#25

Creative Writing Per. 4

"Dialogue"

3rd Draft (final)

"Mirrored View"

            "You know, I've been thinking…" Kimijin stated slowly, absentmindedly strumming the spider strings of his Lavender electric bass, "We don't have any morbid songs, like about rape and stuff. That's what's popular right now in the Visual Rock business."

            "Only 'cause of Dir en Grey," Rouge mumbled from across the room where he was writing a script for soft-core pornography. Kimijin turned and glared at him viciously.

            "I thought we agreed to a more symbolic mode of writing," I began, straightening up my green blouse as I spoke, "Like Malice Mizer or X, we don't want our music to end up like Glam-rock, you know."

            "Illuminati and Desperate Angel," Kimijin met my gaze, "Even tasteful bands like X write grim lyrics."

            "Don't you know English? Desperate Angel was just about having sex, it never went beyond that." Ruse countered from where he was painting the words 'Shimmer:Shine' on his bass drum.

            "Did Yoshiki tell you that when he f---ed you?" Kimijin crossed his legs, scorning at Ruse as the younger boy turned luscious apple red and went back to covering the letter 'S' with silver glitter.

            "Hey, hey! Guys, that's enough!" I set aside the book I had been studying and stood up from my tattered arm chair, "We're going to be friends in this, okay? So Kimijin has a new idea, maybe we could put out a symbolically morbid song for the hell of it." I turned to Kimijin sharply, "You up to writing it?" he nodded, "Then we'll give it a try."

           Sitting down, I tore open the college English textbook to the fourth chapter once more, but Rouge cut my thinking off, "Hey, Ciël…" I looked up at met his red contact lenses with my yellowish ones, "You ever think people react strangely to a trannie as the lead singer? Maybe you could try dressing like a man for awhile, see how it affects the fans."

            "And lose our shock value?" I asked incredulously, attempting to hide my over-blown anger at the prospect, "No, hell no! Visual Bands with drag queens are the ones who make it."

            "He's right, you know." Ruse piped up to my defense, "Malice Mizer, Due le Quartz, even Dir en Grey all have queens in 'em."

            "And X had Yoshiki femmed up in the early days." I finished Ruse's train of thought where he was afraid to tread.

            "Look, I just meant that—." Rouge paused shortly, tapping his angled chin with a tapered index finger, "We could doll up someone else…"

            "NO!" Kimijin stood up from where he had been sitting on the floor to silence Rouge, "Ciël is our pretty boy, he stays the same!"

            "'Asides, it adds originality." Ruse smiled at me as he put the finishing touches on his painting.

            As Rouge quieted I fast took the opportunity to continue studying. For a long moment the only sounds in the room were from Ruse cleaning his tsumi brushes and Kimijin insistently tuning his stubborn bass. Rouge sat quietly fiddling with his fingers. After a short while I couldn't even stand the suffocating lack of speech.

            "Okay, okay, Guys…" I closed the book, marking my place with an old guitar pick, " We have a gig on Tuesday. That's—Three days."

            "Is the b---h saying we need practice?" Rouge muttered under his breath.

            "Dude, Rouge! What the hell is your problem today?" Kimijin gently set his treasured instrument in its velvet-lined case.

            "He's just stressing, we all are, Kimi." I smiled sickeningly sweet, "This is our biggest show EVER. We're performing at Club Gio, for God's sake. Just give him a little leeway."

            "You're gonna let him treat you like that? You're the leader AND the front-man!" Kimijin fumed, clenching a silver 'Café le Psyence' guitar pick in one tight fist.

            Quite suddenly Ruse broke out into a MASSIVE drum roll from across the room, pounding out the entering rhythm for our signature song. His face was reddening around the edges, a sheen of sweat forming through his plain white t-shirt. His eyes were clenched shut with effort. I smiled to myself. 

            "Hey, f--- you!" I sang out, standing up once more from the puce-coloured chair once again. Rouge began playing his guitar, closely followed by Kimijin's bass. Together they echoed, "No, don't talk!"

* * *

            Shimmer:Shine, that is our band, formed about two years ago when I met Ruse at a Zigzo concert. He had reached the midpoint of his fifth Asahi by the time I got to him, drowning out the pain with booze and loud music. Perhaps I felt his pain right then, watching him leaning against that damp counter to count the bar nuts.

            Ruse was a mentally abused shut-in hailing from some gentle suburbia on Kyushu. We shared life stories as Zigzo finished up their set. At four years old he had begun learning how to play the piano at his father's beckoning. Dearest daddy used to keep time by smacking the back of his head with a rice paddle. At twelve years old Ruse gathered up three years of saved and stolen money and boarded the early train to Shinjuku.

            In the big city he moved in with a twenty year-old man and worked as a whore to pay the hefty rent. It was this man, Kamimura, who taught Ruse how to play the drums like a master. When I met him that night he had been working his rounds with miniscule success. I proposed that we start our own band, and he agreed.

            For the next few months we played at tiny clubs for little or no profit under the name, "OL LIPS." Kimijin spotted us at one such gig, and he and I became instant friends, much in the manner of Ruse and I. He joined us as a bassist, and I continued playing guitar (albeit, poorly) and singing.

            It was on one of my days off of work as a call-boy for our friendly neighborhood love hotel when I stumbled across Rouge. I had decided to tag along with Ruse on his usual turns picking up customers. We were sharing a conversation about the future of OL LIPS over a couple of margaritas when a fight broke out in the booth next to us. Naturally we both gave into our inherently human curiosity and moved to investigate.

            According to stories, Rouge was on bad terms with the bassist in his former band, and as such the leader finally gave up on a lost cause and kicked them both out. Furious with his lack of financial standing, the bassist began to kick the living crap out of the leader while Rouge struggled to fend him off.

            It was simple, that night Rouge came home with me and I offered him the role of guitarist in our band. On the floor of my one-room apartment the four of us deliberated over the new position of the band with fresh sake in hand. Now, normally we could never afford something as special as sake however Ruse had entertained a rather kinky customer, granting us our rare specialty.

            As we laughed at Ruse's tales of feather dusters and cosplay we all agreed on a new name for the band, which was actually the name that Ruse's female customer had given him: "Shimmer:Shine." And so we were born.

* * *

            Thinking back, two years seems far too short to be the incubation period of my career as a rocker, to be the entire length of my friendship with Ruse. Two short years from that night when we met at Club Gio to our own performance at the same venue. It's strange to think that we'll be performing on the very same stage as Zigzo. ZIGZO. The ever-famous Tetsu's band, king of forever-indies rock stars. Tetsu, who was born in the band Malice Mizer, and you really just can't ask for a more visual band than that, except maybe X.

            As I continued singing in our entirely impromptu rehearsal, I began to improvise a small dance to the music with my body, "I've got something, something to tell you."

            "Please listen..." Ruse sang in his gentle falsetto voice over the incessant pounding of his drum kit.

            At this point I could almost hear our non-existent fan girls cheering, clamoring onto the stage to reach our ragtag costumes. My voice carried higher as I forced it out with my hand pressed tight against my chest.

            "You're so damn shy!

            Liven up, silly!

            Wear bright colours:

            Live on the edge!

            "No, f--- you!"

            "Hey, don't talk," the other boys sang in. I took over once more.

            "I wanna tell you

            Tell you my thoughts!

            "I want you!

            On a bed of grey cotton

            I wanna show you

            What I'm all about." Ruse slowed down his speed midway through the song, until we all went completely and utterly silent.

            For a prolonged moment of uncommunicativeness we all avoided each other's eyes and stared at the various stains spread out across the floor of my apartment. That is, until Ruse broke out in a bout of raucous laughter, "That was brilliant!" He pounded one cymbal with a battered drumstick, "I had no idea that I had that kinda power."

            "You're a f---ing idiot." Rouge breathed, rubbing the neck of his guitar. I laughed softly.

           "What are we going to wear at this show?" Kimijin asked, once again laying his precious bass in it's throne-like case.

            "I don't know…" I frowned, considering all of the costume sets Ruse and I had labored over with our needles and thread. "What about… Hey, let's wear our samurai gear!"

            Ruse was chewing on the tattered end of one drumstick, "Think we can finish them up before the performance?"

          "It'll take a lot of hard work and concentration but hey, when have I not been up for a good old-fashioned challenge? Let's do it!" I made a 'Sailor Moon' peace sign as the other boys laughed.

            "Samurai it is," Ruse nodded his agreement.

            The next three days were almost entirely taken up by rehearsals, while the nights were spent giving the finishing touches to our new costumes. They were inconceivable in their exquisiteness, a true show of Ruse's designing skills and creativity.

            I felt like a mirai as I donned my black, yellow and silver costume. Ruse nodded his appreciation slowly, we were both still getting over the shock of our work. It was the night before our biggest performance, and we were finally ready. The stage manager of Club Gio had called us earlier that day, it was almost sold out.

            As we finished folding the costumes into their silk-lined storage boxes, Ruse turned to me, "It's been a long run, but OL LIPS—Shimmer:Shine is finally living up to it's real potential. Ciël… I think I love you."

            I laughed nervously as I laid the last pieces of my kimono into the box.

            "I'm serious," Ruse grabbed my hand, "I think I may be in love with you!"

            Perhaps it's only because this really was my own dream come true, but as Ruse kissed me I melted against him and enthusiastically kissed him back. He ran his fingers through my bright orange hair, cradling my head in one hand. 'No thinking,' was my mantra as I too bled my hands down his arched back, tasting him, feeling him in and against my mouth. Insistently, he moved his hand up the gold miniskirt I wore.

            I caught his hand in mine, "Mm, no," I mumbled against his lips.

            "You're still a virgin." Ruse stated, smiling.

            I kissed him gingerly on the edge of his lips, "That's not it."

            Ruse slowly let go of me, leaning back, "I know." I opened my mouth to respond flippantly, but he cut me off, "I know that you're a girl, Ciël."

            "I don't understand, why did you just let me go on with my lie for all that time?"

            "We all have secrets, I'm no hypocrite." Abruptly Ruse's normally bubbly exterior seemed to melt away like chocolate filigree on a summer sidewalk, "Your dream was to be in a Visual band, and you've sacrificed a lot to achieve that. I don't curse you for wanting—needing to be something you aren't, I applaud you. Music truly is your life, you've given up everything for it. You, my dear, dear friend, are a true musician."

            "You mean you're not upset, and you still want me, as a girl?" Something had changed so completely in my life in such a short time that I felt dizzy with the renovation.

            "I'm not gay, you know. It's best not to consider an orientation in my business," Ruse kissed me, and I hesitated for only a moment before kissing him back.

            I lost my virginity that night.

            Ruse and I held each other in his bed without sleeping until morning when we rose to meet the band at my apartment for practice. My excuse for being late to my own home? We worked all night to finish embroidering the costumes, and agreed to crash at Ruse's house for fear of sleeping behind the wheel. No one questioned the story.

            That night we arrived to an entirely sold-out venue. Backstage the manager gave us each a short pep-talk (how to treat the stage, inappropriate behavior, et cetera) before sending us out. It would seem we had gained a reputation since our last show, the crowd was now screaming our names to us. I could feel sweat coagulating underneath all of the layers of silk and cotton in my costume.

            "Are you ready?" I whispered into the lavender feather-covered microphone. The crowd exploded with unmatchable volume, "Are you ready?" I rose my voice. They rose theirs'. It was a bizarre feeling to watch them watching me, a girl in the front of the crowd was shaking her entire body with glee and calling out my name. I swallowed and shook my mane of neon hair, "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-- YOU!"

            With that the band leapt into our music, some members of the crowd singing along. Apparently our demo tape has circulated as well. I forced my voice out roughly with the lyrics.

            "Gimme your hand

            I won't hurt you

            Take a f---ing stand

            And be who you are!"

           I sprinted over to where Kimijin was playing his bass and leaned against him as we belted out the next verse together,

            "No, you're right.

            I'm really sorry.

            Gimme a hug," Kimijin laughed insanely into my microphone and threw his black Mohawk back wildly, "So I can bite you!"

            The crowd was licentious, some of them moshing and dancing, while others merely screamed and shook their bodies as though the lights had sent them into a seizure fit. I danced onstage as Kimijin leapt into a furious guitar solo, my robes flaring out in a myriad of hysteric colours all around me, my lips pressed into a smirk.

            Diving up in front of the lavender and silver drum set, I danced in absolute ecstasy before Ruse, sliding one bare leg out of my yukata against his bass drum. The crowd went wild, "Yeah, F--- you!" I sang, retracting my leg into the clothes from whence it was borne.

            "Hey, please talk!" the rest of the band added.

            Their instruments went quiet as I dropped to my knees at the edge of the stage. "Tell me all about you…" I moved into a high tenor with my voice first, and then spoke in the softest audible tone I could manage, "Tell me your thoughts…"

            As we left the stage the crowd continued to roar for a third encore. My face was going from crimson to a lush violet from the effort of singing so hard for at least two hours. Passing Ruse as I walked down the hall, he smiled and touched my hand.

            "Perfect," he whispered, "That was perfect."

            Blood rushed to my face as I smiled back at Ruse, preparing to drag him away to some unknown closet. However, nanoseconds before I could do just that, Rouge slammed into us from behind, a newly acquired bottle of Sapporo in his hand.

            "Thish is gleat!" He called directly into my ear, "To te partee room!"

            I blinked slowly, Ruse had already left to join Rouge, who I'm sure had a steadily growing supply of alcohol. Frowning, I followed them.

            I was correct in judging that tonight I would once again be the designated driver. By the time I had arrived in the "party room" (which was actually an oversized closet where bands hung out before and after sets) even Ruse had given in to a couple beers. He laughed at me as I shook my head and beckoned for me to sit down.

            "Sorry, I didn't mean to leave you on the job again," he whispered into my ear for some ungodly reason, "but my nerves are flipping out, I needed something."

            "No, it's fine. I wasn't really in the mood to get hammered tonight, anyway," I patted his shoulder, "Enjoy yourself."

            "I have a better idea." Ruse sniggered mischievously and leaned down to my face. I flustered. "What say you stay at my place tonight for a little celebration? Just drop Kimijin and Rouge off at their respective homes, trundle off to my place…"

            He was so close that I most definitely would have kissed him had Kimijin not suddenly shown up between us. "What're yoo giez tawkin 'bout?" he mumbled, the strong sent of vodka issuing from between his lips.

            "Just talking about how to get some more booze into your system, c'mon." Ruse wrapped his arm around Kimijin's shoulder, who smiled drunkenly. "Oh, hey Ciël…" he turned back to me briefly, "Here:" and tossed me a bottle of cola. I clutched it in my fist.

            It was three mindless hours and about two trashcans filled to the brim with vomit before everyone was satisfied to go home. Rouge was first off, and Ruse (who was… less intoxicated than the others) walked him to his room. In the back seat Kimijin seemed to have fallen asleep, or passed out. I couldn't tell, I was to awash in my blind fury at being left with the chore of staying sober for the third time in a row.

            As I pulled up the drive of Kimijin's apartment complex Ruse turned to me and muttered, "your turn."

            I nodded and crawled into the back seat absentmindedly to slap Kimijin into consciousness.

            "And the, NO!—I—GROUPIE!" He screamed as he lunged forward, his pupils dilated.

            I sighed. "Time to go home."

            Kimijin was plastered against me as I carefully coaxed him into the elevator. The stairs were far too risky.

            "One time I got stuck in this elevator with a guy I knew…" he began, slurring his words. I hung my head and started counting the seconds until the fourth floor, "We got almost halfway through the Kama Sutra. Let's try finishing…"

            "Oh, sorry baby I can't." I lifted his hair away as he began to choke on the spray in it, "I'm just a dream angel, you'll never see me again."

            As I laid him down into his bed he reached up to grab at me, but I pulled my head away to remove his shoes and pull the fleece blanket up to his neck. Reaching for a second time, he caught my shoulder, "Ciël… You are a dream, aren't you?"

            "Yes baby boy, I am." I let the blanket fall to envelop his body.

            "Then kiss me, dream Ciël!" He leaned up towards me, however I straightened up and backed away.

            "Go to sleep, little child. In the morning you'll have another dream." I turned and left the apartment.

* * *

            "Sorry. I shouldn't have sent you up with Kimijin." Ruse said as I slid into the driver's seat of the tiny car.

            "What do you mean?" I turned to face him.

            "The bedroom window was open, I saw him."

            I frowned as I turned the keys. "He was just drunk." I pulled out of the driveway. Ruse remained quiet for the rest of the drive. I looked over at him a few times, however each time I found him to be staring out the window. I frowned again. His behaviour told me that I was wrong about my assumption concerning Kimijin: He wasn't just drunk.

            Upon entering his apartment, Ruse and I quietly moved to the bedroom. I folded the simple dress I usually wore after shows and set it aside. We lay in the bed side-by-side. Not touching, not moving. Dead-weight. I looked over at Ruse once, he stared at the ceiling.

            "Ne…" he didn't move, "It was a good show." No response. "The band performed well," silence. I sighed and look up at the ceiling, hoping to understand what Ruse found so interesting about it. It was covered wall-to-wall with his artwork, some clothes designs and others pages from comic books he was writing. I turned back to him. He was staring at the wall now. "Jesus Christ, Ruse! What the f---? So Kimijin likes me, big deal! Why is that such a f---ing problem!? You feel threatened!? Is that why?"

            I turned back to the side and saw that he was looking at me. His eyes were red and vein-studded as he stared into mine, tears streaming down his cheeks to the coarse bedding.

            "Aw, Christ, Ruse…" I reached over and pulled him against me, where he began to cry softly, clutching at my back. "You know you'll never lose me, not because of Kimijin. It's okay."

            "—Love you, love you so much I—hurts." Ruse shook his head, rubbing his face against my black undershirt.

            I held him there for a moment before I finally managed to open my mouth, "I—love you, too."

            We lay like that together until we finally fell asleep at dawn. I didn't open my eyes until the sound of the front door followed by footsteps approaching the bedroom reached my ears. I leaned towards Ruse and found that he was still fast asleep in my arms. I frowned.

            There was a brisk knock on the bedroom door, "Ruse?" It was Rouge, "Kimijin says he doesn't care who you're f---ing, we need a post performance meeting stat!"

            I held my breath.

            "Ruse? Ruse are you even in there?" the door opened and I found myself face-to-face with a very confused bassist. I signaled for him to be quiet. "Aw, Christ." Rouge hit his head on the doorframe, "Were you that sloshed last night?"

            For a moment I considered the prospect of lying, but reasoned that the truth was the path to take, "No, I stayed clean."

            "He was drunk!?" Rouge fumed.

            "Not exactly…" I blushed.

            Rouge's eyes widened, "Kimijin'll be pissed." I paled, "Look, think up an excuse for both of you and—be at Kimijin's place in thirty minutes."

            "Don't tell?" I asked hopefully.

            Rouge sighed, "I won't." and then left.

            "Ruse." I shook the sleeping boy gently, "Ruse?" he remained quiet.

            I pressed my ear to his chest, "Ruse?" I could hear a tender heartbeat. I stood up and looked around.

            His bedside table was cluttered with non-necessities: A string of unused condoms, a packet of lubricant, a Ray Bradbury book, and a bottle of pills. I picked them up and read the label, "Non-prescription sleep aide." I looked at the sleeping boy next to me and sighed. Under the small bottle was an open package. "Yellow Jacket brand natural amphetamines." I pocketed them for later.

            Carefully, I lifted up the wiry boy, still in his attire from last night, and carried him out the front door. He remained asleep the entire time. On our way to Kimijin's apartment across town, I stopped at a McDonalds and ordered a coffee and egg McMuffin. In the parking lot I tried again to shake Ruse awake. He opened his eyes.

            "Practice at Kimijin's." I muttered, handing him the coffee. "Here, drink this."

            He blinked incredulously at the warm beverage in his hand.

            "You have to eat and drink something before you take these." I held aloft the packet of amphetamines for him to view. He paled as I wiggled the tiny package between my fingers. "Look." I frowned, "I'm not going to be hypocritical, we all get tired. It's a tough world. But I worry about you."

            Ruse sighed and began to eat the sandwich mechanically, "It's not gonna kill me," he said in between bites, "And it doesn't affect the band."

            "I told you, I don't want to be a hypocrite, I just want you to be careful, okay?"

            "Okay." Ruse nodded.

            "Love you?" I leaned towards him.

            "Love you." He kissed me.

            We spent the rest of the drive in complete silence, as Ruse finished his coffee. As we pulled up the drive, Ruse turned to me.

            "What's our excuse?" Ruse asked impatiently.

            "Simple. I was too tired after dropping everyone off, so I crashed at your place."

            "That's it?"

            "That's it."

            Ruse nodded and stepped out of the car. Kimijin was waiting for us at the door. "Christ!" he exclaimed, "What the f--- took you so long?"

            "We just slept in, sorry." I responded, wondering why the leader of the band was apologizing to the guitarist for being late to an unannounced meeting.

            "What was he doing at your place?" Kimijin presumed.

            I was infuriated, "I stayed at his place because after dropping off both of you drunks," I indicated Rough and Kimijin with a tilt of my head to each, "I was too tired to drive home."

            Kimijin looked thoroughly guilt ridden. "Sorry."

            Ruse and I pushed him aside and entered the apartment where Rouge was waiting.

            "Okay," Kimijin began again as we all sat down, "What are your opinions on last night's show?"

            "Perfect," Ruse and I spoke in unison, I blushed and continued, "The costumes held together, and looked fabulous on everyone, our outlined choreography was brilliant, and we all seemed to play well."

            Rouge and Ruse nodded their approval of my statement, but Kimijin spoke up, "About the un-outlined choreography, I don't really think we should stick to all of the bare leg stuff."

            Rouge looked over at me curiously, "You mean up on the drum platform? Why?"

            "I could hear a difference in the drum sound when Ciël's leg touched the bass. I just didn't like how it worked out."

            I leveled with Rouge's eyes. We both knew that Ruse didn't even touch the bass drum at that point. I ignored the knowledge. "Deal," I said, "Perhaps it didn't work so well."

            "Hey, Ciël!" Ruse argued, I shook my head.

            Kimijin studied my face for a despairingly long moment before moving to speak, "Taken care of, then." He licked his lips slowly. I could feel sweat culminating in my armpits and soaking through the black dress I wore.

            I could tell Ruse was furious. First and foremost with me, for breaking down and listening to Kimijin, second at Kimijin for, well, being Kimijin.

            "Look, if this is it, I was in the middle of a good night's sleep, I'm out." Ruse said loudly, remaining in his seat and clacking his knees together. So very many reasons to avoid pep pills.

            "I have more suggestions for the band." Rouge piped up.

            "What?" Kimijin groaned through clenched teeth.

            "First off, Ruse—," a pointed stare, "—stay of the drugs, they're not becoming for a harlot." Ruse and I gaped at this statement, "Second, Kimijin—CALM THE HELL DOWN. There is something seriously wrong with you. SERIOUSLY. You're like a third grader, stop tormenting the band leader," I blushed until my faded makeup morphed to a radiant plum color, "And Ciël, innocent charming Ciël. GET A F---ING BACKBONE!" and with that Rouge stormed out of the apartment.

            "Um—Well, I better get Ruse home," I grabbed the boy by the wrist and tried to lead him out. He had grown as pale as a Kaggra fan at night, and was visibly shaking.

            "They're not really drugs, are they? Are they, Ciël?" he choked out.

            Oh god. Childhood trauma, alert alert. Sirens were going off all around us, or perhaps only in my head. No matter.

            "Shit." I muttered and kneeled down next to Ruse. His eyes were shut, but I could still see the sweet saline forcing its way out the corners of his eyelids, "They're not real drugs, nobody will hurt you. Ruse? Ruse!"

            He had leaned down at this point, forcing his head between his legs and making soft choking sounds.

            "Ciël—," Kimijin walked closer to us, "Is he?"

            "GET AWAY!" I yelled at him, pushing him aside.

            I grabbed Ruse up into my arms and carried him out the front door. Kimijin was calling after us, but I ignored him in favor of my time constraints. I threw Ruse into the passenger seat and peeled out of the driveway.

            Ruse was still choking as I drove down the street; I look at him hurriedly and back to the road. Should I take him to the hospital? No. N-O. He's a runaway, even in Shibuya there'll be too many questions.

            I pulled the car into the parking lot of Ruse's apartment. He was still bent double and choking as though someone had crammed a dirty rag into his mouth.

            "Ruse?" I asked hopefully. He grabbed at his own neck, "Ruse?"

            "Mommy?"

            I picked him up into my own lap and opened the car door. "It's okay, honey. I'm gonna take you home now."

            Ruse was quiet until I laid him down on the ratty old couch in his apartment. He reached up and touched my face gently with the back if his right hand, "Mommy, where have you been? Why did you leave me with daddy?"

            At that he closed his eyes and fell asleep. I sat down next to his feet and looked at the floor. Maybe no one has yelled at him since he ran away, and it just made him think of his father. What could Rouge have said to make him lapse into his childhood?

            I looked over to find him watching me and smiled falsely.

            "Where are we?"

            "You're apartment." I responded stonily.

            "What's wrong?"

            I shook my head weakly, "Nothing, nothing at all."

            "Okay," he stretched his arms, "I had the most bizarre dream!" he paused, "Wait a minute—Why are we at my apartment?"

            "There was a fight at Kimijin's," I began slowly.

            "Oh god," I sighed. Perhaps this won't be so hard, "Is Kimijin okay?"

            I looked down again, "Kimijin wasn't really involved. Rouge lost his temper and—."     

            "F---," Ruse muttered. I blinked, "Did I—Did I cause a scene?"

            "Well, Rouge was gone but—Hmm, I think you've thoroughly confused the shit out of Kimijin."

            Ruse was quiet. I continued talking, "You're father—I get the feeling he was a little meaner than you let on."

            "Forget it," he leaned over to kiss me, but I dodged it.

            "Ruse, I'm—I'm still worried about you. You don't eat enough,  you need—pills—to sleep at night, and to function in the day. I need you to open up to me. This isn't from your work or stress, you're hiding something from the band—from me."

            Through all of this Ruse had remained silent, staring at a sick yellow stain on the carpet between his feet. Now he moved his eyes to mine and began speaking stiltedly, "There's no problem. I told you everything."

            I gave him a serious stare, prolonging a short moment of silence.

            "I-I-never knew my mother—well—not really," he shook his head, "I kind of remember her, but that's not real. Y-you know how my father was. He—I can't talk about this right now."

            "Shh," I took him against me and let him rest his head on my bound chest, "For the record, you can tell me anything you want. It won't lower my opinion of you. Secondly, this is in the past; your father will never find you—nor recognize you here."

            "Of course he won't." Ruse muttered.

            "Hmm?" I raised my eyebrows.

            "Ciël. There are things I shouldn't tell you… But I know I always will anyway."

            "What do you mean?"

            "He's dead, Ciël."

            "When?"

            "About ten years ago."

            "But that's when you—oh my god. Ruse, you—," I panicked right then, just for a moment, just in my head. Did I lie to Ruse? Does this change how I feel? "—You killed him?"

            Ruse returned his gaze to the vomitous stain on the floor, "Not exactly… I retaliated once, while he was hitting me with his belt. I had come home from school wanting to grow my hair out like Mick Jagger. When I tried to stop him he started strangling me. Said only—drug dealers and—faggots have long hair. Screamed every dirty word he knew at me, all the while shaking me like a joystick or something! I did all I could think of doing, I stabbed his throat with a kitchen knife. I killed him, Ciël, and then I ran away."

            How exactly is a person meant to react to this kind of confession? Ruse was crying again, staring at me with his enormous brown eyes. "Ruse, I—Oh baby, it's okay." I did all I could think of to do. Off all the vast options in the world, of all the things to say, I ignored them and kissed him on the lips.

            "Kamimura knows," he mumbled against my lips. I continued kissing him.

            After a few brief kisses, we both paused to catch our breath and avoided each other's eyes. I looked around the room, searching for some tool to change the subject. I found that in a heap of unopened mail spread across the coffee table, "Shit, Ruse! Don't you ever read your mail?" I glanced at the letter nearest me, "Hey, this one's to me!"

            "Yeah," Ruse mumbled incoherently, "It came last week, I guess I forgot to tell you."

            "Ruse," I said slowly, "It's from Atlantic Records."

            "What!?" he turned to the return address on the envelope, "Well, open it up for Chrissakes!"

            Everything seemed to leap into super slow motion as I fumbled opening the stubborn letter. I looked up at Ruse as I finished reading the first paragraph, "This is f---ing incredible, Ruse!"

            "What is?" he leaned over me to see it.

            "They want us—t-to represent us—on their record label!" I breathed furiously with excitement, "Holy shit, Ruse! ATLANTIC RECORDS!"

            "You've gotta call Kimijin… And Rouge, and… OH MY GOD!" Ruse and I held our hands pressed palm to palm, our eyes showing the epitome of happiness.

            We held a band meeting about thirty minutes later, followed by a phone call to set up a meeting with a representative of Atlantic Records. Within twenty-four hours it was all taken care of, we were on Atlantic Payroll. First we were going to re-release our former album, 'RT BOGUS' under the Atlantic Records name. They expected us to be prepared to record a new single in one month's time.

            "You understand," Kimijin stated as we all sat down for our first meeting as an Atlantic band, "That they're setting us up with stadium shows for our debut tour? They expect us to play in the F---ING TOKYO DOME."

            "Let's make a pact, then," I lifted my hand up, palm facing outwards, "We won't let money change our image like other bands, we'll stay ourselves and be true to the fans—NO CHANGE!"

            "No change!" everybody echoed, "No change!"

            Perhaps sometimes we should catch the foreshadowing in our own lives, but when our manager, 'Hiko' told us he had found a professional photographer for our new album cover I found even myself agreeing with him, it's not change—It's just a subtle re-working of the band's image.

            Now, perhaps you don't understand what I mean. Our previous release of RT BOGUS and a couple of demo tapes had become somewhat famous for the low quality black and white copies we coloured with highlighters. Now they were destined to become something of a collectable, Hiko told us.

            The photographer was a tall lanky man with the haircut of every pop idol wannabe rock star. His left eyebrow was pierced in two places, but that was almost hidden by the Lennon-style sunglasses he wore.

            As he positioned us all on a fake street corner in our "everyday" clothes I found myself imagining that his sweaty palm on my shoulder must feel something like the fish I ate this morning for breakfast prior to death. He wore mismatched silver rings on each stubby finger that bit at my bare skin underneath the name-brand blouse they had me wearing. He told me to lift my chin higher, "Higher!" he commanded continually until it felt as though my neck would snap with the pressure.

            Kimijin's hand was on my shoulder for the picture.

            For the next series they separated us for "individual" looks. A costumer took me into the empty boys washroom and ordered me to don a toga styled to look like bed sheets hanging around my body. When she refused to leave the room for me to change I threatened to press sexual harassment charges until she finally gave in and let me enter a stall alone. The white cotton cloth barely hid the tan elastic bandage on my chest, and I fiddled with it until it gave way and obeyed me.

            The costumer sat banging on the door until I finally stepped out shyly. Her eyes lit up when she saw me. I blushed profusely as she led me into the next room for makeup.

            "In this type of photo shoot makeup is supposed to look natural, like it's not even there," the artist drawled as he pulled open drawer after drawer of greasy looking supplies.

            "It what type of photo shoot?" I piped up nervously.

            The makeup artist laughed and sent me back to the studio with a light slathering of makeup on my face and arms, patting me on the ass as I went by.

            Another transformation had occurred in the big studio while I was away. It was now pale blue and covered with white and crème sheets similar to the one's I was wearing. In the center of it all was a hacked up department store mannequin, its arms and head missing to some unknown land.

           The same photographer as before stood impatiently behind the camera and ushered me onto the set upon sight of me. It wasn't until I sat down that I noticed much of the set was actually taken up by a bed.

            "Just—act—natural," he stated bluntly, I looked up at him in mild shock, this was completely unlike our previous shoot. "You heard me, N-A-T-U-R-A-L."

            I blushed and tried to imagine what acting naturally would be like in a great big pile of sheets. Embarrassing, I supposed. Slowly, I leaned back against the headboard and raised my forearm to my face in deep thought.

            "Good!" The photographer exclaimed, and I heard the camera begin snapping hurriedly.

            Now I sat up and looked at the floor covered in white cloth. Next I turned to the mannequin, and that's when it hit me: I can't keep up with this charade in the public eye, I can't pretend when everyone's watching me! I only wanted a small-time rock band, I never asked for this sort of luck. And so I began to cry silently, sweet saline like Ruse's tears coursing down my cheeks and staining the sheets grey with mascara.

            "Oh, perfect!" the photographer hissed, moving closer and getting all kinds of angles, "Now take it down from your shoulder."

            I froze, confused.

            "The sheet, let your shoulders show!"

            I let the sheet fall to reveal my shoulders and collarbone .

            "Now drop it to your waist."

            I froze again.

            "The sheet, be sexy with it!"

            Once more I began to cry softly. The photographer cursed under his breath.

            "Look, it's not that bad, all singers do it! Be a man!"

            Just then Ruse sprinted into the room and onto my set, "Back off, he can't do that."

            The photographer looked Ruse up and down in disgust, "And why not?"

            "He's had past—experiences—just leave it at that."

            The photographer took a step back. Gee, thanks Ruse. "Okay, fine." He said sharply.

            "C'mon Ciël, everyone else is done. Let's head." Ruse began to lead me off by the arm.

            "Well, HE is NOT!" the photographer grabbed at my other arm.

            "F--- off, a--. You've got your fill." Ruse shoved him away and led me to the hall where Kimijin and the others were waiting.

            "Ready to go? We're going out for a bite to eat," Kimijin smiled. Christ, he sure is happy about something.

            "Where're we headed?" I asked.

            "Where else? McDonalds! Time for some good old fashioned fun!"

            RT BOGUS hit the stores the next month, leaving us at number twenty-seven on the Oricon charts. We were stunned, either word of mouth really does carry or Atlantic did some hell good advertising. It was becoming clearer and clearer—I was in deep shit. With our debut live tour only three months away I had few options. I hadn't discussed my fears with Ruse, we had almost entirely sacrificed our relationship for fame. Ruse and I no longer made all of our costumes, they were now special-ordered from famous name brands with obnoxiously long French names. Perhaps in all the time under the spotlight, even after we swore against it, we really did let money rule our lives after all.

            We're still friends, all of us. But there is no late night costume designing, no party room, and no boozing up together. Whether people recognize it or not, "we've changed." I said to Kimijin one night.

            "How so?" he crossed his legs. He was wearing the signature outfit of some generic British rock star.

            "Haven't you noticed? Music is supposed to be fun it's with friends but now… Music is our job, and that's what it all has come down to. It's only work. What happened? Am I the only one who remembers OL LIPS? The only one who remembers our big night at Club Gio?"

            "Ciël, I… I think we all feel that way, but we just don't realize. I mean, we haven't had an actual band meeting in ages."

            "Then call them, get Ruse and Rouge over here."

            "There's something else, first."

            "What?"

            "Ciël… Do you remember that night I was plastered?"

            I blinked, "I remember a lot of nights when you were plastered."

            "No, you don't understand Dream Ciël!"

            "What did you just call me?" I edged to the other side of my cramped chaise.

            "You promised me I would wake up to a new dream and I. Never. Did. You owe me."

            "What?—I—Kimijin!" I struggled as he lunged at me with a kiss. However much I wished he would be ruthless and give me a reason to hate him he was nothing but gentle, even petting my hair to calm me down.

            "Ciël, god you're gorgeous. Just let me kiss you once."

            Closing my eyes, I tensed up to avoid feeling anything as his soft lips met mine. I could taste his crimson lipstick he wore as he parted my lips with his tongue. His hand ran up and down my back, playing at my hair and teasing just above my tailbone. He kissed my neck tenderly.

            "Touch me," my eyes opened to meet his as he said this, "here," he lifted my hand underneath his shirt and pressed it to the warm skin over his heart. "Feel that? It beats for you, Ciël. It always has."

            "You're a sentimental bastard."

            He laughed, deep and throaty, only hinting at the years he spent with cigarettes, "Let me touch you," he began to move his hand underneath the blouse I wore until I started to cry softly, he retreated.

            "I heard about your incident with Riko." He said.

            "Who?"

            "The photographer."

            I looked at the floor.

            "Has anyone ever touched you?"

            I nodded slowly.

            "Was it bad?"

            I shook my head.

            "Did you want them to?"

            I nodded.

            "Who was it?"

            I was silent for a long moment before responding in a miniature doll's voice, "Ruse."

            "Who?"

            I raised my voice to just under normal volume, "Ruse."

            Kimijin's eyes were huge. He was angry, I could tell. But not with me—with Ruse. He crossed his arms, "When did this happen?"

            "A few years ago," I lied.

            He nodded slowly.

            "And you'd have a slut like Ruse over me?" his voice sounded cold, like Berlin in '89.

            "Kimijin, it's not that—."

            He shoved me backwards harshly, "What the f--- is wrong with you, Ciël? What the f---?"

            He kept on repeating that as he kissed me more, in my ears and in my head, "What the f---? What the f---?"

            Tongues feel very different in your mouth when you don't want them. Not a lot of people would realize this, in fact I never really had either. I tried to push him away, but it only seemed to make him stronger when he forced his hand under my shirt. He began to tear it open from the top down, until he reached the elastic bandage. He paused for only a moment before he tore that away as well, but then he stopped altogether.

            Who ever thought he'd find out this way?

            He grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me into my small coat closet where I curled to the floor, covering my ears. I could hear him on the phone, but only imagine what he was really saying.

            Five minutes passed. The ten, then fifteen, then the doorbell rang and I heard muffled voices outside the door.

            "—Look," Kimijin said as the door swung open violently to reveal my other band mates.

            Ruse had covered his mouth.

            "What happened to him?" Rouge bent down to help me up before he saw my breasts. He straightened up.

            "Ciël," Ruse whimpered painfully. I raised my head to look at them. Ruse and Kimijin were both crying, but Rouge just shook his head.

            "Who would f---ing lie to their band mates? Who the f--- would do that?" He turned to Ruse, "You f---ed him, you knew didn't you? You goddamn liar."

            Ruse was shaking all over.

            "I-I'm sorry. I'm sorry. God, I'm so sorry guys," I managed through my tears, "I just wanted…"

            "F--- you, just—f--- you." Rouge turned and left right then, followed by Kimijin. By now Ruse had dropped to his knees.

            "It's over, isn't it?"

* * *

            So, Atlantic Records abandoned us immediately once news got out and we fell into the annals of one-hit rock bands. However, I had already left Shibuya. Anyone who saw me there would always instantly recognize me. I moved to a tiny suburb in Shizuoka-ken and bought an apartment as a woman under my birth name, "Hiromi."

            About a week after I moved it I hooked up my simple computer for the first time to find I already had am e-mail waiting for me. From Kimijin.

            Hey,

            Just thought I'd tell you: Ruse died yesterday. He f---ing killed himself, hung his body from the ceiling. Do you see what you f---ing did to us?

            I closed the computer and wept for a healthily long time.

            ~Nine years later~

            The cat needs food. I thought, rising from my reverie to the sounds of impatient mewling. I had spent the past few hours grading middle school English assignments alone. Earlier today one of the kids ran into the room with more Indies rock, it was the original album of those has-beens, Shimmer:Shine. I admit, I hadn't known how to react, and so I didn't. Seven years I've been teaching English in Shizuoka city, seven miserable years. The best seven years of my life.

            I rose from the coffee table where I had been working and moved to the door, pocketing my car keys on my way out. The nearest super market was about a five minute drive away, but they didn't carry Nekochan's favourite kind of food, so I always shopped at the store across town.

            After my usual drive in silence, I briskly walked into the store glaring at a couple who smiled at me. It was packed, as it always was Friday afternoon. As I moved towards the pet food aisle I stopped to grab a loaf of bread and a bottle of cola, slipping them into my shopping bag. Now I was reaching for the last bag of "Happy Kitty Kattie Food" when my hand bumped into another person out for the same item. I turned to them to apologize, but stopped short.

            It was Kimijin.

            "H-hi." I mumbled softly, grabbing the bag of cat food.

            "Hey." He said, looking away.

            I walked towards the cash register alone.

            I never saw him again.