Saturday, 11 July 2015

Chapter three (segment one), 2016, August, Christina

Christina stared in stunned disbelief as business suit after business suit headed for the small reception. A large sign was prominently screwed to the wall. Twin Arc Production, it said. And below it a smaller sign announced workshops for middle management in English and Japanese.

Nakagawa, you bastard! Ulf was in no shape to run any classes for paying customers, and his expertise was very, very different from her own.

She ran up the stairs and through the corridor to the room Ulf shared with Ryu and Yukio. When she slid open the doors she could see how daylight gave way to the short dusk offered in Japan. Within a quarter of an hour it would be dark. Nothing like the endless dusks she had grown up with in another world.

Ulf lay sleeping on the tatami mats. He hadn't even bothered with pulling out a futon from the alcove where they lay stacked in wait for the night. Not that anyone would come here to make the beds tonight. They were supposed to be out camping after all.

Christina threw a guilty look along the corridor before she entered the room. Teenager girls weren't supposed to be that brash here in Japan, but it was still long before bedtime and that gave her a bit of a leeway should anyone come here.

She sat down beside him and pulled his head onto her lap. Slowly stroking his hair she revelled in the luxury of feeling the man she loved under her hands. Even asleep and riddled by nightmares he was still her Ulf, her U-kun. By now she knew he loved two women. Her because she was part of his life, and his wife Maria who was left behind in that other world that was lost to them both.

That knowledge hurt more than she expected. She couldn't compete with a ghost or a memory. In a way she would always remain his second love, because there was no way for him to find closure with his first life. Maria, whoever you are, and whatever you do, I hope you were worth it, because I want him so much to be my own. Maria, I'm sorry, but I'll try to take him from you even if you're only a memory to him now.

There were tears in her face. Some of them of her own misery, and some out of concern for him.

I was going to wake you up, but sleep. Just sleep for a while longer. Reluctantly she lowered his head to the tatami mat. She brought a pillow for him and carefully cradled his head to make place for it under him. I can't get enough of you, but I have to take care of the insanity downstairs.

Christina left the room after giving him a long look. Then she made her way to the entrance floor again. The first person she met was a ridiculously tall man, so beautiful she almost started laughing.

If the entrance had called up images of insanity earlier it was nothing compared to the current madness.

“Sir?” she asked. “What's going on?”

“Ah, Ageruman-san, perfect. We'll do the shots by the waterfront tomorrow. Eight sharp fine with you?”

She stared at the producer for her shots the last week, and then she looked at the crew carrying camera equipment inside the lobby. Nakagawa, I'm going to kick you so hard you have three Adam's apples. Dammit, Ulf's in a walking coma and need all my help, and now you've dragged the entire set for the Uniclo job here. She wanted to scream. That job wasn't supposed to start until September, but Uniclo was way too big an opportunity for her to decline. It's like he's forcing us to hit the ground running. But for her situation with Ulf it wouldn't have been a problem. She had managed far worse earlier, but right now. Right now she felt uncertainty and fear building up in her like it had done all those years ago when she was still a teenager trying to make it into the modelling world for the first time.

There's a difference now. Ulf's the difference. Back then I only had to care for myself. And that was a lie, she knew. Her career had cost her her first love because she hadn't cared about his fears and feelings of loneliness.

Will it be the same again? Would you have me chose between you and my work? Ulf, I need you! I need your honesty and humanity. And she knew what he would have said. She choked down the sobs that threatened to build up in her and accepted that she would gamble her love in an unforgiving game.

“Eight sharp will be just fine,” Christina said before her producer started to wonder if she had fallen asleep or not. “I apologise. I didn't expect to see you here so soon.” I didn't expect to see you here at all, and you bloody know that. “Dressed in set, or prepared for make-up?” she asked and immediately regretted her words. I'm not supposed to have lived this life before. Dammit Christina, play a little more stupid!

“In the bus will be just fine,” he said.

Christina nodded and went for the dining hall where the business suit migration had ended up. Then she had to mentally slap herself again. In this world she had never prepared an outdoor shot in a mobile studio. Just nodding as if the word 'bus' held all the information she needed was way out of character.

When she looked over her shoulder she saw him smiling. Oh well, that cover is blown to hell. He knows I'm pro, and now he knows that I know. She gave him the wave ending with a thumbs up she usually gave her personal crew late in her career before an important shot. He wouldn't know exactly what it meant, but he would know she had done this far too many times for her to remember.

Right now she had more important matters to take care of. She dressed her face in her billion dollar empress expression and marched in on the unsuspecting business men.

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