Skip-Beat: The Morning After

Down By The River

Walking away from her mother like that was amongst the hardest decisions Kyoko ever had to make. Regardless her cold heart and persona, she was, after all, her biological mother. The connection they shared couldn't be so easily severed, whether it be strong or not and disrespecting her mother as such pulled dearly at her heart strings. It silently reassured the fact that Saena would probably never play the loving mother Kyoko craved.

And that was okay. Even if it wasn't, there is no other option.

So now, as she boarded the crowded planes, she tried her hardest not to think about it. Not to think about the fact that tons of paparazzi are probably running to their editors with bullcrap stories right about now, or about the fact that she is now wigless.

Kyoko scratched her head.

I wish I at least had a hair tie.

Expectedly, the President had purchased a first class ticket. Why was it expected? Because that man never settles for anything less.

Kyoko smiled to herself as she sunk into the plush, leather seat. It felt nice against her aching body, and its creamy beige colour soothed her tired eyes. She leaned back against the head rest, looking forward to a nice two hour nap, but her hair annoyingly prevented her from finding a comfortable position.

There has to be something I can use as a hair tie…

She reached into her small carry-on bag, one Yashiro had kindly presented before she boarded the plane, along with an apprehensive look. The sweet, baby blue bag contained her phone, its charger, earphones, and some gum.

She sighed before retrieving the earphones.

I guess this will have to do.

She pulled her hair back and tied it securely, the earphones perfectly attached.

Smiling, she leaned back and closed her eyes.

"No, you do not understand, my son needs to be on this plane! His father is waiting for him in Itami."

Kyoko opened her eyes.

The woman who had spoken was no older than 35, and her appearance clearly told she was a single mother. Dark eye circles, messy hair, and worn out overalls that matched her son's. She was only a few feet in front of Kyoko, and she could see that the woman was arguing with one of the plane staff members.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, the plane is already over capacity. You are going to have to wait until the next flight." Explained the frail flight attendant.

The woman looked as if she was going to cry. Her arm grasped her son. He seemed no older than 9, and had black, shiny hair. It made Kyoko miss her own black hair.

"I purchased a ticket!" she exclaimed, holding up a thin piece of paper.

"I understand that, we will refund the money. We miscalculated the sales, and the manager has been notified of your inconvenience."

The woman's eyes flared.

"This isn't about the money! My son hasn't seen his father in 3 years and today is the only time he is available. You cannot do this to my poor son!"

"Ma'am, there are no more seats."

Kyoko blinked and looked to her right. There was a perfectly open seat next to her.

No, don't do it. Don't get involved, whispered her reasoning.

I can't just..not…gahh… she whispered back.

With a long sigh, Kyoko stood up.

"Excuse me," she said.

They turned toward her.

"There is an open seat next to me."

They stared at her, perplexed, especially the flight attendant.

"I'm sorry, but even so, the ticket she paid for is coach." Voiced the pilot.

The flight attendant looked at her questioningly. "Are..are you Kyoko? From that drama?"

Kyoko stayed silent.

"Please let my son on the plane." Pleaded the lady.

The staff exchanged long looks.

Kyoko could see they weren't going to change their minds; she could also see the woman wasn't going to either. It might have been the woman's passion that made Kyoko even interested. How she really wasn't taking 'no' for an answer. How, for whatever reason, she wanted her son to see his father desperately. It could have also been the situation in general. In Kyoko's eyes, no child should be denied the right to see their parent, especially for such a mundane thing as money.

"I will pay the difference." Said Kyoko.

Japanese women tend to have high, mighty pride. No one should pity them, and they should always keep their heads held high. For about 5 seconds, that's what that woman tried to do.

"I cannot let you do that." She answered.

Her son looked up at her, gently tugging at her shirt. "So I won't get to see papa?" he asked with a depressed tone.

His mother looked down at him with tear full eyes, then back at Kyoko. She smiled at the mother.

"Can-can we do that?" the woman asked the flight attendants.

They bowed politely and chatted amongst themselves for a moment.

"Okay," said the pilot hesitantly before turning toward Kyoko. "We will talk after the flight." And with that, he retreated into the pilot room, along with one of the flight attendants while the other escorted the boy.

"I will pay you back! Just..just tell his father…" the mother called. "And, Kyohei!"

The little boy looked back.

"I love you," she said.

The boy smiled at her before sinking next to Kyoko. She slowly sat back down into her seat.

The flight attendants began the routine safety show as Kyoko looked out the window.

The sky, it's clouding up, she thought to herself. That's never good.

The plane shook and vibrated as it accelerated into flight, shaking the passengers.

She could see Kyohei sneak peeks at her every few seconds or so, and she wondered if she should talk to him.

Besides Maria-chan, Kyoko had never really spoken to a kid before, and she doubted Kyohei liked sowing and dresses, so that left the conversational topics kind of tight.

Kyoko sighed, frowning.

"Are you really an actress?" Kyohei asked.

She looked over at him and smiled.

"Yea, sort of."

"Sort of? How does that work?" he asked, tilting his head.

Kyoko tilted her own with a thoughtful expression. "Well, I am, but I don't really see myself as being very famous."

"Well that lady said you were from 'Dark Moon.' Even I know what that is."

Kyoko smiled, a little flattered. "Really? Huh."

"You may now turn on electronic devices such as Ipods, Mp3 players, and portable laptops. Cellular phones must remain off or on airplane mode at all times. Thank you."

"My mom and I also saw you back by the entrance. You were surrounded by people with cameras, so you must be famous."

Kyoko blinked uncomfortably. "You saw that?"

"Yep. Was the lady your mom?"

After a few moments of silence and pondering, Kyoko sighed. "No," she said, "she was just an old um…friend."

"oh." He said, crossing his arms. "Well whatever you told her, you need to say you are sorry."

She leaned closer, perplexed. "Why?"

"Because," he replied matter-o-factly, "Afterwards, while I was getting some ice cream before getting on here, I saw her crying on some benches."

Now that, took Kyoko aback. She slowly sank into her seat.

Crying? No.

She didn't even think that woman was capable of crying, much less get butt hurt by her words. Surely, she was crying about something else. Perhaps because she was now forever in financial debt?

"Are..are you sure it was her?" Kyoko managed to say. Kyohei nodded.

"Yep. There was still alt of men with cameras around her. They were asking her questions."

"Oh?"

"Yea."

To say it simply, she was stunned. But, hoping it was the latter reason. Saena wouldn't cry for her, at least not for the right reasons.

The next 30 minutes of the flight were silence. Not awkward silence, but thoughtful silence. It was nice, but nicer when Kyohei tapped her shoulder.

She looked at him.

"Are you mad?" he asked.

She smiled. "No, of course not. Just surprised."

He smiled. "Do you have a phone?"

Kyoko nodded, retrieving it from her bag. "Yea, but I can't really use it very well yet."

She handed him her phone, his eyes instantly lighting up.

"My mom has that phone!" he exclaimed.

"Really? Then you should totally help me learn how to use it."

"My dad gave it to her when they were still together." He said, taking it in his petite hands.

Kyoko felt herself blush, remembering where her's came from.

"He said it was so she would always call him, no matter where they were."

I doubt Ren wants to be called, she thought sadly. I hope he's O.K.

"Did she?" Kyoko asked.

"Hmm?" Asked Kyohei, looking up from the screen.

"Did your mom call him a lot?"

"Oh yea. But they got divorced a few months later, though."

o…oh.

She felt her heart sink.

Oh God, please don't let this be an omen or something.

"I know it sounds like a sad story," Kyohei continued, "But, they still love each other. My mom said they are just too different to be together."

The rest of the flight, as he tried to explain the device to her, Kyoko just sat there, mind elsewhere. The fact that her mother had cried…was…puzzling, but, again probably nothing.

The fact the phone had a similar back story to Kyohei's mother…was…puzzling. Well, no not particularly puzzling, just strange; what bothered her most was the divorce. There was no reason for her and Ren to…divorce, right?

Well, obviously not. We aren't married.

She still didn't really understand why he left in the first place. Anger? Regret? Fear? Whichever one it was, there was really no factor to spike it. The President said it was because her accident had been similar to one in his childhood, but the severity of his shock made Kyoko deeply wonder what that accident was.

The flight was about 15 minutes shorter than expected, making Kyohei bouncy and excited.

"My father, from what I know, is really cool!" he boasted as they got off the plane. "And he knows how to build cars. I love cars."

Kyoko smiled at him before feeling a light pat on her shoulder.

She looked behind her and found it was the pilot. He had patches of gray hair sticking out from under his pilot cap, and a uniform full of medals and badges.

Kyohei held on to Kyoko.

"I said we would talk after the flight," said the pilot.

Kyoko nodded. "About the money, just send the amount to my agency and I will mail it to you as soon as I am back in Tok—"

"You don't have to pay anything." He said with a light smile.

"What? But.. I thought-"

"Do you really think we would make you pay for anything?"

She stayed silent for a few seconds. "Then why let him on?" she brushed her palm over Kyohei's hair.

"Consider it a thank you." The pilot replied, leaning against the wall. " Not many celebrities are nice like that. Don't ever change." He gave her a light pat on the back.

"Oh…and Miss Kyoko?"

"Yes?"

"Can I have your autograph?"

Kyoko smiled, surprised. "I think you are the first person to ask, actually."

His eyes lit up. "It's an honour, then."


It wasn't very difficult to find Kyohei's father. The Itami airport was next to empty, and he was the only one nervously looking around while asking every single operating desk when the next flight from Tokyo got there.

"Daddy!" Kyohei exclaimed.

The man's tired eyes snapped up. "Kyo—Kyohei?"

"Daddy!" he ran into his fathers out stretched arms.

Kyoko stood there, a few paces away, taking in the scene in awe for a few seconds before the man stood up.

"Thank you." He bowed. "His mother told me about the situation. Please let me pay you…" He began digging through his dusty leather briefcase.

Kyoko shook her head quickly, outstretching her arms. "No, no, really, that's O.K. I didn't have to pay anything extra."

"Well, then at least let me give you this…"

The man rummaged around his briefcase, swishing and rustling its contents. He retrieved something in his hands, but Kyoko couldn't quite see what it was.

"Here. I own a jewelry shop downtown. Please take this as a token of my appreciation." He said holding out his closed fist.

Kyoko cupped her hand under it as a single silver bracelet fell on them. The chain was an elegant arrangement of vines, and they twirled around themselves to cradle a perfect emerald pendant.

Her eyes widened. "No, I cannot accept this."

"You are an actress right?" he asked, carrying Kyohei in his arms. "Consider this as you advertising for my shop."

Kyoko bowed politely. "Thank you."


The bus to Kyoto took only about 20 minutes, to which Kyoko seemed an eternity. She spent the time at the back of the bus, her head polluted with thoughts.

What if I cannot find him?

Oh God.

He hates me.

He's gonna divorce me.

Oh God...

She plopped her head unto her hand irritably, a sudden headache making her cringe.

It was still quite early, being only . when she finally arrived in Kyoto.

It was quite a sight for sore eyes, all the things she recognized. She recognized the small corner store that she would go to after school. She recognized the small cluster of markets coagulated around each other. With every passing monument, her eyes got wider with excitement and unintentional nostalgia.

Even though she wanted to visit every single shop and shack, she knew that the very first thing to do was go to a pharmacy.

She touched her hair, smiling at the earphones that dangled from it.

And get a wig.


The train station was fairly close to the nearest pharmacy, and for that she was thankful. She could almost hear the pulsating pain spreading from her head down to her broken arm.

"Excuse me?" she said, approaching the front desk.

The middle aged woman smiled at her. "Yes, how can I help you?"

Kyoko rummaged through her pocket and handed her the prescription paper.

"Do you happen to have these?"

After a moment's hesitation, the woman bowed. "Of course, let me get them for you."

Kyoko politely bowed back.


Kyoko stared at the clock.

7.p.m.

One way or another, it had gotten that late. Maybe because she was a very slow walker, or because she was very easily distracted. But she had looked around everywhere for him; downtown, in buildings, cafes, everywhere.

So, now, sitting on her rickety hotel bed, she had no idea what to do. She had taken up the task to find Ren, and she is completely failing at it. The only place she had been avoiding for as long as possible was that river. That fateful river.

Kyoko sighed.

No.

It, again, came down to Kuon. Did she want to be right? Should she abandon even the thought of it? Ren cannot be Kuon; they're too different. No, surly she was just hysterical.

Yeah, okay. She wouldn't think of this as assuring if he was Kuon or not…she would simply think of this as a way to find out if Ren liked rivers…right?

I can't even convince myself with that poor argument.

Regardless, Kyoko got up, grabbed her keys and bag and headed out.

Kyoto weather was much nicer that Tokyo's. Tokyo being as polluted as it is, you cannot really enjoy the beautiful panorama as you could there. Kyoto exhibited wonderful, evergreen trees and a gentle spring breeze, along with sparse clouds. The sun was hidden in the horizon, a little less than the tip visible.

It took Kyoko about 30 minutes to find the river, and she only found it because it was behind that awful place; that awful Japanese style hotel. She really couldn't help but wonder how they were doing, though, Sho's parents. She hoped okay, they did raise her after all.

Kyoko shook her head, dispersing the thoughts.

Gross, don't think of that.

She knew the river was close, for she could hear its gentle water streaming along in a never ending melody, stray birds and crickets chirping amongst it.

Kyoko slid through the heavy mass of bushes before finally arriving into the clearing.

There, in front of her was that nostalgic river. Still the same clear water that reflected the hiding moon. Still the same peaceful scent and atmosphere. Everything was just as it was 10 years ago.

Even the people present were the same…



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