A/N: Hey again. Decided to give this one an update since I got some response to the last chapter. Hope you enjoy!
Aiko took a sip of the bottled water she had just opened. Gulping it down, she let out a disturbed sigh.
"Aiko, babe, don't stress, ok."
She turned around to see Michael smiling at her affectionately.
"It's kind of hard not to," she replied, irritated. "I feel like a total amateur."
He sidled up towards her and put an arm around her shoulders, squeezing her tightly. "Well, hate to break it to you. But you are."
She let out another sigh. "I know; I was just hoping it wouldn't show."
"Look, Aiko, the director knows you've never had any camera time before. He'll let you know exactly what to do. The important thing to know is that you can act. The rest will come eventually."
"Thanks Michael," she replied warmly. "Oh, looks like they're calling you for your next scene."
He looked over his shoulder. "Yeah, you're right. Listen hang in there. And watch the other scenes, it will help."
She smiled at him. "All right. I'll be over in a minute."
Michael nodded, heading towards the set; Aiko just needed a minute to process. It was her first day of shooting and things weren't going according to plan. Sure she had practically every word memorized and she could act up a storm. But what she'd never done before was act in front of a camera. So, it seemed to her that she was being told where to stand and how to position herself at every turn. For everyone else, it seemed pretty automatic.
Aiko turned around to see Tom Welling standing next to her. She instantly blushed as she realized he was addressing her. She couldn't help the reaction around the man; every time she came within five feet of the guy she'd turn tomato red. The man was too good looking for his own good.
"Uh… hi," she replied so eloquently.
"How's it going?" he asked her, giving her a knowing grin.
Her insides had turned to mush at the sight of his smile for her. "Uh… um… ok."
"Michael told me you were a little stressed about the camera thing," he added sympathetically.
"A little," she admitted, sheepishly.
"Don't be. You're doing great… I mean you go through your lines with hardly any slips. That's pretty awesome."
"I guess." She shrugged her shoulders. "But that's not all there is to acting."
"True, true," Tom agreed. "How about this… you and I go over and watch Michael's scene. While we watch I'll give you a few pointers. Sound good?"
"Really good," she said thankfully.
He put a hand on her shoulder and her face flamed once again. He began to guide her towards the set. "Good, I'll lead the way."
"How's Aiko doing? I haven't had a chance to phone her up, yet?" Riley asked his best friend.
"Oh, she's great. She's having a good time in Vancouver," Matthew assured.
"Any chance she'll make it back here for tomorrow's game?" Riley wondered.
The slightly older man unbuckled his seatbelt the second the seatbelt light went off.
Matthew shook his head. "Don't think so. She starts shooting her first scenes today. She'll probably be working the entire week."
"Well, that's good for her. But sucks for us," his friend commented. "I miss her."
"Tell me about it," Matthew agreed wholeheartedly.
Riley shot his friend a look. "Do you…" he trailed off awkwardly.
"What?" he prompted the defenseman.
"Do you wish things were different between you and Aiko?" Riley finally spit out.
"What do you mean?"
"Like, maybe she wasn't pursuing this acting thing…"
Matthew had to think about it for a second. Sure he'd get to see her a lot more if she wasn't doing the acting thing. Their relationship was a new one and could definitely do with some more alone time. But… he thought back to the night they'd met. Aiko had told him her hopes and dreams and how some people didn't believe in her. She really wanted to act. And he sure as heck wasn't going to get in her way.
"Never," Matthew answered after a moment's pause. "I want her to be happy and acting makes her happy. Besides, things wouldn't be that different… I'd still be travelling."
"Yeah, I guess," Riley shrugged his shoulders. "Good answer, man."
"Thanks. It's the truth. I really love her, you know."
"Trust me, it shows."
Aiko sighed contentedly as she stepped out of her taxi she had taken back to her hotel. She felt relieved. The day had not been a complete disaster. In fact, after talking with Tom and watching a few of the scenes being filmed, she'd started to get things a bit better. Why she had to stand here or there started to make a bit more sense. And by the end of the day the director was not constantly telling her what to do.
Aiko walked into the hotel lobby and made her way towards the elevators.
"Ms. Tanaka!" someone called out. "Ms. Tanaka."
She turned around to see the young man at the desk calling her name. She made her way towards him.
"Hi Sam," Aiko greeted warmly.
"Hello, Ms. Tanaka," Sam replied, smiling bashfully.
"Remember, I told you to call me Aiko," she lectured nicely.
Sam was a tall, blond haired young man in his senior year of high school. He worked part time at the hotel Aiko was staying at. And in the few days she had been staying there it had become quite apparent that Sam had developed a crush on her.
"So, what's up?" she asked quizzically.
"Oh yeah, something came for you today, Aiko," he quickly told her.
He turned around and grabbed a bouquet of red roses.
"Wow!" she exclaimed. "Who are they from?"
Sam shook his head. "Don't know. But there's a card."
He handed it to her.
"Want me to take them up to your room? They are pretty big," he offered.
Aiko nodded absently. "Thanks Sam," she added quickly. "I'll be up in a second."
Aiko stood there frowning at the card. It said her name on the envelope in writing she recognized. Problem was it wasn't Matthew's writing.
She couldn't wait any longer. She hurriedly tore open the envelope. Pulling out the card, it read:
I enjoyed our lunch together the other day. Hope we'll see more of each other from now on. I've missed you.
She stared at the card in a daze, not sure at all what to think.
"Hey, Sarah," Aiko said into her cell phone. "How's it going?"
"Umm… still good, same as when you phoned me two days ago," Sarah replied, sounding suspicious.
"Hey, if you don't feel like talking just say so," she replied, not hiding the hurt in her voice.
"Aiko, it's not that. It's just that I've been pretty much the one to hound you to talk. I'm surprised to hear from you so soon. You initiating the call… it's just strange…" Sarah explained. "What's up?"
"Why does anything have to be up? Can't I just call my best friend to say hi?" She would have been totally convincing if it hadn't been for her voice rising in pitch with every word she spoke.
"Aiko," she chided.
"Ok!" she exclaimed, giving in right away. She took in a deep breath as she fingered a rose petal. "I…I need some advice on a delicate situation."
"What happened now?" Sarah asked, exasperated.
"Sarah, if you're going to be like that I'll just call Yumi, instead. But I was hoping I could talk to you, since you are my best friend. And you usually know exactly what to do," Aiko burst out.
"Aiko, you know I can't tell you what to do," Sarah reminded, tone gentle, now.
"I know," she agreed, sighing. "But that's why it's called advice. And I desperately need some right about now.
There was silence on Sarah's side for a moment. "Ok, shoot."
Aiko let out a breath, relieved beyond words. "Ok, so I just got back from shooting today."
"How was that, by the way," her friend interrupted.
"It had its ups and downs, but mostly good," she answered truthfully. "Thanks for asking."
"No problem. Go on…"
"So, I just got back and there was a huge bouquet of roses waiting here for me. And I mean huge! And they weren't from Matthew."
Aiko leaned in to sniff at one of the roses.
"From Tony," Sarah conjectured with certainty.
"No, I wish!" she paused. "That would be easy. I'd be able to deal with this if they were."
"Well, then, who are they from?" Sarah inquired confusedly. "They're not from Michael, are they?"
"Nah… Michael's sweet, but just a friend," she assured. "They're from… Nick."
"Nick? As in Nick Taylor?"
"Yeah," Aiko replied nervously. "What… what do you think they mean?"
"Well, my first guess is he wants you back—" Sarah started.
"I'm with Matthew, I told him—"
"Aiko, Aiko, is there a card?" Sarah cut her off.
"What did it say?"
Aiko picked up the card and read, "Aiko, I enjoyed our lunch together the other day. Hope we'll see more of each other from now on. I've missed you. Love, Nick."
"Hmm…" Sarah started, taking in the words of the note under careful consideration. "It's obvious he still cares about you."
"Well I knew that," she admonished. "But do you think he's looking for something more than friendship?"
"Honestly, Aiko… I don't think Nick's ever stopped loving you," Sarah said, forthright.
"But… do I think he'll act on his feelings intentionally? No," Sarah continued. "Aiko, I know you're worried that he'll come between you and Matthew…"
"Everything between us has been going great lately. I think we've got past the Tony issue," she elaborated.
"And that's great. But there are only two ways Nick can come between you and Matthew. One is if you still have feelings for Nick… Do you?"
Aiko shook her head. "I still care about him. But not like I used to."
"Ok, that's good. Second is if Matthew finds out about the Nick issue some other way. And if he finds out you're still in contact with him and you haven't told him he might feel hurt," Sarah finished.
"You're right," Aiko agreed. "I need to tell him everything."
Sarah didn't say anything.
"Thanks, best friend," Aiko stated affectionately.
"You're welcome, best friend."
That's it for this chapter.
Thanks to the two people who took the time to write me a review: amimikey and ChellyWrites.
I'll try to update soon.