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.
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.
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.
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.
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.