#14 roller coaster

The followings weeks became the busiest period of my life thus far. Between shows and rehearsing, our schedules were filled with shoots, interviews, and working on our first full album, which was set to be a major release within the next few months. Tom decided that we were ready to rise from the underground music scene, a prospect that both excited and terrified me.

What little time I had to myself was spent on more fashion shoots with several other magazines. One rock fashion brand actually signed me on to be their model for six months! I didn't know how I was going to find the time to do everything, but Matsuzaki told me he would move mountains to make it all work. He fully embraced the thought of me entering the fashion industry, believing it would greatly help transition me into my 'new, more feminine' image. You could say my tolerance for girlier clothes has grown somewhat, but it was still a far cry from making me change my own personal wardrobe.

Today was not an exception. I was in all black donning a flowy tank blouse and a flare skirt that barely covered my thighs. Thankfully I had knee high stockings to cover up everything else, finished off with excruciating, five inch-heel boots. By now my hair was past my nape, but they added extensions to be able to curl it down to my shoulders. Smoky eyes have become a staple look for me recently, along with contact lenses that were supposed to make my eyes look bigger. I still have a hard time recognizing myself in the mirror; if I had a very fashionable sister, she would look just like how I look now.

Today we were shooting our video for our latest single, Unclean. I was the last to get prepped, so the rest of the guys were already shooting in various parts of the club while I remained in hair and make-up. The director and the rest of the team were wrapping up a scene with Kei if I wasn't mistaken, and so I waited by the restroom with some assistants, who kept retouching me every few minutes. Apparently my solo scene was to be in the girls' room, of all places.

I played with my necklace and almost bit on my nails, until I realized I would ruin the black nail polish on them. Matsuzaki finally arrived inside the restroom, followed by the director.

"So sorry to keep you waiting, Haruki-san. Let's begin, shall we?"

I nodded. The female extras stepped in to join me on set, followed by one guy, who stopped beside me.

"Hi, I'm Tomoya," he smiled, curtly bowing. "Looking forward to working with you."

I returned the gesture. I cast my manager a look of confusion as he ominously smiled at me.

"Alright," The director clapped, rubbing his hands together. "So Haruki-san, your scene will be to make out with Tomoya-kun here. Are you ready?"

I stared at him, blinking. "Sorry?"

I patiently looked at both Matsu and the director, hoping I misheard them and/or say 'Just kidding!' and burst into laughter.

I counted to five. Nothing. I opened my mouth to speak.

"Actually, you just have to look like you're making out," Matsuzaki nimbly explained, which was eerily timely, since I was just about to go on a full-blown tirade.

"No kissing or anything. Just be a little touchy-feely with each other is all."

I closed my mouth. I mulled over it, but the thought of it still bothered me. I narrowed my eyes and crossed my arms.

"Is this a new gimmick I don't know about? I'm already dressed like some floozy, and now I have to act like one too?"

"Nonsense, Haruki-san. The rest of the guys all did similar scenes."

As if on cue, all of my band mates joined us in the washroom. I could barely see them from the harsh spotlight on me, but I saw all of them also dressed in full black, dressy casual club wear.

Last week when we went to the salon, Shin had gotten a side buzz cut and dyed his hair a sandy brown. He approached closer and stared at me in disbelief.

"Woah, somebody grab an extinguisher. Haruki's on fire!"

I rolled my eyes. "Don't be creepy, Shin."

"Hear, hear," Kei chuckled, completely revamped in his platinum blonde hair. I was shocked at first, but his foreign features made it work, if not make him look like a foreigner entirely. His dark shadowed eyes gave me a lookover that both unnerved me and sent a weird tingle down my spine.

Yuuichi followed beside him, his hair now a flaxen brown as he mouthed 'slut' at me with a grin. I couldn't help but smile back, but I sobered the moment I saw Ryou standing beside him, his cropped, black hair all spiked up as he looked at me with a completely serious look on his face.

Matsuzaki faced the four guys. "Gentlemen, Haruki-san seems to be having some reservations with today's shoot. Could you all give her a quick rundown of what you each did today?"

"Three girls sprawling all over me on a sofa," Shin grinned. "It was pretty awesome."

"I hit on a girl by the bar," Yuuichi distantly murmured.

"I was pressing a girl up against the wall," Ryou drawled.

"And I had girls grinding all over me on the dance floor," Kei ecstatically finished.

Matsuzaki faced me once more. "There you go, Haruki-san."

I opened my mouth again, but I decided to let it go. In the end I was probably going to look like a prude, since all the guys did their part and I was the only one complaining. Still, it sounded like all they had to do in their scenes was stand there while the extras did all the work...

I looked at my soon-to-be partner Tomoya, who sheepishly smiled at me again and exposed a dimple on his right cheek. Okay, fine. He was cute. I could work with that.

I raised my hands and sighed, giving up. "Alright then. Let's just get this over with."

"Great," The director beamed. "Would you be able to sit on the sink?"

I shrugged, leaning back as I placed both hands on the sink. I managed just fine, but Tomoya put his arms on my waist anyway and lifted me up.

I instinctively placed my hands on his shoulders. "Thanks."

"No problem," he smiled.

I uneasily stretched out my short skirt, which felt much shorter the moment I settled on the marble sink.

"Good. Would you be able to let him move in between you?"

I stared at the director in puzzlement until I realized my partner was still a fair distance from me. My heart sank at the thought that for the first time in my life, I had to spread my legs in front of a guy.

I hoped to God that the harsh lights concealed whatever color my face was right now. With ever growing unease and embarrassment, I flattened a palm between my thighs, covering myself with the skirt as I parted. He moved in as my knees touched his sides.

"Perfect. Now just put your arms around his neck and we'll start."

I swallowed, barely able to look at him with his face just inches from mine. My heart was hammering, but I knew that I had to control myself lest I look scared stupid in front of the camera.

The song began to start, blaring and echoing in the small confines of the restroom with the thick, heavy sound of distorted guitars.

I closed my eyes, using the music to detach myself. I was not going to think about the people watching me in the position I was in. All I had to do was play a little sexy, and all would be done with. There was nothing wrong with showing some leg; girls did it all the time. It wasn't like I was showing boobs or anything clearly indecent, so...

I slowly placed my arms around Tomoya's shoulders. I finally opened my eyes again and looked at him, finding no trace of his sheepish smile and dimples. Instead, his gaze now smoldered with desire.

Even in that pretty, white dress
You still look so dirty
Don't pretend to be clean
You're not an angel

I lost myself in the intensity of his eyes as he put a hand to my face and cupped my cheek. He brushed a thumb over until he stopped on my lips, coaxing my mouth to part. He moved to bury his head on my shoulder, giving the illusion of kissing my neck as I felt his warm breath on my skin.

We'll bathe in sin
We'll drown with regrets
The devils will come and dance with us

I arched at the feel of his fingertips raking my lower back. His other hand trailed a finger from my knee up to the hem of my skirt, just short of slipping it inside. I let my right hand move from his shoulder down the expanse of his chest as he pressed his forehead against mine, almost kissing me.

Don't be ashamed
To be broken, disgraced
Don't wipe away those mascara tears
You're more beautiful that way

His mouth moved to my ear, his lips just brushing my earlobe. I squeezed his arm, just as he grabbed my waist and slid me closer to him on the sink.

"And, cut!"

The music stopped. I opened my eyes again as Tomoya removed his hands from me and stepped back. I faced the direction of the camera and noticed everyone's serious faces.

"Was I that bad?"

Matsuzaki stood beside the director, reviewing the scene. "No, actually it was very… good."

I creased my forehead. "So we're okay then, right?"

"Yes. That will do, Haruki-san."

I hopped off the sink with a sigh of relief. I faced Tomoya again, who was back to smiling sheepishly at me with his right dimple.

"We did it in one shot," I laughed.

"You should consider a career in acting," he winked.

"You too," I grinned. I walked to the camera, curious to see how it turned out.

"I absolutely forbid you to go out with that man," Shin suddenly decreed.

"What?" I stared at him in disbelief. "What are you talking about?"

Yuuichi thoughtfully narrowed his eyes at me. "Have you two hooked up before this shoot?"

I observed the serious and suspicious glances cast my way and laughed. "Seriously? I get my first scene with a guy and this is what you ask me?"

"You just look like you've done it a million times before," Kei shrugged.

Matsuzaki patted me on the shoulder as I scowled. "Well, I think the boys feel the same way when I say you're a natural, Haruki-san."

"Scary," Yuuichi muttered as the boys nodded in assent.

Our one-man show at the Club Callisto in Ikebukuro was a sold-out success tonight. By the time we got changed and had everything packed up it was almost midnight. It was only a matter of time until we were ready to leave I sat on the steps by the backstage door, holding a can of warm milk tea. I enjoyed the spring evening breeze and listened to the low hum of the vending machine next to me.

The door opened with a rusty squeak. I looked up to find Ryou, halfway in taking out a cigarette as he stared at me.

"Hey," I blinked. "Has the bus arrived yet?"

"Not for another fifteen minutes."

I heard the flicking of a lighter as the scent of burning tobacco soon filled my nostrils.

I took a sip of my milk tea. "Good show tonight, huh?"

"Do you like what you're being made to do lately?"

I looked up at him, confused at the sudden question. "What are you talking about?"

"The whole image change," he drawled. "You dressing and acting differently."

I shrugged. "I find it a little weird, I guess."

"Then why don't you say anything?"

"If Matsu thinks it will help the band, what can I say?"

"So you're going to be a sell-out."

I raised my eyebrows. "Woah. Who said anything about being a sell-out?"

Ryou tapped his cigarette and stared at his shoes. "It's exactly what you've been doing these last couple of months."

I slowly rose from the steps, creasing my forehead. "Hold on a minute here. What are you trying to say?"

"I'm saying the label is now using you as some sex symbol to boost sales."

A part of me agreed, although I didn't really want to admit it. Still, as I watched the cool, detached countenance on Ryou's face, I couldn't help but feel hurt to hear it in such a blunt fashion.

I wryly smiled. "Well, lucky for you you're not the one who has to do it."

"Then stop doing it."

"What happened with the music video was probably just a one time thing, you know?" I shrugged. "If it's just playing dress-up, I don't really mind."

Ryou shook his head and snorted. "I can't believe you."

"What? Why are you telling me off all of a sudden?" I scowled. "You guys haven't changed. Our music hasn't changed. Why are you freaking out just because I put on a skirt?"

Ryou put out his cigarette with his boot. "Fine. Do whatever you want. Soon nobody's going to take us seriously because all they'll be looking at is what's between your legs."

"Wow," I stared at him in disbelief. "Do you talk like this to Kei? In case you haven't noticed, he's the one who's actually screwing around!"

Ryou humorlessly smirked at me. "You should know better, Haruki."

"You've got some fucked-up double standard, you know that?" I snarled. "How come he gets to have a pass and I can't?"

He narrowed his eyes. "He can live up to it. He knows what he's doing."

"And you think I don't?"

I steeled myself as I met his hard, icy gaze. His jaw tensed with what looked like the first signs of anger, but he didn't say anything more as he turned around and headed back inside.

Suddenly my right palm began to hurt, and I realized I was scalding myself from gripping my milk tea too tightly.

I tossed the can to the bin and stared hard at the ground, suddenly furious, frustrated, and confused all at the same time.

What the hell was that all about?

The following night we guested for a late night radio show to plug our latest single. Ryou and Shin were presently with the DJ for the next ten minutes, and so I hung outside by the studio balcony, waiting for my turn with Kei and Yuuichi. It was a setup I was thankful for, since I didn't think I could manage sitting in the same room with Ryou chatting all casual right now.

After last night's drama, I wasn't really in the mood to interact with anyone. In fact, the mere prospect of having to sound cheerful and engaging to the public within the next few minutes made me feel exhausted already. I didn't really want to dwell on what Ryou was trying to tell me yesterday; whatever his sentiments were, it was none of my business. As far as I knew I was only doing my job. He could act grumpy and prudish all he wanted.

I heard the sliding doors open as I turned to find Kei joining me. I bit back a groan, wishing I had been left alone for a few moments longer.

"Hey, we'll be up in five minutes," he said, lighting a cigarette. "You're gonna be ready?"

"Yeah," I nodded, returning my gaze to the city before me.

"So, you've been making waves these last few weeks," he smirked. "I saw a huge poster of you in Harajuku the other day. You looked amazing."

My astonishment quickly and thankfully overrode the tiny bit of thrill I felt at his words. "I have a poster?"

"Yeah, it was in one of the stores along Takeshita Street. Aren't you modeling for a clothing brand now?"

"Oh, right," I winced, suddenly feeling stupid. "I totally forgot about that."

"You're completely oblivious to your rising fame, aren't you?" he laughed. "Do you even get out of the house?"

"No, not really," I smirked. "I'm surprised you still can, especially Harajuku of all places. You should've died from the stampede by now."

"A good pair of sunglasses can go a long way," he knowingly grinned as he took a whiff of his cigarette. "If anything though, I like the change. I think it suits you."

I heard myself snort as I slowly shook my head. "Unfortunately, our band leader thinks otherwise."

"What do you mean?"

"Ryou thinks I'm selling myself out or something."

"Does he now?" Kei chuckled in amusement. "Well, things are rapidly escalating for us. He's not really the type to deal with change that easily."

"Well, I don't think it's fair," I muttered, not feeling the least bit placated. "Compared to what you and Shin have been doing, I don't think I deserve all the flak."

He coughed the smoke out. "What? What did I do?"

"Partying, fooling around," I critically eyed him. "All I did was start putting on skirts and suddenly I get an earful."

"Ah," he grinned, shrugging. "Well, I've known Ryou for ages. He can sound a little harsh sometimes, but he always means well. Don't take it to heart too much."

I averted my gaze to the evening scenery before us once more. "There's something I've been meaning to ask you."

He creased his forehead. "What is it?"

I gripped the balcony railings as I looked at him straight in the eye. "Are you still seeing Suzume?"

His expression relaxed as a faint trace of amusement formed on his lips. "Why do you ask?"

It was almost painful to be beheld by those dark grey eyes as I watched, perhaps imagined, a myriad of emotions cloud behind them. He seemed to watch me with a wry sort of curiosity, but at the same time with a knowledge that felt like he already knew all of my secrets. It was unnerving but mesmerizing at the same time, and it took me almost all of my energy just to keep looking back at him.

"Well, I just thought I'd let you know that I think Shin is starting to feel something more serious for her."

His gaze turned wistful. "You really care for him, don't you?"

"With all my heart," I murmured. "If you hurt him, I will hurt you."

He regarded me with a pensive stare before shaking his head with a smile.

"Don't worry, Haruki. I wouldn't do such a thing to him."

I nodded, facing the view again. "Good."

"I wonder though," He mused out loud as he put out his cigarette. "How would it feel like to be hurt by you?"

I looked at him in disbelief, but he already turned his back on me as he headed inside.

to be continued