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Chapter Seven

Asdfkajdfla is completely comprehendable

 

“Good Morning, Miss Tala! You look fabulous today,” Nina, the bitch of a secretary greeted her with her usual kiss-ass smile. Marikit nodded her reply and best fake smile at her. No, she could not trust Nina with a safety pin, but she had to live with her. Nina was best at what she does and she couldn’t deny that. She had seen too many headless chickens running around her office to know that Nina at the very least had a good head upon her pretty fake Anne Klein clad shoulders.

 

“What’s in my itinerary today, Nina?” She said as she assessed her secretary’s complete knock off of last Friday’s outfit. It was pretty close. She did not know when it started, when Nina gradually graduated from bitching and laughing at her outfit to being her carbon copy.  But, maybe she must be doing something right if she was the fashion icon of the office now, instead of the fashion victim.

 

“Well, Mr. San Sebastian called asking when he can expect the mock up for the Replay Philippines Ad Campaign and I told him that we can have it on Friday because that is the soonest that our people can get it done. I also called Creative Department to rush it so we can make it. So, unless you have changes, I’ll tell Production to go ahead,” Nina paused to note that Marikit nodded and went on with her morning speech.

 

Marikit was only half listening to the long list of calls, replies, invitation, appointments, meetings and reminders that her secretary had already taken care of or waiting for her response. She commented here and there to those that matter. “No, I don’t want to see him again. Move that meeting to next Tuesday and tell Mr. Cheng that we can present by tomorrow.” Marikit felt like Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada, bossing around poor Anne Hathaway and making her life a living hell.

 

She dismissed Nina and focused on the mountain of ads that were piled upon her desk for approval and sighed. It was one of those days. It was just Wednesday and she already longed for the weekend. She turned on her iPod and listened to the latest Japanese Pop Music as she worked wishing that she could be singing, dancing and fangirling instead of going over each and every single minute detail of each ad presented to her. It was a tedious task, but someone has got to do it.

 

She let her mind travel back to the weekend. Miki was acting weird. She giggled a little as she remembered the ridiculous outfit he had on, the confident way he swaggered around and the sweet little speech he gave her after. She knew that she cared about him – actually, she knew that he was in love with her, but she refused to admit it. She did not want him to know that she knew. She did not want him to be in love with her at all.

 

Miki was her friend, her confidante, her older brother, her fangirling partner, her shoulder to cry on and more. Most of all, Miki to her was her soul mate and she knew that him falling in love with her would complicate and ruin things between them, because she knew that she could never love him back. She just wouldn’t even try. It was fear, really. She just did not want to lose him because he was her most important person in her life. Losing him would be like losing a part of her and she could not allow that.

 

Yet, she could not bring herself to tell Miki that. For some reason or the other, she knew that if she did, things would change. And that was what she was really scared of, change.  Maybe that is why she did not want to grow up. Maybe that was why she remains a child.


Then, there was Jiro. Jiro was something else. He was another issue that she really did not want to think about because thinking about him brings upon spastic outbreaks of fangirling that she did not want the office to witness or hear. He was her crush, the boy he liked and the answer to her fangirling prayers.

 

“Miss Tala, there’s a flower delivery for you,” Nina broke into her thoughts. She looked up, surprised and then pouted. Nina has the worst timing ever, as usual. But flowers? She never really received flowers. She was hopeful that it might be from Jiro and concealed the excitement in her voice.

 

“Send it in,” She said as she let curiosity take the better part of her. The door opened and a huge spray of sunflowers appeared.  She stood up and was wide-eyed with disbelief. Sunflowers were her favorite flowers, but not a lot of people knew about it. She was now very curious who the sender of the beautiful flowers was.

 

“Thank you,” she said to the guy who she barely noticed standing there as she admired the yellow petals and the long stalks that always cheered her up. “Just place it here.” She pointed to the side table that was empty, and where she could always look at it. It doesn’t matter who it was from, really. It was sunflowers and it made her day. Now, where was the card so she could thank that person?

 

“Like it?”

 

“I love it!” She exclaimed to no one as she looked around the arrangement for a card. “Now if only I can find that card so I can thank whoever sent me this.”

 

“I’m glad,” the guy said with an amused laugh.

 

Marikit stopped what she was doing and realized that there was someone in the room with her and she was conversing with him. She wanted to smack herself for being so one-track minded and forgetting that part. She whirled around and almost fainted with embarrassment and joy at the sight of Jiro standing there with an amused smile on his face as he held up the card that she was looking for all this while.

 

She approached him and snatched the card out of his hands. “Brat!” She scolded him but still beamed as she read the sweet little card that had the cheesiest line ever.

 

I am like a Sunflower, I am always drawn to the sun in your smile.  Keep me smiling, my Sunflower. Have dinner with me tonight.

 

Marikit squealed inwardly and closed her eyes to try to control the inner fangirl from coming out. It took all her strength to stop herself from jumping around her office and squealing incoherently like she does whenever she’s fangirling her favorite pop idols. In her head, she was keysmashing and twirling around in circles, while in reality, she was actually just sitting down on her desk calmly and seemingly reading this innocent, cute and corny little note.

 

She looked up at Jiro, and smiled. “Thank you. You know you didn’t have to send me these. I would have gone out to dinner with you.”

 

“I wanted to,” He said simply as he approached her desk and sat down. “Thought I could win you over more and cheer you up. I thought that since it was Humpday, you might need a little pick me up.”

 

Oh how perfect can one guy be? Marikit almost swooned at his words. Adlkfjadlfkja! She did not have any words to describe him except that. Fangirls of the world can define that random keysmashing as the crazy, swoony, insanely crazy feeling one gets when faced with a bishounen especially one that they especially like or is in love or obsessed with. She tried to make coherent sentences to answer him but nothing came out.

 

She hid her blush behind the card and looked up at him hopefully. He not only looked perfect in his perfectly pressed tan chinos, a simple light blue shirt and a sports jacket. But he was also looking at her with such sweetness that it melted her and she melted more.

 

“You’re too cute,” He said as he reached over and reached beyond the card to poke her nose. “I’ll pick you up at eight, cutie.” He winked at her before leaving the room.

 

She waited a few minutes before she stood up and ran to the couch in her office and grabbed a pillow to squeal and beat at it until she was blue. A date! An actual date with Mr. Jiro Amanosuke ! She looked down at her outfit and panicked. What will she wear? Wait, was he picking her up here or at home? Did she need to go shopping? She was nearly catatonic when she heard the familiar buzz of the Yahoo! Messenger from her computer.

 

She ran towards it and was grateful to see that Miki was messaging her. Of course! Miki! Miki could help her with this fiasco. He could calm her down and give her advice. Kuya is never wrong, right?  She typed as quickly as possible.

 

marikit_hime: KUYA!!! Dafjd;laskjfdsa;lfkja! I NEED YOU! Thank heavens you’re here. I am in a situation.

 

Mmikikun: What’s wrong? L Is my little sister having a bad day?

 

Marikit_hime: …. Not really. Jiro sent me flowers and asked me out to dinner tonight. O.O I am panicking.

 

Mmikikun: Really? … and this is a problem because?

 

Marikit_hime: I don’t have an outfit! I don’t know what to think and … KUYA!!! Dlfjadlfjas;lfkj! This is not happening!

 

Mmikikun: Get yourself together. Just wear something simple, a dress maybe? Something cute and have a good time. Ok? I have papers to grade. I just wanted to check up on you. I’ll talk to you later.

 

Marikit stared at the chat conversation and then realized that she shouldn’t have said that.  She shouldn’t have told him like that. She knew that he was jealous and that was why he was cold. She felt cruel, but she knew that this was for the best. She knew that it was better like this. She and Miki could never be together. Maybe one day he would understand that, but for now, this would have to do.

 

Another buzz from her computer made her look as a chat box popped up. It was Nagi, a friend from the fandom, and a person who she considers a good friend even though they really have not met in person. She felt close enough to her to tell her the details of her sorry life especially when it came to Jiro. Finally! Someone who understands!

 

                Dreaming_nagi13: Marikit, girl. What’s up? J

 

                Marikit_hime: NAGI!!!!! Dlfkjaldkjsaf;sdlkfja! He. Gave. Me. Sunflowers.

 

Dreaming_nagi13: OMG! Are you serious? How pretty are they? How did you know it was him? Details.

 

Marikit_hime: Well, I was having weeeek, you know its Wednesday. I was just working when Nina buzzes in that I have this flower delivery and you know that never in Yamapi’s name did I ever receive flowers at work or anywhere for that matter, except from the old farts that try to date me for money right? Well, door opens and I die. X.X Like seriously. There was this big thing of Sunflowers on legs that comes in and I got busy admiring it and drooling at it that I forgot that there was someone there!

 

Dreaming_nagi13: Maji!? Serious … fldasjkfa;ldfkjas;dlfjk! Tell me who was it?

 

Marikit_hime:  I was talking to the walking plant until I realized that there was a person there.

 

Dreaming_nagi13: … LOL. So who was it? Stop killing me here. >.>

 

Marikit_hime: Jiro. He was the one who brought the flowers and the card said ,’ I am like a Sunflower, I am always drawn to the sun in your smile.  Keep me smiling, my Sunflower. Have dinner with me tonight.’ I died. Seriously. Like right now. I am DEAD. Dlfkldkfa.

 

Dreaming_nagi13: dkfasdklfhaslf ! KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! SERIOUSLY. What are you wearing?

 

Marikit_hime: ;__; I don’t know! Help?

 

Marikit forgot all about work that afternoon as she spent the afternoon keysmashing , planning and fangirling with Nagi. She finally found someone who speaks her language and at least someone who does not think she is entirely insane. She needed this.  Especially since she had this date tonight. This was an emergency.

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Chapter Six

The Secrets of the Bishounen Prince

 

His eyes wandered to a framed picture on his bedside table, it was taken years ago when they were still almost babies. It was a picture of wide eyed naiveté as both children were watching fireworks in the annual Osaka Town Festival. He was around seven years old and Marikit was around six.  Marikit and he were still small then, and in the picture, they were both wearing colorful yukatas, holding lanterns and had on an expression of sheer amusement and delight as they watched the sky light up with a magical light show. That perfect moment was frozen in time and perpetually captured in a photograph, was one that he considers a personal treasure. It reminded him of the first time he fell in love and the promise he made to her that special night when everything else did not matter except the fact that he had his princess with him.

 

He picked it up and studied the expressions on their faces. Back then, they seemed engrossed in the light show, but their hands found their way to hold each other’s like little lovers in the sugary sweet Hallmark greeting cards that he remembered getting on White Day. He remembered that exact moment, as if it was carved into stone in his mind.  He brought the picture everywhere he went, as if it was a secret talisman for anything that might come in between him and his princess. It was his proof that they were destined for each other, something he had known since the day they met.

 

“Shinjiro, I would like you to meet Marikit Tala. She’s the daughter of Victor-san, and she is a very special girl, I want you to take care of her while she is here. Can you do that?”  His father told him that fateful day as he watched a little girl with ebony hair and bright eyes peek from behind her father’s legs and beamed at him before making a cute little curtsy. He nodded at his father.

 

“Hajimemashite. My name is Amanosuke Shinjiro. I’m seven years old from Osaka. My father said I am to be your friend,” He said as he stepped up to her and bowed down. He stared at the girl and the pretty fluffy dress she was wearing. It was something pink with ruffles on it, just like how western princesses were described to him in kindergarten. She was beautiful, and he blushed. He went back to his place beside his father, looked up to his father and whispered. “Ne, Otousan, is she a princess?”

 

“Well, you could call her that,” His father laughed with amusement as he beamed. He finally met a princess. A real life princess! How lucky can he get? It wasn’t everyday you meet one and there was one right in his own home.

 

“I’m not a princess!” Marikit’s small yet strong voice resounded from behind her father’s legs. “Princesses can’t do anything but sit still and be pretty. I don’t like that at all.”

 

The older men laughed at the little girl’s folly as the little boy shook his head. “If you’re not a princess, then what are you?”

 

“I’m a – I’m a … Knight!” she declared proudly after a moment’s thought as she held her head high and proud and threw her pigtailed hair back.

 

“No, you’re not!” Jiro retorted. “You’re a girl! You’re a princess and I’m going to be your knight,” He said as he kneeled down in front of her like he saw knights do in Disney Movies. “I will protect you no matter what, that I promise Princess Marikit.”

 

“Do whatever you want! I don’t like being a princess, I am going to be a knight and play with swords and go on adventures!” Marikit pouted and stomped back behind her father. “Papa, I don’t like him.”

 

“Marikit, Sweetie, give Shinjiro a chance,” her father calmly said as he knelt in front of his daughter. “You could be a princess and still have adventures, you know? And besides, wouldn’t you want a handsome knight such as him to help you out?”

 

 He stood up and watched her. She was going to be a really hard princess to protect. “I’ll do everything to protect you, Princess. I’ll bring you to all my adventures!”

 

It was then that she finally smiled at him and nodded. Soon, they were playing like the best of friends. It was amazing how easy childhood friendships are made. With just a smile, one learns to love and protect that person for the rest of his life. Because at that moment, he knew that he swore to something more than a game of make believe. He promised to protect her, and to be hers for a lifetime.

 

But Marikit did not know that. She did not know that Jiro had built his whole being upon that one promise to her. She did not know that his entire life and all that he has become was for her. He wanted to be the perfect man for her. He wanted to be the Knight that he promised to be. He wanted to take her to all his adventures and live out his life with her. He did this blindly and without thinking, because he fell in love when he was seven.

 

Jiro did not understand the hold that Marikit had over him. What magic did her smile have upon his whole being that even a picture of it could bring him to his knees? He did not know what power her eyes had, or the pull her scent has on him. He tried to resist her and told himself that this was crazy many times, but somehow, he could not. His family had raised him to be a model of manhood, a paragon of perfection to be the perfect choice for Marikit.

 

It did not help that his parents fed this tiny flame. They supported his admiration for him by telling him all about her when he asked. They encouraged him by showing him pictures of her growing up and telling him that she was the ideal lady for him. He believed it all, because he thought he knew her. He grew up researching all about her. He asked Victor-san every time he was in Japan about her. He found her online and read her blog, all her writings and stalked her in forums.

 

He got to know her secretly and without her knowledge he developed a secret relationship with her. He fell in love with her strong personality, her quirky way of thinking and her uniqueness. She doesn’t hide what she feels. She was candid and funny. She was emotional and deep. She had her own idiosyncrasies. She was perfect that way.

 

His father had sent him many pictures of her from trips in the Philippines to inspire him in Law School, the perfect job for a modern knight. He believed that with adequate knowledge of law, it would be his sword against anyone who would harm his lady love He thrived on news of her well-being and blindly believed that she was still waiting for him through these years. He rejected all the ladies that wanted to make him their prince. He resisted all temptation, as he poured himself onto perfecting himself for her, to get ready for that day that he would meet her again.

 

He lived a sorry existence and he admitted that. For what man could live for a relationship that is not even real? But he had to – in his mind, he knew that they were destined to be together. That they were somehow fated by some twisted fate or something. He could not understand why he allowed himself to be brainwashed like that. But was it really brainwashing? He was obsessed with the idea that one day he would be her husband.  

 

His feelings were confirmed when he saw her and talked to her that day at the restaurant. As soon as he laid eyes on her again and she flashed him her smile, he was hooked. He knew that he would do anything for this woman. He knew that all his sacrifice was worth it, just to see her smile.

 

He kissed the portrait of her he had beside him and closed his eyes. He only has a month. One month to convince her to marry him. Not only for his sake, but for the company as well – the moment he has prepared for and was prepared for was already here. He could not fail.

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Chapter 5: The Melancholy of Mr. Torpe

Chapter Five:

The Melancholy of Mister Torpe

 

Miki could hardly believe that there was such a guy. He clearly defeated him in several aspects and fit exactly into Marikit’s Bishounen Checklist. He was Japanese – the kind that Marikit likes, and he was drop dead gorgeous according to her standards. He graduated from Harvard Law School, so he is obviously very intelligent and educated. He wears nothing but Dolce and Gabbana, Banana Bepublic, Armani and sometimes, Guess and always looks like he’s a celebrity. He is charming, with a hint of mysteriousness and if personality was currency, then he was very rich. He claimed and conquered at least six of the twenty five characteristics that he aimed to disprove. Goddamn Jiro for being so perfect.

 

He lay back and stared up the ceiling of his room, defeated. On his desk lay open his lesson plan for the week, but he was in no mood to think about Philosophy or any sort of torture for his students for the week. All that was in his mind was how to prove that Mister Perfect was actually a flawed human being and was not right for her so that he could help her broken heart heal and claim her in the process.  It seemed so easy, but in truth, it was not.

 

How many times did he try to tell her? How many times did he fail? How many times did he chicken out of it and how many times did he bang his head on the wall after? Far too many to count, he thought.

 

His mind travelled back to college, when he had a chance. Back to when they were still classmates, and everything started. He could remember the first time clearly in his mind just like it was just yesterday that it happened. He could still feel the same pain, and feeling of deep regret.

 

For their final project in World Literature, they were required to do a cultural piece about the country and the story that they reported about. He and Marikit decided that they would do a shadow puppet show of the Tales of Genji using origami for the puppets and some of the props. They stayed out late one afternoon finishing a line of paper cranes and the shadow box they would use for the show. He was watching her expertly fold those paper cranes as he finished his own work.

 

“Did you know that if you finish a thousand of these paper cranes and give them to the person you care about, you get a wish?” She said as she started a new crane.

 

“Oh?” He had asked casually. He was only thinking about his planned speech after, and his intention to tell her what he really felt about her. He had planned this for weeks, even practicing his speech in front of his mirror daily to make sure that he would not look like a complete idiot while giving it. He wanted it to look as natural as possible, but polished. He thought he was ready today, but the butterflies in his stomach disagreed.

 

“Yup,” Marikit flashed him a smile. One that made the butterflies wage war against the walls of his stomach. “If you had finished one thousand paper cranes, who would you give it to? What would you wish for?”

 

Miki was stunned. He couldn’t answer for a moment because he knew that his answer would be simple. If he was confident and he had the courage, it would have been so easy to say it.  “You, and what I would wish for would be for me to be given a chance to love you the way you should be loved.” But he didn’t and instead changed the topic to the lucrative and very interesting topic of the weather. His speech had flown away with his thousand paper cranes as he talked about how it looked like it was going to rain that night and that they should hurry on with their work.

 

Miki smothered his face with a pillow in an attempt to erase the hideous and embarrassing memory from his mind. When he was sure that he couldn’t and his body was lacking oxygen, he let go and just stared absently into the darkness.

 

His life was a sad existence. He was what everyone would call torpe. A guy who is too shy to approach, or tell the girl he desires about his feelings. He is the person who is found folding at each opportune moment and failing to tell the desired lady his true feelings causing him regret and depression each and every single time. In short, he was romantically inept and a sad excuse for a man.

 

He wanted to change that about him, but he was fighting with a giant. His nemesis right now seemed to be the god of men and not so easily broken unlike the other losers that tried to claim Marikit’s heart. He thought the worst was over after Ryo ruthlessly gave up and broke her heart. He was ready to save her from eternal loneliness until this Prince Charming came to sweep his Princess off her feet.

 

How could he defeat Jiro? How could he prove that he is a better man? How could he compare to the one man who easily showed himself worthy of the checklist?  He wanted to be that man, but he didn’t know how. He then, realized the only weapon he had against the enemy. He knew about the checklist and Jiro did not. 

 

He stood up and walked over to his desk and picked up his copy of the check list and studied it for a moment. He was thinking about this the wrong way! Why was he using the list only to destroy or defeat Jiro? Why wasn’t he using the list for his own advantage? Why not be the perfect model for the list or at least close to it. Why didn’t he think about this before?

 

He stood in front of the mirror and studied himself. He was glad that he was still doing those weekly bike rides and he didn’t get lazy with working out. He still looked buff and he still had abs. He needed a haircut, but that would be remedied easily.  He opened his closet and checked his wardrobe. He needs to go shopping too. He may not be able to afford Jiro’s high end fashion repertoire but he had Greenhills Shopping Center, 1-6-8, his expert haggling skills and the knowledge of what Marikit likes guys to wear as his ammo. It was time to go to work.

 

The sun was filtering through the blinds as he finished his plan. He did not sleep at all that night but he was not tired at all. He showered quickly and got ready for work. He made sure that he had his ATM and the pictures he printed out handy for his shopping trip and make-over that night. In his mind, he was confident that Marikit would love his new look.

 

.o0o.

 

This was the moment of truth.  Miki checked himself on the window of a tinted car and made sure everything was perfect. He had a new haircut and he styled it and waxed it in the style of the Japanese Pop Star that he modeled it from. His outfit was new and everyone seemed to look at him interest. That was a good sign, and to him it meant that he was noticeable enough to gain some attention. He took a deep breath and held his head high and took the plunge.

 

Stares followed him as he entered the restaurant where Marikit and Jiro were already waiting for him. They were going bar hopping at the Fort that night, and most likely would end up dancing at the Embassy where he would take Marikit’s breath away with his newly rehearsed moves and improved style. It was the debut of the new Miki- the one that would be confident enough to tell Marikit his true feelings.

 

“Yo,” He said uncharacteristically as he approached the table. Marikit took one look at him and her jaw fell.  Yes! She noticed! He thought as he proceeded to sit down.

 

“Nice outfit,” Jiro said averting his eyes from him.

 

Score! He thought. He finally saw weakness in his nemesis’ eyes. Maybe this was the right thing to do.

 

Marikit was staring at him and he began to blush. Who knew that this abrupt change would cause her to stare at him intently, oh, his appeal was really surprising! Why didn’t he do this before? He beamed at her. “You like it? I thought I should dress up for a change. I mean, it’s really not every day that I get to hang out with you guys.”

 

“Ummm… Miki, uh… I like the hair,” Marikit stammered as her eyes studied his whole outfit. “It suits you, really. It’s also oddly familiar. I just can’t seem to put a finger on it.”

 

“Hmmm…” Miki was starting to feel really good about himself. “I thought I should update my look a little, you know, be a little more hip. It’s nice like this.”

 

“It is,” Jiro agreed. “I like your jacket, is that cow print? It’s very unique. You are a very creative person, it seems.”

 

Miki beamed, “Thanks man. You look good too.” But he was not going to compare. He knew that his was the better outfit. It was hard simulating the exact outfit that Masuda Takahisa was wearing but he found things that were close enough. The cow print jacket was just his crowning touch.

 

“Yeah,” Marikit smiled at his friend and shook his head. “I kinda like the old Miki too, but if you’re happy with this new look, then I’m happy too. It’s just so close to Massu, that I couldn’t tell if you modeled the style after his or you’re cosplaying him.”

 

Cosplaying? Miki did not have that intention in mind and was taken aback. Maybe it was just that she’s surprised with his new look.  Yes, that was it.

 

He watched as Jiro listened patiently and with interest to Marikit’s explanation of who Masuda Takahisa was. He watched as Jiro asked questions in Japanese and she answered back fluently. He admired her easy fluency in the language he only wished he could speak. He watched her flip her hair and motion to him and Jiro would look on to him with interest, nodding and exclaiming along the way.

 

He immediately assumed that they were discussing his amazing transformation from Mister Preppy to Mister Trendy and Cool in one go. A first he was not entirely sure of the look, it kind of looked ridiculous to him. From the brown cowboy boots, the tucked in jeans, the bright red shirt with the skull print, the large buckle belt and the jacket.  But now, he was convinced that he looked cool. He could get used to this kind of attention.

 

After dinner, they started drinking at the bars around the area showing Jiro around and having a good time. Their trio was getting a lot of attention from everyone and he was glad that he was a part of such an elite crowd. It was the first time he was experiencing this and to him it was like a brand new world. Was this what he was missing all those years that he scorned the elite in his college days?

 

He was elated with the compliments he got about his outfit. People commented on his unique choice of clothing, to his confidence in carrying it. It was all so surreal and Miki felt like a new person. He smiled at each person who looked curiously at him. Ah, the feeling of stardom!

 

Yet, his change seemed to affect Marikit the opposite way. She was supposed to be swooning over him by now and not seem to be permanently attached to Jiro’s side. She barely even spoke to him that night, aside from throwing him a few looks here and there that were both puzzled and somehow a bit sad.  Maybe she was sad that she wasn’t alone with him. and maybe she needs a little more time. It was the first time she saw him and his new found confidence anyway and he’s really not in a hurry for anything.

 

His opportune moment finally came later that night as they sat around for their last night cap before calling it a night. Jiro had gone away for a little bit, leaving them together alone at last. He studied her carefully, watching as the light played upon her ebony hair. The perfect moment is now – he needed to tell her now and sweep her off her feet with his confidence and sweet words.

 

“I still can’t believe that outfit,” Marikit spoke first, breaking the silence between them. Her cold eyes turned to him, and the icy stare surprised him. “Care to tell me what got into you or did you get dressed in the dark?”

 

Ouch. With those words and that glare, all the confidence in the new Miki flew out the window. He slowly felt the energy drain from him like a deflating balloon. “I just thought it would be nice to look different for a change.” He muttered as he took a sip from his gin and tonic. So much for eloquence, he felt all words stick to his throat as he fell silent under her cold yet pretty eyes. He wanted to speak and tell her that he did it for her, so that he may notice her. All his effort was now for nothing. His plan had backfired on him.

 

“I don’t really care about changing. Change is good, but that…” She motioned to his outfit, “is not a change I am expecting from you. You shocked me really, why did you have to be so pretentious? The Miki I liked seemed to be gone. I hate this monstrosity that you’ve become. If this is all an act to mislead Jiro or me, then stop it, because I would never like anyone like that. If you think that looking like Massu would get you more attention from me, then maybe you’re right. Because all night long, I have been laughing at you and pitying you for doing this to yourself. You look ridiculous.”

 

He was glad that Jiro was not there at all because at that moment, he showed total weakness. Tears fell upon his cheeks as he tried to grasp the reality of the situation. He did quite a number on himself. Looking back at everything that night, he wanted the earth to open up and swallow him and his miserable, ridiculous looking self never to be seen by the world again.

 

“I… just thought that you…” He couldn’t even say it.  He couldn’t even tell her that he loved her. So much that it made him crazy. So much that it made him cry. He tried to find the words to tell her as he searched her eyes. He had to tell her now, but how?  If he could only use ESP to tell her how his heart really felt about her, he would. But he did not know how and he wished for some divine intervention to let Marikit know the love in his heart.

 

“Kuya Miki,” Her voice softened as well as her eyes filled with understanding. Did the gods hear his silent prayer? “I know…. I’ve known all along how much you care about me.”

 

“I just didn’t want to lose you,” Miki said in between sobs. Thank you, Lord.  He didn’t have to say it.  Maybe, it would turn out to be good after all.

 

“Of course you won’t! You have been there since the beginning and you have always, always been someone I could confide in and trust,” she smiled at him and took his face in his hands.

 

He quivered. Was this the moment he had been waiting for all these years? Is patience finally paying off? He loved her so much that his emotion came pouring out in form of tears in his eyes. Never mind that people were staring at him, crying like a baby. He really did not care, if it only meant that he would finally get to hear the words that he had waited for so long.

 

“Marikit,” he stared long and hard at those eyes. “I love you.”

 

There. He finally said it. He finally confessed to her and all the weight of the world seemed to lift off his shoulders. All the ridicule seemed worth it for this one moment alone. He was not a torpe anymore. He was a man, a man who could say his feelings without fear or regret.

 

Time seemed to stop between them. Seconds passed before he saw a reaction break into Marikit’s lovely face. She smiled and took him into her arms and started to laugh. It felt glorious. Finally, he was getting the love that he deserved.

 

“Miki, oh, my silly Miki, I love you too.” Marikit started to say. “If that was all that is, then I already know. You will never lose me. You need not be insecure of Jiro, because he will never come between what we have. You and I are special. Miki, my sweet Miki…. You are precious.”

 

Miki was elated. He was the happiest man in the world at the moment. He wrapped his arms around her in a protective hug, something that he wanted to do for so long, but could not.  Now, he was free to do so, because he now knew that they loved each other and all those years of doubt were for nothing. He should have done this a long time ago. If there was heaven on earth, this was it.

 

“I can’t believe you would do this for my sake,” She continued to laugh. “You didn’t need to do this, Miki. You will always be and forever be special to me.” She pulled back a little and poked him on the nose as he resisted the urge to kiss her right then and there.

 

“I was scared,” he admitted to her. “I just thought, you know… with Jiro around, you’d just …” All reason floated away as she laughed.

 

BAKA!” she wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “I didn’t know you cared that much. Kuya, you know you’d always be close to me. You are my Onii-san after all.”

 

CRACK. What was that? Was that his heart? Miki felt destroyed. His hopes fell before him smashing into tiny little pieces as he tried to smile back and nod. His heart stopped feeling, and the numbness overtook the pain that shook his whole being. This was not happening. This was unreal. Just when he thought that he had her, he did not. Apparently, to her, he would never be anything else than her older brother. He blinked back tears again and watched as she smiled at Jiro who was coming back.

 

Screw love.  Love sucks. But then again, he could not stop feeling it. If loving her meant a lifetime of pain, then so be it.

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Chapter 4: Number 1: He must be Japanese

Chapter Four:

Number One- He must be Japanese.

The plan was simple. Miki proposed that were to go over each little detail of the checklist and carefully scrutinize each and every single detail to see if Jiro fits into each characteristic of her perfect guy. It was the most logical thing to do and the process would, of course, lead Marikit to see if she liked him or not if he was just a childhood friend or her destiny. They agreed to do so as soon as he comes back to Manila.

So, she waited and soon the time came. Jiro was going to stay in Manila for a month in November mostly for business, but he requested in his long e-mail that they should spend some time together. He detailed his itinerary to her, along with where he’s staying and asked her to go to several places with him, if her schedule permits it. She immediately asked Nina to block her whole month of November – unless it was a life or death emergency.

“Do you have the list?” Miki asked as he shook the ice in his vodka tonic after dinner one night.

“I do,” Marikit spoke cryptically, acting the part of an informant with valuable information.

“Let’s see it then,” Miki held his hand out for the list as Marikit handed him her Blackberry, opened to the page where she had the list and the mini-criterion within it.  He studied the list with interest nodding here and there and then finally spoke. “Alright, when do we start?”

“Tomorrow,” she declared. “His flight comes in at nine.”

“Great,” Miki smiled at her and raised his glass for a toast. “To the success of our mission.” And my own, he added silently.

Kampai,” she toasted her glass of Midori Stone Sour with him. It was times like these that she was really grateful that Miki was her friend. It was really great to have someone like him. Without him, she’d probably be lost in her flaily little fangirl world not knowing what to do. She sometimes wondered though, why he never really got a girlfriend. He’s a great guy, any girl would be lucky to have him.

“What’s number one, Kit?” Miki asked breaking into her thoughts.

 “Hmmm…” She sipped her drink and grinned at him. “He must be Japanese.”

“Well, that’s a given,” Miki rolled his eyes at her. “Anyone named Amano-whatshisface , would be Japanese right?”

“Well…”Marikit looked at him and launched into her own theory of Japanese men. “There’s like different kind of Japanese guys. There’s the pseudo- Japanese who are Japanese in the outside but white in the inside. Then there’s the Kim-chee Wannabes, which are Japanese who wishes they were Korean. And then there’s like the Otaku-Japanese which … well, you know, are the geeky lecherous creeps that we don’t really want. And then there’s the Nazi-Japanese, the ones who are so superiorly Japanese that it’s ridiculous. They are the ones who follow the bushido code to the core, are suicidal when they face imperfections and well, drink bitter macha and sake every day and eat natto everyday for breakfast. They also think that women should just stay home and be pretty. There’s also the Visual Kei Guys who fools everyone into thinking that they are pretty hot chicks. Then, there’s the normal Japanese guy. That’s what I want. A Japanese Guy is one that is loyal to his country, but doesn’t have a complex about it. He is open-minded to other cultures and understands them in his own way. He doesn’t judge people by their race or ethnicity, and even bridges gaps between them by learning about their culture instead of laughing his head off at them. He is kind of like the link between the past ultra-traditional type and the modern guy.”

 “You’re crazy,” Miki shook his head at the overwhelming lesson that he got about the different species of Japanese men.  “Really, Kit, where did you get all these ideas and how did you come up with this?”

 “Research,” Marikit smiled at him, seemingly proud of her inane theory. “I watch a lot of drama, speak to a lot of people and have quite a few Japanese gal pals to know that these people do exist. It’s also all a matter of experience. The internet is a powerful tool to those who know how to use it.”

 “I’m impressed,” Miki sat back on the lounger and tried not to stare at directly at her low cleavage. No distractions. You’re a man on a mission.  “So, you think that this Jiro is the perfect Japanese guy you’re talking about?”

 “He must be if he’s having business with a lot of Filipinos, Koreans, Chinese and Indian Nationals,” she said thoughtfully. “Harvard must have opened his eyes to different cultures and has learned to accept them. In fact, he told me that his best friend was Indian and would always cook him curry. He learned to love it after a while.”

 “Hmm… Curry,” Miki drooled at the mention of good food, and then thought again. “Maybe he adapted to that easily because Japan has their own version of curry, right?”

 “Maybe…”

“But that just gives me a perfect idea on how to test this theory,” Miki’s eyes twinkled in the dim lights of the bar.

Marikit caught the twinkle and leaned in curiously. Miki averted his eyes from the temptation.  “Please, do enlighten me.” 

Miki shook his head and leaned back.

Marikit pouted. “Come on, Kuya, you can tell me.” She pleaded giving him her best puppy dog look and as she batted her eyelashes at him for effect.

It worked. Miki shook his head and cursed his own weakness for giving in. “Well, he’s arriving in the morning right?” He started.

“Yes?” Marikit’s eyes twinkled with delight. “What are you thinking?”

“Do you think they still cook really good dinuguan at Dampa?” He whispered conspirationally at her and winked as Marikit doubled over in giggles in agreement with his scheme.

 

.o0o.

“There you are! How was your flight?” Marikit greeted Jiro with a smile as they helped him with his luggage and led him to an awaiting car. “This is my best friend and oniisan, Kuya Miki.”

“Hey man, nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you,” Miki extended a hand and shook his nemesis’ hand. That was an understatement. It was more like he was all that she talked about for days now.

“Hajimemashite!” Jiro bowed before shaking the other man’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Miki-san.”

“Would you like to go to your condo first or would you like to have lunch first?” Marikit smiled at Jiro warmly. She was glad that her shades were heavily tinted so that he couldn’t see that she was checking him out.

“I am hungry.”

“Great,” Miki grinned with delight. It was going to be the start of their plan. “I hope you like Filipino food. We’re going to take you somewhere you can really immerse yourself in.”

“I look forward to it,” Jiro replied with a warm smile and nodded at Marikit. “Anywhere you take me is fine, just as long as you stay with me.”

Marikit all but swooned. This boy has a gift of eloquence and she wasn’t complaining. Aside from his celebrity –like good looks, his keen fashion sense and his awesome arms, he also was charming and very sociable. She smiled softly at him as they boarded her Lincoln Navigator and told the driver to head to Barrio Fiesta.

 “So, I get it that you love seafood. You must! You are Japanese after all,” Miki smiled at Jiro. “I will order a special dish for you. It’s called dinuguan.”

 “Wow, thank you very much. What is that?” Jiro asked with a curious look at Miki.

 “You’ll see…” Miki smiled with a smile. “It’s a Filipino specialty, I’m sure you’ll like it.”

Jiro nodded and looked over to Marikit who was busy typing a message into her cellular phone. He was a little wary of this Miki dude’s over-zealous personality.  Whatever. He would have to get along with him, if he wanted to get to know Marikit a little better. He only wished that Miki was not gay. Now, that would be a real sticky situation.

Marikit finished with her messaged and smiled up at him.  “What are you thinking about, Boo?”

“Hmmm….” Jiro tilted his head a little and put his hand upon her hair and started rumpling it.

“ACK!  What the hell are you doing?!” She protested as she wriggled away from him and tried to unrumple her hair. “You are such a BRAT! My mom is totally wrong in thinking that you’re such a refined young man.”

“And you’re a refined, prim and proper little lady?” Jiro shot back with a suggestive wiggle of his eyebrows. “Miki –san, can you honestly tell me that Marikit has been behaving ladylike?”

Miki stifled a snicker. He was caught between the truth and a glare that said ‘tell-him-otherwise –and- you- die’. “Well…”

“Let me rephrase that question,” Jiro looked Miki in the eye and looked at him like a witness on the stand in a judicial court hearing. “Does she or does she not slurp her noodles when she eats them and burps louder than a grown man?”

Miki wavered underneath the lawyer’s gaze and looked apologetically upon his best friend’s defeated face. “She does.”

“Traitor,” Marikit pouted.

 “He made me say it!” Miki protested.

“I hate you,” she shot back bitterly and turned her eyes to Jiro whose own gorgeous orbs were dancing with delight. “So, I’m not a perfect lady, sue me. Is there still such a thing these days anyway?”

“Hmm… my sister, Noriko,” He answered smoothly. “She’s a lady through and through. She could get lost in the Eighteenth century and never look out of place. I wish they made more girls like that. Those are the kind of girls that are refreshing to look at.”

 “And we corporate women are not?” She pounced at the chance to debate. “We are refreshing too, only stronger and with more confidence than those subservient women. Why do men like those women who only say ‘yes,dear’? It’s degrading, we women should be treated equally, and none of that biblical, women come from men crap because if I hear that one more time, I swear, I will give him his own Apocalypse.”                                                                                                                                                

Jiro laughed as he watched her prattle on. Marikit was surely not one of those prim and proper ladies of the elite that he hated though her fine features suggest otherwise.  She was independent, headstrong, and intelligent. She had an opinion for everything and was intellectually stimulating. She was unlike all the other prisses that his father had asked him to date before. They were all Paris Hilton like- all of them were brainless bimbos whose main talent was shopping and spending money. They all swooned at him because of his stature and the amount of money in his bank account. They fell over him like ants on a picnic at parties, batting their eyes at him and seducing him with their Los Angeles Manufactured boobs from the boob farm.  And he admitted that though it rubbed his ego the right way when they fawn over him like that, he found none of them the least bit interesting.

This time, his father might have hit the jackpot. Why didn’t they think about her before? She was pretty, in a rebel sort of way. She was intelligent, and could probably help him with business, if it was needed. She was not a gold-digging social climber, and she was definitely not noveau riche. The most important thing was that he could hold a decent conversation with her for more than five minutes without him keeling over and falling asleep from boredom. She was, in a word, fascinating. Wooing her maybe a challenge, but it would be all worth it in the end. At least, he hoped it would.

“Well, Miss Marikit, I would love to hold this debate with you if my stomach wasn’t protesting in anguish,” Jiro smiled as they sat down in the restaurant to eat. “So, Miki –san, what was this dish you were talking about?”

Miki smiled and tried to hide the sinister twinkle of his eye. “It’s called dinuguan.  It’s a delicacy from the north.  Some people call it Chocolate Meat. It’s really good.”

Marikit smiled at Jiro encouragingly as the dish that arrived to their table. A Filipino savory stew of blood and meat simmered in rich, spicy gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili and vinegar. It was a dish that Marikit would not even touch with a hundred foot pole, even if it was a special Filipino delicacy and most people tell her that it was very good. No way! Nothing that dark and murky could be that good! She would rather eat a spoonful of wasabi than that. Maybe it was an acquired taste and she was very glad that she was not one to acquire it. She took one look at the dish and shuddered, there was no way she was putting that into her mouth. Not even to get front row tickets to NEWS Winter concert. It was just right for a trial, most tourists wouldn’t and she understood why.

She watched as Jiro eyed the black stew. She loved the way his eyes narrowed as he studied its thick dark texture.  She almost laughed when she thought she saw him gulp the most comical way.

“That’s it?” Jiro asked as the thick stew was ladled into the clay bowl beside him. He took a deep breath and swallowed. This was like Fear Factor. He stared at the squid that floated on top of the black liquid, seemingly calling out to him to save him from the abyss that he is in.

“Itadakimasu,” He clapped his hands in front of him and nodded at Miki as he spooned the black sauce over his rice and then took a bite.

Miki watched as his victim took his first bite of the black dish. He was doing well for someone who seemed to know only gourmet food. He waited for the look of disgust, the vomit or anything that would show distaste of the food that he ordered, but it did not happen. Jiro took bite after bite in, and seemed to be enjoying himself.

“So, what do you think?” Miki asked casually as he sipped his soup. “Good?”

Jiro smiled at him, black teeth stains and all. “This is the best. Thank you for recommending this dish to me. I really like it, though, it could use a little more spice.”

 Miki sat back, defeated as he watched Marikit wipe the black stains off Jiro’s cheek. This could be harder than he thought, because he already ordered extra, extra, extra, extra spicy.

 

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Chapter 3: The Bishounen Check List

Chapter Three:

The Bishounen Check List

Marikit's idea of a perfect guy is a bishounen. A bishounen is not an animal, not a mythical creature, and definitely not God -but close. Wikipedia explains that a bishounen is a Japanese term that literally means "Beautiful Youth." It describes the aesthetic that is widely shared in East Asia-  a young man whose beauty and sexual appeal transcends the genders and captures the hearts of many innocent young minds. They come in different forms and personalities, from the angelic to the most evil, and the ordinary to the most exquisite. They can be found in the realms of anime, Japanese Entertainment and video games and it is widely known that though many people emulate a bishounen, they don’t really exist in reality. (Though, that could be debatable.)

She was currently at UCC Coffee, sipping green tea and pouting as her best friend and self- appointed oniisan (older brother), Miki walked through the doors precisely at four twenty-five in  that Sunday afternoon for their weekly bonding session and bitchfest. It was already tradition between them, established from college days to relieve stress. Marikit treasured these moments where she could just let everything out of her system and talk to him about anything. He always gave her the best advice after a good cry. Marikit looked forward to seeing him this afternoon because right now, God only knows how much she needed a hug.

“What’s with the long face?” Miki sat down with his decaf cappuccino, with two sugars and half a cream moments later. He poked her on her cheek as a greeting expecting her to pout and poke him back the cute way she does. But when she didn’t, he knew that something has to be up. From experience he looked at her and waited for her to speak as he got comfortable in the high back leather chair across from her. Today looks like a bitchfest and a half. This is going to take a long time.

“I hate men,” Marikit declared and then took an unceremoniously long sip from her tea cup before pouring herself another cupful of hot green liquid.

“No, you don’t. I’m a man and you don’t hate me,” He joked hoping to put a smile on her fine features but failed. Miki’s face fell, defeated and then shook his head. “Would you like to enlighten me on what our gender has done to annoy Her Royal Bitchiness today?”

Marikit shot a dirty look at him but answered his question. “First of all, I think I found him,” she said as she put down her cup and sighed.

“Him?”

“My Bishounen,” she clarified for him.

“Really? Why does this seem to bother you? Aren’t you supposed to be happy?”

“Because I don't believe it's actually happening,” she replied shortly. “It’s too good to be true and I don't really want to fall in love right now. Not after that nasty thing with Ryo.”

 Ouch, Miki thought and closed his eyes. There goes his resolve to finally tell her what he really felt about her. Maybe next time, when she’s not declaring war with love and when she’s not pouting like that. But then again, the pout is cute. He put down his coffee cup and stared at her. “Elaborate, please, in long eloquent sentences and not short cryptic messages. I’d like details if you can spare them.”

Marikit pouted further and sank deeper into her chair. “Well…”

“Well, what?! I said sentences, not words. ‘well...’ doesn’t qualify as a sentence. Try again. Where did you meet him? What’s his name? How does he look like? Does he smoke like a chimney? Does he have any flaws? Who introduced him to you?” His rattled off the questions like a machine gun out of control. This was the only way he knew how to drag the answers out of her.

Marikit took a deep breath and then studied her cup as if it was the most interesting thing in the universe.  Where does she start telling him about this amazing boy that she met just last week? She thought a minute and then nodded.

“His name is Amanosuke Shinjiro, twenty-six years old, graduated from Harvard Law School- majoring in International Law. He’s cute – really cute, in fact, I couldn’t believe there’s such a guy who actually looks like that.  He’s kind of a cross breed of Yamapi and Jin – wait no…” she paused and then wrinkled her nose. “He looks almost exactly like how the grown up Uchi Hiroki looks, only he has a bit more muscle and he’s not as lanky. He’s an amazing dancer too. Dad introduced us last week during that long lunch meeting I told you about on the phone while you’re busy grading your stupidents papers.”

"Leave my students alone, it's not my fault that they don't have a brain," Miki nodded to prod her on. “But, he sounds great, how does he initially rate?”

 “From what I know of him, he’s about a twenty,” she said slowly and looked up slyly to watch her best friend’s reaction from underneath her long lashes.

Miki almost choked on his coffee. Warning bells were ringing in his ears. He stared at for a moment in disbelief. Is the guy that’s going to take her away from him finally come? He needed to think of something to stall this guy or prove that he’s a doofus.

  “Are you sure? That high?” He asked as he cleaned up the spot of coffee that landed on his Khaki shorts. “Now I’m interested, do tell…”

Over the years of being friends, Marikit and Miki had developed a rating system of grading the guys she had crushes on based on “The Bishounen Checklist”. This was a list of twenty five things that she wanted in a guy ranging from the common “He must be handsome” to the deeper, “He has to have goals” and to the insane “He must be willing to cosplay for me.” Each guy was graded on how much of the list he achieves or already has.

The boys would be graded in three rounds namely the: Initial Rating, a rating that is done upon meeting the person and getting to know a little bit about him. The initial rating usually tells her if the guy is dateable or not. Then he goes through the “Post-Date Evaluation” – where in the guys are evaluated after the first date and their rating would go up and down based on what she experienced on the date. Additional points are also automatically awarded to the guy who does not kiss on a first date or try to bring her to a motel to hook up and to those who bring her to a Japanese Restaurant for sushi. Finally, after a few dates, if it lasts that long, Marikit evaluates them one last time and usually, this is when she decides if she is in love with him or just in lust.  The only guy who got that far with her was Ryo, that stupid heartbreaker and even then, he was just a lousy twenty-two – Wait, that’s wrong, now, he was a big fat zero.

Marikit soon launched into a very detailed account of how she met the man of her dreams over salad and miso soup. When they entered the restaurant that day, Marikit was expecting an overweight Japanese guy who looks like he’s in his forties when he is actually only in his late twenties. She followed her father with a lowered head as she dreaded the horror that she might see upon looking up. She bowed lower when she was introduced, and gave off that subservient young lady look with her bowed head and shy look.

When she finally raised her head to look at her father’s friend in the eye and shake his hand, she was almost shocked. Mr. Amanosuke looked like a movie star. He had grown well into his fifties, with salt and pepper hair and a dashing smile. But he did not look old at all, he still carried his suit with confident pride and spoke with a calm engaging voice that sounded like one of those narrators for the audio books.

“Hajimemashite,” She had said in greeting but Mr. Amanosuke shook his head and laughed at her.

 “She doesn’t remember me, doesn’t she?” He said with a charming twinkle in his eyes. She shook her head and hid her blush. “Your father and I once took you fishing out in Osaka, do you remember that? You were so much in awe with the sea and everything around you that you almost fell into the water! Jiro, do you remember her?”

 “I do,” another voice came from beside him.

 She looked up and her eyes met the most gorgeous pair of black orbs she had seen on a man her entire life.  It was paired by red lips and a heart-stopping smile and a full head of perfectly styled black hair. She took a deep breath to stop herself from swooning on the spot. This guy was her childhood friend? When? Where and what dimension did she meet him in?

 “Don’t you remember me, ball-stealer?” Jiro smiled at her mischievously as she almost melted on the spot.

 That was him?! That was Boo? It couldn’t be! She pouted and met his eyes and braced herself behind her chair so she would not fall if her knees started to go weak. “Hey, I never stole anything, Boo. You gave that ball to me.”

 “Did not!” Jiro’s eyes were playfully teasing her now so she averted them and studied his clothes. She gasped as she recognized the jacket as one that Nishikido Ryo from NEWS had in one of their most recent photoshoots. It looked more amazing up close. Her heart started to pound.

 Shit. Don’t.  She scolded herself. She wasn’t supposed to feel this way. That’s Boo for crying out loud! He was the fat kid that couldn’t catch up with her when she ran away with his ball on their last day in Osaka.  But she had to admit, that he wasn’t fat anymore and in fact, he was what she would call “Yummy.”

“Shall we sit down?” Mr. Amanosuke smiled and started to sit, and her father did the same.  Before she could react Jiro walked around the table and pulled out the chair for her.

“My, my, what a gentleman,” she said impressed with his chivalry. “Where did you learn all these? Boo turned out to be such a gentleman after all.”

“Stop calling me that, please,” Jiro stared at her as he took his own seat across from her. “I do have a name.”

 “Oh? But I like Boo, it’s cute. You lost a lot of weight, you were a tubby back then,” she said as she opened the menu and started perusing the soups and salads area. Light lunch is the way to go, just in case her tummy goes flip- flop.

 “And, you didn’t do too bad yourself, Kitty. You were such a stick back then, if you hid in a bamboo patch, we would never find you!” He teased her then told the waiter that he was having the shrimp lemon pasta with a glass of white wine. “So, Kitty, what have you been doing lately? Dating anyone? I bet you have a hot boyfriend lurking somewhere waiting to pounce at me any minute.

Marikit wished she did. She busied herself with the menu to avoid the question. Oh, why did he have to be so perfect? She checked him out from behind her long lids and studied his fair face and chiseled chin before ordering Miso Soup and the Shrimp and Chicken Salad with Mango Sauce. She wasn’t that hungry so she didn’t care. But she did order iced green tea with mint, to calm her nerves.

 As the lunch meeting progressed, Marikit learned that he graduated from Harvard a year ago and was now practicing in a Law firm in Tokyo. He flew to the Philippines constantly because at the same time, he was helping his father out with their own Advertising Company. He spoke to her father about Bonsai and Golf, and laughed at his father’s lame jokes. This boy either was trying to impress them or he was too good to be true.

 That night, the two families had dinner together. Marikit still studied Jiro with much interest, rating him inwardly as she graded his every move. She watched as Jiro delighted Marikit’s mother by asking her to ballroom dance. He looked lithe and graceful and almost looked like Prince Charming. She almost drooled at him as he raised his perfect arms to spin her mother around the dance floor. She shook her head and tried to shake out the mental image of Jiro in a Princely top and tights before she took his hand and danced the swing with him.

“Marikit, I’m really glad I met you again,” He said as they carried their glasses of red wine out to the balcony overlooking the night lights of Manila. She felt like she was within the pages of a shoujo manga with her bishounen right across from her, wanting to reach out for her but for some reason or the other, he couldn't. “I mean, you look like, well…” He blushed a little, and Marikit’s knees buckled. What was his power over her? And why is her heart pounding?

“Like an orc or like Taitskun?” She joked. She almost waited for him to ask who Taitskun was. Normal people don’t know her.

 “No, you’re definitely not her. You’re not an ugly hag – in fact, you’re more like Belldandy. You’re that pretty, sweet and interesting, definitely interesting and even just a little bit naïve. But that is what’s so cute about you. I really I hope you don’t mind giving me your number. I mean, I’m leaving for a few days to go to a court hearing in Tokyo, but I will be back as soon as the case ends. I do mean to see you again whenever I’m here. I guess, I don’t want to lose Kitty again.. Of course, only if you agree,” He said with such candid shyness that made her want to squee in delight. But she stopped herself and played it cool. Besides, there has to be a catch somewhere, right?

He was smooth, she had to admit that. He knew the right words to say to take a woman’s breath away and Marikit was painfully aware that it was all too good to be true. He was the vision of perfection and she knew that somewhere beyond that pristine outer core, there has to be something wrong with him. Yet, her heart ignored all of it and screamed at her that this may be the person who will alleviate her loneliness and make her giddy and happy in love.

She searched him for an answer, but she knew that it was too soon to find out. She decided to take the plunge.

 “Well, of course, we’re friends after all,” she grinned and handed him her name card. “I’d like very much to keep in touch with you.”

.o0o.

The clock was inching closer to midnight but Miki Sia could not sleep. He knew that he had to teach an eight o’ clock Philosophy of Man class the next morning in San Beda, but he did not care. Let his students worry about Socrates and his theories, he had far more pressing things to think about. Like how to tell Marikit that he has been in love with her and that he wanted her for himself.

 

The thought of Marikit finding Mr. Right was too powerful and scary that he dare not close his eyes for fear that the horror of her wedding with this unknown prince might make itself known through his dreams.  He didn’t even want to think about them dating. That pain would be too much for his heart to handle. No, he was not ready for it because, instead of any other man, he wanted Marikit to fall in love with him. But the probability of that was probably null. He didn’t even want to think what his score was against “The Bishounen Checklist”. He would probably fail.

 

He was not that handsome, but he wasn’t ugly either. He considered himself fairly cute. In fact, a lot of people say that he was a baby face.  His face was always a little round, but he had a built body from years of tennis and swimming. He thought of himself little bit smarter than the average Joe on the street. All in all, he wasn’t bad, but also he was not good enough for her.

 

He had loved her far too long, probably ever since they first met in De La Salle University. He first saw her in World Literature Class, and he thought that he had never seen anyone so unique his entire life. While everyone wore the same collared shirts, designer jeans and the latest fashion, this girl was wearing Harujuku Fashioned clothes and looked like she stepped out from an anime or a manga comic. Her unique fashion sense and bubbly attitude earned her the nickname ‘Living Anime Doll’.  It amazed him that someone had that enough confidence to actually wear those clothes in living daylight and in the Philippines and didn’t care about what people would say about her.

 But she was not just a baby doll like everyone thought she was, that was not what attracted him to her.  In fact, at first, he hated her. She was such a Mary Sue, a girl that is so perfect in every way that even her flaws looked fake. He hated her candy sweet personality, her cute anime-ish looks, and her bionic brain. He hated the fact that she spoke to anyone she wanted to easily, while he struggled to get by with just his few close friends. He hated everything about her, so much that he wanted to prove that everything about her was just a ploy, a façade to hide an empty shell of a person that tries to keep up appearances.

 His chance came when they were paired to do a huge project on Japanese Literature. But instead of proving that she was nothing behind her mask, he found himself engrossed with her extensive knowledge of the Tales of Genji and Murasaki Shikibu. He told her about the Byakkotai in Ainu and how Haiku were written for lovers in the past.  He was amazed that underneath that edgy shell was a lady full of knowledge, searching for her dreams and longing for love with a pure smile waiting to come out. They became fast friends, and slowly but surely, he fell in love with her and all her little quirks.

 He wanted to tell her, of course, but every time he does, he would come to her with a new love interest, ruining his chances to tell her what he really felt about her. She told him everything about her, and he was glad. But the biggest and strongest hit to his heart was when she stopped calling him ‘Miki-chan’ and started calling him Kuya, which meant big brother.

 Those were the words of doom for any guy who was in love with someone. Being called Kuya felt like the sky and the earth were both closing down on you and brought you eternal hopelessness. It was like being locked away from any romance with that girl and the result would be a dull heartache that could not be appeased by any amount of alcoholic drinks or chocolates. Any boyfriend wanna-be would never want to be called that, or any other word synonymous to that by their woman that they have set their heart on. It only meant that his destiny was not to be her lover but to be the person she would cry on whenever her heart was broken, a person to whisper secrets to and talk to about anything and everything to and never be the person to hold her close. It meant that he would never get to kiss her, and never be the one to make love to her.                                                                

It gave him an ultimatum - a choice that he had to make when the dreaded label was given to him. He could stay and really play the part of the Kuya, or he could go and try to forget her. He chose the former, seeing that it was safer and he would be with her longer. He hoped that maybe through time she would learn to fall in love with him, but it has been a little over six years. He was beginning to lose hope. Maybe he just signed himself up for a life doomed for eternal loneliness but still he was convinced and determined that one day, she would turn those pretty little eyes to him and tell him that he was the one that she wanted all along. Just as long as she was not wearing a ring on her left finger, he would not give up. 

He stayed with her through all her fiascoes with men. He bailed her out of bad dates, saved her from her family’s match making services and listened to her childish love fantasies when everything goes right. He held her close whenever someone makes her cry and resisted the urge to kiss her every time she looked up to his eyes with those hopeful eyes seeking words of wisdom from him. He ignored the aching of his heart whenever she introduced a new prospect to him. He suffered silently for her in hopes that she would notice but she never did, or maybe she just doesn’t know because he never told her.

 

He sighed and thought about their conversation that afternoon. It happened again. Just as he was sure to tell her that he loved her she told him that she was troubled because she found the man of her dreams and that she could not believe it. He couldn’t either, part of him wanted to grab her at that moment and tell her that she was wrong and why couldn’t she see that there was someone who loved her all these years.

 

He sat up, what if she was? What if, he found a way to prove that Mr. Perfect was not perfect after all? Would that give him a chance to disprove the checklist and maybe, just maybe, have a chance of her falling in love with him? It was an idea. Maybe the checklist was his way out of this loveless world and a shortcut into her arms.

 

He thought about it a little more and soon was convinced that this was the only way to go to finally win her over. He grabbed his cellular phone and started text messaging her before he changed his mind.

 

Kit, I think you should re-rate Mr. Right. If you think he’s too good to be true, maybe he is. I’ll help you with it, if you want. Text me in the morning. Good night.

 

He smiled a little. There, it was done. Maybe, it was evil, but he did not care. He has to foil this perfect guy’s chances at getting to her heart. They would go through the list again and one by one he would try to stealthily sabotage Mr. Perfect’s chances with her. He thought of the most insane plots in his head, making sure that each detail could be easily concealed. He felt like a comic book villain and tried not to cackle maniacally as he carefully plotted the demise of his archnemesis. He got engrossed with the details that he jumped when a text message came in. She was still awake?

 
Kuya,I think that’s a great idea. Thank you. Oniisan always takes good care of me. I love you for that. I’ll call you tomorrow. We can gover the plan. Good night. Get some sleep, professor.

 He savored her words. I love you. It really did not mean the way he wanted it to mean, but he didn’t care. To him, it was enough. It wasn’t really so bad to pretend, was it? He closed his eyes and let slumber take him. He let his mind wander – at least, in his dreams he had her and maybe soon, if all goes well, he wouldn’t be Kuya anymore. He would be Sweetie or Darling… Pumpkin sounds nice, too. It really doesn’t matter, just as long as he’s finally with her and her sweet lips that he had longed for the longest time.

 Edited: 11/08/2007 11:11 AM

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Chapter 2: What is an Adult?

Chapter Two:

大人は何?

What is an Adult?

 

“Ms. Tala, the Vice President of the Accounting Department is here to see you. Should I show him in?”  The smooth call- center like voice of Nina, her secretary pierced through her thoughts as she was tring to make sense of a new storyboard for the car commercial that she ruthlessly tore apart down the week before during the first board meeting she attended on her first day as the Vice President for Marketing and Ad Development at Tala Multinational Advertising Corporation. Really, what kind of idiots did they have down at the Creative Department, anyway? Did the marketing people really do thorough research? Why was this ad like this? Why is it bland and oh so conservative? Why do they opt to always go for convention?

It was near lunch time and yet, she was nowhere near hungry. Aside from the numerous projects she has to oversee, she also had to meet many ancients (or old people in the business), and there were many meetings with the other managers who seem to find their ways to disturb, annoy, and give her the creeps by asking her about her outfit or belittling her for being new, young and very different from what they expected. Everyone seems to think that she’s just a joke in the company, that she was there to spend Daddy’s money and to annoy everyone.

What did they expect? A Mary Sue clad in Louis Vuitton, carrying Ballenciaga and sips only Pellegrino with the perfect number of bubbles and walks everywhere in her Jimmy Choos kitten heels – wait, scratch that, three inch stiletto heels- and has the grace of a ballerina and the face made up by Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Spa who just giggles and nods at everything they say and will be prim and proper like the women of 1800s? Well, sooorrreeee! Though she owned Louis Vuitton ( and they do have pretty neat stuff), she did not wear labels to impress. She was not born a Barbie doll and will never be. Maybe, an anime gashopon, one with the school girl outfit and a huge samurai blade might fit better with her personality.

 She got an education for a reason and like hell will she just sit pretty and nod at every stupid and idiotic idea that they present. There’s a lot of work to be done and she was ready and able to help and show the industry that there was some creativity left in Tala Advertising. 

She was very well aware of the problems that her company was facing. They were once and industry giant, getting deals from as far as Japan and China, they were the leading advertising company in Asia.  They boasted unique, creative and innovative ideas that were cutting edge and unparalleled.  They succeeded as they created ad campaigns like “Jolly Cheers” for Jollibee Fast Food Chain, “Nippon Ichi Campaign” for Sapporo Ichiban, and even the “Isa” campaign for the United Nation Children’s Fund and many more. They were called pioneers of Asian Advertising and were compared to McHann- Ericson and other giants of the advertising world. Their advertisements were inspiring, life-altering and very successful in terms of selling ideas and values in a 30 second TV slot, print or radio ad and even over the internet. It seemed that Tala Advertising would forever be the beacon of light for advertising in Asia.

However, over the years, the light slowly faded. The ideas of the former creative geniuses became outdated and common, they started pleasing the sponsors more than their audience and they failed to produce the sales they promised. Slowly, other smaller and younger advertising companies stole the spotlight from them. The traditional ways of Tala Advertising was slowly breaking down the strong foundations that they had laid, and unless new blood was introduced to the company, it was going to die a slow and painful death.

This was why Marikit’s entrance to the company was both looked forward to and dreaded by Tala Corporation. Her skills and innovative ideas might just be the thing they needed to stand up from this slow decline to their death. However, their strict rules and close minded superiority complex blinded them from what they needed to do. This is why no one took Marikit seriously and she was really getting frustrated with these old-fashioned ancients who are stuck in the 1970s.

 Patience was never her greatest virtue and so it really took a lot for her to not scream at the old people who look at her over their glasses and cluck their tongues at her when she tried to present her ideas. They smile at her and pet her on the head like a little girl who just told them a fairy tale and went on their way. They always tell her to enjoy her time at the company- like she would leave anytime soon. Tough luck, Old Geezers! If there is anyone that needs to go, it’s you old farts and your old fashioned, convention and weird ideas, she thought every time. And of course, just when she would cool down and get some work done, another one of the annoying flunkies who either kiss her ass or annoy her completely comes her way. Oh, this was the life.

Marikit Tala shook her head and closed her eyes and composed herself before she breathed in and pressed the talk button on her intercom. “Send him in, or her in, or whatever.”

A stifled giggle came from the other end and quickly composed itself into a professional drawl. “HE will be right in, Ms. Tala.”

Great. Really great. Now even her secretary is making fun of her. What a great start to her new career as an actual businesswoman. How can she help save this company if no one listens to her? Why can’t anyone see past her obviously fashion forward looks and listen to what she says? The problem is that they are too judgemental. There is a big probability – and she bet her life on it- that  if she dressed up as Mary Sue and said the exact same thing, people would look up and listen to her and apploaud her instead of rolling their eyes at her and treating her like someone with venereal disease or the plague. Yet she put on a fake smile as she rolled her eyes and looked towards the door. She expected the worst. The door opened and she played her mental game that she always plays when these situations happen.

If this is a fat guy with glasses, I’ll treat myself to sushi for lunch.  She thought to herself as she waited eagerly for the person to come in. But she lost the game and was shocked as she saw who came into her door.  He wasn’t fat, nor did he wear glasses. In fact, he wasn’t anything that she expected at all.

Instead of a fat guy with glasses, she was greeted by someone who brought her all the way back to the past. He was tall, slim guy with angelic features and messy light brown hair. He smiled at her with a hint of mischief in his clear brown eyes. His chiseled features and confident stance made her swoon. She would never forget who he was.

“RYO?!” Marikit almost screamed as she stood up and blinked to check if she wasn’t dreaming. Nope. She pinched herself and she winced. It was true. It was him in the flesh. Her first love, her childhood bishounen, the one who never answered was here in front of her, working in the same company that she practically owned.  Why the hell was he here?

“Hello Marikit,” Kato Ryoichi spoke with a calm voice. “It’s been a long time.”

God, did she miss his voice. When he was younger it was the right mix of fresh-from puberty tenor and baby smoothness. Right now, it was even more perfect.  It was a low baritone that reminded her of the beach and the lap of waves and… She shook herself and smiled at him and motioned to the chair in front of her.

“Ohisashiburi,” she smiled at him as old feelings rushed back to her. How long has it been since she saw him and why did just seeing him now bring back those school girl feelings? Suddenly she was conscious of her “Office Rebel” T-shirt that she was wearing beneath her Gucci blazer. She suddenly wished she was wearing something cuter. Why didn’t she know that he was working there? And most of all, why did she care?

“Ohisashiburi,” He smiled and extended his hand to shake hers. “You look great.”

Marikit shook his hand and tried to ignore the electricity she felt go up her fingers to her heart. And concentrated her energy on studying his perfect pair of charcoal grey Givenchy pants and matching coat to keep herself from squealing like an idiot.“You too, I’m actually surprised you turned out to actually be … you know, okay looking.” She teased him. “I actually expected to see you still more monkey like.”

“Koi-chan never changed, I thought you grew up,” he teased back tugging her pigtails with a Rolex clad hand. “This is an office, you know, not a rock concert.”

Calm down, Marikit. Breathe. One, two, three…. She tried to calm her nerves and closed her eyes to think. In anime fashion, she knew that the best way to ignore the fluttering in her heart was to tease him relentlessly. “I know. I own the office. How long have you been working here anyway, monkey boy? Why did they hire you? I really should have a word with the HR Department.”

“So you do,” He smirked and she melted.  “I mean, I could always leave. I only have been here for about two years anyway.”

“And you’re Vice President of Accounting. Smart, Ryo… How did you suck your way up that fast?” She winked at him. “Did you sleep with whatshername?”

“Did no such thing. It’s all a matter of charm,” he laughed at her and looked at his watch. “It’s twelve. You have to feed those dragons in your tummy, Koi-chan. How about we feast together, like old times.”

Like old times. She savored his words. His presence was enough to drive her wild. Is this what fate has for her? Will he finally give her answer to her unanswered question? She nodded her reply and punched the talk button on the intercom and told Nina that she’s going to have lunch.

They talked about high school friends and the current Tala Corporation Projects. To anyone that saw them, they looked like colleagues going out to lunch together casually and talk about the latest office gossip. But in the movie screen in her mind, Marikit was thinking differently.  Her mind was a mess of sparkles, rose petals and flashbacks of her high school life in slow motion. She was walking with her head in the clouds and her heart skipping a beat to the rhythm of Kanjani 8’s Osaka Romanesque as he was talking about the mundane life of being their top accountant.

“Hey, what do you feel like eating today? Pasta? Binalot? Chinese?” Ryo asked as they walked towards the company parking lot to where his car was parked.  “I’m treating, so speak up.”

Marikit grinned at that and wink. “Are you sure?” she asked. “Well, I was thinking Sushi if you’re up to it.”

“Sure, I know just the place,” He said as they stopped in front of a white Honda CR-V. He opened the door for her before going to the driver side and sliding in. “Hop on,  Koi-chan. Your wish is my command,  Hime-sama.”

“Shut up and drive, wench,” She said as she closed the door and soon they were off to Rockwell. They talked about everything and anything. School, Graduation, people they met, things they’ve done. She asked him if he still played tennis and he asked her if she was in the college cheering team. It was as if no time was lost between them although there were about ten years in between.

They were talking all throughout lunch and to Marikit’s surprise, she even forgot that there was anago sushi in front of her. That was the first sign that she was, indeed in love. Marikit never forgot food – especially not her favorite sushi.

“Not hungry?” Ryo smiled as he stole the anago sushi off her plate.

“HEY! That was mine!” She protested as she hid her blush thinking about how unbelievably hot he looked as he chewed her prized sushi and  why she wasn’t pinning him down and kissing him.

“You’re as slow as ever, Koi-chan!” He grinned and washed the prized sushi down his throat with a swig of his green tea.

“Meanie. Do you still have to call me a fish?”  She pouted cutely and put her chopsticks down.

“How can you be sure that’s what it means?” He smiled at her and stared into her eyes.

THUD. Did he just say that? Oh, God. Here it comes and she wasn’t as ready as she thought she was.. He just told her that he has been calling her “Love” for the longest time. This was unreal. That was exactly what she wished it would mean in her younger years. That was why she really never hated the name. She closed her mouth and tried to make words out of her speechlessness when she couldn’t, she gave up and looked down on the floor.

He tipped her chin up so their eyes could meet. “What I’m saying is that, it never meant that I was calling you a carp. Do you know what the other meaning of Koi is?”

“Love.” She whispered as her eyes started to water. For some odd reason, she didn’t care if she cried today. It was just perfect. He answered her finally and in the most romantic, bishounen like way and she was extremely happy. No anime in the world could compare to this moment. She wished that somehow, a magic recorder could record this moment and make it into a manga or anime so she could watch it over and over for all eternity.

“Well, then now you know,” He smiled at her and reached across the table and held her hands. She nearly died. “I also loved you back then. I didn’t get to say it because of our emergency move. But I couldn’t bear to say it through letters, I wanted to say it face to face or else it would not have any meaning. It was the one thing that was holding me back. Now, I think I can finally …”

She burst into tears. There, she did it. She was so happy that she felt like she was dreaming. This was too good to be true. “I…”

“Shhhh….” He hushed her tears and held her close.

She was living her fantasy. She was caught between reality and her daydreams and she didn’t know which was better. If she was dreaming, please never wake her up. Perhaps, she could now let go of her childhood fantasies and grow up. She finally has a beau anyway, maybe just maybe, she could let go of her fandom one by one and live in the here and now. Maybe, just maybe, she could even be happy being normal.

“Thank you,” She whispered as she took in his musky scent that drove her senses wild. “Thank you for finally telling me how you felt.”

“No, thank you,” He smiled at her  and poked her nose playfully. “Finally I have closure. For a long time, I thought about this and I was so ashamed that I couldn’t say anything. I thought I would get over it, but I couldn’t. But right now, I am glad I found the strength to tell you, Marikit. I could finally get married without regret.”

Stop. Rewind. Wait. What? Did he say MARRIED? He was going to get married? With who?With her? But that is too soon! What was going on here?

She blinked up at him, confused.

He laughed at her puzzled expression. “I’m getting married next month, Koi. We’ve dated for over four years, but because I regret that I wasn’t honest with my first love, I couldn’t go through with it. But seeing you right now, you’re beautiful, successful and honest. I thought you’d hate me. I honestly did, and if you did, I would not blame you. Koi-chan, looking at you right now brings back memories. You never really changed, you’re still a child. I think that’s what so cute about you. Maybe someday, you’ll grow up and make someone very happy. Maybe you could find your bishounen someday. ”

“Who said I didn’t grow up?” She shot back at him. The tears she cried were fresh and hot and angry. It streamed down her face like scalding hot water.

Now she did. She didn’t hate him earlier but now, she totally does. How dare he lead her on and drop her like that? Is this the game that her friends talked about? Was this the game that men play to get what they want out of a woman and drop her as soon as it was convenient for him? If it was then he would go home lost. She wanted no part of such frivolous play.

Besides, she grew up ! She did! In fact, she even graduated with honors from her colleges. She had a lot of experience with working. How dare he call her immature? If there was anyone  immature, it was him. USER! She stood up gathered her belongings, stuck her tounge out at him before stomping out of the restaurant and hailed a taxi to take her back to the office.

There! Serves you right. You’re ugly anyway, you have a pimple on your left chin. She thought and left him and the PHP 5,000.00 bill alone in the high end sushi restaurant that was supposed to be the birthing place of her new mature love.

She said it once and she says it again. Screw Love. Fandom is better. At least,when she fangirls, she doesn’t get hurt by the pretty boys in her brain. I’m sorry Yamapi, and Jin, I will never try to leave you again.

As she tried to repair the mess that her mascara left trailing down her cheek, she started thinking about her now troubled life. Why was fate so mean to her? She felt like Miaka in Fushigi Yuugi when Taitskun was playing with her life and testing her. What did she need to do to prove herself? Is this all just a test or did she need to find seven hot men from all around her country in order to save her failing company? Did she have to risk life and heartache for it? Was she ready for all of this?

That night, she looked around her room and thought about what Ryo said. It was unchanged from when she was 16, maybe there were a little changes here and there, when she would put up and put down posters and move things around but everything was basically the same. Everything in her room said that the room belonged to a cute 16 year old. The room was covered in bright colors, anime and idol posters, and cute stuffed animals, gashopons and plushies. There was nothing in the room, aside from her graduation photos, that would point to it as a room of a twenty-five year old business executive of a very big company.

So, she forgot to redo her room. Big whoop. She was busy. She’d get around to it someday. Besides, what’s wrong with a little inspiration when she’s thinking about her long fanfictions and working on her projects? She threw open her closet door and walked in. It was filled with designer clothing; the boring suits that her mother bought for her were stashed at the very back. The clothing that she bought from her last shopping trip in Harujuku was piled in a heap on the floor. She picked up a bright pink top and studied it. It was the latest fashion according to An-an Magazine and Seventeen Japan.

She sighed and left the room when a knock disturbed her reverie. She opened the door and found her father looking very concerned as he came in.  He looked around the room and shook his head. “When will you grow up and change this room?”

Marikit pouted and sat down on one of her floor pillows and took her huge Atashi doll from Chobits in her arms. “I don’t know… maybe soon, if I feel like it. I don’t know what I should do with it.”

Her father looked at her and sat down on her fluffy pink couch. “Marikit, when do you plan to grow up?”

Eh? That was a question that just popped out of nowhere. She was just recovering from her heartache and now her father was asking the obvious. “I am grown up.”

“Do you call this grown up?” he picked up a manga that lay strewn across her flower shaped coffee table.

“Everyone reads that in Japan. Even old people,” she reasoned out. Her parents can never understand her love for manga and anime.

 Here we go again. Blah, blah, blah…. I don’t feel like discussing this tonight. Can you just leave me and my misery alone for a while, Dad? I just got dumped.  That was what she wanted to say but couldn’t so she stared at him defiantly.

“How about the way you dress?” He asked pointing to her out of this world outfit.

“It’s the latest fashion,” She shot back. “There’s nothing wrong with it. I’m not wearing anything ridiculous, cat ears or anything that bares all. I think it’s office appropriate and edgy. I just spiced up the boring old suit with accessories.” She twirled around in her Guess suit, knee high black , spiked boots, her “Office Rebel” Tank and red tie and winked at her dad cutely.

“Marikit, I think you need to know that your ridiculous attire is bringing me embarrassment to the company. I don’t care about what you wear outside business, but your absurd fashion sense is making me the joke of the advertising world!”  Her father stared at her with the tiger expression that she knew so well. It only appeared when he meant business. She immediately sat down and lowered her head.

Her father continued. “Listen, you’re twenty-five. A quarter of a century old, you need to act like it and dress like it. I don’t know how you can stand looking like a clown each and every single day. I do not mind creativity and individuality that is not the case. But there is a time and place for everything, Marikit. The office is not your outlet for all this insanity or whatever it is. You’re an adult now, so you need to follow the rules of being one. You are going to lead this company someday and to do this you have to earn the respect of the board members, the clientele and most importantly, your staff. How do you expect them to respect you when you look like that? In our business, image is everything. Stop acting like a child!  You’re such a beautiful young woman, you’re smart, educated and capable, but you need to grow up. Stop wasting time! Why do you insist being stuck in your teens? Your body is of a twenty five year old and yet you have a brain of a fifteen year old. Stop trying to be Peter Pan. You will never find a husband if you keep acting the way you do. You need to grow up. If not for yourself, then do it for me. ”

Marikit sighed and looked up to meet her father’s eyes. “Hai.” What the hell is up with this day? She watched him leave the room. Maybe it was time to grow up, but she really didn’t know how. What is an adult anyway? Is there a “Growing up for Dummies” somewhere? Why is it so important anyway?

She picked up the phone and dialed. She needs to talk to someone and fast.

“Hello?”

“Kuya Miki, I need to talk to you,” she whined on the phone when her best friend and older brother figure picked up.

“What’s wrong?” Miki responded with a concerned voice.

“Everything,” Marikit said in her overly melodramatic tone before diving into the litany of her new problems.  Miguel “Miki” Sia was her self-appointed older brother. They met in De La Salle University and they became fast friends. She knew that he would listen to anything and everything that she would say and would give her proper advice. So far, Miki never did her wrong. So she trusted him.

She spilled everything out to him from Ryo’s failed love confession to her father’s speech about her apparent immaturity. He listened patiently and waited to talk until she was finished to say what he thought about the situation.

“Maybe you should tone down your outfit a little style might shock a lot of people and you know how hopelessly conservative our country is,” Miki began slowly. He knew Marikit well enough to tell her what’s best for her. Of course he did, he has only been in love with her for about five years now. Yet, it was a one sided love affair. She only saw him as an older brother and nothing else.

He continued. “Your dad may just be worried about your growth within the company. It is very hard to earn someone’s respect, and that is what you need to learn.  Your fashion forward sense of style might just be overwhelming for the staff and everyone else. There is nothing wrong with liking something or being fashionable, Kit. You just have to remember that certain places have certain rules and it’s not always alright to bend them.”

“You’re right, Kuya,” Marikit sighed onto the phone. She was feeling a little better now that she had talked to someone at the very least. Miki always finds a way to talk some sense into her. “You’re the best. They might not understand us fangirls. Not a lot of people do.”

“There you go,” Miki sighed on the phone. “Feel better?”

“Yes, Kuya. You’re the best,” she smiled. “I guess I’ll try it. You know, that looking grown up thing? I haven’t seen myself looking like one. I don’t even know where to start with that.  Kuya, am I that immature? What is an adult?”

Miki did not answer that question because the fact is, she was immature and for what an adult is, he too, didn’t know.

.o0o.

Marikit’s restlessness lingered on for days. Aside from the dull pain from being dumped, she also carried the words of her father in her heavy heart. She did not understand why it was such a crime to be different. She was friendly enough, but people seem to shy away from her. They didn’t want to be associated with someone who was perpetually in her teens. Every time she tried to make a conversation with her, they would talk to her for a while, and then find a reason to leave or distract her and make a break for it. In an office with about 5,000 people working in it, Marikit felt alone and it hurt.

She was used to being the center of attention. She was always praised by everyone for her creativity, her style, her cool ways and even her sassy rebelliousness. Everything worked in High School, and even somehow, her eccentricity made waves in college. But soon, everyone outgrew her. They went on being adults that moved on from talking about anime cross-overs to company mergers, from talking about cute chibis to having babies, and from fangirling anime bishounens to falling in love and getting married. Marikit was left behind.

She attended enough weddings, baby showers, company openings, house blessings to know that all of her classmates and friends were part of the adult world already. She could remember theccountless times that her friends tried to convince her to trade in her Demonia Boots and Cat Ears for a pair of Jimmy Choos and five carat pink sapphire earrings and she remained defiant. She reasoned that she did not want to grow up in the drone like world where everyone is only worried about whether the stock market was growing or not. She was more interested in remaining youthful and  she also said that she didn’t want to be like them. She didn’t want to grow up and find herself to be a Stepford Wife.

Right now, Marikit’s stubborn war with adulthood was ending and she was giving in to the requirements of her age. She was tired of being the aunt that was a hit with the kids but the other parents sneered about. She was tired of the jeers, the snyde remarks and the people who treated her like she was a “special” person. She did not understand it fully yet, what an adult is. But she was determined to prove to everyone that she too was grown up. She was not a child anymore.

So that morning,she dressed carefully, pulling on a simple white Anne Klein suit, and avoided any form of funky accessories, she put on a set of deep sea pearls and traded in her Harujuku bag for a leather Balenciaga bag. She brushed out her hair and left it down,wore simple make up and instead of  zipping up into a pair of boots, she stepped into a pair of Ralph Lauren pumps. She stared at the mirror and studied herself. It didn’t look like her at all. Who was this woman and why was she staring at her? But she had to admit, she didn’t look half as bad. She just looked normal like everyone else and that made her just a little bit sad.

“Good Morning, Ms. Tala.”

She nodded. People were unusually polite today. She put on a fake smile and nodded politely. “Good Morning .”

“Miss Tala, would you like me to take your things?” A young intern rushed to help her as she entered her office.

“Miss Tala, your itinerary for the day,” Nina appeared before her and gave her a black clipboard with the day’s bulletins, notes and schedules on it. Usually, she had to ask Nina about a million times before she begrudgingly pushed off her swivel chair and stood up to stomp to her room hand her the clipboard and stomp back to her desk without a word. And now, the royal bitch was reciting the details of her schedule and even offered to make her green tea. What’s wrong with these people?

She wondered about it the whole morning as she worked. It seemed that it took only one costume change to switch her image from being “Daddy’s Little Spoiled Brat” to “The Heiress in Training.” Are adults that easily influenced? And they say children are impressionable! She shook her head tucked her hair behind her ears a gentle knock made her look up. Her father smiled at her from across the room.

“Now, see, that is what I’d like to see,” He was beaming proudly at her. “Why the long face? Everyone is saying how beautiful you are and how grown up you have become aren’t you proud of it?”

Marikit did not answer and just stared at him. Wearing power suits did not make her feel powerful. Instead they made her feel stiff and self-conscious. These suits were like strait jackets that controlled her every movement and made her aware of the things she couldn’t do. She couldn’t dance a jig when she thought of the perfect idea. She couldn’t smile too wide when she finished a project. She had to be prim and proper, sit straight and look pristine all the time.

Maybe this was why a lot of office workers are so depressed. Wearing the suit might be really restricting them and reminding them that they are imprisoned by the corporate giants never again to be free until they die from stress, go crazy or both.  They were drones without individuality in a place that sucked the life out of them. It seemed that the colors that they chose reflected the blandness of their routinary life. The colors of the suits were all shades of grey, the color of dullness and blah – the prisoners in Bilibid Prison even had it better. At least orange was a cheerful color.  If being adult meant being grey, dull drone, she would rather put her hair in two tails forever.

But inspite of the inner rebel telling her to tear it all apart and “be herself”, she admitted that the positive response to her change was overwhelming. It was really nice being listened to and followed instead of being ignored. She felt encouraged by their compliments over the sly insults that they used to throw at her. Instead of looks of disgust, she now received looks of envy from the office fashionistas who flocked to her to ask where her shoes were from or if they could touch the leather of her purse.

Even Ryo noticed her total make-over. He kept on looking her way during their morning meeting with a hint of regret in those pretty eyes of his. He tried his hardest to apologize to her and make it up to her. He kept on trying to set up a meeting with her, which she told Nina that she would not have time for him.  He waited for her in the lobby during her coffee break and offered to take her out to UCC to talk. Marikit regarded him with a smug sense of self-satisfaction and flipped her salon pretty adult styled hair at him and walked away when he asked her to lunch. Ha! Take that, loser. Now you see what you’re missing.

The biggest encouragement to her was her father’s reaction when he saw her that morning at the breakfast table. He looked up from his morning coffee and paper and beamed when he saw her. He did not rush out like he usually did and took a leisurely breakfast with her, even asking the household help to prepare her favorite strawberry crepes for her as a prize. He drove wth her to work and even complimented her repeatedly on her new found sense of style.

Maybe that was why she did it she wanted him to keep the good image and the hard earned respect that everyone had for him. She did not want to ruin it for him like he said she was doing. She would do this “grown up” thing for him. Who knows, maybe there was some hidden coolness to adulthood that she still haven’t uncovered? So, she smiled back at him gently as she tried to listen to him while reading some paperwork that he placed on her desk for her to read and sign.

She signed the paperwork as her father babbled something about having lunch together with her and some old friend that he needed to take out and wanting to take her with him and reintroduce her to his friend’s son who was apparently a close childhood friend of hers from diapers. That was new. She had no idea who he was and what they were doing in diapers together. So she listened intently and asked for clues on which he might be. But when her father started telling her that he was single she pouted. She knew it, there had to be a catch. Her father was trying to hook her up again.

 Marikit listened but inwardly rolled her eyes at her father’s eloquent speech and description of her friend’s son. She knew where this was leading to. Her dad was known for his great ability to exaggerate. He was an Ad man after all, but she knew almost one hundred percent that no matter what her dad says, her dad’s friend would be old and hopelessly rich and the son would be an ugly thirty something with bad teeth and would ogle her hoo-has like a lecherous creep. He would squeeze her hand with his sweaty, clammy fingers and tell her that she was a beauty. He would be worse than the hentai otakus in Akibahara who only lusted over gashopon figures and 2D boobs.

She sighed as she predicted what would happen next, they would receive many calls inviting her to dinner or the beach or to Paris – all of which, Marikit found a way to avoid, feign sick or completely reject. She and her father would fight about it for a few days until her mother makes them stop and attempts to matchmake her with some other loser who Feng Shui said was the perfect man for her. Even though, he can’t find a wife for himself.  But right now, she really didn’t feel like ruining her dad’s good mood today and so she reluctantly agreed. It was her way of making it up to him. They could fight again later this week.

“Sounds good,” she smiled and nodded as she feigned interest. “They both sound equally fascinating, though I really can’t remember meeting them before. When is Mr. Amanosuke and his son coming? When can I meet them?”

Her dad beamed at her easy answer. In his mind, he thought that maybe his speech the night before had finally sunk in and all his years of trying to make her grow up is finally taking effect. Instead of whining at him, and frowning like she usually would, he was surprised by her mature and subservient behavior. He was soon convinced that his daughter had finally grown up and she would make a fine bride for his friend’s son. “Well, we are supposed to meet them at the Diamond Hotel in an hour or so? Do you think we could make it by then?”

Marikit thought a minute and nodded. She wanted to try this adult thing, anyway. Maybe, if she did, her luck with men would change. Maybe by doing this, she would gain more respect. Maybe they were all right. She was scared to grow up. She was scared that if she did she would lose her individuality. But she would not know until she tried. It was a risk that everyone took and they seemed to turn out ok. Now, it was her turn to do so and she needed to stop all her procrastination. She closed her eyes and plunged into the unknown, gambling everything she knew of herself to try something new. So to her father’s delight, Marikit did the mature thing and stood up and picked up her purse.



Edited: 11/04/07 10:44 PM

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Chapter One:

 Enter the Pinay Japanophile Princess

 

Marikit Tala was a quintessential Filipina beauty. She wasn’t that tall, in fact, she was quite petite at 5’5”. She had long flowing black hair that rivals the hair of shampoo commercial models and morena skin that was the envy of many foreigners for her natural tan. She was blessed with almond shaped eyes, an easy smile, a willowy figure and a not so flat nose (which she was very thankful for). She looked Filipina through and through and even her name conveyed that she was, in fact, a Filipina princess. 

Marikit Tala was her true name. Marikit is a Filipino term, meaning pretty or beautiful and her last name meant star. Her name, when put together, meant Beautiful Star. A name that is very deserving of her since she is described by her grandfather as his own little star. When she was younger, she didn’t really mind it and thought that her name was kind of cute and magical. She felt like a goddess in the old Filipino Folktales and that made her feel very special. But as she was growing up, she came to the knowledge that her name was, if anything, was old fashioned, and very Filipino. Anyone who saw her and knew her name would immediately think about Maria Clara, Manila, Luneta or even Adobo.  Yes, she was that Filipina.

There were many times, after a brawl with a classmate who teased her about her all too nationalistic name that she thought that her parents were being unfair when they gave her the name. She whined about it countless times .Why was it that she was given this oh-so-nationalistic name? Was it because she was born on August 12? Was it because her grandmother had forced them to?  Was it because they had nothing else better to do than make fun of this helpless baby girl and gave her a name that she would regret for the rest of her life? Sometimes, parents do make spur of the moment decisions that are the bane of their children’s lives, and Marikit was very sure that this was one of them.

Upon further research, she found out that her parents just thought it would be cute to call her a name that meant Beauty. Oh, why oh why couldn’t they just have picked Belle? Or better yet, Kirei? Why did it have to be Marikit? Or something normal, like Maria Clara or Maria Katelina? Those were very Filipino sounding names too. She hated her name and insisted that everyone call her Kit. At least, being named after a talking car from Knight Rider was cooler than her own real name.

Over the years, Marikit learned to accept her name. She was thankful it was at least that and not Luningning, Diwata, Luzviminda or worst yet, Paraluman. It wasn’t that bad sounding and at least, it had a unique ring and kind of modernesque ring to it. But still, it was unfair that in the whole Tala clan, she was the only one with a nationalistic name. Her parents weren’t that bad to her siblings and they gave them normal names. Her brother was named Paul and her sister was named Anna.

The fact that she was an heiress to the Tala Multinational Advertising Corporation, indeed made her a princess. She was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. However, Marikit wasn’t proud of it. Instead of capitalizing on neither her natural Filipina beauty nor her rich status in life, she had wished to be something else. She would rather be just a regular person and most of all she would rather be Japanese.

When she was six, her parents took her to Japan to meet with clients and tour the country. It was then that her fascination for the country began. She was amused and hypnotized by the beautiful Geisha as they were resting in Osaka. She was mesmerized by the fast paced city of Tokyo, amused by the colorful anime, amazed by the technology and enamoured by the polite ways of the Japanese people. By the time the tour ended, Marikit was sure that she was born in the wrong country and nationality.

She grew up studying everything about the country. She traded in her Filipino book for a lesson in Nihongo. She devoured lessons on Japanese History and Culture over learning the intricacies of the Philippine-Spanish War. She could recite lines of haiku, but failed to recite lines of Balagtas. She was adept in the Japanese Fan Dance, but failed in Itik-itik.  She would rather read The Tales of Genji over the Noli Me Tangere.  She ate Pocky instead of Jack and Jill Pretzels and would rather indulge herself over shoujo manga over reading komiks and the adventures of Lastikman.

 In her Grade School’s United Nations Day Pageant that she was forced to join to represent her class, her class adviser insisted that she wear the Baro’t Saya because of her natural Filipina beauty. Marikit smiled and nodded at this. She even practiced the kundiman that she was supposed to sing for the talent portion. However on the day of the pageant, the adviser was surprised. Marikit promptly came to school in a yukata and impressed everyone with her knowledge and her adeptness with the Tea Ceremony.  Because of this, and her smart use of the Japanese Language, she won Ms. United Nations three years in a row.

In High School, Marikit was popular because of her looks, status and her name. She made many friends from different circles. She was in the cheerleading squad; she had friends in the theater guild and talked to the people in the Anime Club. However, it seemed surprising that though she received many proposals from many boys from her school and beyond they were all turned down. Many thought that it was because she was just a diligent student focused on her education. She was the model of the Modern Day Maria Clara and valued her chastity more than most girls her age . For that reason many of her teachers who are old spinsters were very happy and proud of her. She was a model to her classmates and she should be followed.

However, the people closest to Marikit, her barkada (group of friends) knew better. They knew how boy-crazy Marikit was.  She swooned after every cute Japanese Pop Star and anime bishounen worse than anything.  She had fantasies of dating these idols and unrealistic characters. She was just like every other girl, who had her share of serious crushes and one-sided love.  While her barkada had crushes on real boys in their school, Marikit refused to go out or look at them.

“Marikit, Rick is really cute and he really likes you. Why did you turn him down? I thought you thought he was cute? I mean, he’s even the star of the Basketball Team!”

                “I do think he’s cute. But, he’snot Hotohori.”

                “Hoto-who?”

                “Emperor Hotohori, my bishounen from Fushigi Yuugi.”

                “Isn’t that an anime?  Marikit, he’s not real.”

                “He should be. He’s more perfect than any boy in this world or in any other world for that matter! Hotohori-sama, suteki! (Hotohori-sama, you’re beautiful!)”

At this point, the girls would turn away and change the topic. Talking about things that normal girls her age would be talking about, Fashion, the latest rap single or how cute the captain of the Soccer Club is, leaving Marikit with her own fantasies over her not-so real crush. While her friends read Sweet Valley High and Love Stories, she read Shoujo Manga and Fanfiction.

Her friends always try to bring her back to reality by introducing her to cute real boys and showing her pictures of hot non-Asian stars like Justin Timberlake or even Star Trek’s Wil Wheaton. They tried to hook her up multiple times with decent looking classmates. She liked them, and allowed herself to crush on them for their sake but she preferred dark haired, Japanese speaking boys that she saw weekly in Shounen Club. She even said that she had crushes in school to cover up her apparent weird taste in men. That seemed to appease them. Maybe she wasn’t hopeless after all.

Of course, she wasn’t that numb to not have her first love and she was not lying when she said she had a crush in school. She had her share of unattainable crushes as a young woman. Her first unattainable love was a young Japanese transfer student named Kato Ryoichi. He was like one of those guys in the shoujo manga that the silly, clumsy school girl always crushes over. He was mysterious, quiet, handsome and very chivalrous. He was princely and graceful and though he was not the smartest or the best in any sport, he carries a special charm with him that made girls swoon all over his oh so bishounen feet.

He was not oblivious to her. In fact, he spent a lot of time with her knowing that she was at least a little knowledgeable in the Japanese Language. Once they were introduced, they became good friends. They shared manga, CDs and anime together. She fell in love with him fast. She fell in love with his cute Osakan accent, the way he tried to explain things, his love for baseball and how he tried to teach her Japanese slang. They had fun together and they were often teased to be a couple. Marikit enjoyed it. She even thought that Ryo was the bishounen that she was asking for. He was sent by the heavens to complete her little fangirl heart. 

It was junior year and just after the Cheerdance competition and their team had won. Marikit looked up eagerly into the stands to see Ryo smiling down at her and cheering her on. She threw him a thumbs up which he responded eagerly. It was then that she thought that it was the proper time to confess her growing feelings for him.  She has seen it done countless times and many styles in various anime and dramas that she watched. Each and every time, the girl is nervous, yet confident in her feelings. Today it was her turn. She changed into her school uniform and waited for Ryo to come to their special bench that faced the 2nd football field of their school. They loved this place because it was cool and quiet. Today, it may just be the place where her first love blossoms.

She waited for him on the bench. She practiced her confession speech in her mind. She did not want to be one of those anime girls that she hated, those who just stammer and can’t get their feelings out. She was an outspoken girl. Yet, is it really that easy? Would he like her? She looked up to see him approach with that heart stopping smile of his and she melted.

“Marikit-chan, sorry I’m late!” He said as he ran up to her.  He shook two bottles of iced green tea and smiled. “I had to find the right kind for our celebratory toast.”

“Ah, you shouldn’t have.” She smiled shyly. “Actually, I have something to tell you.”

Ryo grinned. “But I know you’d be thirsty after all that flailing around. You didn’t do half as bad as I expected, Koi-chan.”

“Stop calling me a fish!” Marikit protested as she wrinkled her nose in disgust at the name. She pouted. Why is he so damn cute? “Anyway, I just called you out here to talk.”

“What’s with that face?” He laughed. “What is it now, Koi-chan?”

He had gotten used to the nickname. He started calling her that after their Biology Field Trip to Manila Zoo last year. She was fascinated with the Japanese Koi (Carp)  and from then on, the name stuck. She always protested its use, but deep inside, she was thrilled that he found a special name for her. She just wished that it wasn’t a fish – but the other meaning of Koi which was love.

She looked him in the eye and braced herself. This was it. “You’re always supporting me, Ryo. I just want to thank you and I think it’s wonderful that we’re this close. Actually, Ryo... I ….” Large droplets of rain fell upon them and her heartfelt confession. The cold rain never stopped her as she held on to him. “Ryo, I think I have fallen in love with you.”

Ryo was silent for a while and smiled at her weakly. “Now, I think you’re going crazy. Let’s get out of the rain.” He ran ahead of her and laughed. “I dare you to catch me!”

“I will!”She shouted back, though her heart was drowning in tears. Maybe he wasn’t ready to answer. It was sudden, after all. She should give him time, right? She arranged a smile on her face and ran after him.

The week passed and still there was no answer from Ryo. She thought she blew it all and that Ryo hated her when he had not called or talked to her for the next few days. But soon, she discovered the something even worse. Ryo had to move back to Japan because his father’s business had him transferred. Marikit was left heartbroken. He never gave her an answer.

She never dated anyone seriously after that.  She began to obsess herself with anime crushes, her most famous being Hanazawa Rui from Hana Yori Dango. She didn’t want to be left behind again and she obsessed on finding a guy just like him. This sort of twisted reality worried her parents enough to ask if she needed to go to a psychiatrist. She declined and people around them said that it was pretty normal for High School Girls to have these childish fantasies. So they left her alone.

But the fantasies did not go away and in college, instead, the freedom she got intensified the fangirling. She was promoted from having anime crushes to real persons in the form of Japanese Pop and Rock Idols that she had started fangirling. Her current favorite was Akanishi Jin from KAT-TUN and Yamashita Tomohisa from NEWS, lead singers in two very popular Japanese Boy Bands. She also loved Koike Teppei and worshipped the ground that Kimura Takuya walks on. She bought all their albums, DVDs and watched all their dramas. She scoured the internet for video clips of them and pictures and discussed their popularity, well-being and other seemingly important details with other fans. It was progress, at least this time it was real people. She was at least not fantasizing in 2D anymore.

She was at the age when she is supposed to fall in love and get married and still, she went rejecting away any prospect that fell short of her amazingly high standards. The perfect man must be tall, but not so tall, lean, athletic (with just the right amount of muscle), fashionable, talented, just the right bit of bratty, mixed with a tinge of mysteriousness and a dash of romance. He must be chivalrous, but sarcastic at the same time, a little bit narcissistic, with a kind heart that melts when you show him a kitten.  He should be able to cook and enjoy doing so. He must be a little sensitive, yet tough when he needs to be. He must have principles and could stand by them. He must be a little rebellious, yet he follows the rules of his heart. He must have a heart stopping smile and eyes that bore into your very soul. He must be educated, classy and most of all – and this is the most important to her: he must be Japanese.

It was because of this that no matter how many men her parents and grandparents introduce to her and try to hook her up with, she would refuse them.  No, she doesn’t like that Filipino Idol-actor from ABS CBN, nor did she like the Ayala-Zobel dude that spoke in Spanish half the time.  She didn’t like the handsome son of a Chinese entrepreneur that her mother insisted she go out to dinner with. All efforts to make her fall in love failed. Her grandmother even tried to put “gayuma” in her juice when a Korean Entrepreneur came to woo her in her desperation to have her only granddaughter fall in love. Of course, it didn’t work – it only succeeded in making her throw up the remainder of her lunch all over the handsome Korean who, of course, never showed his face in the Tala Ancestral home ever again. Maybe it was for the best.

It wasn’t that she hated all of them. In fact, a few of them had tugged on her heartstrings more than once. But she could not bring herself to fall in love with anyone of them. She told herself that if she kept up with this, she would die an old virgin spinster who had never been kissed. That horror pushed her to try to lower her standards and find a beau and fast.  She, in fact, almost fell in love with a Chinese-Korean Restauranteur who wooed her with peking duck, moon cake and siomai.  Everything fell apart when on a night of an almost-kiss, she discovered that she was only one of the six women in his harem. She was Wednesday – the girl for hump-day the most boring day of the week. She discovered this when he left his cellular phone in the car when he was picking up something for the restaurant. She was innocently (alright, she was snooping!) browsing through his text messages only to find her name labeled as Wednesday in his cellular phone. A quick check at the calendar confirmed that it was indeed Wednesday and that he was only using her in hopes to score some deals by using her name for free advertisements and to threaten his rivaling Chinese Restaurants.

That was a horrible blow to her sensitive virgin ego. She was glad she wasn’t really in love. But the experience did not only put a barricade on her already hard to reach heart. It also raised the bar and made her almost hate real men for a while – especially rich Chinese brats. Her opinion of them became was lowered into the 4th circle of hell and she treated them like vermin or someone who has severe case of the cooties. She shunned all possibilities of love for a while, much to the chagrin of her parents and her grandparents who wanted to see her married and with a child. She put all her concentration on her studies and graduated with honors.

Marikit was now twenty five years old and has just graduated from the Masteral Program at the prestigious De La Salle University in Manila majoring in Marketing and Sales and Advertising. A perfect degree for her since her family owned one of the biggest advertising firms in the country.  She was looked forward to as the next president of the company, and the heiress to the vast advertising empire. They looked up to her and the modern knowledge she seems to have. Her fluency in the Japanese language was a big plus. It only meant more overseas contracts for them and she was well-respected in the industry.

 She seemed to have it all – everything but a bishounen (good looking man) knight who would sweep her off her feet and feed her green tea mochi ice cream and akadango the whole day. One who would tell her that he loved her and give her backrubs and watch anime with her. She wanted him to be there to turn her on both intellectually and of course, sexually.  She didn’t want to end up to be an old hag, who is to this day a NBKNBT ( Never-been-kissed- Never-been-touched). That thought was too depressing.

But of course, she wasn’t a woman that desperate to pick off anyone who wore pants off the streets to be her boyfriend. She had standards and she knew that if she waited long enough, he would come to her. Somewhere in this world, the perfect bishounen is looking for her and only her. She only hoped that he was looking on her side of the planet and in the same city and of course, the same dimension. She had seen too many anime lovers torn apart by multi-dimensional love and she doesn’t want that happening to her.

She knew she wouldn’t know what to do if her lovestory would be like Miaka and Tamahome, trapped in different dimensions and torn for all eternity. Even though,  they did get together in the end, they still lost a lot of their comrades and if she was Miaka, she would have easily chosen Hotohori. He was an Emperor, he’s gorgeous, rich and charming. How many times do you get proposed to by an emperor, anyway? Stupid one-track minded wench!

These were the thoughts that were on her mind as she lay awake this particular morning. Today may just be different. It was the start of her new life as a member of the workforce, after all. It was a chance to prove herself to her father, and herself. New beginnings open a lot of possibilities for those who dream and this may be her chance.  A chance to prove herself, a chance to find herself again and maybe just maybe, find the love of her life. She was finally ready to open herself to love – a concept she really doesn’t know about.  So her first mission was to find Mr.Right.

.o0o.

“SAFE!!” Marikit skidded to a stop in front of the Executive Boardroom of the Tala Advertising Corporation Headquarters , and smiled. Right on time and with a few seconds to spare. “Yosh! Ganbatte ikkimas-shoi!” She said hyping herself up  and doing a mini thrust before entering the glass encrusted walls of the boardroom where her father and the top tier staff of Tala Advertising gathered to welcome the heiress to the Advertising giant and their soon to be new boss. 

Little did she know that her pep talk was being watched from within the room through the glass by the mummies of the company and the day’s presenting teams. What they expected was a beautiful, fashionable, sassy and smart woman that would lead them to success with her charming looks and encouraging smile. What they saw outside was quite – well—disappointing and shocking.

She was very pretty, that was a given. Her hair was done up in two buns up on the side of her head instead of a fashionable chignon and she had bright iridescent red streaks in her hair. Her suit, though obviously a work of Louis Vuitton, was worn almost carelessly with a rhinestone tank and a red leather belt slung casually around her hips. She wore ample enough make-up at least - that part was not overdone except for her eye liner was done in cat’s eye. But instead of pearls, she had on a silver choker with the kanji for “hope” hanging off of it, she had multiple colored bangles and instead of pumps, she was wearing a pair of knee high buckle up Demonia boots. If that was her idea of strict corporate attire, they were doomed.

Was this the heiress that they have been waiting for?  How could they take her seriously when she was obviously different and weird? Yet, as they learned in advertising, people who have unique ideas tend to stand out, so they gave her the benefit of the doubt. Besides, they had no choice. She practically owned the company.

A pair of strict eyes followed Marikit as she entered the room with over-zealous energy and obviously, a bad fashion sense.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the latest addition to Tala Advertising, my daughter, Ms. Marikit Tala,” Mr. Victor Tala, the President  and founder of the prestigious company said as the fashion victim entered the room. “Marikit, would you like to say a few words.”

“Un,” Marikit nodded in a childlike manner and looked up to meet the surprised looks of the board members. “Minna-san Ohayo!  I am Marikit Tala, 25 years old and graduated from De La Salle University – Master’s Degree program majoring in Marketing and Sales and Advertising.  I know that I am young and new, and maybe different. But , I hope we could work well together. I know everyone will share their extensive knowledge with me, please bear with me and let us work hard together.  Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!” She bowed low and ended her speech. That was pretty good for a start, right?

Her father stood back studying her as Marikit introduced herself, ending with a huge smile a low bow and a flashed cute peace sign to the very hoity-toity, uptight management people. He shook his head as a sign of disappointment and told her to sit down. She took her place beside him and browsed through the morning meeting’s material.

The weekly board meeting began and everyone watched carefully prepared presentations for the new products that they were going to advertise. After each presented, commentary was customary, however, it seemed that Marikit had an opinion for everything and anything and she says it at the time it is convenient for her.

“BOOOORING!!” Marikit yawned pointed to the car commercial where the concept was be “good looking actor- picks up good looking girl and drives off into the sunset.”  “Papa, I’m hungry, can I get some doughnuts?”

Her father closed his eyes and shook his head. One of the overzealous employees stood up and fetched the princess her doughnuts.

“What is boring?” The presenter was annoyed by her presence and her interruption The board of directors as well as the presenters stared at her obvious lack of tact but did not say a word. At least let them finish, right? What was this attitude? Was this girl really ready for the corporate world? And she just graduated! How dare she tell them what to do!

“That. It will never sell.” She pouted cutely then smiled and gave thumbs up to the employee who brought her several glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts and a glass of cold Fresh Vitamin D milk.

The presenter shook his head and looked to the mummies for salvation. When he found none, he hung his head and listened to their new boss. This was definitely a challenge. “Well, Ms. Tala, please enlighten me with what is wrong with my team’s presentation?” He said through clenched teeth.

 “Why does it have to be fake looking broads with big tits and a barely-there outfit and super unhumanly handsome men who looks insanely rich that gets to ride the car? Aren’t we targeting the masses?” Marikit asked between bites. “And that color scheme is ugly, why use grey? Gray is the color of BLAH. Red sells.”

“Well…” The presenters started to stare at each other to search for answers. “Well, It’s just that Luis Manzano already agreed to do the commercial and we’ve been trying to get him to do one for almost half a year and….” A girl with glasses started to stammer.  “He is one of the nation’s top selling celebrities. Seeing him in it, would make a person feel – handsome or popular.  Well, we chose silver because it looked really classy.”

“Bleh,  Luis. I went to school with him. Nice guy,smart too but I would rather it be Vhong Navarro,” Marikit said as she stared at her perfect black and red French manicure. “It would be funnier and edgier, rather than this usual boring crap you show us. Besides Luis is too macho, too rich, the targets will completely feel inadequate to buy your car. If it was Vhong, it would be, at least, attainable, right? I mean, you guys did your research you should know these things. I tell you, do it like that and it will never sell. Who would even attempt to buy something that they knew they could not afford or is not in their status?”

At the back of the room, the President watched her carefully. His daughter was shaking things up in the office. He smiled a little at the thought that maybe he was doing the right thing after all. His very vocal daughter was probably the thing these lazy bums needed to create more creative advertisements. Lately, their presentations have been more of cliché and dumb. There was no edge to it and it was very stereotypical. What the company needs was a new look and new blood. Her daughter offers to challenge them to create those. He studied his daughter more – she was a both surprise and a disappointment.

She was very smart and she had everything right on. But her people skills were lacking and badly. Marikit had a bad habit of being a bitch when she wants to and a brat whenever. Her tongue was untamed and she was very tactless. She also was a rebel without a cause. She speaks her mind at the worst times and of course, that won’t do very well for business. Plus, she never listens and never ever wanted to lose. Oh, if only Paul were interested in advertising then it would have been perfect. But his oldest son was a Lawyer and his youngest was a budding young fashion designer.

The company President watched presenters struggled to defend themselves against their new nemesis. He watched as Marikit turned down each and every stereotypical advertisement and suggested radical ways to advertise. She praised highly the ideas where clichés were not followed. She bashed the ordinary and spiced up presentations by making impromptu ads by herself. Maybe the corporation had hope after all.

He watched the whole spectacle unfold before him and enjoyed looking at the horrified faces of the Mummies of the Advertising world. He hated the board for their background thinking and his daughter was indeed shaking up the office. This girl was indeed something else.  It was refreshing, really, to have someone finally speaking up to those mummies and finally giving the office a taste of youth. The office needed something new and fresh and this was indeed the spark that they needed. Bravo, Miss Otaku.

The meeting ended and his father almost howled in laughter at the shell shocked faces of the upper management.  The talk around her was one of disbelief and shock. The working teams really did not expect that their weeks of hard work, research and production would be so easily defeated by the simple words and questions that Marikit had. They were annoyed that a new person could easily point out loopholes in their strategy – pin down the points that they were struggling very hard to find and answer questions that they had for weeks in a matter of a few seconds. She was not in any way demeaning. That’s the annoying part. She was just being frank and honest about everything and she was in no way, kissing ass to get to the top because she was already there.

“Otsukare sama! (Good Work!)” Marikit waved to the presenters as they left the room one by one, acting as if their whole world were shattered by Godzilla. All their hopes of promotions, raises and bigger commissions were wiped away in one easy wave of the new Boss’ cute painted hands. Now, they were not only facing a shorter deadline, but they have to rethink every strategy and everything once again. 

Her dad nodded to his daughter as he left the boardroom. His face never registered any emotion, but inside, he was proud of his daughter for her hard work and at the same time he knew that it was still too early to leave her as she was only trying out her newly found wings. He was glad that she was there, maybe with a little luck and hope she was there to save the company. But, at this point she still needed to grow- to him she was still a child with childish fantasies and it will take time especially for her to develop into an adult. That is, if she would actually grow up.


 Edited: 11/03/07 3:05 PM

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