1 Ch 1: one summer lunch break

belle

…it was one of those dragged out seasons.

There was a flu pandemic doing the rounds, didn't affect Belle much though. She sat at the bottom of the opera house steps in ankle socks and heels at midday (alongside the medical face mask). She was of the opinion that she had started wearing the socks and heels combination long before Alexa Chung sprouted them in 2008 on the socialite pages of Vogue and Russh magazines. Maybe when she was like five or something. Doesn't matter though, fashion never ages.

Belle took out her pocket mirror and adjusted her hair clip, positioning it just above her right ear clipping back her fringe. She hoped her "friend" could spot her. She felt pretty plain usually despite her egregarious fashion choices. The term "egregarious" used interchangeably usually by someone in the elder category. Elder meaning middle-aged women sitting in a group eating yum cha with plenty of time

Tapping on her phone, Belle started typing a whatsapp message:

belle: i'm sitting at the bottom of the steps wearing a tan plaid skirt and socks and heels.

She sighed as she saw the blue ticks emerge but no speech on the typing indicator bubbles. Doesn't look promising. She decided she'd wait for another five minutes for this "friend" and disappear and buy herself a Haagen Dazs ice cream cup by the ferry wharf either way.

It wasn't like she was stood up all the time, but she wasn't adverse or naive as to think it wouldn't happen. Knowing this wasn't exactly power. It didn't change that she felt a slight panic at the possibility of being showed up or rejected in plain sight. She deduced that the panic of rejection was ego related but again, knowledge isn't always power. It can remind you of how weak you can feel.

yuta

Clipping the last clasps on his guitar case, Yuta hoisted his guitar case over his shoulder. It had been a heavy night and the band had slept in the bar overnight lounging on couches and each other.

"I'm off", he murmured under his breath as he waved himself out of the bar doors. He barely heard the reply, as he shuffled himself up the steep stairs.

Another day another dollar. Another show, another hope. That's how he saw it. But it wasn't necessarily how he felt. Was it more of what he was expected to think and feel?

It was more of Ryusei's mantra, the leader that always felt so hopeful about things working out because that's like what leaders are meant to think and say for morale purposes if nothing else. Adam was pretty blase, he was happy to be strung along for the ride and tales. And Taichi, …well, he was like a puppy, loyal to the core except he had capabilities to be anywhere with his talent for bass.

Sticking his left hand in his pocket for a lighter and a cigarette dangling from his mouth, Yuta would never have guessed how the next interaction would change the course of his life.

As he neared the corner by the streetlamp, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

Crap.

If it was the police again his parents would probably fly him right back home, literally.

As he turned around expecting to look up or be at eye level with a burly police officer, instead to hear a timid voice around shoulder level.

He started to panic. If it was one of the fans that had been "stalking" them lately, Ryusei would slice him with a samurai blade. His whole public persona on their social media was of him being the 'youngest kouhai' of the group - youngest meaning nothing more than pure, undamaged goods that didn't smoke, drink, play around or philosophise dramatically. All of which he was.

He didn't know how he was going to fudge himself out of the cigarette. Maybe if he winked, leaned over and put a finger up to his lips with a shhhh motion, everything would go away like they do in romantic comic books his sister read.

Crap.

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