Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far:After a long night, Yuriko inevitably has a busy morning scheduled. She and Ritsuko share ride and some insights on the way to work.

 

Volume 3, Issue 15

"Whistle While You Work"

 

Traffic was already heavy at this unreasonable hour. The car inched its way through Tokyo streets towards the television studio where Yuriko was scheduled for her interview.

"After he drops me off, the driver'll take you wherever you need to go." Yuriko hid a yawn behind her hand. "Sorry,"

Ritsuko laughed. "Don't yawn! Now I'll start, too." She breathed deeply, trying to avoid the inevitable. "Thank you, this is very kind of you." The young woman looked out of the window, marveling at the view. "I don't get to travel this way very often. It's a completely different view of Tokyo than from inside a train."

They spent a few minutes discussing travel, and the city in general; places they'd been and seen, when abruptly, Ritsuko stopped mid-sentence. She looked puzzled for a moment. "I just realized – you don't have a personal assistant, do you?" She laughed, embarrassed at herself. "I mean, I guess I always assumed that all big stars did, you know, assistants, and secretaries and bodyguards.... Who answers your phone messages and makes your appointments?"

Yuriko smiled at Ritsuko, carefully masking the surge of discomfort that the question prompted. "No," she answered honestly. "I don't have an assistant. I did, for a short time – let's just say that it didn't work out." She blinked a few times, thinking over her answer. "I don't know why, but for some reason, I'd just rather pretend that I'm still a regular person...even when being mobbed on the subway has caused me to be late for appointments." She laughed at herself. "My agency handles fan mail and all that kind of thing. My manager..." she paused a second, then continued, "she's always arranged my schedule. And I do have a concierge that I've hired to take care of things like my dry cleaning, and flowers for birthdays and other things like that, but...I don't know. I like answering my own phone, and taking my chances with the public – after all, they're just people. It's a form of denial, I know," she chuckled, "but it seems to work for me so far." She paused for a long moment. "I never even considered having a bodyguard," she said, almost as if to herself.

Ritsuko was watching her closely. "Wow.," she said, after Yuriko had finished. "Just...wow." She spent a moment lost in thought. "But...what about the bad side? The paparazzi, and stalkers and protests?"

Yuriko nodded. "When I was young, I always thought it was rude of really famous people to remove themselves so far from the public, you know what I mean? They live in remote houses, surrounded by guards...but now that I've met your sister, I think I understand better why they did.

"I've been by myself for almost my whole career, and I never really had anything like a steady girlfriend, so all the attention didn't really affect anyone else – but now, like this morning with the photographers outside her apartment...you'll be in the tabloids today, Ritsuko-san. If I hid myself away from the public, or had more restraint, then they would never have gotten those pictures."

"But I don't mind, really!" Ritsuko reassured the singer. "In fact, my show will probably be packed, now. With all the wrong sorts of people, of course, but every bit helps." She smiled at her own joke.

"No, you don't understand," Yuriko sounded genuinely pained. "They'll be looking for information on you now...personal information. They don't care if it hurts you or anyone else."

"Oh. You mean like.... Oh." The younger woman made an effort to look confident. "I don't mind. I mean that. The truth can't hurt me, really." But her eyes belied her words.

Yuriko patted her arm comfortingly. "It probably won't be that bad, but just in case, I'll have my publicity people on the lookout. But enough about me! I want to know more about you. We hardly had any time together up at your parents...you seem much less...formal, now."

The young artist smiled shyly, but said nothing for a long moment. Eventually she turned to Yuriko with an apologetic look.

"I love my parents," Ritsuko said, unnecessarily, "but big family get-togethers always make me uncomfortable. I always end up hiding in my workshop." She sighed. "It's all that family togetherness and noise. It gets on my nerves."

Yuriko laughed. "You sound exactly like Midori!"

"Do I?" the artist smiled. "Good," she said quietly.

"You really admire her, don't you?"

Ritsuko nodded. "She's my hero. Midori is..." the young woman thought for a second, trying to come up with the right word. "...uncompromising. She always does what she wants, the way she wants to. She never asks anyone's advice or permission, she just goes off and does what she does. Most of the time she never even bothers telling anyone that she's going, or doing, anything. You know," she looked out the window as they turned onto a less crowded street, "I was so angry at her for running away. Not because I missed her. I was angry that she didn't take me along. I thought...well, I had thought that we were close, that she'd always tell me everything. But I've come to realize that Midori doesn't really tell anyone anything. I guess that's what makes her such a good writer...all of what she wants to say comes out in her work. "

"What about you?" Yuriko asked gently, as much to avoid the question of whether the writer told her anything about her inner thoughts, as from genuine interest. "Do you tell anyone anything?"

"I did. Midori, before she left, then Nokoru. Now..." she shrugged. Yuriko could see that she was struggling not to cry.

"Ritsuko-san," she said quickly, changing the subject to something more neutral. "I'd very much like to see your gallery show." She had a thought. "Is that piece you showed me at your workshop completed? Are you showing it?"

Ritsuko turned towards the blonde with a short laugh and a casual swipe at her eyes. "Yes, yes, it's here. Remind me, and the next time I see you, I'll tell you about how I finished it. I'd like it very much if you could come see the show. In fact I was going to ask, but I got kind of sidetracked yesterday."

The car slowed, pulling up in front of an unmarked entrance to an unexceptional building. Yuriko looked up, then back at Ritsuko. "I'm here and I have to run, but...yes, I want to hear all about it. And to see it. And..." she rummaged around, grabbing up her bags, "if you take less than thirty thousand from me for it, I will *never* speak to you again as long as I live." And with this ridiculous and surprising statement, Yuriko left the car with a wave. "See you later!"

Ritsuko eyebrows were still rising towards her hairline as the car pulled away and back into traffic. Thirty thousand? Ritsuko smiled. That was utterly absurd. But she smiled all the way across town, at a pop idol who had no idea of the value of pottery on the open market

 

***

Yuriko whistled absently as she waited in the green room for her call. She sipped at coffee which was only marginally better than the one she had had earlier, and chatted intermittently with a dog breeder and a teenaged gymnast.

When the gymnast had left, and reappeared on the television that was suspended from the ceiling, and the dog breeder had excused herself to attend to her animal, Yuriko paced back and forth, whistling something over and over without any recognition. She vaguely thought she had heard it on the radio in the car, but what it was, she had no idea. Catchy, though – some popular song or other.

Morning interviews were comparatively painless for Yuriko. The audience of rising housewives were not in the mood for exposÚs and scandal...they wanted entertainingly banal banter and good news to start their dreary days.

Over the years, Yuriko had devised a variety of games she played to amuse herself while participating in these mind-numbing exercises. These games ranged from the self-preserving to the self-promoting and they kept her from losing her mind. All good things, in her opinon.

She gazed into the mirror, brushing the hair in front of her right eye until it gave her just the right look of nonchalant cool. The host of this show was well-known for his flirtatious behavior with all the female guests.... Yuriko smiled seductively at herself, then jumped as her name was called from the door, sheepishly looking to see if the PA had even noticed. Not surprisingly, she hadn't.

***

The stage was typical morning show fare. There was an overstuffed chair for her to the host's right, slightly offset from his and his co-host's seats. She bowed, smiled and shook hands as she was introduced and the audience responded with enthusiastic – if not orgiastic – applause.

Yuriko smiled broadly at the audience, catching a few of the women's eyes, blew a kiss to a young housewife, then stood, removing the flower from her lapel and tossing it to the same girl. Instantly the girl's blushing face appeared on screen, and the applause rose a notch in enthusiasm.

Yuriko bowed again to the audience and returned to her seat. Yeah, she thought as she caught the co-host's eyes, this ought to be fun.

 

Continued

Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.