I am a doll. Pampered and dressed, princess of the dollhouse, never wondering what is beyond the shelter of the sugar pink mansion. They play dress-up with me. The full-blossom Chanel gown, the glistening diamond Tiffany's tiara, Coach's suede pom-pom Karita boots – thousand dollar decorations adorned across my body, and then they take the pictures.

I've heard the story a lot. The one about the first time I went to a photo shoot. They needed my picture for the publicity, to plaster all over the newspapers, the magazines,and the television shows.

That's all I was then: a big mouth and tears. Rumi desperately tried to shut me up, bribing me with pacifiers and toys. It wasn't until the cameraman said, "Look over here." That's the story of Japan's first glimpse of Jitsuko Araki: wide eyes and drooly mouth rounded in a shocked little O.

They always told me I was made for the camera. I personally find it creepy. If the only thing that managed to shut me up was the camera, I must have been an abnormal baby.

Then again, if at the age of 11 months, you became the sole survivor of a plane crash from Tokyo to Los Angeles that left both your biological parents dead, that sent Japan ballistic over your story, and then you were adopted by one of the most powerful families in the country...

Well, I guess there's no chance of normal.

Spell It Like Lust

By Marisa L

Chapter 1. Birth of a Rebel

June 27, 2007

I remember one of the first weddings I attended. I was about six years old, all prettied up in a frosty rose dress. Some distant cousin of mine was the blushing bride, but I don't think I ever really knew her. It is a wedding tradition for the groom's family to treat the bride's with a gigantic feast. I was in awe of the procession – a humongous roasted pig, a crimson dragon boat filled with sashimi, plates stacked with golden crisped tempura – it was enough food to keep me happy for months. My cousin Satoshi whispered to me, "It's a tradition. You see, the groom's family trades all the food for the bride." When I asked Rumi, she cracked up uncontrollably. "Are you kidding, Jitsuko? Of course the bride isn't THAT cheap!"

That was thirteen years ago. Today I am trapped in the dressing room of the Century City Park Hyatt Hotel in Los Angeles, attended to by a horde of ecstatic stylists. Hair, make-up, dress, skin, figure, just name it. Not that it's anything new - they've been around me and I've been around them as far back as I can remember. Ever since I was adopted by the prestigious Ken and Rumi Araki, leaders of the Araki Corporate Empire, my face has been plastered all over the magazines, modeling this modeling that. What's that word...symbiosis? They need my parents' big fat paycheck and I haven't lived a day without them. Like barnacles on a whale.

"Sit still, Miss," scolds one of the makeup artists as she applies rogue on my cheeks. "You're fidgeting a lot more than usual today," one of the hairdressers smiles at me. "Nervous about your wedding day?"

Nervous? Hardly. More like the quivering of a soon-to-be road kill. It's bad enough being forced into an arranged marriage, it'sworse being forced to marry the most pompous git ever. Honestly, it didn't occur to me until now that I had less than 2 hours left as an unrestrained, single,19-year-old.

WHY? WHY? You spend your whole life hearing your millionaire corporate president father ranting about his rival company's president, and then the next moment he's demanding, "Jitsuko, you're marrying the guy's son."

Ah, of course, I've been trained "Mizaru, Kikazaru, Iwazaru (See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil)." Playing the role of the obedient daughter, I merely nodded and asked when I shall meet my future husband. Thus, there was the "engagement party" my father hosted back in April.

Okay. Maybe Kane Tanaka isn't that bad. I mean, it could have been worse, right? I could have ended up with someone 40 years older than thegossip columns, this was a match made from (and no, it's not pronounced like cane), heir to the Tanaka fortune, plus me, the heiress to the Araki fortune "no hope for the rest of us", as one magazine oh-so-nicely put it.

Red Roses (a Japanese Zine)

April 14, 2007

The spokespersons for the Araki and Tanaka families have released a joint statement confirming the engagement of Jitsuko Araki, 19, and Kane Tanaka, 21. This news may have sparked some surprise amongst the community; it is fairly well known that Araki and Tanaka are fierce business rivals. Is this marriage just a business deal?

Then again, we should have seen this coming. Heir and heiress to their own million-dollar fortunes, you couldn't have set a better match for this photogenic couple. Tanaka, the teen heartthrob, and Araki, the unearthly beauty: this is definitely a match made from heaven.

You want an untainted account of the engagement party? I had figured, eh, Kane can't be that bad. I mean, I've seen pictures of him all over the place. He's pretty good-looking – high cheekbones, playful grin, all the jazz that can melt a girl's heart in a minute. Of course, then I finally met him at the engagement party. Ugh, it was revolting. As soon as we were introduced, I underwent his "inspection" – with him staring at my "goods", he called them. This went on for about a minute in silence until I just about had it! Of course, I had to uphold the "calm obedient daughter" act, so instead of kicking him in the shin like he deserved, I merely smiled icily, "Not a man of many words, eh?"

That's when he finally looked me in the eye and smirked, "No, I'm more of a man of action."

This is what hundreds of teenage girls are worshipping every day? Unbelievable. I guessed I passed his "examination" because now that damn playboy won't leave me alone! He plays the whole "perfect boyfriend" act in public – arm around my shoulders, opening doors for me, pecking my cheek in greeting. Oh, you can go toss this to the gossip columns too: no, I have not been "deflowered" yet. My strict father has made sure of that, forbidden me from any social life he hasn't prearranged. Forget about first kiss, I've never had a boyfriend in my life. What has kept me so confused is that out of all the nice wealthy bachelors out there, WHY DID MY FATHER CHOOSE KANE?!

"Miss Jitsuko, you're all set!" The attendants smile plastically as they scurry out of the room. "Your motherwill be visiting you shortly." The mahogany door shuts, leaving me alone with my reflections in the tall screen of mirrors standing before me.

This body doesn't belong to me. I'm not supposed to wear this Vera Wang wedding dress. I'm not supposed to wear this veiled Swarovski diamond tiara on my head. I'M STILL A TEENAGER, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

A scream pierces through my thoughts. Was that a gunshot?

It can't be. This is the Park Hyatt Hotel! Why would there be a gunfight here? I press my ear against the door. More screaming. I think I heard something shatter.

Shit, where's Rumi? What am I supposed to do now? Just sit here like the good ol' damsel in distress and wait for someone to come rescue me? Or do I attempt to run in this extravagant wedding gown, perhaps trip on my train and twist an ankle in the process?

My cell phone begins to sing Static Valentine's song "Echo." I answer my phone.

"Moshi moshi?"

"Jitsuko, this is your father."

"Dad! What's going on?"

"There is a group of armed men in the banquet room. I'm not sure what they want, but they've opened fire. Jitsuko, I want you to stay where you are."

"But... but – hello? Hello?"

The buzz of the dial tone answers my confused ramblings. Wonderful. He hung up. Now what do I do? Wait until someone finds me, whether they're coming to kill me or rescue me? Slowly, another idea dawns on me. I have another option.

Run. That would be disobeying my father, but then I'd be free from Kane. I'd be free from marriage, free from my father, free to live like a normal teenager for once. Free to finally live a life that wasn't prearranged.

The gunshots are getting louder and louder. They must be getting closer to this room. I kick off my stilettos and put on my Nike Air Rifts, something I can actually run in. I grab my purse but leave my cell phone. No one can track me down that way.

My hand grips the cold golden door handle but I pause. I've never disobeyed my father. But I don't trust this marriage. I can't shake the feeling I'm nothing more than the roasted pig being exchanged for some secret business deal. My father, not even Rumi will tell me why Tanaka and Araki have suddenly made amends and arranged a marriage. Even Kane, behind that lecherous brain of his, seems to vaguely understand what is going on.

I take a breath. I'm sorry, Dad. I'm going to disobey you just this once, just when it counts.

I open the door

And I run.

thanks to endlessdreams for excellent editing :