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.
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.