And yet, with all her fans yelling her name over and over again back in the stadium, Minmei could feel nothing but the heavy pall of the bitterness that surrounded her.
It had been two years since that fateful attack on New Macross by Khyron and his Zentraedi troops. Two years since Rick had spurned her for Lisa. Two years since she had last seen Kyle. The loneliness of these two years bore upon her every day as she made performance after performance.
Barely thinking, unaware of her subconscious impulse to run, Minmei got up and left the dressing room to haunt the halls of the deserted floor. Security had emptied the floor to make certain the star would not be disturbed prior to her concert and that she would be subsequently able to wind down without interruptions. <Even security conspires to keep me alone,> she thought bitterly.
As she rounded a corner, Minmei came across an officer's lounge with a gigantic bay window. Curiosity and the need to stare out of the large expanse of glass drove her steps into the lounge and towards a table located roughly at the centre of the glass wall. Nearing it, Minmei finally realised the table already had an occupant - a young woman with long platinum-blond hair was quietly staring out the window at the world outside.
"May I?" enquired Minmei, pointing at a seat on the other side of the table.
The woman looked up and smiled at her, nodding her head slightly before returning her gaze to the view of Mount Fuji.
For a few minutes, Minmei simply sat there looking out the window. Eventually, the silence became unbearable and she had to say something, anything, to break it. "Do you know what I miss most?" she asked of the young woman opposite her. "I miss snow. Here it is, the day before Christmas, and there's no snow."
The young woman sat back and stared gently at Minmei. "Snow?"
"Yes. When I was a child, I used to love to slide down snow-covered hills and end up in a snow-bank at the bottom. Snowball fights. Snowmen. Just like the song says, I want a white Christmas like those I remember."
"But there hasn't been any snow in the last couple of years."
"There was snow over New Macross two years ago," Minmei countered.
"That was a local meteorological imbalance," explained the young woman. "Khyron's raid just before Christmas and his attack just after raised and lowered the ambient temperature very quickly in both cases. Water evaporated in the fires and fell down again as snow when the fires were put out. Real snowfall is not likely to happen again this far south for quite some years yet."
Minmei sighed and cradled her head in her hands. "And here I was, hoping for snow."
"There is nothing wrong with hope. I knew someone, once, who seemed to live on hope alone." The young woman leant back upon her seat, reminiscing. "He would always tell me of his great plans, of how he would bring peace to the world."
A brief look of pain passed over the young woman's features. "He was killed in the war. I heard him die over the radio."
"I... I'm sorry."
"Don't be. It wasn't your fault." The young woman closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, her smile had come back. "What about you. You don't exactly look like you're bursting with good cheer."
It was Minmei's turn to wince. "I don't think I should-"
"Burden me with your problems? Nonsense. We're in a lounge, on Christmas eve, staring out the window. And we're here alone."
"Alone." A few moments passed as Minmei regained a grip on the emotions that single word had evoked. "That's the problem, isn't it? I'm Lynn Minmei, the singing sensation. See her sing, see her dance, applaud her performance, even ask for her autograph at parties. But never, ever, disturb her private space. I seem to have turned into a professional Loner."
"That bad, huh?" sympathised her listener.
"And the cure...?"
"I don't know. I can't very well force people to be friendly... I used to have a boyfriend... Rick Hunter." Minmei paused, waiting.
"I've heard about you both. Seems you were quite close for some time."
"Close does not describe it. The Christmas that Khyron attacked New Macross, I was supposed to have been hospitalised."
"I remember. For a while, your disappearance was thought to have been caused by kidnapping until your agent released a statement saying you'd had a nervous breakdown and were recovering in private."
"Close enough. What really happened is that I ran away from a concert and wound up on Rick's doorstep. No questions asked, he took me in and let me sleep on his bed. That first night he slept on the couch."
"'That first night...' Does this imply that you two...?" The woman left the question hanging in the air.
Minmei nodded. "The night after Khyron's first raid on New Macross. I was so afraid he would not come back I was ready to do anything to keep him with me. One thing led to another..." She shrugged. "I don't regret that night - I cherish it. It was the only time someone loved me for who I was, and not what I was."
"Then all Hell broke loose."
"In more ways than one," confirmed Minmei. "Lisa turns up on Rick's doorstep the next day telling him that she's leaving. I turn up dressed only in one of his shirts in time to hear her say she loves him. Then she runs away and Rick follows her. You can guess the rest."
"I don't have to," replied the young woman. "The Hunter and Hayes affair is a major source of gossip around here."
Minmei did not answer, but instead stared out the window. Eventually, she started singing softly. "Jingle bells/Minmei sells/Hunter got away/Lisa Hayes has got her man/And looks merry today, Hey!" A tear started forming in the corner of her eye. "I heard that one about a year ago. Truth hurts, doesn't it?"
"Only if we let it, Minmei. And since then?"
Wiping her tears away, Minmei took a deep breath before continuing. "Since Khyron's attack, I've joined up with my agent again and gone on tour after tour. I haven't seen Rick or Lisa - or even Kyle - for two years. Nobody seems to want to stick around. All I hear is 'Yes, miss Minmei', 'We'll keep the crowds away, miss Minmei', 'You won't be disturbed, miss Minmei'. Not one of them thinks of me as a person. I'm just a profit margin to some and an impossible dream to the rest. Do you realise that not a single one of those at the concert would even think of trying to visit me in my dressing room to congratulate me? That is how lonely my reputation as a star has made me."
"How about others in the profession?"
"Same story." Minmei looked at the young woman sitting opposite her. "You're the first person I've actually talked to in a long time."
The young woman looked pensive for a moment. "I have a friend, a woman about your age, who is looking for work in show-business. She takes a little getting used to, but she is good company."
"Can she sing?"
"Her voice is a little deeper than yours, but she sounds good. Her name is Janice Em."
"Isn't she Lang's niece or something?" asked Minmei.
"Distant niece, yes. Is that a problem?"
"No, I just remember hearing about her eighteen months ago. My agent tried to get me together with her for a concert. This time, I was the one who refused - I was still trying to recover from New Macross and the last thing I wanted is a young upstart stealing my show." Minmei sat back and looked at her hands for a few moments, deep in thought. "Maybe... Maybe I have been keeping people away from me. I mean... It's possible that I keep pushing people back to stop getting hurt again, isn't it?" The young woman simply nodded and said nothing. "Maybe I should get my agent to set up a meeting..." Minmei's voice trailed off as she lost herself in thought. Soon enough, Minmei started singing to herself again in a quiet voice. "Now that we have reached this last encounter/Where are we now?/What shall be now?" Her voice was low, almost dream-like, as she hummed her way through her reverie. "How could we have come so far to give up?/We won't give up/We can win..."
"Minmei?" the young woman eventually enquired, breaking through Minmei's musing. "You remember how we started this conversation?"
"I said I missed the snow," replied Minmei. "But I don't see what anybody can do about it."
"I can't help you with the running about and the snowball fights. But I can help you with the nostalgia." With this, the woman nodded towards the bay windows.
"Nostalgia?..." Minmei turned to have a look. The scenery outside was covered with a fine layer of snow - Mount Fuji had rediscovered its white peak, the trees were laden with white powdery snow and the shores of Tokyo Bay glistened with a layer of frost.
"How?..." Minmei asked, turning to face the young woman again. Instead, she found herself staring at an empty seat, the woman having gone. Minmei sprang to her feet and rushed to the Lounge's door to stare down the corridor. But the woman was nowhere to be seen. "Who are you?" Minmei asked the empty air.
The woman's voice responded softly in her ear. "Think of me as the Ghost of Christmas Eve."
Minmei smiled as she returned to her seat and stared out the window.
Outside, it began to snow.