, she’d received white roses from a secret admirer. There was no card, no indication of the mystery flower bearer. She neatly fixed her hair into a quick high bun, just in case it was the cute delivery guy. He’d winked at her last time and considering how frisky she was currently feeling, it was only a matter of restraint. Or lack thereof.
There was a knock and she hurried to answer promptly.
“Oh hey! You’re not the cute delivery guy but you’ll do,” she chirped with amusement. “I just left you a voicemail. Glad you’re here because I am not spending this beautiful day inside.” She had turned her back to Lorra as she walked away from the door, into the apartment.
“I’m not here to chill. I have a bone to pick with you,” Lorra’s voice was calm, a little too sturdy, almost monotone range. Dawn turned around, facing her friend, finally noticing the stressed traits on her face. Her heart dropped to her stomach and her sense of gravity wavered slightly. In their two years of friendship and living together, she’d never seen Lo look so bothered or upset. That realization upset her almost immediately as she figured the root of her problem mustn’t be good.
“W—what’s up? You’re scaring me, Lo.”
“I’m going to ask you this once and you think very carefully before you answer.”
“Okay,” she tried to level her voice, knowing that it would either come out high-pitched due to nerves or not at all. The last thing she wanted was to go mute when Lorra obviously had something of great importance to ask.
“Are you Tokyo Girl?” The question was clear and concise, sharp enough to slice the dense air still hanging from Dawn’s hot shower. It was a sword stab to the heart.
“What?” Dawn rebuked as if it were a joke. Rather than repeat the question which she was certain Dawn had heard plainly, Lorra held her upset reaction with a piercing, almost stoic regard.
“Of course not. Why would you even think that?”
As if perfectly rehearsed, Lo launched into all of the reasons she presumed her friend to be the infamous malicious blogger, “Have you taken a look at your attitude recently? You’re withdrawn and private. You broke things off with Larry for no reason, in a rather bipolar fashion if I may add. You seem to know about everything going on with us but don’t let us into your head. You mope around when we’re not dancing. I don’t even recognize you anymore.”
“And that makes me Tokyo girl?!” she scoffed with undetermined and sarcastic conviction.
“Alright. Why did you break things off with Larry?” Lorra spit back at her, looking for loopholes. Deep down, she was desperately hoping her best friend wasn’t some vicious, unfactual blogger.
“Listen, you’re not going to come over to MY place and FORCE ME to tell you about MY private life?” Dawn stood, chest high and head held even higher. She wasn’t about to permit abasement in her own space, regardless of who it was.
“I’m not holding a gun to your head, just asking you a simple question. If it’s not as big a deal as you try to make it seem, why don’t you just tell me?”
Once Lorra had changed her tone to one of docile persuasion, Dawn let her guard down.
“I don’t want you to think badly of him, Lo. That’s why I haven’t told you the truth.”
Too late, Lo thought. Once they were back on good terms, she figured she’d have to tell Dawn about the library incident.
“I don’t care about him. I care you about you. We’re more than friends. He’s just a guy – here today, gone yesterday.” Lo replied compellingly. Her friend released a girlish chuckle before resuming her serious expression.
“He slept with Tatiana,” Lo’s eyes sank into her skull in disbelief. “He took her virginity while she was still underage.” Dawn finished. Lo suddenly felt hot, abnormally palpitating heart beart, clammy palms, she ran her fingers through her hair. Even her scalp felt damp but it was only a matter of occupying her hands. She thought Larry trying to rape her was despicable but this was worse. This could get Laurent fired. And for the first time, she found herself putting someone first. Hoping the best for him. For a long moment, she forgot the main reason she’d come over. Everything else beyond and beneath this recent revelation lacked importance.
“Ho—How do you know this?” She finally managed to articulate.
“Poor girl told me at her birthday party. After Lau rejected her, she had a little breakdown. So she told me a secret. And I told her a secret, just to even it out.”
“What did you tell her?” Lo asked, genuinely curious and slightly worried.
“Nothing. I just took off my mask.”
“Oh my god. What is Tokyo doing to us? I knew this contract was too good to be true!” Lo banged her head on the wall. This whole journey needed an exorcism with all of these personal and public excavations and discoveries. It was too much in too little time. Like a rolling ball with drama painted all over.
“The girl told me her deepest secret. I just couldn’t leave her hanging with a Kleenex and pat on the back. Trust me Lo, she was devastated. It was some hot mess. Apparently, she’s in love with Laurent,” Lo rolled her eyes at the fact that a barely legal teen is making confessions about love. Does she even know how to spell it? “And Larry, being the snake he is, took advantage of that. She really believed if she could have one, she could have the other but found out the hard way that it don’t work that way.” Dawn was back in her element. Now that the accusation dithered in the friendly atmosphere, she could go back to being herself and gossiping with her girl.
Finding out that Lau turned down Tatiana when his brother couldn’t reinforced her bittersweet feeling, the one nagging her even before their fight this morning. She had gotten more involved in their relationship than she cared to admit.
“Wait. You broke things off with him BEFORE the party.” Lo recalled as she and Lau were also not talking at that time. I guess not much has changed since.
“I had an intuition. Besides, it was never that serious. Just good sex.”
“Obviously not JUST good sex,” Lo said, pointing at the two overflowing vases full of white and red roses.
“Now that I know what I know, I’m not even entertaining the idea…not even for a good old time sake booty call.”
Lo smiled. No, nothing much had changed after all.
“Did you read that bitch’s last post?” She asked, hoping to change the subject.
“I don’t read garbage. How do we even know it’s a girl? For all we know, she could be tricking us all. I mean HE! We managed to trick the world. Maybe it’s karma.”
Now that they were at a much better place than they’d been since their first few days in the city, Lorra didn’t want to spoil that by disclosing what happened with Larry. He had enough troubles and now that her friend wasn’t even remotely interested in getting back with him, there was no point rooting for a lost cause.
“I owe Lau an apology,” she blurted out to no one in particular.
“No shame, girl. I’m on a couple of hit lists too.”
“I should’ve known he didn’t do anything. I just figured he’s a guy and that’s what guys do. Is that a stupid way to rationalize things or what?” Lo pouted.
“Yes and no. Guys are like that – hence Larry. But not every guy – not Laurent. You got the right twin,” she smirked. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. When’s the last time you were in a relationship with a guy and not your career?”
“Since he came around last time you guys fought, after you told him the truth — which you have to command him for, perhaps you could make the move this time and admit you were wrong.”
Lo slumped her shoulders, skewing her posture.
“There’s something else.” She bit her bottom lip, hesitant to disclose the secondary reason behind her argument with Lau. How could she explain this delicately? Dawn raised her eyebrows in impatience.
“At the party…I walked off to check out the house and ended in the library. Larry was there and he tried to –”
“Aw HELL NO. This nigga has no fucking boundaries or class. That’s borderline disrespectful to me.” Like an intrepid flame finally catching the root of its blaze, Dawn was inflamed with disgust, anger and deep down, a hint of jealousy. She was already turned off once she’d found about the way he manipulated Tatiana but now, she was just repulsed.
“In his defense, I think he was trying to physically claw out his feelings for you.”
“There is no defense or excuse, Lo. Come on, he was with me and then he tried his luck with you. My best friend. His brother’s girl!” she was shouting, “He’s a scumbag.”
Lo nodded inadvertently. It was only once she was doing so that she realized she couldn’t hide her own antipathy to the incident.
“Wait – did you tell Laurent?”
“I wasn’t going to. But once we allegations were being flung, I sort of blurted it out. I just got nervous. Tokyo Girl has all this Intel on me that I knew if I didn’t tell him right then and there, she would put her own twist to it and he’d find it eventually in a much fictional version. And then of course, things escalated because I didn’t tell him, he didn’t tell me about Tatiana either, Julia wasn’t helping anything – as usual. Pretty much skidded downhill from there.”
“Julia was there?” Dawn frowned. She was always the last to find things out these days.
“Yeah, Lau invited her for breakfast.” She rubbed her forehead nervously. “You should’ve seen him, Dawn. With his shrunken fro and his white tank, cooking breakfast, I felt like such a lucky girl.” Lo said lowly as if reciting a daydream.
“Aw shit. You’re falling.”
Lo snapped out of her reverie and held on to the couch as if jolting from mid-sleep.
“I meant in love, not from your seat.” She shook her head. Her friend was hopeless.
Lo snorted on purpose to animate the extent to which she thought Dawn was exaggerating and deluding them both. “I am not in love. I’m in love with dance. I’m in love with the commitment I made – we made to this group. I’m in love with our success.” Before she knew it, her short denial turned into a long preach, trying to convince Dawn that her observation was unfounded and ludicrous.
They sat in silence as Dawn returned to the hallway mirror to fix her bun and tame the small fly-aways with some hair wax. The apartment seemed slightly larger to Lorra but it was most likely due to the difference in layout and floor plan. The living room windows were much larger too, welcoming a vast amount of natural daylight. Questions rummaged through her mind as her heart rate grew louder in her ears. It sounded like her heart was beating right in the middle of her ears rather than in her chest. Her nerves were raging like she’d had espresso shots injected directly into her veins. Out the window, she glared to avoid returning to the previous topic. Unmoving clouds, still horizon, fixed skyline, frozen picture. It appeared even the sky didn’t want to spread until she addressed her concerns.
She cleared her throat a little louder than expected.
“What if I was in love with him?”
“You would know.” Dawn finally stopped pretending to fix her untameable baby hairs and returned her attention gaily to something she knew deserved to be discussed in more detail.
“Do you think about him right when you wake up?”
Lo hardly had to think about the genuine answer, “Yes.”
“Do you fantasize about him when you go to bed?”
“Yeah. But I think about dance too.”
Dawn rolled her eyes at the fact that her dearest friend was completely and obliviously in love and still felt the need to justify her own private thoughts.
“If tomorrow, our contract was renewed for everything we’ve ever wanted – everything YOU’ve ever wanted and Laurent asked you to take a year off with him. Just the two of you, living someone exotic, figuring out what it could be. What would you do?”
Lo stiffed. “You can’t ask me that.”
“Why not? It’s a simple question.”
“No, it’s not. It’s not just about me. There is no group without me so while I’m off living out some cheesy, probably clichéd romantic fantasy, what are you two going to do? So no, I wouldn’t do that to you.” She was steaming. How did a supposedly simple question have her whirling into a defense mechanism?
“Listen, it was a hypothetical scenario. But if you can’t even answer that then you’re even more in love with him than I thought or you don’t love him at all. I didn’t say anything about the group. I asked you what YOU would do. It’s really not that hard so no need to get all huffed up about it like I just asked you to have a three-way with him and Larry.”
“Well, I can’t answer that.” She exhaled. Why were her emotions so hard to reach and control? Everything in her body seem to be determined to wreak havoc on her sanity in response to a mere thought about Lau. It was infuriating. It wasn’t fair or fun to be this powerless.
“I love you and Julia and what the three of us have together. But I would never pass up on love for anything. Not even dance.” She stated boldly, unapologetically, fiercely. Chin up, head high, chest risen. Every inch the strong black queen Lorra remembered her to be.
“Aren’t you in love though, Dawn? Isn’t that why you can’t commit to anyone?”
Just as quickly, Dawn deflated like a bloated vessel and rebutted quickly,
“This isn’t about me. Just answer this,” She posed the question in a logical and simplistic manner. “When you read about the blast from Tokyo Girl, what’s the first thing that came to mind?”
“I can’t let Lau read this!” Just as she blurted it out, she understood the underlying principle and determining purpose of the question. She didn’t think about her reputation, the group or anything else. Lau was front and center in her worries and concerns. His reaction, his opinion, his judgment. He’d feel betrayed that she’d uncovered and released something he’d shared just with her. Especially since she gathered most of his built trust and comfort around her was due to the fact that she was just as private as him – even more so because of her duple identity. He found solace in the privilege and sanctimony of their privacy. And now, someone out there, had replicated it in their own words and format and was potentially about to jeopardize that. In that real moment, shared with a real answer to a real scenario of a very real problem and not an unrealistic set-up as an option to the sequel of Desert Island, she realized what Dawn meant. She comprehended that selflessness, that will to put someone else’s feelings first, to think of them fondly even in times when they’ve hurt you. Lorra always figured love was something you fell into but in her case, it was simply something she grasped. Sensically, sensually, intimately, intrinsically.