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J-Pop Love Song
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African American Charlene Alfred, a forty-one year old writer is about
to have her first best selling novel "Blu's Diary" turned into an
internationally released miniseries. Her manager gives her an
ultimatum—use the Japanese lead actor of their choice or forget the
project. When twenty-four year old Japanese pop sensation known as
“Kane” hears that the writer he's always admired strongly believes he's
too young for the crucial role he makes it his mission to change her
mind. Kane finds there is a connection between him and this woman that
defies all reasoning and logic.
J-Pop Love Song

CHAPTER ONE

Los Angeles, CA
 
Striding into her high-rise office, Charlene threw the files onto the cognac colored desk.  She was tired and frustrated from her meeting with the producers and director of her Japanese debut drama, Blu's Diary. 
If she had to do one more rewrite on the movie's script, she would scream.  Still, no rewrite pissed her off more than the producers' latest jab at her patience.
Now they wanted a different Asian actor to play the title role; some twenty-something, Japanese Pop Star looking to gain a stronger hold on the American entertainment industry. 
Charlene could respect the young man’s ambition she just didn’t appreciate him using her televised mini-series to do it.  All they were concerned about was his ability to guarantee good rating numbers.  What about what was best for her character, the domineering rock star, Blu?
This went against what Charlene wanted and she genuinely believed they had already struck an understanding when they contracted her novel.  They made her feel as if they were ready to make the first Japanese drama series to be done in English and Japanese, and airing simultaneously in both countries.  They made her believe she would have the final say in casting the leads.
Damn them.  There was no way the Japanese artiste they chose was powerful enough vocally to pull off the original songs she wrote for her tragic star.  She needed an older and more experienced actor, but they were telling her she had no choice but to settle for some spoiled rich kid that had connections.
“You okay, Charlie?”
A deep male voice cut through her thoughts.  Charlene turned with a start to find her International Manager, Abe Goda, standing in the entrance.
“Abe, you promised me this wouldn't happen!”  She started in on him immediately, her own frustrations uppermost in her mind.  “I can't believe you’re allowing them to pull this stunt on me at the last minute.  What happened to the actors that I've wasted months mulling over and researching?  What the blazing hell was that all about, if they already made a selection?”
He pushed his hands deep into his pockets with a resigned sigh.  “I'm truly sorry that you had to find out this way.   I had hoped to get to you first, but I sincerely anticipated changing their minds before you found out.”
“You should have tried harder.”
“Charlie, I do see the logic in employing a well-known Japanese name in the music industry; it makes good business sense.  People will not only tune in to see Kane in his first serious drama but the soundtrack will for sure fly off the shelves.  Isn't that important also, to have your music appreciated?”
“The tracks I wrote for this project are the best I've done yet, not to mention, the first new songs I've written since my husband died.  I assure you the music will promote itself no matter who I elect to sing them,” Charlene defended her skills.  “I can't believe you let them walk all over me in that meeting.  Damn it!  This should be my decision.”
“I understand how you feel Charlie and no one purposely doubts your abilities.”
“The hell you say.”
“Give me a moment,” he continued.  “Until you can completely produce your own films, you have to understand this is how controlling negotiations are conducted not only in the Japan, but in the States also,” Abe reasoned.
“Investors want a sure thing, Charlie.  When it comes to new scripts—not to mention the taboo subject that we are trying to force-feed the Japanese public by placing Kane in the lead— you should be the first to understand an interracial relationship between a Japanese elite and an African American female is a damn hard sell.”
She gave Abe that one.  “True,” she agreed.  “Look, I know if it hadn’t been for your connections and support I would not have gotten this far with these Eastern Producers.  By no means am I trying to be ungrateful.  You know met.”
Abe nodded and smiled in understanding knowing that hadn’t been easy for her.
“Still,” She waved her forefinger at him.  “I'm not an idiot.  The only reason they chose to produce Blu’s Diary is that it's a long standing bestseller in the States and over the past 3 years in Japan I have received an unprecedented record of a 150 million yen in sales.”
“What is your point, Charlie?”
“My point is I think the sales substantiated that there is an audience out there for these types of love stories and they realized they needed to swipe it up before someone else steals the concept and put it on film first.”
“Here in the United States, the figures you're pulling in to become a best seller are based on the excellences of your books,” Abe argued.  “Yet, you can't guarantee your name alone has pulled in the high numbers in Japan.”
“They aren’t buying my books for my looks over there,” she said sarcastically.
“Need I remind you that Blu’s Diary was your début novel? Have you forgotten that upon its release it was protested in Japan?  People were buying your book because of all the controversial publicity behind it!”
“Every interview I explained that the book was fictional, Abe, you know this.  Why are we talking about this instead of coming up with a plan to make sure this kid don’t get the part in Blu’s Diary?”
“Charlie, the Japanese youth love controversy.  So don’t knock it.  They rushed out to purchase your novel because of all the hype about the fictional work actually being an autobiography of a well-adored musician in Japan.”
Charlene remained silent.  She closed her eyes and rubbed her temple.  Why must her past always rear its ugly head?
 “There is many more items on the agenda to debate over,” Abe stated, seeing her silence as a form of agreement.  “Let them have this one.”
“I genuinely believed the investors liked my idea about causing a media buzz about filming by going from city to city in Japan to scout new unchartered talent.”  Her voice became loud and shrilled and she saw Abe flinch, and felt an inner satisfaction.  She knew that if Japanese men hated anything, it was public displays from a loud and emotional woman.
He cleared his throat and spoke calmly, “The idea was excellent; but the increased expense to the already strained estimated budget did not.  Nor could we find anyone willing to insure an unknown.”
“If given the time, I’m sure I could have called in some favors,” Charlie replied.
Abe moved further into the office and closed the door behind him.  In his usual calm and soothing way, he said, “I understand you're upset Charlie, but you have to understand where these gentlemen are coming from.  They are investing a huge amount of capital into this project.”  He removed his hand from his pocket and pushed his gold-rimmed glasses up onto the bridge of his nose.  “They have the right to have whomever they want to play the lead.”
“Abe, what if I used my personal resources to pay for the overall plan so that I could do it all my way?”
“Charlie, now you're deliberately being a hefty pain in my ass.”  Abe shook his head and muttered softly under his breath before answering her question.  “Simply put, I can’t agree to that.   You are in a binding contract.  If you volunteer to buy out just one of the investors, you will be out of at least a quarter of a million dollars and in the end they will still be a majority rule.  They will still contract Kane to play Blu.”
“As my manager, I can't believe you convinced me to do this at all,” Charlene grumbled.
“I’m a genius and it’s an excellent idea,” he teased in that pompous way that he knew worked her last nerve.  “I shouldn’t have to be the one to point out the precedence this could set for African American women in the Japanese and American movie industry.”
“You’re right.  You shouldn’t be the one.”
He grinned.  “Well, do you desire to place a halt on what could be a huge milestone between our cultures?”  He grunted. 
“That’s exactly what I should do.”
“Why when in the end you will look at me with those big cow eyes and bat those long lashes saying, ‘Abe, you’re a genius,’ as usual.”
“I don’t talk like that and don’t bob your head if you can’t do it right.  You look like a duck.”
He laughed. 
She showed a half smile.  Abe always knew the right things to say.  It was why she hired him.  He was also as good handling other people as he was with her. 
She stared from beneath her lashes as Abe finished closing the space between them and towered over her.  As usual he smelled wonderfully fresh and clean.   His aftershave always made him smell as if he just stepped out of the shower.
“Charlie, you'll be the first African American woman to have her film produced and directed by several well-known Japanese filmmakers in the business.  A highly recognizable Japanese leading man and a wildly popular African American singer is a major accomplishment.
 “What if because of this bad casting call, my movie flops?  I don't want my reputation sullied by their unwavering decision.”  She rubbed at the throbbing ache in her right temple. 
“Abe, if I flop in Japan, I want it to be because of my own bad choice, not these producers.  I’ve worked too many years rebuilding my name and reputation and you're telling me to store it all on some spoiled pop idol!”
“Come on, Charlie.  You don't know if he's spoiled or not.  Do you really think I would sit back and let this kid or anyone else ruin the reputation, WE, I might add, have built?  You act as if you’re in this alone.”  Abe bellowed.  “I've put my ass on the line for this too,” he reminded.
“Abe…”
“No, Charlene, you listen for a moment,” he interrupted.  “I'm the one who brought your novel to these Japanese financiers’ attention.  They are the ones who made it possible.  We owe them as much leeway as we can without completely blowing the deal.  What part of this situation did you not understand going in?”
His dark eyes took in her face as he continued, “Yes!  The successful reception of Blu's Diary is a good thing, but Charlie, for these investors it’s not about you.  It’s about recouping their investments and obtaining more.  It’s the nature of the business and Kane is the security blanket they need to green-light the project.”
Charlene rubbed at the throbbing vein in the middle of her forehead.  “I’m too frustrated to think at the moment,” she replied with a heavy sigh.
“Give me the word right now Charlie and I will trash the entire project if that is what you want me to do.”  Abe placed his hands on her shoulders with a deep sigh.  “Do you really want this or are you trying to sabotage your dreams again?  You can’t live in the past.  It’s not success that killed your husband; it was his own foolishness.”
She scowled and pouted like a petulant child.  “Don’t bring that up again.  I’m not in the mood for you to play analyst tonight.”
“Okay, well as your advisor, I’m telling you to back off; think positive and hold your negative outbursts until you actually meet the guy in person.”
“Why should I meet him?  They've already made their choice in the matter.” 
“Charlie--” Abe massaged the back of his neck. 
“Abe, look, I’m not completely clueless,” she interrupted and released a long breath. “I know who Kane is.  I have a few of his CD’s. I also have the publicity package that was sent to me.   Nothing I saw said Blu, ‘Japanese Rock Icon’ an orphaned street kid that hustled his way to stardom by blackmailing the successful businesswomen he slept with.”
“I know.”  Abe folded his arms across his wide chest.
“Kane has this clean boyish reputation.  He comes from a wealthy family!  What would a kid like him know about growing up unloved on the streets of Osaka or doing any of what Blu had to do to survive?”  Charlene poured out her concerns.
“I still don’t know how you can be so sure Kane can't handle the role, Charlie, when you have yet to speak with him yourself.”
 “Abe, I strongly believe Kane's squeaky-clean image will make it impossible for the Asian public to separate the Japanese pop sensation that he is from my jaded Japanese rock star.  He will turn my film into some media joke.”
“Not just your film, Charlene,” Abe spoke frankly.  “Let me set up a meeting.”
“I don't want to meet him,” she said stubbornly. 
Abe didn’t say the words but he gave her that chastising glare in that sleepy-eyed way of his that infuriated her to death.
“Don't look at me that way,” she blurted, scarcely aware of the volume of her own voice.  “Don’t you have some asses to kiss before you go home?” 
Abe ran a hand through his ebony hair a sure sign that she has pushed as far as she should push.  For a moment she felt ashamed of her behavior; but only until her friend spoke again.
  “I can't believe you are behaving so childishly.  Kane is twenty-four and he probably behaves more professionally than you are at the moment.”
  “Whatever,” she muttered crossing her arms defensively over her breasts.  To think she was about to apologize.  Humph!
“Okay Charlie, spill it.  What is the real reason Kane is rubbing you the wrong way?”
She placed some space between them, her jaw tightening.  She stopped before the window and look out at the glimmering Los Angeles night view. 
“Let's just say I'm familiar with the type. A gorgeous rich Asian elitist that is bored with his enamored life and desires to stir things up a bit.”
“You, stereotyping and judging someone; I don’t buy it.”
She cut him a glance that would have melted a weaker man, but not her most loyal friend and agent.
“Fans have adored Kane since he was twelve years old in one of those boy-bands.  He's probably completely shallow and spoiled.”  Her face took on a faraway look.  “Trust me.  Everything Jason touches, he ruins it with his selfishness.”
“Jason?”  He asked in a deep tone.  “So that's what this is all about.  Something about Kane reminds you of Jason.”
A soft gasp escaped her.  She turned her gaze on him and stared wordlessly.  What could she say when she knew in her heart that is exactly what was bothering her.  She was making hasty judgments and to her own surprise, she had allowed her personal baggage to get in the way.
“Abe, if you don't mind, I need to be alone,” she said.  Her speech was shakier than she would have liked.
“Promise me you will get some rest.  We will thoroughly discuss this tomorrow,” he said, His dark eyes shimmered with worry, but always the gentleman, he would wait for her to approach him first when it came to her private issues.  “Understand I'm here for you no matter what, Charlie.”
“I know.”  She forced a smile to alleviate his concern.  “I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, but I'll be fine after I get some much needed rest.”
“Are you sure?  We can have dinner at that authentic Japanese restaurant you like so well.”  Abe winked.  “I'll even allow you to practice your Japanese with the waiter and order for the both of us.  As a matter of fact, I'm feeling so generous I'll even let you pay for the meal.”
“Whoa,” Charlene chuckled.  “Now I know you're feeling sorry for me because not once in the eight years we've known one another have you allowed me to pay for a meal.”
“Hey, a sharp man understands when to set pride aside.”  His thin lips spread into an easy smile.
“Another time.  Besides, I don't need practice with my Japanese; there are just some things you never forget, thank you.  Now go, I need to think about those rewrites they requested me to do with Kane in mind.”
“I'm delighted that you're going to give way to Kane being contracted for the lead.”  Abe took in the stubborn set of her lips before the last word was out of his mouth and realized this was not the last he’s heard about the subject.  “Charlie…”
“I didn't say that,” she retorted.  “I just know I need to be prepared just in case they don't see my reasoning.”
“Of course.  Still, I have all the faith in the world in you, Charlie.  Oyasumi-nasai.”  He nodded and opened the door.
“Good night.”
Charlene removed the stylish dot trimmed Misook navy jacket and placed it on the back of her office chair before taking a seat behind the desk.  With a swishing sound of silk stockings, she kicked off her heels and crossed her legs.  For the first time in the past nine hours of scheduled meeting after meeting, she was able to release a sigh of relief that this day was over.  
Yawning, she looked at the clock on her desk.   I should take my butt home!  She thought, since it was almost nine-thirty.  It wasn't like Charlene had anything to rush home to and she did keep rock star hours, even if she didn't live the rock star lifestyle.  Another aspect of her past that hadn’t changed. 
She flipped through the stack on her desk and saw she had at least twenty pages of rewrites to do before turning in for the night.  If she had to work, she'd rather do so while sitting up in bed than sitting in this chair in a cold ass empty office building.  Feeling bitchy, she started to pick up the telephone and call her assistant to meet her at the house.  Decidedly, she wasn’t feeling bitchy enough to be that cruel.  Just because she chose to not have a personal life, she always first assumed no one else had one either.  In her mind, they were all sitting at home waiting for her call.  Yeah, get serious girl.
At that defining moment, Charlene wondered how many of her readers would be surprised that in spite of her passionate penmanship, her bed partner was a laptop and an array of reference books.  Most of the time, she didn't bother to remove them from the bed as she nodded off to sleep.
The phone rang. She jumped and cursed while waiting for her assistant to pick it up.  After the fourth ring, Charlene remembered she'd sent Sharon home two hours ago.  The shrill seemed to grow more persistent while she waited for the service to pick up.  It took another five rings before she acknowledged her assistant must have failed to switch the telephones to the answering service before she left.
“Hello, Charlene Alfred, here.”
“Why are you against me playing Blu?”  His direct question was cool.  Although he had an accent, his English was clear enough for her to hear he was genuinely pissed.
“Kane, I presume.”  Charlene spoke calmly into the telephone.
“You presume correctly.”
“Kane, calling me like this, at this time of the night, isn't helping you change my mind.” 
“What will?  You see, I want this part, Alfred-san,” he said. “I know I can play this wonderful distinctive personality that you’ve written.  Do you know how rare it is for a manuscript to come along from American Hollywood that hasn't stereotype the Asian male?”
“As a matter of fact I do,” Charlene said with a bit more abruptness than she intended. 
This young man was not the enemy and in all fairness, he would be a fool to not want to portray the role of Blu.  Still, she didn't like having her creative wings clipped just because someone had more money than she did.  This was her baby and she should be able to make the call on who played the leading role.
“I apologize for being so clipped with you, Mr. Kane, but it's been a long day and I really need to get home.” 
“I suspect your husband is waiting for you.”
Her eyebrows lifted in surprise.  Was he fishing for information in regards to her personal life? 
“You'd suspect wrong, but it is too late here to be calling,” she reminded once again.
“I understand and forgive me for disturbing you at such a late hour.  It's morning here and after my manager called and told me you had doubts about me…I had to know why.” 
Charlene heard the genuine sincerity in his pleasant voice and sighed deeply.  He deserved her objective opinion.  “Look, I've heard your voice and I've seen your taped live performances.  I agree you are very talented.”
“Thank you.”
“But…you accommodate a youthful audience of hormonal teen girls with your simplistic and lighthearted pop music.  I don't see the rawness in you that Blu possesses.”
“Please, allow me to be as straightforward as you have been, Alfred-san.  First, you know nothing about me as a man.  What you see is the well-orchestrated persona my management team has invested years in establishing.”  He explained.  “My long term contract with Takusa Entertainment Group is coming up for renewal.  I'm no longer the teenager they utilized to build this image around and finally I have the possibility to be the musician and actor I've always wanted to be.  It's time for my image to grow up.”
“I can understand what you’re saying,” she reasoned. “Still, I don’t know if I want you using my pet project to do it.  If you fail to sway the viewers, then all of us will go down with you.”
“I know I can play the part convincingly,” he countered heatedly.
 “Mr. Kane, I don't want to risk a backlash of angry Japanese parents boycotting or the film being banned in Japan just because a ‘goody’ Pop Icon happens to be portraying a boozing uninhibited musical genius who in turn influences the pubescent population of Japan negatively.”
“Take a deep breath,” he chuckled.  “Look, Charlene, I will not let that happen to you or your film,” he assured her.
A brief chill ran though her body as he spoke her name.  A strange sense of familiarity made her close her eyes in memory.  Jason.  Charlene shook her head and realized she was too exhausted to be having this conversation.
“Tsukareta,” she whispered rubbing her temples.  “Mr. Kane, I…I don't want my film to be ignored while the worldwide media focuses on you and with that being plainly said, I seriously think we should be ending this discussion.”
“I know you’re tired and I humbly apologize for being a pest.  However, I believe, regardless of the crude side of Blu, I can add a vulnerability to his dominating character, make his unfortunate decisions understood and forgiven.”
“Mr. Kane—”
“Just call me, Kane.”
“Whatever!”
“I know what I’m talking about.  In our culture when one sees you are sincerely repentant of your behavior, it can be forgiven graciously and without regret.”
He was correct.  She couldn’t deny this for it had been her main concern and the concern of the producers, although she had rewritten several scenes in consideration of the cultural differences of what is acceptable.  However, it didn't mean Kane was the one to achieve the task.
“I read that you were born into a wealthy family, which tells me you have no clue on how to portray this character.  I'm not looking for just someone who can act this part, but someone who may have lived this part in some way,” she said passionately.
“Why are you shrieking at me?” 
Was that humor she heard in his voice?
“I…I'm not yelling,” she said defensively before realizing she was speaking loudly.  In her family if you weren't loud, your point of view became lost in the pool of forceful personalities.  “I'm just— 
“Excited about the script and the soundtracks you've written for Blu's Diary.”  He completed the sentence.  “I understand the passion and the message of your story.”
“I…I see.  So you understand how proud I am about this project.”
“As you should be, Charlene.”  He said softly.  “I read your book on a train ride in between engagements in one sitting three years ago and I never forgot it.  There was something about Blu that felt familiar to me and I genuinely believe if this book were to become a movie, it would be a sign for me to change the course of my career.”
“So you saw this as a sign?”
 “When I heard Blu’s Diary was to be adapted into a film, I knew this was the sign I’ve been waiting for because I believe working with you on this film is going to change my life completely.  For the better, of course.”
Charlene couldn’t deny she was touched by his words and surprised that he had actually read her book, which was a plus for him.  Knowing he spent three years contemplating the possibility stunned her.  Oddly, she felt more relaxed as she slid down in the chair and crossed her feet on the desk. 
“Thank you for reading my book.  I admit that you caught me by surprise.”  She grinned in the phone as if he could see her and caught herself.  The smile disappeared.
“No, thank you for being a wonderful writer.  I’ve kept up with your career since I was seventeen and actually, I've read all seven of your books.  Blu's Diary was my favorite because your lead was Asian and I was pleased.”
“I don’t get too many guys admitting they read my stuff.  Not straight guys anyway,” she giggled.  “You are straight, aren’t you?”  Charlene rolled her eyes and made a face; she couldn’t believe she asked him that question. 
“As oppose to being crooked, you mean.”
“No, I meant…never mind what I meant.”  What did it matter if he was gay or not?  It wasn’t any of her business.  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that.”
“I was teasing.  Are you always so serious?  I don’t mind; ask me anything.”  He assured her.  “Regardless of any fan based rumors you have heard, romantically linking me to men I have collaborated with or members of my band,” he laughed.  “I am not gay.”
“It’s hard to tell these days, though it would have no bearing on this role if the actor was or was not.  Are you dating anyone?”  Damn, where did that come from?  She placed a hand over her big mouth.
He appeared to be mulling that one over since he wasn't as quick to reply as he was before.  “Dating…Mmmm…no,” he finally answered.  “However, there is someone I'm very interested in.”
Charlene wasn't about to question the disappointment she felt at his declaration.  Why wouldn't a man as sexy and successfully popular as Kane be involved with someone?  Just because it wasn't a known fact to the public, didn't mean he was as asexual as his camp would like them to believe.  She opted to change the subject to something less personal.
“As a loyal reader, do you have any recommendations for future books?”  She inquired.
“Well, since you asked, more with Asian males, Japanese in particular because they seem to make us the least approachable Asian culture.  It’s not true.  Also, there aren't enough writers utilizing the Asian male as a romantic lead.  I suppose because most stereotyped us to be emotionless technical sidekicks, pleasant parody relief, geeks and doctors with no personal life beyond our jobs.  In the book you creatively wrote, you showed that we could be as passionate, loving and screwed-up as any other man,” he pointed out seriously.
She smiled and made a confession.  “I was hesitant to write Blu as Asian, even though pieces of his life was emulated from a Japanese man I knew once.  When I started writing the story I didn't want to offend any of the more traditional Japanese males.  In some aspects, I went with what I knew from my experience and when in doubt, I asked Abe Goda, my manager.  He’s helped me tremendously to keep the lead character's reaction in certain situations as realistic as possible.  However, dramatization is a must.  So in the end, it’s still a fictional piece with a happier ending.”
“Who did you model Corinne, the female lead, after?  I fell in love with her from the moment she walked into Blu's life during high school.  She too felt very real to me.  Even after Blu abandoned her to chase his ambitions, she was his biggest supporter.  Her protectiveness of Blu and her desire to generously give her love to him unconditionally touched something in me that I can’t explain.”
Charlene was thankful he couldn't see her face as her cheeks stained red at his compliments to her character, Corrine. 
“Let’s just say the inherited quality of Corrine is someone I also knew very well.”
“I see,” he paused before asking.  “Is the one you spoke of, that Blu reminds you of, is he still in your life?”
“No, he died several years ago,” she spoke with as reasonable a voice she could manage. 
“Unlike Blu's Diary, your real life characters didn't have the happy ending that you compiled in the book.”  He said gently.
“Nobody wants a romance to be that real.”  She laughed it off.  “All romances have to have a happy ending, don't they?”
“In a Japanese love story?  You have to be kidding.  It would be surprising if one of the lovers didn't die.”   He added in a light humorous voice. 
Charlene exhaled a long sigh of contentment.  “True.”  She agreed.  “As far as my readers are concerned, they demand a happy ending and…”  Her smile faded as sadness gripped at her heart.  “I wish every day of my life that I could have written a better ending for the man I used as my inspiration to tell about the occasional harsh side of a Japanese rock star.”
“You’re Corrine aren’t you and blue is Jason James.”  He concluded.
Charlene held the telephone to her ear as an awkward silence stretched between them; she didn't wish to react to his question.  To make such a confession would be to revealing into a part of her life that she had chosen to exorcise in the telling novel.
Kane's next words caught her completely off guard.  “Meet with me.”
“What did you say?”
“I will make all the arrangements.  Come to Japan.  I want you to spend some time with me, live in my world and get to know the real me, not the image.  I definitely want you to know facts about me that no interviews, demos, headshots—”
“Or life-size posters,” she threw in, her brow lifting in mirth.
To her surprise, he laughed.  “Let me guess; shirtless, jeans and in a downpour?”
You forgot, sexy and wet.  “Yes, that's the one.” 
“Bibitta!  That freaks me that my manager would send a poster like that to a potential employer.  What was he thinking?"  He laughed aloud. “Takusa-san forgets everyone isn’t an enthusiastic fan wanting a life-size poster of me to drool over.  I’m sorry; just throw it out.  He won’t know.”
She could hear that he was truly embarrassed and she found it unexpected and endearing.  She would have thought anyone that has had thousands of women screaming over him since age twelve would have an ego the size of Texas.
“I gave it to my assistant’s niece,” she lied to save him further embarrassment.  Her eyes trailed to the poster they were discussing. It was framed and leaning against the wall where her assistant, Sharon, had placed it upon its arrival.  “Also, I didn’t say I wasn’t a fan.”
Silence yawned and she realized she caught him off guard with her honesty.
“Will you come to Japan as my personal guest?” 
Was that hope she heard in his voice?
“I…I don’t know, this is a bit--”
“Onegai-shimasu, please, what do you have to lose?”  He implored.  “At the most, you get an all expense paid holiday to Japan and since I’m in the midst of touring, I can show you a more personal side to a few other places beside Tokyo.”
He really was making the offer irresistible, she thought.  “I don’t know if I can get away at this time.”
“What about next month?”
“That is only two weeks away.”
“You’re going to have to let them know soon if you are going to go along with them hiring me aren’t you?” he questioned.  “So I will make you a deal.  If after spending some time with me you still feel I can’t do justice to Blu, I will withdraw myself from the running.  That way there will be no bad feelings between you and the producers.”
“You would do that for me even though I can tell you want this very much?” 
“I am a man of my word.  If I must wait to see you, may I call you again, Charlene? Onegai-shimasu!  Onegai-shimasu!”
He pleaded playfully, a gentle reminder for her that he was only twenty-four.
“Oh, now you’re showing some manners by asking can you call me when you shouldn’t have phoned me in the first place.  Not to mention you’re calling me by my given name before we’ve even met. What are they teaching the youth of Japan these days?”  Charlene fingered a micro-braid resting on her shoulder with a smile on her lips.
“Sorry, but most of my schooling was done in a boarding school outside of Japan.  But, I can make sure not to overstep and call you Alfred-san if you would like and I apologize for being forward in my call.”
“I can’t fault a man for aggressively going after what he wants.”
“That is a good thing to remember.” 
The huskiness lingered in his tone and her eyes clouded with visions of the past.
“About my coming to Japan…”
“Hey, the offer is open.  There is no obligation, but remember I’m a fan and I bought all your books without a discount,” his opaque voice said, and her heart skipped a beat.
Charlene found herself smiling again.  “Oh, no pressure.”
“Seriously, if you don’t want to meet me, at least let me take this time to apologize for my manager using his personal association with one of the producers to force you to accept me.  That is not my intentions.  If I can’t get the role of Blu because you believe me capable, then I don’t want it at all.”  He voiced.
Charlene’s lips tightened.  How could she not accept his request?  He was already proving to be more than she expected and completely different from her imagined perception.  This alone made her curious to know more about him.
She heard him clear his throat.  Her fingers twirled the braid in her hand nervously.
“Can I ask you something, personal?”  Charlene licked her lips wondering why she was allowing him to get to her.  Hadn’t she already made her decision in regards to Kane’s abilities to go from being Japan’s darling to playing this dark role, so unlike his persona.
“Yes.”  He answered without hesitation.
“Are you prepared for how much this career move could change your life, as you know it?  Are you prepared for your fans to be appalled and the feedback to be none to positive because of its content?”
“I have walked the path that others have chosen for me for so long I’m not sure who I am any more.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful and very fortunate to be so well received all over the world.  Nevertheless, I can’t live under the same restrictions that were given to me when I was a twelve year old boy.”
Charlene could hear the frustration weighing heavy in his deep voice. 
“I’m a man and I have mental and physical needs.  Yet, because of my contractual obligations, I must remain unattached in the public eye.”
“Is there someone in particular that has caused you to want to change the way things have been going?  Is that your motivation for wanting to do this project and change your image?”  Charlene realized that question was too personal and had nothing to do with anything.  Yet, she had an opportunity so few received in a lifetime, the ability to speak one on one with an entertainer they had only admired from afar, through their craft.
“I admit recently I have found myself intrigued by a particular woman, but it’s not the only motivation I have for wanting to do Blu’s Diary.”
“Thank you for your honesty.” 
“I will be twenty-five in a couple of months and I find myself thinking of things that other men my age think of, such as a future with someone I can love openly and they love me openly in return.”
He released a long sigh and she could almost picture him running a frustrated hand through his dark hair.  She smiled and remembered how impulsive and alive she felt at twenty-five and understood he should have the right to have the same freedom, regardless of public opinions.  Times have changed and the younger generation was more accepting of the fact that entertainment figures wanted to be sexual and have a family too.
“I know I must really sound pathetic, since I do live a charmed life.  Right now I must seem very ungrateful for all the things I have been blessed with…”
“No…please, I understand what you’re saying.”  Charlene intervened.  “You need someone to love.  What is that saying?  ‘What good is success without someone to share it with?’”
“Exactly.” 
She could tell from the way he said that one word that he was smiling again and it made her smile too.
“I’m flattered that you would choose my movie to be the beginning of an entirely new life for you.”  She said sincerely.
“Blu’s Diary has all the elements I need to break from this pop mode into the rock mode, which will give me more creative and personal freedom.  I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to make it a success for…the both of us.” 
The intimacy of his chosen words should have shocked her.  Yet he spoken them before and each time it caused a quivering response in a place Charlene didn’t want to explore further.
“You…you know you took a chance of pissing me off, by calling me this way,” Charlie commented.  “I will admit it took guts and it seems like a ballsy thing that Blu would do to get the gig he wanted.”
“Excuse me, what did you say about my…balls?”
Charlie grimaced, blushed and smiled into the phone at his deliberate misunderstanding because his English was flawless; another unexpected quality he possessed.  
“I’m teasing you.”  He saved her from further embarrassment.  “I understood what you were saying.”  Kane chuckled.  “But, you’re smiling, aren’t you?” 
Did he have such a sexy voice at the beginning of this conversation or was she imagining it had deepened even more.  Charlie cleared her throat and stared once more at the poster of Kane.  Her fingers smoothed over the soft material of her skirt from the top of her thigh to the hem.  He really was sexy, mysterious and…young.  She hurriedly removed her hand from the trail it was taking up her inner thigh.
Her breath became hot and heavy as she fought off the sensations of longing that started at her feminine core.  It had been so long, and there was something about his voice that… 
“Charlene?  I hear you breathing, so I know you are still there.  Will you come to Japan?”
Admittedly, he peaked more than her curiosity for she wanted to see him in his element.  It would give her the opportunity to see life through the eyes of a pop star and who knows, it could be research for a future novel.” 
“Okay,” she said softly.
“Okay…”
“I will come to Japan and meet you.”
“Honto-ni, really?  Awesome!”
Charlene cringed at the sound of anticipation in his voice.  What was she doing?   She didn’t want to give him false hope.  Still, she couldn’t help but feel thrilled by his excitement. 
“I haven’t said you got the part.”
“No, but you will.”  He assured her.  “May I have your cell number too?”
“My cell number?”
“Yes, so I can call you from my private line and you will have my number,” he reasoned.  “As soon as you can free your calendar, call me, and I will take care of everything personally.”
“I don’t…that won’t be necessary.  You can reach me at this number and leave any messages with my assistant, Sharon, if I’m not in.”
“I understand.  How about I do this the old fashioned way and I just tell you my private number and you can call me, whenever.”
Was that disappointment she heard in his voice? 
“That probably will be best,” Charlene stated and wrote down the phone number he supplied on the inside of his file lying on top of her desk.  “I’ll get back with you as soon as I can clear my schedule.” 
“I’ll be waiting.”  He paused as if he wanted to say more, but all he said was, “Sayonara, Charlene.”
“Good bye, Kane.”      
She held the phone long after the line went dead, her mind deep in thought.
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