“Shoei…” Mika nudged me.
“Ye?” I looked at her.
“Gone back to Korea for a moment?” she laughed.
“Sort of,” I admitted.
“Oh… well… I think we can still grow as a band, and until we’ve achieved all we can as S-Cube, I’d hate to miss out on the fun,” I smiled.
“Well answered,” she smiled. “You’re really as eloquent as they say you are.”
“It’s the upbringing,” I smiled back.
“Oh? Your family’s in politics?”
“No… we practice law. My grandfather was a judge, and my father’s a defense attorney.”
“Sounds glitzy,” she said.
“Well… almost,” I laughed. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”
“Nothing is,” she smiled. “Even when you hear how great Nakashima Mika is, don’t listen to them. I’m only human, not the goddess they paint me to be.”
“I’ll keep that in mind… even if I never thought you were a goddess in the first place,” I said.
“Thanks a lot,” she said sarcastically. “You sure know how to boost my ego.”
They rented me a small studio apartment in a quieter district of the city. I’d specifically requested for such an apartment because I preferred to live away from the noise, and I would less likely be recognized there. The apartment was modestly furnished; there was a twin bed, a small cooking area, a little couch and television set, and bathroom. There was no washing room, and I could either do my washing in the common washing room in the basement or hand it to the PA each day for her to deal with it for me. I would probably just pick the 2nd option when I’m too tired to do my own laundry.
I opened the glass doors that lead to the balcony and stood leaning against the bars. There was a light breeze and I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I should probably just shut off my mind, but my thoughts would always be of her. I took my wallet out of my back pocket and flipped it open. It was a photo we’d taken the last time we met, just me and her, hugging each other. I missed not having her around. This trip home had felt a little incomplete because she was no longer around. I really missed my grandmother.
I pulled out another photo from a slit in my wallet and gazed at it for a moment. The other person I missed… nuna. I wonder what she’s doing now. She should be very busy starting this week. From the moment I heard of her project with Yun Ho, I knew it would be no easy feat. I just hope she’ll take care of her health. She looked so happy in the photo; she was standing in the middle with Skye and I on each side, and Jae Joong hyung hugging her from behind and resting his head on her shoulder. We all looked happy. I miss Seoul already.
I pulled my laptop out of my bag and put it on the little desk by my bed. As it started up, I walked into the bathroom to wash my face, and I poured myself a glass of water before I went to sit down at the desk. I configured my wireless network settings so that I could access the network of the building and as soon as I was connected, all my communicators started logging in. I closed all the message windows as I scanned through each of them, then I saw nuna’s message.
Sierra: Yo! Watcha doin’? Glad to be home? ^_^
I started typing my reply.
TShoei: Was only home for a day T_T I’m in Tokyo now… Met Mika today… she’s really cool @_@ I was star struck.
I hit the reply key and waited for a moment, in case she had deliberately left her status as ‘Offline’ to avoid some pesky people. I received no reply, and I turned my attention to clearing my emails. There were a few from the management regarding my activities, junk mail from Skye and some photos of Arisa from Shouji. I smiled when I saw the pictures of Arisa. She was such a sweet and friendly baby, almost too friendly. Let’s hope she doesn’t get taken advantage of when she gets older. But if she’s anything like her aunt, Yume, I don’t think anyone would dare take advantage of her.
I arrived at the studio bright and early the next morning for a photo shoot. After Mika had met me in person, she’d decided that I should also appear on the CD sleeve with her; one or two photos at least. The title of her album was My Sins and the theme for it was this black and greenish palette inspired by Maleficent, the witch in the Disney animated motion picture, the Sleeping Beauty.
I got to the studio and they gave me these long, black linen pants to wear. I was to go topless. After I’d changed into the pants, the hairstylist started styling my hair into these coarse spikes with wax and hairspray. The makeup artist sprayed me with body paint… black body paint to be exact, and they were done in a flame-like motive all over my body and face. Finally, to top it off, I had to wear green contacts; the kind that made you look like a cat, and they glowed freakily.
I looked at myself in the mirror before I went in for the shoot and I was surprised to see that I still resembled myself.
“We still want people to be able to tell that it’s Shoei from S-Cube,” the stylist said. “That was the main reason you were asked to be part of this album.”
I chatted with the photographer on the set while waiting for Mika, and when she appeared, you could see that everyone’s jaws were almost dropping, even though it’s not like it’s the first time she’s dressed like this. She was wearing this filmy dress that was kinda ripped and had ruches here and there. She also had black body paint and those green contacts.
“We look crazy,” I laughed when I saw her.
“Tell me about it…” she smiled.
“Crazy but cool,” I added.
“I got scared when I looked in the mirror,” she laughed.
“Yea… compared to your Nana image, this one is a little freakier.”
“Nana was human… this is bordering on the line between the living and the dead,” she said.
“Kinda reminds me of the hot vampire in Underworld… was it Underworld?”
“Kate Beckinsale,” she said.
“Yep… that's the one. Very hot…”
“Typical guy,” she said as she rolled her eyes.
Shooting started shortly after. The lights were all dimmed and dim, yellowish light illuminated the set just enough for the cameras to be able to capture our expressions and outfits. The backdrop was all white in contrast to our dark outfits so that the outlines of our bodies were visible.
“Mika, lean into Shoei… yep… like that,” the photographer directed, and Mika did as she was told.
I think many guys would be dreaming of this; having Mika Nakashima lean into them. My left hand rested lightly on the small of her back and the right hand on her hip. She was really thin and small. Girls like her made nuna feel inadequate all the time.
Despite our busy schedule and the stress that came with it, she still managed to gain weight. She was now nearing the 52kg mark, and the good thing was that the management have not made any scathing comments about it or asked her to go on a diet. Perhaps they feel that nuna is in a position of popularity where she can still gain some and still be loved and accepted. Honestly, she didn’t look like she gained any weight at all, except for the little bit of extra roundness on her face. I can still recall her complaining about her face just before I left.
“I’m fat!” she exclaimed as she scrutinized her face in the mirror.
“No you’re not,” I said. “You’re weight is healthy for your height.”
“Healthy… but my face looks so round,” she wailed.
“It’s fine…” I sighed.
“My cheekbones are gone!” she said dramatically. “Look at this double chin.”
“There’s not double chin,” I assured her.
“And did you notice how long it took for the photographer to get a perfect shot of me the other day, to make sure I didn’t look like a Hello Kitty?”
“That wouldn’t have been the case since the makeup artiste would’ve fixed your face with makeup before you went on the set. They have ways to create the slimming effect for you face if you did look round.”
“Don’t you know that when on camera you look much fatter than usual?”
“You didn’t look fat. None of your photos looked fat if you recall looking at the proof sheets. The photographer was just a little more demanding than usual, that’s why she took a longer time than usual.”
She still didn’t look convinced by the time I’d finished explaining and there was little I could do if she refused to be convinced. Even though the management have now relaxed their control on nuna, she still can’t help feeling pressured to criticize and control herself in the manner they would do to her.
It sometimes angers me how they’ve shattered her confidence in herself. She’s only confident when she feels that she looks perfect, and I can see how taxing the effort is to maintain her confidence. Such are the ways of the industry. I’m sure even someone like Mika has moments where she feels inadequate. How else would she drive herself to maintain that figure and image?
The photo shoot wrapped up by noon, and I sat in the chair while the makeup artist removed the body paint from my face and body with the solvent on a cotton swab.
“We’re having lunch together with a friend of mine,” Mika said as soon as we were clean and leaving the set.
“Who?” I asked.
“You’ll see when we get there,” she smiled, and I decided not to bug her for an answer.
It’s been a week and so far I’ve shot 2 episodes with Vanness for the music program. In addition to that, we’d been appearing on local variety shows together and today, we’re appearing in a CF for an energy drink. Like most of the CFs I’ve filmed, this wasn’t much different; there will be a few versions, 2 to be exact. Vanness’ was going to be mostly night scenes and mine would be day scenes. They’re planning to air each separately and also have one which will be some sort of a medley of the 2 ending with cuts of me and him on each side of the screen at the end.
The whole concept of this energy drink was that it would give the both of us the energy to rush around all the time and do whatever for long hours. The first scene we’re filming is of me swimming laps in a pool. Vanness happened to have some free time on that day so he came to the set to watch.
They put me in a pair of swimming trunks, a cap and a pair of goggles.
“Stand there,” the director said, motioning me to stand at the edge of the pool. “Pull down your goggles, get into position and jump into the pool.”
I nodded and started warming up a little while the crew did last minute adjustments to the equipment and the director got back to his chair. I was lucky that the director spoke English, otherwise, it would be the case of the chicken and the duck, as nuna always said.
“Ready?” the director yelled from across the pool, and I gave him the thumbs up. “Action!” he yelled.
I pulled down my goggles, leant down to touch my feet and jumped into the pool. It was a clean dive, and I was pretty impressed with myself. I swam speedily across the pool, freestyle, and when I reached the end, I flipped and swam back.
“Cut!” I could hear the director yell as I completed 1 lap.
I surfaced and coughed a bit.
“Skye,” the director said, “Can you try the breaststroke now?”
“No problem,” I said.
I climbed out of the pool and the assistant dried me down a little before I went back to the earlier starting position. As soon as the director shouted ‘Action!’, I jumped into the pool again and started swimming. The breaststroke was a little slower than the freestyle and I’d given all my energy to the earlier shot, so I slowed down considerably mostly. I finished the lap and the director yelled ‘Cut!’.
“Good take,” he said as I climbed out of the pool. “We’re gonna move on to the next set.”
I changed out of the swimming attire and into gym clothes. Vanness met up with me as I walked out of the changing room.
“Looking good,” he smiled.
“Good thing there isn’t much sporting activities in my CF,” he said.
“Really? What’s yours?”
“Mostly dancing, clubbing,” he laughed.
“Hey,” I protested. “Not fair. Why did you get the fun job?”
“Cos I’m the senior,” he grinned.
“And I’m the foreigner,” I grumbled.
“Yep,” he laughed. “Where to next?”
“The gym,” I said.
We were shooting at a club house, so we’re going to complete the shots for most of the activities where the facilities are available there; swimming, gym, squash, tennis. The plan was to film as many activities as possible and they’ll take the best clips to make the final clip.
“Looks like you’re gonna be burnt out today,” he said.
“Tomorrow as well. I can bet we won’t finish today.”
“Yea… that’s normal,” he said. “Well… all the best for today. I’m gonna head off now. See you later.”
“Alright… see ya,” I said.
As Vanness walked out of the main doors, I saw someone get out of a car stopped at the front. It was a girl, and she looked very familiar. I craned my neck to get a better look, but the door closed. Is it who I think it is? I walked towards the door and pushed it open almost hitting the girl I’d noticed. She backed away in shock as the door swung at her.
“Mian,” I said as I held the door open for her.
“Oh… Hi Skye,” she said as she flashed a bright smile.
I was speechless as I looked at her. I really didn’t think I’d see her here.