I'm twenty years old, female, single, quite smart if I do say so myself, went to college and all that jazz.
You'd think that by now, with a half-finished diploma in Public Relations, I'd be able to find some kind of job somewhere that doesn't require me to flip burgers, wash dishes, or do waitressing.
Sadly, even waitressing is beyond me, as I am once again, told quite nicely that since it's the holidays, all the high schoolers have beat me to it and are working perkily in said restaurant, therefore I am not needed, but to please try again when the school semester starts.
This, I tell you, is literally the epitome of the bottom of the barrel.
Yes, well. I know you want to. Go ahead. Laugh. I'll wait until you've stop.
Life wasn't always like this, really. I used to be one of those happy-go-lucky students, studying overseas in a brand new environment, in a cool college with cool friends and where everything could be described as 'cool'. Heck, even the principal of the college was cool. Apparently, he was a director for one of the top-grossing movies of all times, or so he claims, before he got a hankering for educating the young and influencing the future generations, bla bla bla di bla.
Anyway. All the cool things I mentioned? They flew away the instant that I found out dad's money had gone poof in the share markets. Now, I can't even buy a ticket home, let alone study at the college, and all my 'cool' friends have coolly disappeared.
Isn't life wonderful?
With the little amount of refund I managed to get from the college (thank God dad paid in full when I first started studying), I am now currently trying my best to not live in the streets of Tokyo, Japan, and am living in a dinky little motel where the landlord is suspiciously mafia-like and holds 'talks' with other similarly yakuza-like people in the top floor.
At least the rent is cheap, because the landlord thinks I'm cute and slashed the price by half. That's what he said, anyway.
Normally, I hate it when people say I'm cute with a leer, but desperate times calls for desperate measures. I smiled at him widely, and next thing you know, I have a permanent address in a motel.
Yes, how the mighty has fallen.
I dislike whining, but I feel entitled to it in this case, as I trudged from the restaurant, disheartened and walking aimlessly along the streets. The city was abuzz with Christmas cheer, even though Christmas was still five days away. Snow was falling, children were giggling, lovers were abundant, and then . . . there was me.
"Don't worry, Lucia, I'll be fine. I always bounce back up." Dad told me cheerfully the other day, as I heard people in the background assessing assets to pay off Dad's debt. "You just can't come home for a while, because you'll have no place to stay and I hate having my baby girl seeing me like this, but I know you'll be fine over there. Be strong, Lucia. Be strong like your mother, may God bless her soul."
And that was the last I heard from my sole surviving parent, before I realize that
a)I really needed to find a job,
b)I couldn't study in the college anymore, because even though the tuition was paid, I couldn't afford anything else, and
c)I was going to be a pauper in a faraway country.
I'm not a spoilt brat, really. I'm no hotel heiress (dear God how at the moment I wish I was). I am from an upper-middle class family, with a normal upper-middle class lifestyle, and my life plan was to study away two decades and a half of my life before moving into the working class where I will be able to hopefully retire by age forty, having successfully made it as either a wedding planner or a cosmetic company PR president.
Last week, my dreams have all but burned up, leaving nothing but a shriveled shell known as Lucia Constantine, seeking jobs at fast-food restaurants with no sleaziness involved.
To say I was disheartened would be an understatement. The day could not possibly get worst, after being rejected by various establishments. Why couldn't one of them be like Mr Yakuza the landlord and think I'm so cute, they'd give me a job and a raise up front?
Not that I'm an advocate of using female wiles to make one's way up the top, mind you, but sometimes, you just have to use what you have to just survive.
While meandering in a funk around town and miraculously not bumping into anyone, I saw them. Them, said with a hiss and dramatic eyeball rolling. Them being my ex-cool best friend and my ex-cool semi-boyfriend, before they found out I was a pauper and suddenly had better things to do.
Now it's my cue to comfort myself that at least before it's too late I know how they really are and that thank God I didn't allow my ex-cool semi-boyfriend to go further than I wanted to the week before I found out I was penniless.
While I was busy mentally hissing swear words in their direction, the worst possible thing happened.
They held hands and he kissed her on the cheek.
My jaw dropped.
They were both in a world of their own, and didn't realize I was standing there staring at them like I was a doofus. I hid behind a potted plant and watched them. They were laughing, the wretches, with no sign of guilt that they had forsaken a friend like moi just a week ago, when I asked for a place to stay and they both suddenly had v.v. important things to do and they couldn't spare time for me.
The message was clear: I was no longer a college student/ their friend.
After I watched her slide her hand into his pocket and whispering something into his ear, I couldn't bear to watch anymore and I trudged down one of the darker alleyways, avoiding the crowds. The way I was feeling at the moment, if a mugger jumped out at me I'd probably hold my wrists out for him to slash it and be done with it.
If there was ever a time for me to bawl and cry about how unfair the world was, this was it. Still, I wasn't a crier. At least not in public, and not when I am not watching a sad movie about lovers like Romeo and Juliet. So I just gritted my teeth and walked along.
It was a quiet alleyway, but not in a bad, tense way, more of a contemplative setting. Snow was falling, and I put my hands into my coat's pocket. My trench coat was, at the moment, one of my most prized possessions, it being from Burberry and a gift from my mother before she passed away three years ago.
My mother, coincidentally, also passed away in winter, but she was always cheerful, even when treatment got her down. My father spent dollars upon dollars on the best surgeons and doctors, but as my mother said, "If God's gonna take you, you've gotta go."
And so she went with a smile on her face, as she admonished me to make the best of life, especially since it was short.
Sometimes it's hard taking such advice, though. Especially now. I looked up at the snowing sky and sighed, standing abruptly in the middle of the lane.
"Well, mom?" I asked out loud. "Any heavenly help my way?"
Next thing I know, unidentified object crashed into me. Well, unidentified man, to be precise, who then proceeded to swear with words that would make a truck driver blush. In English. So not my idea of heavenly help, let me tell you.
"Why on Earth are you standing in the middle of the lane from nowhere?" He asked in Japanese. It was a low, sexy voice. The sort that you'd expect from a telephone male sex operator, not that I've called one, mind you, just that if I owned such a service, I'd be employing this guy in a jiffy. It was a voice that I could very much enjoy, should he not be sounding so angry and blaming me for something that I think he was at fault in the first place.
"Well excuse me!" I replied angrily. "Why didn't you look where you were going?" His face was hidden by a pair of sunglasses, and he was also wearing a hat which covered most of the top part of his face. I could have been swearing at the Prime Minister of Japan for all I know.
Except, as my eyes travelled over his body, he couldn't be the Prime Minister, as the Prime Minister wasn't so well-buffed and toned and well, young as this guy. Also, the Prime Minister wasn't so tense, and that was saying something for this guy.
"Shh." He suddenly said, and pushed me towards the wall. I was about to say something, when he held his hands over my mouth and looked out towards the lane which led towards the main street. I couldn't even move, as he pressed himself against my struggling self. "Stop moving." Well, like hell I wasn't! He swore silently to himself again as I tried to kick him.
"Out of the many women I could tame to do my bidding, I had to run into the one who is trying to kick me in the balls." He muttered. My jaw would have dropped, had he not been trying to smother me in the mouth. "Listen, woman, I'm not trying to kidnap, rape, or murder you."
His eyes, now that I could see them behind the sunglasses, glinted with amusement. "Actually, I've had women with better body curves and structures throw themselves at me, not to mention better personalities." I glared at him. Well, excuse me for not being well-endowed nor a sweet young thing, not that that should matter to him.
He was tense again, as he heard noises approaching. My eyes widened, hoping for salvation, but my attacker only threw off his leather jacket with his other hand to the ground, exposing only a black tank top which showed off his washboard abs extraordinarily well, and bent his head towards my neck, his lips brushing the nape of my collarbone. Thank God for the trench coat. I would have screamed, except his hand was still on my mouth, while his other hand wrapped itself around my waist, hugging me tighter to him.
Oh great. I was about to discover the existence of vampires, I thought inanely. Just my luck not to run into a vegetarian one.
My eyes flickered towards the lane when I heard footsteps, and I saw two photographers holding cameras looking around. They did look once in my direction, but mumbled something briefly about 'him not being around' and 'only a pair of lovers'. I would dearly love to know what crack they were smoking, to mistake what I imagined to be my bulging eyes and struggling towards this guy as a form of affection. They actually had the tenacity to walk away, and as their footsteps fade away, so did he surface from nuzzling my neck.
"Good, they're gone." He muttered to himself, and picked up his leather jacket. During the process he let go of me, and I responded by stomping on his feet. He growled. "What was that for, woman?"
"Gee, I don't know." I responded sarcastically. "How about attempted kidnap and holding someone against her will, not to mention the sexual harassment?" He raised an eyebrow at me.
"That was sexual harassment?" He growled. "Sweetheart, you've not been living in the real world, have you?" He took off his sunglasses. I was momentarily caught off by his hazel-gold eyes, but quickly regained my composure. "A million women would have loved to be in the position you were in a few moments ago, sweetheart." He continued cockily.
"Well, I'm not one of those million women." I growled back. "And don't call me sweetheart. Only my dad calls me that, and that was way back whenever." He was about to say something, when I quickly cut in.
"Don't you dare say another word." I warned him. "I don't have time that can be wasted, and plenty was already wasted. I am going off pretending nothing has ever happened, and if I were you, you better start praying that you will never, ever run into me again unless you want to be infertile." I was about to walk off feeling all feminist and lovely, when he suddenly yanked me back by the arm.
"What do you want?" I demanded. His eyes fixed on me, and looked as though he was going to say something uncomplimentary, but nothing of the sort came out.
"Those photographers." He said, out of the blue. "They are probably still out there looking for me."
"And what does that have to do with me?" I raised an eyebrow. "You could be on America's Most Wanted for all I care, I need to find a job before the end of this week, and so can you please let me go?"
"Sweetheart," He drawled infuriatingly. "We're in Tokyo, Japan."
"What, and you think villains can't cross country borders?" I shot back.
"Very funny, sweetheart. No, but those photographers are bound to ask you where I went, and I can't have you telling them." He said.
"Listen, buddy, maybe you didn't hear me the first time." I explained as patiently as I could. "I. Don't. Care. I'll just tell those people I didn't see you. Now can you please let go of my arm and STOP calling me sweetheart?"
"Sorry, sweetheart, but no can do." He replied exasperatingly. He yanked my arm harder, and I almost fell backwards. He caught me, though, and held me closer, his arm in a deadlock around my waist. I wish I was saying this in a romantic context, but well, you know what happened. He smiled at me, the rat.
"I'm just going to occupy a bit more of your time." He assured me. Needless to say, I was assured not at all. I was going to jab him in the ribs, when he added, as though in afterthought. "And it's no use struggling." He said cheerfully. "My hands could accidentally travel to the wrong places in a struggle, you know. Then you'll find out what sexual harassment really means."
"Are you blackmailing me?" I asked, through gritted teeth.
"Sweetheart, what a terrible thing to say." He said conversationally. "No, just stating the facts. Besides, be grateful, sweetheart. I'm taking you to a place where the dreams of teenage girls come true."
"I am no longer a teenager." I informed him, as he dragged me along. He said nothing, just walked around in what seemed like a maze-like route. We walked for quite a bit in the alleys, before he came to a stop before an unassuming back door of a tall apartment building.
"Here we are." He announced, fishing in his pockets for a key, which he unlocked the door with. He dragged me inside with him. It was a grand place, like a five-star hotel, and the backdoor security guard only raised his eyes briefly and greeted my mystery man with a nod before going back to staring at the monitors with an intensity I thought normally used in military training.
"Welcome to my humble abode." Mystery man said mockingly. "Of which most occupants use the back door, since the front door is usually crowded with paparazzi."
"Who ARE you?" I asked, looking at the decorative lighting and the expensive roses in place. There was also a pine scent in the air, with Christmas trees to supplement the Christmas mood. This was only the back entrance, for heaven's sake.
"You really have no idea, have you, sweetheart?" Mystery man laughed. "Well, it's a refreshing change, at least. Come on, we're going in the lift." I am rest assured by the fact that should anything happen, at least the camera in the lift that is currently tracking our every move would have it down in film. I watched in amazement as mystery man pressed the number thirty on the lift, which was the highest floor.
The penthouse floor.
"We . . . aren't breaking in and entering, are we?" I asked in what I hoped was a conversational tone.
"Sweetheart. I live in the penthouse. Well, along with some of my chums." He flashed another grin at me. I could have sworn my heart stopped beating for a moment. Must be the lack of food. I ate nothing since morning, and breakfast was a measly cheese sandwich.
We arrived at the thirtieth floor speedily, and mystery man stepped out, pulling me along. I saw a elaborately designed door, probably made of some fancy wood like rosewood or mahogany, and I watched in amazement as mystery man took out another key from his pant's pockets and opened the door, which swung open like magic at a click.
"You really do live here!" I said in amazement as I took in what little I could see of the furniture and the view from the French windows. I saw a couple of pictures of him with his friends too; which further proved that yes, mystery man did live here. Shocking is the word that understates how things have turned out, let me tell you. Guess even the rich are perverts, I added mentally.
"Hey boys, I'm back." He drawled as he wandered into the living room, leaving me gaping in the doorway as the door swung shut behind me. "Sweetheart, are you coming in or not?" He popped his head next to the shoe cupboard, which reached the ceiling and held an amazing amount of men's shoes from various brands.
"You actually have more shoes than I have." I said in amazement. "And you're a man."
"Well observed, sweetheart." He semi-mocked.
"You actually brought a girl home, man?" I heard another man's voice say from the living room. "Must be one really, really special girl, eh, mate?" I was left in no doubt what the 'special' meant. My face heated up.
"Great, more of your chums to mock me. Haven't you done enough damage today?" I folded my arms and glared at mystery man, who only chuckled.
"And there I thought you could be civil at last." He told me. He came over and caught my hand. "Come on. Stop dawdling." It was amazing how much at ease this man could be with a stranger, I thought. Okay, I mentally radioed myself. If this is one of those dangerous situations dad was always warning me about, I would start throwing all the expensive-looking vases around at the mysterious men.
What I saw in the living room were four very, very good-looking men, all watching a football match. On mute, while they took me in as I took them in.
"I ran into her while some paparazzi were chasing me." Mystery man informed them. "I couldn't have them questioning her, in case she said something incriminating, so I brought her here." He explained, as though something like this happened every day. Knowing what little I knew of him, it probably did. "Oh, and be careful what you say to her. She's a little spitfire, the slightest thing can set her off." He chuckled.
"Looks like you've got some good memories of the chance encounter." One of the men sitting on the sofa commented. I'm sure my face had gone magenta right now, while the wheels in my mind were turning.
"Those photographers were paparazzi?" I enquired, still thinking. "I gather that you're rich" I flicked an eye around. "And if paparazzi are chasing you that must mean you must be famous."
"Well observed, sweetheart." Mystery man replied. "Mensa would want you." I ignored the provocation and stared at the five of them. "So . . . who are all of you?" I asked conversationally. The four lounging on the sofas stared at me.
"You have no idea who we are?" I shook my head. "And you're in the age group of from eleven to twenty-five?" I nodded. "And you have absolutely no idea who we are?" They repeated. I shook my head. This could get annoying.
"Amazing, isn't it?" Mystery man sat down in a lone sofa, grinning.
"I happen to have more pressing issues on my mind than celebrity." I said haughtily. Mainly, the issue of where my next meal is going to come from, I added mentally. One of the men laughed.
"I see what you mean by spitfire." He addressed mystery man. "She's cute. I'd date her for sure."
"I fail to see how that is relevant to the question of who you all are." I shot back.
"Sizzle down, sweetheart." Mystery man drawled. "I'll tell you who we are. We form a rock band called Lucy's Wish. Ring any bells?" I thought hard. The color fled from my cheeks as I recalled a conversation I had with my ex-best friend. Mainly, a conversation in which she chattered on and on about a hot new band with all three new singles going gold in the span of two days, a hot new band with sold-out concerts every night, a hot new band where all five band members were hot enough to out burn Hell itself.
Strange tagline, but it obviously worked, judging by the fact that they lived in a penthouse. A two-storied penthouse, as I noted the stairs.
"We have a garden on the top floor as well, as well as a small hut where we practice our sets." Mystery man told me as he took in my gaze. "So? Know who Lucy's Wish is? I mean, our faces are plastered on billboards across town for our Christmas bonanza concert, I'd have thought the whole of Tokyo would recognize us by now."
"I'm not from Tokyo." I said dazedly. Out of point, I know, but it was the first thing I thought of. And a girl such as moi must always have a comeback. "Now that you've mentioned it, you all do look vaguely familiar." I added contemplatively. They stared at me in disbelief. "What? I was never a rock chick. I was always more for ballads." I said defensively. "And classics. And Italian operatic tenors." I went on, giving the matter some thought. "I'm a big, big fan of Westlife, Bach and Il Divo."
The members of Lucy's Wish started laughing. I glared at them.
"Little sweetheart." Mystery man, who, now that I think of it, is the lead singer, whose name is Kazuya something, drawled. "You're old before your time."
"Just because I don't bang my head against the wall along to loud bass music does not mean I'm old . . ." I paused in the middle of my rant, and put my hand to my head. The room was spinning all of a sudden, and I saw concern flash across the faces of the five men looking at me.
"Hey." Kazuya something called out, concerned. "Are you all right?" I would have dearly loved to answer, but all I saw was a flash of white and next thing I know, I was out cold.
Well. At least landing on your side on a furry carpet doesn't hurt at all.
After a long hiatus (two years, to be precise!) I am now finally back to jolt my fiction press in my long holidays~ Will finish this and hopefully, Love Down South sometime next month. Til' then, please do comment!