Sunday, 31 December 2006

Chapter 47: 지금처럼 - Chigeumch'eoreom (Like now)

As the light got nearer, someone started singing, “Saengil ch’uk’ahamnida, saengil ch’uk’ahamnida,” I recognized Jae Joong’s voice, “saranghaneun uri Sierra, saengil ch’uk’ahamnida,” he ended as the cake came right in front of me. “Saengil ch’uk’aeyo,” he smiled in the warm orange light of the candles.

I looked up at him and tears started to prickle my eyes. He’d remembered my birthday.

“Everyone, let’s sing one more time,” Hee Chul shouted and everyone started singing. Jae Joong pulled me up to my feet and stood me in front of the cake while everyone sang.

“English version!” Chang Min said when they finished singing the Korean version, and everyone started singing. Jun Su and Yoo Chun were making funny faces and getting everyone else to copy their weird gestures while they sang. I laughed through my tears at their antics. What would I do without friends like them?

When everyone finished singing the English version, Jae Joong, Han Kyung and Si Won started to sing the Mandarin version. I had to laugh at it because Jae Joong’s Mandarin was so rusty. Only Han Kyung and Si Won managed to sing it correctly. When they were done, everyone cheered.

“Blow out the candles, quick!” Chang Min said.

“Yea, they’re melting all over the cake,” Skye pointed out.

I took a breath and blew out all the candles; Jae Joong helped. As soon as the candles were out, the lights and music came back on.

“Popo!” Ryeo Wook shouted.

“Yea!” Dong Hae chipped in. “Popo… popo…” he chanted and got everyone to follow.

Jae Joong pulled me close and kissed me lightly on the neck. The guys jeered.

“Ya… we wanna see more,” Yoo Chun said.

“Sorry guys,” Jae Joong said. “Sierra and I are off-duty. Go get your free show elsewhere.” And the guys jeered again.

We sat down on the couch and I gave Jae Joong a hug.

“Komawo,” I smiled.

“Its part of my duty as a boyfriend,” he said as he lightly caressed my cheek.

“I know that you’ve been so busy since we got back from NYC. So I didn’t really expect such a big celebration.”

“This is just one moment out of our lifetime. I have to make it memorable,” he smiled.


“Saengil ch’uk’ahae,” he said and he produced a small box from his pockets.

“What’s this?” I asked as he pushed it into my hands.

“Seonmul,” he said. “What else could it be when it’s your birthday?”

I opened it to find a pair of earrings. They were designed exactly like the Cassiopeia necklace I wore, except that the rings each dangled from 3 chains which were attached to a hook.

“It’s beautiful,” I said and I started to take off my earrings so that I could put them on.

“Waa… nice!” Jun Su smiled as he walked towards us with 2 slices of cake.

“Komawo,” I said as he passed me the cakes.

“Hyung, they must be expensive,” Jun Su smiled, then his eyes widened. “Oh! Ttokkaneyo!” he added as he pointed to the pendant. “It’s a set?”

“Yea,” Jae Joong replied.

“Ya… hyung. I didn’t know you were such a romantic,” Jun Su laughed.

“Shikkeureoptta,” Jae Joong said playfully.

“Don’t be shy,” Jun Su laughed. “Sierra, this is from the rest of us from TVXQ,” he smiled as he handed me a package. “Open it!”

I opened it in inside was a bottle of perfume, Paco Rabanne’s Ultraviolet. I’ve wanted to buy it for months.

“Komawo,” I said and I hugged Jun Su.

“It’s okay,” he laughed. “And you’d better let me got before hyung kills me.”

“Kwaench’ana,” I laughed as I let him go.

“Doesn’t look alright to hyung,” he said and nodded in Jae Joong’s direction.

“I’m not so petty,” Jae Joong said and stuck him tongue out at Jun Su. Jun Su did the same to Jae Joong.

“You guys are like children,” I said. “Act your age!”

“Nae,” the two of them bowed in unison and we laughed.

“Hey,” I exclaimed as I suddenly realized something.

“What?” Jae Joong asked.

“Where’s Hae Rin?”

“Didn’t you know?” Jun Su said. “She’s been sent to America to complete the rest of her training and to record.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Dunno… feels like some hush-hush project that no one is to know about,” Jun Su said.

“Hmm… So she’ll be gone for the rest of the year?” Jae Joong asked.

“Yep,” Jun Su replied and stuffed a forkful of cake into his mouth.

I felt relieved all of a sudden. Now I can look forward to at least 6 months of peace. I’d been so worried about Hae Rin’s intentions for the past months.

“Nuna,” Shoei called out. “Come here!”

“Waegurae?” I said as I got up and walked towards them. As soon as I stopped in front of Shoei, someone came up from behind and dumped a bucket of water on me. I squealed in shock and turned around to look at the attacker. It was Skye and Kang In. “Skye!!” I yelled.

“Hahaha…” Skye and Kang In laughed as they pointed at me.

“Skye, its winter now and she’s gonna fall sick from the cold,” Jae Joong said as he came up to us.

“I brought extra clothes for her,” Skye quickly explained and Shoei tossed him a duffel bag.

“See!” he said as he handed it to me. I peered in and sure enough, there was a change of clothes and even underwear. Underwear!!!

“Skye!! You went through my drawers?” I asked.

“Yes, I did. Don’t worry. Nothing in there caught my interest,” he laughed.

“You monkey,” I said and smacked him on the arm.

“Go get changed quickly,” Jae Joong said as he pushed me away.

“Shoei… how could you team up with him?” I scolded as I walked away.

“Mian…” Shoei laughed.

I changed out of my wet clothes and stood under the dryer for awhile to dry my hair. Then, I stuffed the wet clothes into the duffel bag and walked out of the toilet. As I opened the door, I saw Yun Ho standing there, looking at me expectantly.

“Yun Ho…”

“Saengil ch’uk’ahe,” he said and he stepped forward and hugged me. I stood there in his arms, not moving. I could feel his warmth emanating through his shirt, against me. It felt familiar, and somehow, it felt comfortable.

“Yun Ho-yah,” I said; my voice almost a whisper.

“10 seconds,” he said. “Just give me 10 seconds,” he whispered into my hair.

It felt like we’d stood there for more than 10 seconds when he finally pulled away. I was confused and shocked, and it must’ve really showed on my face.

“Don’t look like that,” he said as he brought his hand up to lightly touch my eyebrows. “You’ll get wrinkles.”

“Yun Ho-yah,” I started.

“I’m gonna go,” he cut me off and started walking away. What the hell was he up to? What made him think that he could just do this to me and walk off?

“Jung Yun Ho,” I said in a stern voice.

“Wae?” he said as he turned around and I slapped him. He looked a little shocked as he brought his hand to touch his cheek.

“Don’t ever do that again,” I said as angry tears streamed down my cheeks, and I stormed off.

I hastily wiped my tears as I approached the table. Jae Joong looked at me questioningly as I sat down beside him.

“What’s wrong?” he asked me.

“Huh?” I pretended not to understand.

“Why are you crying?”

“I’m not crying. Something got into my eye,” I lied. It was an overused lie, but I used it anyway and he just shrugged and turned to talk to Ee Teuk.

“Hey, where’s Chang Min?” Yoo Chun asked as he walked up to us.

“Over there,” Ee Teuk pointed and we all leaned forward. Chang Min was teaching Kristi how to dance and they looked so cute together.

Jae Joong and I joined them on the dance floor, just as ‘I Wanna Hold You’, a song TVXQ had sung with Super Junior, was playing. I wrapped my arms around Jae Joong’s neck and he sang the song softly as we swayed to the music. I rested my head against his chest and just let myself relax. Let myself forget whatever happened earlier.

It was almost 3am when we finally left the club. Thank god it was a Saturday tomorrow and the only Saturday that we were given a break for the rest of the month. Starting from next week, there will be many awards and events to attend. On Sunday, we have rehearsals for the MKMF, and on Monday was the event itself. I leaned my head on Jae Joong’s shoulder and kept my eyes closed all the way home.

“Tired?” he asked me as he turned to plant a quick kiss on my head.


“Did you have fun tonight?”


“Do you have anything other than ‘Mmm’ to say?”

“Mm mm,” I smiled and he laughed.

“I’m going to spend the night at your place, okay?”

“Mm mm.”

“Why not?” he asked and I didn’t answer.

I’d fallen asleep on the way home and when we finally arrived at my apartment, Jae Joong nudged me awake.

“Sierra, wake up,” he said and I ignored him. I was so sleepy, I couldn’t move. My brain was awake, I could hear him, but I could barely open my eyes or move my body. I heard Jae Joong open the car door on my side and he leaned in so that he could put his arms around me to pull me out of the car. I rubbed my eyes as he helped me up to my feet.

“Hmm…” I whined. “I was sleeping so soundly.”

“Then shall I leave you here?” he asked.


“Let’s go,” he said as he put his arm around me and we walked into my apartment block with me leaning heavily on him. The security guard gave us odd looks; he must have thought that I was drunk or something.

We were greeted by darkness as we entered the apartment. The timer for the lights must’ve gone haywire again. We’d set it to turn on the lights at 10pm, since that’s the earliest we’ve ever arrived home. As I walked into my room, I was greeted by another surprise. On my table was a white Sony VAIO laptop, tied up with a black satin ribbon.

“Jae Joong,” I tugged his shirt. “Is that mine?”

“Yes it is,” he chuckled when he saw my expression of shock and joy.

“Omigod,” I squealed as I ran to my desk and sat down. I pulled off the ribbon and flipped open the laptop. It was a VAIO FE; white on the cover and keyboard, black on the bottom and the frame around the screen.

“You like it?” Jae Joong said as I ran my fingers across the white keyboard.

“Like it? I love it!!” I said as I turned to hug his waist. “Komawo,” I said.

“Don’t thank me alone, some of the guys and Shi Kyung hyung paid for it. I chipped in a little.”

“But it must’ve been you who gave them the idea,” I smiled.

“Keurae,” he said as he mussed my hair.

I glued myself to the laptop as soon as I’d showered. I had a full 15 minute of ogling at it until Jae Joong came into the room. He was shirtless, wearing only a pair of track pants and he’d slung his towel around his neck. His wet hair had been slicked back and I noticed droplets of water running down his back as he turned around to rustle through my cupboard. He’d begun to leave some clothes, mainly tracksuits and t-shirts, for when he spent the night. We shared a toothbrush and he used my toiletries.

“Put a shirt on,” I said as I wiped my hand across his back. “You might catch a cold.”

“Turn that thing off,” he said as he pulled out a shirt from my cupboard.

“Shiro…” I said as I continued to fiddle with my new toy. Jae Joong tossed the shirt onto the bed and turned towards me. He closed the lid of the laptop and hauled me off the chair.

“Go to bed,” he said as he steered me towards the bed.

“Andoe!!!” I yelled as I tried to make a run for it, but he caught me in time and pushed me onto the bed.

“Yah… do you want Skye and Shoei to think I’m some kinda perverted monster?” he hissed at me as he covered my mouth with his hand. Skye and Shoei had come home awhile ago and I could hear them pottering around outside the room.

“But you are,” I whispered when he took his hand away. He glared at me and walked to the laptop to shut it down for me. He turned back to me and jumped onto the bed, beside me, when he was done.

“Come here,” he said as he pulled me over so that my head lay on his chest. I stayed there in that position as he stroked my hair, and soon, I’d fallen asleep as I listened to his heartbeat.

The next morning, I woke up and found Jae Joong sleeping on the futon by my bed. I rolled off the bed, tucked myself under his arm and went back to sleep.

I was awoken sometime later by my mobile phone. It didn’t sound like the alarm. It was the ring tone I’d set for the TVXQ boys when they called, but of course, Jae Joong had his own ring tone. I looked at the clock and it read 10:25am. Who’d call at this hour? I thought most of them would be too tired from yesterday’s partying to wake up at this hour. I grabbed my phone from the side table and looked at the caller ID. It was Jun Su.

Friday, 29 December 2006

Chapter 46: On & On

It’s been a week since we’ve gotten back to Korea and we’ve been really busy preparing for the award ceremonies. Skye, Shoei and I spent out days running from the dance studio, to the awards’ venues, and to the recording studios. Despite our busy schedule, we’re not put recording our 3rd album on hold. Furthermore, with Christmas coming, I have another duty at hand, promoting my Christmas album with FTTS. We’d shot the MV before I left for NYC. It was a sweet little MV where the three of us stand in the falling snow, taking turns to sing. For this entire month, I would have to run between rehearsals, recording and promotional activities. FTTS and I had several small performances at pre-Christmas events all around Seoul.

Today we were at a mall performing at a charity event. The stage was decorated with a huge snowman and glittering snow crystals hung above the stage.

“Yeoreobun,” the emcee announces. “Please welcome Sierra from S-Cube and FTTS, performing their hit Christmas single, 'Crystals of Love'.” The opening of the song started to play. We walked forward and waved at the crowd gathered below the stage.

“Merry Christmas!” Brian yelled and the crowd cheered.

Sierra: Remember last winter as we sat in front of the fire
You had your arms around me as we fed our desires
Brian: Remember last winter we’d went out for a walk
As the snow flakes fell you twirled round like a little girl

Sierra: It warms my heart and soul each time I see you
Brian: You have a hold on me, and I can’t fathom it

All: As the crystals of love, they form in our hearts
Glittering, sparkling, bright…
And these crystals of love, will forever be
A testament of you and me

Sierra: Remember last Christmas as we were about to part
You held my hand and told me that you’d never forget
Hwan Hee: I’ll never forget the way you felt as we danced
Your softness, your gracefulness, forever burned in my mind

Sierra: I burn up inside each time you touch me
Hwan Hee: You’re best thing that has ever happened to me

All: As the crystals of love, they form in our hearts
Glittering, sparkling, bright…
And these crystals of love, will forever be
A testament of you and me

Hwan Hee: There isn’t a moment that would I regret
Sierra: If there were the possibility we’d never met
Brian: I’d search for you till the ends of the world, ooh
Hwan Hee & Brian: I would find you baby, and kept you close
Sierra: Forever…

All: As the crystals of love, they form in our hearts
Glittering, sparkling, bright…
And these crystals of love, will forever be
A testament of you and me

Hwan Hee: A testament of you and… me…
Brian: I love you, baby
Merry Christmas

After our performance, the guys snuck me off to a nearby café for a quick drink before I had to go back to the studios.

“So how was New York?” Brian asked me.

“It was okay,” I said as I sipped my latte.

“It’s been ages since I went back to the USA,” he said.

“Then shouldn’t you go home and visit soon?” I asked him.

“Wish I could,” he smiled.

“What did I miss?” Hwan Hee asked as he joined us. He’d run off to the toilets awhile ago.

“I was telling Brian that he needed to go back to the USA, since it’s been so long since he visited home.”

“He’s such a workaholic. Don’t bother asking him to go visiting,” Hwan Hee smirked at Brian.

“What’s that expression supposed to mean?” Brian asked as he glared at Hwan Hee.

“Such a good son,” Hwan Hee said to me in a stage whisper and I giggled.

“Yah!” Brian said and punched Hwan Hee playfully, on the arm.

“Am I wrong?” Hwan Hee asked.

“You know how my schedule is like,” Brian said defensively.

“Araso,” Hwan Hee said. Sometimes I feel like I’m witnessing an old married couple having a lovers’ quarrel.

“What are you smiling at?” Brian asked me.

“The both of you,” I giggled. “You’re like an old married couple.”

“That’s how it is when you have to look at each other all the time for almost 10 years,” Hwan Hee said.

“Has it been that long?” Brian smiled. “Yeobo… when’s our anniversary?” he said to Hwan Hee is a girlish tone.

“I don’t remember,” Hwan Hee said.

“Aaaahhhh… miweo!” Brian whined. “How can you forget?”

“Wae? You gonna divorce me or something?” Hwan Hee asked him.

“Shiro…” Brian whined. Then he finally gave in and burst into laughter because I’d been laughing hysterically from the moment he’d started to act like a nagging wife.

Brian sent me back to the studios after our coffee.

“You seem to be really busy,” he commented.

“You know… with the awards coming up and the album to record, I don’t think I’m gonna be able to breathe until after the awards season.”

“I know the feeling. Just take care of your health. This would usually be the time of the year when people fall sick easily.”

“Yea… Skye’s been having the sniffles and we’ve been warning him not to pass it on to us.”

“What about your boyfriend?”

“Jae Joong? He’s fine. He’s much stronger than he used to be.”

“The power of love,” Brian snickered.

“Yah! I can do with a little less teasing,” I poked his arm. “I get enough of that from Skye.”

“Fine,” he smiled. “I’ll leave you alone… for now.”

I unbuckled my seatbelt and leaned over toward the backseat to pick up my bag as Brian stopped in front of the studios’ main doors.

“See ya,” he said.

“Thanks for the ride,” I smiled as I got out.

“Anytime,” he smiled.

I watched him drive off before I started to walk into the building. Skye and Shoei were in an intensive recording session when I entered the studio.

“Sierra,” the producer acknowledged me as I walked in.

“So, hyung, what’s on the agenda for me today?” I asked him as I dumped my bag on the table and plopped onto the couch in the corner of the control room.

“You’re just in time to record your parts with Skye and Shoei. Warm up and get in there as soon as you’re ready.”

“Ye,” I said as I took a sip of water before I started to warm up. Just then, Hee Chul walked in. He was supposed to collaborate on one of our songs with us.

“Hi,” he smiled as he sat down on the couch beside me. “Did you just arrive?”

“Yea, I had a performance with FTTS earlier.”

“Wow… you’re really busy these days, huh?”

“Nah… I’m sure most of you have the same kinda schedule as I do; running around most of the time and having to attend recordings and training still, on a daily basis.”

“Hmm… we do, but I suppose I’ve gotten used to it. It felt hard in the past but these days, it just feels normal to rush around like that. So how are you coping?”

“I’m fine. Learning to do with less sleep,” I grinned.

“Really… then I can already see the concept of this new album. Pandas, right?” he laughed.

“Ha ha,” I said sarcastically, but smiling as I did.

“Sierra, Hee Chul,” the producer turned to us. “Are you guys ready?”

“Ne,” we replied and walked out of the control room, into the recording booth.

“Hyung!” Skye greeted Hee Chul as he walked it.

“Let’s get crackin’,” Hee Chul said as we took our places in front of our microphones.

Hee Chul was rapping for our 2nd track of the new album, 'Waiting for You'. Skye and Shoei have been trained and are actually quite good rappers, but due to the management’s marketing strategy, they’ve decided that we would always have guest rappers. This boosted album sales because of the involvement of other popular gasoo and allowed us to focus on our singing. We’ve never questioned the management or demanded that we were allowed to rap, but we hoped that one day, such songs would be our entire effort instead of relying on others. The slow music started to play through our headphones and Shoei stood poised in front of the microphone, ready for his first line.

Shoei: My mind tells me to go
But my heart says stay,
You’ll never know

Skye: Won’t you tell me to stay
Ask me again tomorrow,
and I may not be there

Hee Chul: Battle after battle, we fight each day
Every night before I go to bed for you, I pray
Do you still need me, baby, the way you used to
Tell me quick, baby, for I still love you
Let’s have it out, let’s pick it up, where we left off
Don’t play with me, honey, for you I care for
I don’t have much time, for us to play around
If you truly love me, then just say it out loud

Baby turn back, if you don’t know what lies ahead
Don’t go too far, or you may be lost forever
Tried to tell you, no matter what you do, you’ll have my love
But time does not permit, baby I may not be waiting for you

Skye: My plane takes off in an hour
I kept waiting for you,
But you never showed up

Shoei: When I woke up this morning
I was suddenly reminded
that you belonged to me no more

Hee Chul: I look around, don’t see you there
I tried to pretend that I didn’t care
But I feel so lost, I feel so sad
You were the everlasting love I’d always wanted to have
Pick myself up and walk again
I swore to myself it wasn’t the end
Each day is a new day in this new world without you
No matter what happened I’m grateful for your love

Sierra: Baby turn back, if you don’t know what lies ahead
Don’t go too far, or you may be lost forever
Tried to tell you, no matter what you do, you’ll have my love
But time does not permit, baby I may not be waiting for you

Sierra: Baby turn back, if you don’t know what lies ahead
[Shoei: Baby, yeah…]
Don’t go too far, or you may be lost forever
[Skye: Forever…]
Tried to tell you, no matter what you do, you’ll have my love
[Shoei: You’ll have my love]
Sierra: But time does not permit, baby I may not be waiting for you
[Skye and Shoei: Waiting for you]

After the last recording session, we got into Hee Chul’s car and drove off to meet the guys at our usual haunt. As we walked into the club, I can see the guys in the usual corner. There was a new face, a girl I’d not seen before, sitting beside Chang Min. She looked like a high school junior. How I envied young girls like her.

“Chang Min,” I smiled. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is Kristi, my childhood friend,” Chang Min beamed. “She just got back from Virginia.”

“Wow,” I smiled. “I’m Sierra.” I said as I shook her hand.

“Pangapsumnida,” she smiled back at me.

“How nice of Chang Min to bring you along tonight,” I said.

“I just got back and I didn’t really have many friends I’d kept in touch with,” she said.

“And if you did have other friends, Chang Min would’ve been the busiest of them all. It’s nice to see that he’s able to make time for a friend.”

“Yea…” she smiled shyly.

I walked over to Jae Joong and sat down beside him after exchanging more pleasantries with Kristi.

“She seemed like such a nice girl,” I whispered to Jae Joong.

“I’ve heard Chang Min talk about her. They used to be really close before she left for America.”

“That’s so sweet,” I laughed.

All of a sudden, lights in the entire club blacked out and the emergency lights did not come on. After a moment of silence due to the initial shock, everyone in the club started talking and there was a huge commotion.

“Jae Joong,” I called as I reached out. I panicked when I realized he was no longer beside me. “Jae Joong,” I called out again, but was probably drowned by all the commotion around me. As I sat there and looked around, my vision started to adjust to the darkness. I heard someone give a shout and when I turned to look, I saw an orange light in the corner of the room. I squinted, trying to make out what was it and it kept getting brighter as it moved forward.

Monday, 25 December 2006

Chapter 45: Beautiful Life

We’re freezing our butts off in Central Park trying to get shots for our NYC photo book. It was in between shots when we got to wrap ourselves in blankets the PAs had brought.

“Kwaench’ana?” Jae Joong asked me. “Your lips are turning blue,” he laughed.

“I’m just not used to the cold. Must they always shoot everything a season before it’s due?” I complained.

“You know how it is,” he smiled, and pulled the blanket tighter around my neck for me.

“Jae Joong!” the producer called. It was his turn again. He threw off his blanket and braved the cold for his next shot.

We were dressed in summer clothing and shooting in Central Park during the New York winter. Imagine that! The guys didn’t find it as cold as they were used to the Korean winter, which was definitely harsher than New York winter. I was the only one struggling since I refused to get used to any weather other than the tropical one I was born to. As I stood near the crew shooting Jae Joong, while sipping the hot drink the PA had brought me, Yun Ho came up beside me.

“Cold?” Yun Ho asked. He didn’t look at me when he asked his question. He looked to his left, as if he was looking at something far away; as he rubbed his hands together and stuffed them in his pockets.

“I’m fine,” I said as I turned away, since he didn’t intend to look at me.

“Didn’t seem fine when you were complaining to Jae Joong,” he laughed.

“You know me,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “Makes me miss the days you used to complain to me.”

I sighed and turned to walk away. Ever since we’d arrived in New York, Yun Ho has been acting really weird. He’d come to me several times to reminisce about our past together. Just yesterday, before the concert began, he’d come to me while I sat in the chair, waiting for the hairstylist to do my hair. Jae Joong had walked off somewhere a moment ago.

“Ready?” he asked me. He was a one-liner whenever he started a conversation with me these days.

“Do I look like I’m ready?” I laughed nervously.

“You’ve looked like you were ready since the day we met,” he said.

“Thanks… You’re like my No.1 supporter,” I smiled.

“And where does Jae Joong stand, then?” he asked.

“You’re both my No.1 supporters. In fact, all my friends and family are my No.1 supporters.”

“Hmm… So I’m just a friend?” he asked.

“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“It’s tough to know that I don’t mean as much to you as I used to,” he said.

“Yun Ho-yah,” I pleaded. Did he have to bring up the past now?

“Mian,” he mumbled, and walked away.

I’m sitting on a bench some distance away from the shoot. I looked at the trees around me. They were bare, and though many may say that it looked depressing, I think it looks beautiful. As I sat there and daydreamed, Chang Min came to sit down beside me.

“Why are you here alone?” he asked me.

“Just enjoying the scenery, and the peace.”

“There’s nothing here you won’t find in Korea,” he smiled.

“No need to be so patriotic,” I laughed. “Korea’s beautiful, but New York has its own charm too.”

“I guess,” Chang Min said as he leaned forward, with his hands sandwiched between his thighs.

“So how’s New York for you?” I asked him.

“It’s okay. But I’m missing Korean food,” he said and gave me a sad look.

“Aww…” I laughed and patted him on the back. “We can always go to a Korean restaurant tonight.”

“That’s what I suggested, and Jun Su hyung said that he wanted to try out more of the local food instead.”

“He’s just teasing you. I’m sure he misses Korean food as well.”

Just then we heard a commotion coming from the set. We looked up and saw a big group of girls talking to one of the producers.

“What's wrong?” Chang Min muttered to no one in particular.

“Fans…” I said as I got up to walk toward the set and Chang Min trailed after me.

As we approached the group, we could hear the girls having a heated discussion with our producer.

“We’ll just stand here and we won’t bother them, we promise,” the girl said. I squinted and recognized that it was Tresa from Asteria.

“Tresa!” I called out.

“Onni!” she squealed. “Please tell this evil man here that we’re just here to watch.”

“Hyung, it’s fine. They know how to conduct themselves.”

“What if one of them barges in and ruins the shoot?” he said. “We don’t have time to waste here today.”

“They’ll be good, hyung. Just let them stand somewhere and watch,” I said as I looked at the group. “There are just like, 20 of them here. It's not a mob.”

“Fine,” he said and turned to walk away. “I don’t want any trouble from the lot of you,” he added loudly as he was walking off.

The girls cheered as soon as the producer was some distance away.

“Thanks, onni!” Anna hugged me.

“No problem,” I smiled. “I’m just a fan helping out my fellow fans,” I winked.

“Onni,” Lisa came up to me. She held out a thermos flask, motioning for me to take it.

“What’s this?” I asked as I took it from her.

“It’s spicy tofu soup, for Chang Min,” she smiled shyly. “But the other guys can have some too. I just thought he might be cold and he probably missed Korean food.”

“Aww,” I teased and I handed the flask back to her. “Why don’t you give it to him yourself?”

“I can?” she said, her eyes widening in surprise.

“Sure, I’ll take you to him.”

“And we’ll be right here,” Tresa laughed.

I put my arm around Lisa as I lead her towards the trailer about 20 feet away, where Chang Min was playing di-bi-di-bi-dib, that game from Heroine 6, with Skye. How mature…

“Chang Min!” I called.

“Wae?” he said as he turned to look at me and when he noticed Lisa, he grinned.

“Come here!” I said and he jogged over.

“Annyong!” he exclaimed to Lisa, who just stared at him, star struck.

“Erm… annyong,” she said shyly after I’d nudged her.

“Aren’t you the girl who brought me mandu yesterday?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Is that for me?” Chang Min asked, eyeing the flask in her hands.

“Yes,” she said and she thrust the flask into his hands, like some kind of sudden reflex.

“Komawo,” Chang Min laughed as he started to unscrew the cap of the flask. He peered in and then looked up to smile broadly at Lisa. “Sundubu!!” he exclaimed.

“Yes,” she smiled.

“How lucky are you, Chang Min,” I teased. “Someone actually loved you enough to bring you soup.”

“Did you make it yourself?” he asked Lisa.

“No,” she replied. “I got a takeaway from a nearby restaurant on my way here.”

“Komawo!” he said as he brought the flask to his mouth to drink it.

“Be careful, it’s hot!” Lisa warned, but it was too late.

“Ahh…” Chang Min exclaimed when he scalded his tongue.

“Are you okay?” Lisa asked him.

“I’m fine?” he laughed. “I was just so excited. I really miss Korean food.”

“I know,” Lisa smiled.

“I’ll leave you two lovebirds alone,” I laughed. “Don’t take too long, Lisa. The producer is giving me the evil eye again.”

“Sure, onni,” Lisa smiled as I walked away. As I turned around, I saw that Yoo Chun had found his way to the group and was chatting up Tresa.

“Yah! Yoo Chun!” I hollered as I walked up to him. “Leave those innocent girls alone.”

“Sierra-yah… what do you mean by that?” he said and pretended to look hurt.

“You know what I mean,” I said as I smacked his arm.

“See what I have to put up with when on tour?” he whined to Tresa as he rubbed his arm.

“Onni,” Tresa said. “Don’t bully Yoo Chun.”

“Bully him? He bullies me more often.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Tresa winked at Yoo Chun.

“Finally!” Yoo Chun exclaimed and put his arm around Tresa. “Someone who believes me.”

The look on Tresa’s face was priceless. She was in shock for a moment, then she smiled happily when she realized the position she was in.

“Man, it’s cold,” Anna said as she walked towards us. The other girls were busy ogling at Yun Ho and Jun Su who were being shot together.

“I know,” I grumbled. “I hate the cold.”

“So how are things with you and Jae Joong,” Anna asked me. It was pretty weird to talk to her about Jae Joong, because I knew that she was a Jae Joong fan. But she seemed to be a real sport about it.

“Fine,” I smiled. “Learning each day.”

“Treat him well, onni. He needs lots of love,” she said. “And if you don’t do your job, I’m gonna step in,” she added with a mischievous glint in her eye.

“As if,” I retorted playfully.

“If what?” Jae Joong said as he walked up from behind me.

“I told onni that if she didn’t take good care of you, I’d take over her job,” Anna told Jae Joong.

“Ooh! Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind,” he laughed.

“Yah!” I shouted and smacked him on the arm. “What do you mean by that?”

“It’s just a backup plan,” he continued to laugh.

“I’m not your mother,” I said. “I’m not responsible for taking care of you.”

“But you’re my girlfriend,” he pouted, “You have to at least show some concern for me.”

“Onni, oppa… stop!! I can’t watch this anymore,” Anna laughed. “You guys… you’re breaking my heart, oppa. I don’t need to see how much you love onni.”

“Sorry, Anna,” he smiled. “But its true... this girl here has bewitched me,” he said and put an arm around me.

“You remember my name?” Anna asked in surprise.

“Sure I do,” Jae Joong replied, “and don’t you know Yoo Chun’s family in Virginia?”

“Yes, I do,” Anna said excitedly.

“My family?” Yoo Chun suddenly butt in.

“I know your uncle,” Anna explained.

“Oh… so you’re that Anna,” he smiled. “Nice to finally meet you.”

“Omigod… this is surreal. I never thought that you guys would remember me.”

“You’re a memorable fan,” Jae Joong said.

“Komawo, oppa!” Anna smiled.

Shooting wrapped up as the sky darkened. We headed to Kum Gang San on 49 West 32nd Street, in the Holiday Inn building, to have dinner with the 20 odd Asterians who’d showed up at Central Park, and we ordered such a feast for all. Pulgogi (BBQ beef), kimbap (rice wrapped in seaweed), bibimbap (mixed vegetables on rice) for some of them, samgye tang (Ginseng chicken soup), tteokbok-kki (stir-fried rice cake), nakji pokkeum (stir-fried octopus), which I didn’t touch, a huge assortment of kimchi and cold dishes, and the list went on and on. Chang Min looked like he’d died and gone to heaven the moment the food was served.

“Yaaa!!!” he exclaimed happily as he picked up his chopsticks.

Everyone at the table smiled at Chang Min’s antics. We’d made the restaurant staff join up the tables so that we sat in groups of 15. Jae Joong, Chang Min, Skye and I sat at one table, while Yun Ho, Jun Su, Yoo Chun and Shoei sat at the other.

“Konbae!” we yelled as we raised our glasses. The guys and I were of legal age to drink, except Chang Min, of course. In the USA, he was still considered a minor, so we teased him by not allowing him to drink.

“Hyung,” he pouted, “I just want a sip,” he whined to Jae Joong.

“Nope, none for you,” Jae Joong said gleefully. “I don’t want to go to prison in a foreign country just so you can have a little sip of soju.”

“It’s fine, oppa,” Lisa said in Chang Min’s defense. “I’ve drank soju lots of times at the Korean restaurants back in Seattle.”

“We’re law abiding tourists,” Jae Joong laughed.

“Okay, enough,” I laughed and started to pour soju into an empty cup. “Here you go, Chang Min,” I said, as I slid the cup across the table towards him.”

“You party pooper,” Jae Joong jabbed me in the ribs, making me jump.

“Yah!! Don’t do that!” I said and poked him back.

“Thanks, Sierra,” Chang Min smiled and downed his soju in one gulp. “Aaahhh…” he rasped when he was done.

“You look so adorable when you do that,” I smiled. “Lisa looks like she’s gonna gobble you up.”

“Onni!” Lisa gasped and her face started to turn red.

“Lisa’s a polite girl,” Chang Min said as he put his arm around her. “She doesn’t gobble,” he laughed and Lisa looked like she was about to faint.

After dinner, we gathered outside the restaurant and the guys thanked each girl personally.

“Thanks for coming,” Yun Ho smiled at Ari before giving her a quick hug.

“Oppa, will you write to me?” Lisa asked Chang Min.

“Sure I will,” he smiled and fished his pockets. He produced a card and grabbed a pen off Yoo Chun who’d just finished signing a photo. He scribbled something on the back of the card and passed it to Lisa. “This is my email address, for your eyes only,” he winked.

“Komawo oppa!” Lisa squealed and hugged Chang Min.

“Kwaench’ana,” he smiled and hugged her back. “You brought me mandu and sundubu, this is the least I can do.”

The next morning, we boarded the plane to head back to Korea. Hundreds of fans showed up at JFK to see us off. It was touching to see that we had so many fans at an international level. Even though we knew that they were mainly here for TVXQ, it touched us to see some of them carrying banners for S-Cube as well. We waved crazily as we entered the departure hall.

“I really hope that we can come back to perform someday,” Jun Su sighed as we walked towards the immigration counters.

“Sure we will,” Yun Ho smiled, and we all nodded in agreement.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Chapter 44: Fly to the Sky II

The intro for ‘Ghosts’ started playing, and Yoo Chun started rapping as he stepped off the platform he was standing on.

Yoo Chun: This is Micky, baby, puttin’ it in for S-Cube…
Sierra, baby… do your thing…

Sierra: I turned around as I felt your presence
I was disappointed when I saw, there was no one there
I continued to walk and I heard you whisper
The ghosts of our past are haunting me, haunting me

Skye: I was walking in a crowd when I saw you
Standing right in the middle, as people passed by
I called your name and all at once you disappeared
The ghosts of our past are driving me mad, driving me mad

Shoei: Why can’t I exorcise these thoughts away
They’re driving me to insanity,Why do they torture me
Sierra: I scream in silence as the ghosts ravage my mind
I wish I can end this torture by ending my life

S-Cube: I wish you didn’t walk away
Without a word, without a care
The memories we shared are suffocating me
Only if you came back, you’d be able to save me

I wish you didn’t walk away
Without a word, without a care
The times we spent together keep reminding me
Only if you came back, you’d be able to save me

Yoo Chun: Yeah~ yeah~ here we go…
The ghosts of our pasts just won’t go away
How much more do I need to beg
For you to come back, to stay
Only you can save my sanity, baby
Only you can cure me
Without you I’d go mad
As I drown in my screams

Shoei: Why can’t I exorcise you from my head
You’re driving me mad, you’re torturing me
Sierra: I scream in silence as your ghosts ravage my mind
Stop haunting me, I beg you, if you’re not coming back
Skye: Just take my life, and end this right now

S-Cube:I wish you didn’t walk away
Without a word, without a care
The memories we shared are suffocating me
Only if you came back, you’d be able to save me

I wish you didn’t walk away
Without a word, without a care
The times we spent together keep reminding me
Only if you came back, you’d be able to save me

Yoo Chun: You heard me, baby…Come back to me

As the song ended, we received another deafening round of applause. Just then, the rest of TVXQ appeared again and the audience went absolutely crazy at the sight of them.

“Kamsahamnida,” S-Cube and Yoo Chun waved as the rest of TVXQ joined us.

“Wow… wasn’t that a great performance?” Chang Min asked the audience and they screamed their approval.

“Maybe Yoo Chun should join S-Cube from now on,” Jun Su teased and the audience yelled their disapproval.

“No?” Jae Joong teased the audience. “You’re saying Yoo Chun should stay with TVXQ?” the audience screamed again.

“Don’t worry,” Yoo Chun laughed. “I’m going to stay with TVXQ until the day I die.”

“So what do we have in store for everyone here tonight?” Yun Ho turned to the guys.

“I don’t know,” Jun Su winked. “I’m pretty tired. Can we all go home?” he asked the audience.

“No!” they yelled back at him.

“No?” he sighed. “Araso…” he smiled.

“Does anyone want to hear the dolphin cry?” Yoo Chun said slyly and the audience cheered.

“Yah!!” Jun Su exclaimed and jabbed Yoo Chun.

“Come on, Jun Su,” he laughed. “You need to give our fans here something to remember.”

“Yea, hyung,” Chang Min chipped in. “Do the dolphin cry!”

Jun Su looked a little embarrassed for a moment, then decided to do it. He raised a fist in the air and cried out. A wave of laughter and cheers echoed through the arena.

“Let’s get back to business,” Yun Ho said and they got into their positions. “This one’s an old favorite. Everyone, enjoy.”

Strains of violins played from the huge speakers, it was ‘Tri-Angle’. Skye, Shoei and I took the opportunity to run backstage. I had another costume change for my duet with Jae Joong. We had a long break back stage as this would be the part where mainly TVXQ performed. 20 minutes later, Jae Joong, Chang Min and Yoo Chun appeared in the dressing room. This meant that Yun Ho and Jun Su were performing ‘All Rise’, which was originally sung by the English band, Blue. As they walked in, the assistant rushed forward and started dabbing off the sweat on their faces with tissues.

“It’s so hot out there!” Chang Min exclaimed.

“Yea…” I laughed. “And I thought I was gonna feel cold.”

“The stage lights are like lasers,” Jae Joong said as he dabbed the sweat from his neck with a tissue. A little piece got stuck to his chin. I stood up and went toward him to pluck it off. “You ready?” he asked me softly. We were supposed to sing ‘Insa’ after Jun Su’s solo performance.

“Yea,” I said softly and smiled. “Go get changed,” I pushed him and he walked quickly to get into his next costume.

When he walked back, he was a vision in white, dressed in a white and grey suit and his hair was slicked back just as he had it during the Prince in Prague photo book. He looked like a prince, no doubt. He had on a matching top hat and was accessorized with some impressive diamond studs. I was dressed in a v-necked, white and flowing chiffon dress, which had really thin straps and the skirt touched the floor. On my head was a little crystal encrusted tiara and in my ears, crystal chandelier earrings to match the tiara. The makeup artist rushed forward to put the final touches to my makeup, which had been toned down earlier, since the performance of ‘Desperate’ and ‘Ghosts’. I now had a more natural and rosy look with lips that were glossed and glittering.

“2 minutes!” the PD yelled and Jae Joong and I started walking toward the exit to the stage. We thumped Yun Ho on the back as he walked past us, on his way to the dressing room.

“Good job,” I smiled at him.

“Thanks,” he grinned.

At the point where we had to go our separate ways so that we exited on the right and left side of the stage, respectively, Jae Joong took my hand and held it to his lips. He turned my hand so that my wrist faced upwards and kissed it softly.

“You look like a princess,” he said softly and touched my face lightly before he turned and walked towards his exit. I smiled to myself as I walked towards mine.

The stage was filled with mist as the piano and violin opening of ‘Insa’ played. The audience cheered as our entrances were illuminated and we slowly emerged from the beams of light like as if we’d just stepped in from another world. As we walked down the grand staircase, the music slowly changed its tone and tempo to the Electronica style of the version we’d recorded with the Clazziquai Project. We reached the base of the staircase and Jae Joong held my hand with his left hand and the microphone with his right. We started walking towards the right of the main stage as he sang and when we stopped, I waved at the audience.

Jae Joong: parami momun keu shiganjoch'a
naegen nomu mojaran gol
han bonae miso majiman insa
saranghamnida keudae

(We walked towards the runway as I sang and walked down it slowly, still hand in hand.)

Sierra: shigane chich'yodo sarange apado
keu siganjoch'a ch'uokigo
majiman insal haneyo

(We reached the fork in the runway and stepped on a round platform surrounded by a metal rail that reached our waists. An assistant rushes forward to latch the railing and the platform brought us up about 12 feet into the air. The audience started cheering as we went upwards; some were waving their balloons like crazy to catch our attention.)

Jae Joong & Sierra: Fly away, fly away, love
Fly away, fly away, love
Fly away, fly away, love
naesaenge danhanbonwi saranga

The lift was brought back down and we got off it and walked back to the main stage as we continued to sing the rest of the chorus until it was a faint echo. The song ended and we bowed and then gestured to a piano which was rising from the middle of the stage. Yoo Chun was sitting at the piano and he played the opening of ‘Yeowoobi’, the song he’d composed himself.

Yoo Chun: Chogum pureuji anheun nomu heurijido anheun keu moksori
naerineun keu ap'eume p'ihal usanjoch'a chunbi mot hago

(Jae Joong and I walked towards Yoo Chun to stand by the piano.)
Sierra: Pabo kattago ajikeun choeumira pabo kattago haedo

Yoo Chun: Teo isang heureul su obneun nae nune koin nunmuldeulman

(I gesture to Jae Joong and then to the audience.)

Sierra: Nae sarangui misoreul alge hae chun keu sigan sogeseo
ojjeom keureoge malrahgagetji eoje keu bimulch'eoreom

(Jae Joong takes my hand and holds it to his chest.)

Jae Joong: Geuminhangeoyeoseo mal hanmadi teonjin keu sunganmada
deo isang heureul su eobneun nae nune koin nunmuldeulman

(He lets go of my hand and puts an arm around me; the audience scream.)

Sierra: Nae sarangui misoreul alge hae jun keu sigan soge seo
eojjum keureohge malrahgehgehtji eoje keu bimulch'eoreom

Jae Joong: Irohge chiuji mot hae kaseumman teouk cheoryreo ojiman
ojjeom keurohge kidarigetji ajik nan heurinikka

Yoo Chun: Ajik nan heurinikka

(Jae Joong tilts my chin up with his left index finger and then turns to look at the audience.)

Jae Joong: Malgeun haneule hanbangul hanbangul nan ulgi sijakhamnida

The cheers were deafening as Jae Joong spoke the last words of the song. The three of us turned to face the crowd and we bowed.

“Kamsahamnida!” Yoo Chun shouted and waved.

The lights on the stage dimmed and we got off quickly as Yun Ho, Chang Min, Skye and Shoei entered. They were to perform Shinhwa’s ‘Perfect Man’ together.

The rest of the concert went by quickly and soon, it was time for the finale. We joined TVXQ in their performance of the song ‘Balloons’. True to the cosmic team, this time, we were all dressed in cute alien-esque outfits inspired by the alien characters in the Disney cartoon, ‘Lilo and Stitch’. We ran out onstage as the intro of ‘Balloons’ played. The audience squealed in recognition of the song.

As we danced, the audience waved their balloons in time to the song. We ran out to the ends of the runway and waved at the audience. The crew passed us some baseballs with our faced printed on it and we tossed it at the audience. The girls in the audience squealed in excitement whenever they caught one of the baseballs. Someone threw a huge teddy bear at Jun Su and it almost knocked him to the ground. He grinned and picked up the bear. As we walked back to the main stage, Jun Su dragged the bear along the stage, like a child would with a toy that was almost as big as he was, except that the bear was only half of Jun Su’s height. On the main stage, we gathered on a special platform which will take us offstage. A beam of light shone down on us and graphics of the spaceship seen at the introduction of the concert showed up on screen. The platform brought us upwards, until it was hidden by the top area of the stage. As we went up, we waved goodbye.

“Kamsahamnida!!” we yelled to the audience. All the way up, the audience was screaming like crazy. I spotted a few of them wiping their tears on their sleeves.

“We love you NYC!” Yoo Chun yelled.

The moment we reached the top of the stage, the beam of light immediately turned off and the stage was lit in a dim light. As we got off the platform onto the walkway above the stage, credits for the concert rolled up on the huge screens onstage; the concert had ended. We filed down the stairs which brought us to the corridor backstage.

“Yeah!!” Skye yelled as soon as we walked into the dressing room. We laughed and gathered in a group hug.

“Good job, everyone,” Yun Ho said.

“I was so nervous back there,” I laughed. “I was afraid that the lift wouldn’t be able to take the weight of the eight of us.”

“Me too,” Chang Min exclaimed. “Hyung, why didn’t you leave the bear onstage?” he asked Jun Su.

“It weighs like nothing. You guys are so paranoid,” he grumbled and hugged the bear.

“That’s a big bear,” Yoo Chun said. “It could easily weigh in at 5 kilograms.”

“Araso,” Jun Su said. “No more bears on the lifts in future.”

We packed up and reached Atlas at about 1am. I threw myself on the bed the moment I walked into my room. Jae Joong walked in a minute later and threw himself on top of me.

“Jae Joong!” I gasped at the impact of his weight.

“Mian,” he said as he got up quickly. I turned around and glared at him, or rather, I tried to glare at him. I struggled to keep my eyes open as I was almost falling asleep when he came in.

“You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?” I said as I closed my eyes, succumbing to my tiredness. He laughed and lay down beside me; his fingers came to touch my eyelashes lightly and my eyes twitched as he did.

“You look hilarious when you’re trying to keep your eyes open,” he said.

“I can’t help it. I’m so sleepy,” I mumbled.

“Aren’t you going to shower?” he said as he poked my ribs lightly.

“I want to…” I moaned. “Carry me to the bathtub.”

“In your dreams,” he said. “I’m gonna shower first.”

“Then I’m not gonna shower and you’ll have to sleep with a stinky me.”

“I don’t mind,” he laughed.

“Ya…” I whined. “Help me up.”

“Araso…” he said as he pulled me up by my outstretched arms.

I fumbled my way to the bathroom through half-opened eyes and had a quick shower.

That night, I slept soundly in Jae Joong’s arms until the sunlight flooded the room in the morning. I opened one eye to look around. I smiled as I realized I’d almost forgotten we were in New York. I closed my eyes, then turned to face Jae Joong and snuggled closer to him, hiding my face from the sun by burying my face in his shirt. He stirred slightly and he tightened his arms around me. Our lives felt like they were at their peaks at the moment. What could be better than what we have now?

Monday, 18 December 2006

Chapter 43: Fly to the Sky I

It was 6pm and we were busy getting ready. The assistants ran around searching for clothes and accessories while we sat on the high chairs, as the makeup artists worked their magic. In line with the cosmic theme, we were given futuristic makeup. It ended up looking like we were participating in some carnival. My eye shadow colors extended all the way to my hairline, and they’d given me a nude lip color so that the focus did not detract from my eyes.

We were all dressed in silver and black leather, space suit inspired outfits. Mine was sleeveless and ended cropped at my calves and I had a light, white, almost transparent fabric tied around my hips. The guys had variations of straight-cut slacks and jackets and some of them, vests; the two serial offenders when it came to wearing vests being Shoei and Jae Joong. The management loved showing off their triceps and the fans loved seeing them. Our hairs were all slicked back instead of the usual big and complicated hairstyles. This was also to facilitate the helmets we were going to wear later.

“Nervous?” Jae Joong asked me just as his stylist had finished powdering his face.

“Kinda,” I smiled. “I feel cold?” I said. They hadn’t given me a jacket to go with this outfit. Jae Joong got up and went to rummage his duffel bag for his sweater. He walked back and draped it over my shoulders.

“You’ll be fine once we get on stage,” he said as he rubbed my hands to warm them.

“I know.”

“Hyung, does this make my butt look big?” Jun Su said as he turned his back to face Jae Joong and strained his neck to look behind.

“No! Stop being so paranoid,” Jae Joong said exasperatedly.

The guys loved teasing Jun Su about his butt and it has made him overly conscious when they wore tight outfits.

“Sierra, you’re a girl. Tell me the truth,” he said.

“It’s fine. Mine’s bigger,” I laughed.

“Chintcha?” he said, looking at me questioningly.

“I would never lie about big butts,” I winked.

“Komawo,” Jun Su said and he winked back.

“Can the two of you stop winking at each other?” Jae Joong said.

“Wae?” the two of us turned and ask in unison and we started winking at interval.

“You know I can’t wink,” he pouted.

“Haha!” Jun Su laughed. “So he can’t send you signals, can he?” Jun Su asked me.

“Nope,” I replied, laughing. “He’d only be able to blink if he wanted to send me a signal.”

“Did you know this before you dated him?” Jun Su asked me.

“No,” I pretended to sigh. “If I had known about his disability, I would never have dated him.”

“Yah!!” Jae Joong yelled. “It is not a disability.”

“Igot mothae?” Jun Su asked Jae Joong and winked.

“Jae Joong igot mothae!!!” I said gleefully and winked as well.

“Sierra-yah… how can you team up against me with the dolphin?” Jae Joong said, pretending to look hurt.

“Tolkkorae (dolphin)… Jae Joong igot mothae…” I said to Jun Su and winked again. We laughed hysterically as Jae Joong looked at us, lost for words.

8pm finally came and we were lined up backstage, ready to perform. We peeked out and sure enough, the whole arena was filled.

“Look at that crowd,” I said to Chang Min who was being wired. We were wired with the kind of wireless mouthpiece type of microphone Britney Spears would use for her concerts. It was a deviation from the norm since we always held microphones when singing live. But they’d decided that it would be better if we didn’t so that we had more ease of movement.

“Yea… It’s scary. I’m used to it in Korea but to see such a huge crowd outside of Korea… it’s even bigger than the concert we had in Thailand,” Chang Min said.

“Chunbi twaessoyo?” Yoo Chun said as he put his arms around our shoulders.

“I am so not prepared to walk out there,” I laughed.

“Too late,” Jae Joong walked out, “We’re on in five minutes.”

Five minutes later, TVXQ put on their silver and black helmets, which were part of the costume and walked to the other end of the arena. They were going to fly across the arena, on wire cables, and land the stage as part of their entrance. The music started, and the screens on stage lit up and video filled with lots of special effects and graphics started playing. Almost like the one during the Rising Sun concert, it showed a spaceship zooming through space and Earth came into sight. Then the scene suddenly changed into a bird’s eye view of NYC at night. The scenery of NYC moved past slowly and MSG came into sight. Some of the fans squealed in excitement.

The spaceship slowly landed on top of MSG and there was an explosion at the back of the arena. As sparks flew outward and died, the fans screamed when they saw TVXQ flying down from the top on the wire harnesses. The music continued as TVXQ drifted above the fans. They landed on the stage and removed the wire cables, then walked up to three pods on the stage. Jun Su, Jae Joong and Yun Ho hit the big red buttons on the pods and the pods started to split into halves. Skye, Shoei and I were inside each pod; also wearing helmets. The fans screamed again.

The 8 of us walked forward to the front of the main stage and slowly took off our helmets. We placed them in line at the front of the stage and took a few steps backwards to get into positions. Then, the intro for ‘Hold On’ started to play.

I weaved through, between Jun Su and Jae Joong, to the front of the group.

Sierra: I want you, I need you
Each day I wanna be with you
I’m cold now, please hold me
[Jun Su: I’m cold now, please hold me]
When you leave, please don’t forget me
[Jun Su: When you leave, please don’t forget me]

(I turned in Jae Joong’s direction, and him to mine, and we switched places.)

Jae Joong: To see you, and touch you
Brings out the beast inside me
To own you, to have you
[Sierra: To own you, to have you]
I’ll never let you go
[Sierra: I’ll never let you go]

(Skye and Shoei jumped through the group to stand side by side in front.)

Skye: In this world where love isn’t forever
In this world where affections could turn to hate so easily
Shoei: In this world where wanting someone, becomes pure torture
In this world where love may just disappear

(Then they moved back quickly and we all danced together.)

Guys: Hold on, grab my hand
Don’t you ever let go
[Sierra: Let go…]
Baby, if you don’t
I might lose you forever

(I walk forward and reached out my hand.)

Sierra: Hold on, take me with you
Don’t leave me here alone
All: If you don’t, baby
You may regret it

(We changed up the formation so that I, Chang Min and Yun Ho were in front.)

Chang Min: I want you, I need you
Your smile I’ll always remember
When we kiss, I shudder
[Sierra: When we kiss, I shudder]
Waves of pleasure wash all over me
[Sierra: Waves of pleasure wash all over me]

(I move back and Jae Joong moves in front. Chang Min switches with Yun Ho.)

Yun Ho: To see you, and touch you
So near that I could smell you
Your face imprinted in my mind
[Jae Joong: Your face imprinted in my mind]
I can never love another
[Jae Joong: I can never love another]

(Yoo Chun and Jun Su slide forward.)

Yoo Chun: In this world where life is turning meaningless
In this world where no one cares what happens to you
Jun Su: In this world where you and I could be one forever
In this world where I would never give up on you

(They move back and we danced as a group again.)

Guys: Hold on, grab my hand
Don’t you ever let go
[Skye: Let go…]
Baby, if you don’t
I might lose you forever

Hold on, take me with you
Don’t leave me here alone
If you don’t, baby
You may regret it

(As we danced, Shoei walks out from the group and a little bit down the runway. Jun Su followed at a distance behind him and stands there.)

Shoei: Hold on, grab my hand
Don’t you ever let go
S-Cube: Baby, if you don’t
I might lose you forever

Jun Su: Forever… yeah, yeah…

As Jun Su ended the song, the arena was filled with screaming, cheering and clapping.

“Kamsahamnida!” we shouted as we bowed. This was the first time I actually looked at the arena. I was so focused on the performance just now that I didn’t notice. The view was absolutely breathtaking. The seats were filled with balloons in silver (Asteria), red (Cassiopeia) and blue with silver streaks (S-Cube fans). There were huge banners with TVXQ and S-Cube’s face on it, and some fans even made placards with blinking LEDs.

“Annyong haseyo, Dong Bang Shin Ki-imnida!” TVXQ greeted.

“Annyong haseyo, S-Cube-imnida!” S-Cube greeted.

“U-Know Yun Ho-imnida,” Yun Ho waved.

“Choikang Chang Min-imnida,” Chang Min posed with a ‘V’.

“Yongung Jae Joong-imnida,” Jae Joong waved.

“Micky Yoo Chun-imnida,” Yoo Chun waved.

“Xiah Jun Su-imnida,” Jun Su waved.

“Skye-imnida!” Skye yelled.

“Sierra-imnida!” I waved.

“Shoei-imnida!” Shoei said, completing our introductions and we bowed once more.

“Wassup NYC!!!” Yoo Chun yelled and the crowd went wild.

“Wow… Yoo Chun, there are so many people out there,” I said in English as well.

“I know… and I can’t tell who’s who,” he laughed. “Where’s Cassiopeia?” he asked, and the Cassiopeia members screamed in delight.

“Where’s Asteria?” I asked and they screamed back at me.

“And who’s here for S-Cube?” Shoei added and the S-Cube fans cheered. In case I’ve never mentioned, Shoei spent most of his teenage years in the UK. So he was actually pretty fluent in English.

“It’s so touching to see all our fans come together to celebrate this big night with us,” I said.

“Whoever said that fans of different bands cannot unite,” Yoo Chun said. “Are we united?” he yelled at the audience.

“Ne!!!” the audience replied in unison.

“I can’t hear you, say it again. Are we united?” Shoei yelled and put his hand behind his ear.

“Ne!!!” the audience yelled louder this time.

“Thank you all for coming tonight,” Yun Ho said. “We didn’t expect such a big turnout. We’re truly touched.”

“We know many of you have come a long way from the many states in the USA. Some of you flew here from different countries as well, didn’t you?” Jae Joong said and the audience screamed.

“I love NYC!!” Jun Su said and the audience cheered and screamed.

“This next song we’re about to sing, I think everyone will be able to sing along,” Yoo Chun said.

Skye, Shoei and I retreated off the stage through a lift in the middle, at the back of the stage, which sank down as soon as we stood on it. We waved to the audience as we descended.

The intro for ‘Tonight’ echoed through the arena.

“Wooh! How are you doing out there?” Yoo Chun said, exactly the way it was recorded on the CD.

Skye, Shoei and I moved quickly backstage; we had like 10 minutes to change our hair and makeup and outfits before it was our turn. TVXQ will be singing ‘Somebody To Love’ after ‘Tonight’.

The stylists quickly spritzed our hair with water to soften the hair they’d slicked back with gel and hairspray, then they started to create new hairstyles, mine was still a smooth style, my fringe combed down to cover part of my face and the rest of my hair, and hair extensions that touched my shoulders, tucked behind my ears to show of the elaborate chandelier earrings they’d put in my ears. They weigh like a ton and I have to dance in them. I’d recently gotten a 2nd piercing and Jae Joong actually encouraged me, seeing I was a little afraid in the beginning.

“It doesn’t really hurt,” he said as this guy brought over the gun to pierce my ears. I squeezed my eyes shut and it was over in a second. The pain seared through my ears and after that, they started to ache and feel really hot.

“Is it normal to feel like this?” I asked Jae Joong as we walked out of the piercing and tattoo parlor.

“Yes, just don’t touch it. Leave it alone,” he laughed as he pulled my hands away from my ears.

I’m now dressed in a black v-necked halter top and a pair of tight pants. I stood in front of the television hooked up in the dressing room. TVXQ was singing ‘Somebody to Love’, which meant we were on in a mere 2 minutes. Skye and Shoei had their hair spiked up for the next song and they were in the same black outfits they wore during the photoshoot of our 2nd album.

“Let’s go!” the PD said as he ushered us to the lifts which will take us up onto stage.

As TVXQ descended on lifts on another side of the stage, we ascended on the same lift we’d left the stage on earlier. The fans cheered as we came into sight. The intro for ‘Desperate’ started playing, and we started dancing. We sang and danced with the backup dancers and in the middle of the song, we ran out onto the runway, all the way to the end. The audience cheered wildly when we did and some of our fans started tossing flowers and balloons at us. Shoei and Skye managed to catch a few stalks of blue roses. I picked up a balloon and waved it at the audience. We ran back to the main stage as the song ended and ‘Ghosts’ began to play. Yoo Chun appeared on stage on one of the lifts and the audience cheered like crazy.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Chapter 42: Future Tonight

“Sierra onni!” they called out again. I just stood there and stared, trying to make out who they were as they walked towards me.

“Onni, I’m Tresa!” the tall girl said.

“Onni,” the shorter girl exclaimed. “I’m Anna, don’t you recognize me?”

When I heard their names, I lit up in recognition. Anna and Tresa were my net friends from the Virginia. I’d met them on Asteria’s forum back when I was still training, before my debut. Asteria was a TVXQ international fan club which was started because it was difficult for most international fans to be part of Cassiopeia. I was actually a member until my debut but had remained in contact with the both of them.

“I’m sorry,” I laughed. “I almost didn’t recognize you.”

“You didn’t recognize us at all!” Anna exclaimed. Anna was Korean and you could tell just by looking at her. Tresa was Nepalese, but spoke Korean and Chinese pretty well.

“I have not seen you guys in ages, and I have not actually seen you guys in the flesh. You have to pardon me just this once.”

“It’s alright,” Tresa smiled. “We’ll cut you some slack this once.”

“So what brings you guys here? You didn’t tell me you were coming.”

“It’s a surprise. Besides, we’re TVXQ fans. Did you think we were going to miss their first ever huge concert in the USA?” Anna said.

“Not likely,” I laughed. “But I was kinda hoping that you guys were here to support me too.”

“We are!!” Tresa exclaimed. “It’s not every day a member of the fan club becomes a big star.”

“I’m not that big a star yet,” I laughed.

“You get to perform with TVXQ and see them on a daily basis. In my book, that makes you a big star!!” Anna said.

“I guess,” I smiled. Suddenly, Jae Joong came up from behind me and put his hand on my shoulder.

“I was wondering where you went,” he said. “We’re starting soon and if you don’t show up, Sang Min hyung is going to flip out.”

“Mian, I got sidetracked here,” I smiled. “Jae Joong, I’d like you to meet two TVXQ diehard fans. This is Anna and Tresa.”

“Annyong,” Jae Joong said as he held out his hand to the girls.

“Jae Joong… I’m finally meeting Jae Joong,” Anna laughed and Jae Joong grinned.

“Nice to meet you,” Tresa said as she shook Jae Joong’s hand firmly.

“We really need to go,” Jae Joong said as he turned to look at me.

“It was nice meeting you girls,” I smiled. “Maybe we can meet up after the concert?”

“Okay,” Anna said as she started to scribble some numbers on a piece of paper. “Call us,” she said as she handed me the paper.

“I will,” I promised, as Jae Joong and I turned to leave.

We entered the arena and the stage was already set and ready. The technicians were testing the sounds and lights while some of the crew were adding the finishing touches to the stage décor. The stage was a sight to behold. It was even grander than the stage TVXQ had when they held their Rising Sun concert. This time, they had a cosmic theme for the stage. Huge disco balls, stars and the fabrics which hung on the stage were silver and red. The runways were covered with silver glitter and little blue lights lined the sides.

The guys were eating backstage when I walked in.

“Nuna! Hurry up! We have like 5 mins before rehearsal starts?” Shoei said.

“What? We’re gonna dance with all this food in our stomachs?”

“Sang Min hyung will start us off slowly, don’t worry,” Yun Ho said.

15 minutes later, I climbed onto the stage, the guys were warming up. We kept on our jackets for the rehearsal since arena was a little chilly. We’ll probably be stripping them off midway since we’d start to sweat and feel warm once we started dancing and with the stage lights beaming down on us.

I started stretching, warming up my vocals as I did. I’ve never really been a morning person. I sing best after 10am because by then, my sinus problems would’ve cleared and my throat would somehow feel more limber. I lay down on my back and lifted my legs, bringing them up until they almost touched my face. Jae Joong came to me and helped me push my legs down, slowly, until the touched the floor behind my head. This was to warm up my hip and back area. If I didn’t do this exercise, I would get aches in the small of my back.

“Can we start now?” Sang Min oppa asked.

“Ne,” we replied.

We ran through every single routine prepared for tonight; from the entrance till the finale. Apart from a few glitches in the lighting, everything else went smoothly. We managed to not make any mistakes while dancing, the sound system worked well and none of the lifts were jammed. During this rehearsal, we had to sing live. I was glad for those extra hours I’d spent in the gym with Jae Joong. If not for that, I would have been out of breath and probably sounded like some obscene caller when I sang.

I sat at the edge of the stage, drinking from a bottle of mineral water when Jun Su came to sit down beside me.

“Yah! I can’t wait for tonight,” he exclaimed. Everyone who knew Jun Su knew that he loved performing.

“I bet…” I smiled. “Where are the others?”

“They’re somewhere backstage,” he said as he wiped the sweat off his forehead.

“I’m starting to feel nervous,” I said as I scratched my head.

“Really?” he said. “I didn’t think you’d still get nervous.

“This is MSG,” I exclaimed as stretched out my arms upwards and outwards. “How can I not be nervous? This is like the closest I can ever get to ultimate stardom.”

Jun Su laughed, “You’re so cute, Sierra. What makes you think you’re not already there?”

“Never thought I was.”

“Jae Joong hyung was right. You don’t know what you’re worth,” he smiled.

“I don’t?”

“Yea, but that’s what makes you attractive. You don’t know how capable you are, or at least you don’t know what you are capable of.”

I blushed and nudged his arm with my fist, “Sweet talker.”

“I’m telling you the truth, Sierra. You and Ri In, both of you are attractive and talented, but never flaunt it. But then, your image is the opposite of hers.”

“I’m old…”

“No. Ever since they cut your hair, you looked sexier in a serious and tough way. When you debuted, you were a softer and sweeter kind of sexy.”

“And there is a difference between a soloist and being a member of a band. I think I’m lucky to be in the band. People wouldn’t scrutinize me as much as they would if I were a soloist.”

“True. But I feel that it would be a matter of time before they allowed you a solo project.”


“You’ve had so many collaborations with bands and artistes other than S-Cube. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that the management will have considered a solo project for you. You just don’t know what they’re planning for you.”

“And you think I have the ability to carry off a solo career?”

“I’ll admit that you’re not the strongest vocalist, but you’re good enough. And it’s your overall image and aura that will give you the edge. You have the power to mesmerize people.”

“Thanks, Jun Su,” I blushed again. “It means a lot to hear it from you.”

“Anytime… just have more faith in your abilities. You were signed for a reason. SM would never sign someone they didn’t think had potential.”

We continued rehearsing and ended at about 2pm, in time for a late lunch. They had prepared a catered lunch in the dressing room and we sat in a row in front of the dressing tables, facing the mirrors, as we ate. The food was plain and so-so, but we could hardly complain since we had no choice. There were sandwiches, salad, some pasta drenched in olive oil and vinegar and we had the choice of energy drinks, coffee or water. How I longed for hot food. Jae Joong noticed my expression as I ate.

“Don’t you wish they had rice?” he smiled. He’d read my thoughts as usual.

“Yes! I was dying for rice and meat. I can never get full on cold food.”

“I heard that there were a few Korean restaurants near our apartment. Maybe we can sneak out, when we get back, for a quick meal,” he whispered.

“I don’t think I can eat later. It would be too close to show time and I would be too nervous to eat.”

“Hmm… you’re right. We’ll just rough it out today and go tomorrow,” he said.

After I’d finished eating, I text-ed Anna.

‘What are you guys up to?’

A few minutes later, she replied.

‘Just waiting around outside MSG. Hoping to catch a glimpse of the guys since we’re not allowed inside the arena during the rehearsals.’

I flipped my phone shut after reading that message and went up to the guys.

“Hey, guys,” I called out.

“Wassup?” Yoo Chun drawled in his American accent.

“How would you like an impromptu meet and greet session with Asteria?”

“You mean they’re here? Waiting for us?” Chang Min asked.

“Yes, they’re outside,” I replied.

“If the manager is fine with it, I don’t mind meeting them for a short while,” Yun Ho said.

“Yea, it’ll be fun,” Jun Su added.

We checked with our managers and when they okayed the idea, I text-ed Anna again.

‘Asteria is cordially invited into the arena for a short meet and greet session with TVXQ ;)’

She called me back immediately, “Onni! Omigod!!! Sierra onni!!! I love you to death. We’re coming in right now!!!”

“Calm down. Just be sure everyone behaves,” I laughed.

“We will!” she exclaimed. “We’ll be very good. See you in a heartbeat,” she said and I hung up.

The guys and I were standing on the forked runways as the group came in. Some of them screamed excitedly, some shushed those who’d screamed and most of them were whispering excitedly. There were more than a hundred of them.

“Sierra onni!” Anna yelled as she ran up to me.

“Is this everyone?”

“No… the rest of them will only be able to make it here for the concert tonight. These here are those who were able to come and camp here for the day. Hehe!”

“Nice…” I laughed.

Tresa clapped her hands to get the attention of the group. “Hana, dul, set!” she said.

“Annyong haseyo, Asteria-imnida,” the group greeted in unison.

The guys smiled and returned the greeting, “Annyong haseyo, Dong Bang Shin Ki-imnida.”

“Oppa,” Tresa said. “We’ve brought you guys some gifts.”

A few girls walked forward with some packages. The guys bowed as the accepted the gifts. Then they sat on the edge of the platform and started opening them.

“Mandu!!” Chang Min exclaimed when he opened one of the packages.

“We thought that you guys would probably miss the food from back home, so we brought them here to you,” said a girl whom I recognized to be Lisa aka banananana.

“Komawoyo!” Chang Min smiled broadly at her.

Ari aka viceofvirtues handed Yun Ho the biggest package of the 5. Yun Ho opened his gift and it was a huge scrap book. Handwritten and printed letters, photos and notes from Asterians to TVXQ were pasted on each page of the book. I could see Yun Ho almost tearing when he saw them. The other members crowded around him to peek at the book. Some of the messages were written in messy Hangeul, but you could still make out what was written.

“Kamsahamnida,” Yun Ho said as he looked up at the girls.

The rest of the gifts consisted of ‘I Heart NY’ T-shirts, custom made Asteria membership cards for the boys and a CD of songs and voice clips recorded by fellow Asterians. Yun Ho immediately took off his shirt to put on the t-shirt the Asterians had given and that elicited screams from the girls.

“Yun Ho!” I laughed and he just grinned as he adjusted the shirt.

The rest of the guys followed and there was a moment of mayhem. When they were done, they jumped off the stage and went around meeting all the girls. Thankfully, they behaved very well. Most of them were polite and shy, a few of them hugged the guys, most had books and photos ready for their signature, but no one tried anything drastic like cutting their hair.

“Thanks for coming today,” Chang Min told Lisa as he gave her a quick hug.

“We’re happy to be here,” Lisa blushed.

“Sierra onni,” Tresa called out. “Can I hug your boyfriend?” she laughed.

“Go ahead,” I smiled and she hugged Jae Joong. I knew how it felt. If I had been among them today, I would want to hug Jae Joong too. In fact, I’ll do more than just hug him.

After that, the guys sang ‘You Only Love’, acapella, for the girls. They listened in reverent silence as they swayed to the sound of their voices. As they sang, Yoo Chun pointed at Tresa and she pretended to swoon. Skye, Shoei and I stood nearby watching them and hoping that someday, we would get the same level of adoration from our fans. When their song ended, Yun Ho stood up and addressed the Asterians.

“Thank you for coming today. We really enjoyed meeting all of you. It’s really overwhelming to know that we are loved around the world.”

“Oppa, saranghae!” Emily aka kiwistar yelled and immediately covered her face with her hands and blushed.

“We love you too,” Jun Su yelled and everyone laughed.

“Any other special requests for us?” Yun Ho asked.

“Oppa,” Ari raised her hand.


“Can we see a special performance from both TVXQ and S-Cube?” she said.

Yun Ho looked at Skye, Shoei and I, and we nodded. We huddled together to discuss what to perform and when decided, we turned to face the girls.

“Hope you like the song,” Yun Ho smiled and counted, “Hana, dul, set.”

We sang the popular Korean children’s song, ‘Semari Kom' (Three Bears). As we sang, we did a cute dance we’d choreographed sometime ago, out of boredom, during one of our rehearsal’s breaks. As we danced and sang, the girls clapped in time. Some of them even sang along. At the end of the song, we paired up in twos and joined our hands over our heads to make the sign of a heart. The girls laughed and cheered as we bowed.

“See you guys tonight,” Jae Joong said as we waved and walked back towards the main stage. And anyone could see that the Asterians couldn't wait for tonight.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Chapter 41: Sky

The show ended after two hours, and we packed up and left for dinner. We were brought to Uncle Jack's Steakhouse on Ninth Avenue, the Upper West Side, as it was quite near MSG. We had a short orientation and rehearsal tonight before we were allowed to head back to Atlas, which was on West 38th Street in this area called Gotham City. The apartment was a few blocks away from Bryant Park where they have the tents put up for shows during fashion week. The guys ordered the famous Kobe Beef and were raving about how tasty they were while I had fish.

“Are you sure you don’t want any?” Skye said as he waved a piece of dead cow at me.

“I don’t eat beef. You know that!” I said.

“But you must try it!” Skye said as he chewed happily.

“I’ll stick to seafood, chicken and pork, thank you,” I said as I sipped my Coke.

“But you don’t eat live octopuses,” Yoo Chun said.

“I don’t consider that normal food,” I replied.

“You’re missing out on the good stuff,” Skye laughed and I made a face at him.

“Isn’t it nice to have an uninterrupted dinner for once?” Shoei said.

“That’s cos we’re not really recognized here. Thank god none of the fans have trailed us here,” Jae Joong said.

“Don’t look now, but I think there are a few lurking outside,” Jun Su said as he pointed his fork towards the entrance of the restaurant.

Sure enough, we could see a few girls busy clicking their cameras in our direction.

“Omigod!” I exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I’d just made that face at Skye. I hope they didn’t capture that.”

“That would serve you right,” Skye laughed. “You should know that you have to always be on your guard.”

“I didn’t think people would really recognize us around here,” I grumbled.

“You forgot that there were stalkers?” Chang Min remarked.

“Yes, and I should’ve remembered that there would always be stalkers, especially wherever the 5 of you went,” I said and I sniffed in mortification.

We arrived at MSG around 9pm. The stage was already set up and there were people still putting up lights and screens. They’d blocked off one side of the arena and covered it so that it became the backstage area. The actual stage stretched out left and right until it reached the first row of seats and a long catwalk ran down the middle, forking out in a ‘V’ at the end. We climbed onto the stage and walked around. Jun Su and Skye started doing a silly dance at one corner.

“Unbelievable, isn’t it?” Yun Ho said as he walked up from behind me. I was on one of the diagonal catwalks, looking up at the rows of seats above.

“Do you even think it’s going to be a full house tomorrow?” I asked him.

“With TVXQ and S-Cube together, it’s a guaranteed sold-out. Didn’t you know? The tickets had sold out within the hour on the day they went up for sale.”

“That was even before they decided that S-Cube was going to join in. The people are here to see you guys.”

“You’re the bonus. Don’t belittle yourself.”

“We shall see tomorrow,” I said as I turned to walk back to the main stage. Yun Ho caught my hand as I walked past him.

“You’ve come a long way,” he said as he looked at me meaningfully, “Don’t think that you’re not good enough. If you weren’t you wouldn’t be here today.”

Having known me from the beginning of my career, Yun Ho still understood and remembered the insecurities I had. It’s hard to explain to those who think that the moment I was signed, I had made it. It’s really a long and winding road from the moment an artiste is onboard the entertainment industry and there could be no return.

“Have you seen the lifts they’d planned for this concert?” Jae Joong said as he walked toward me on the main stage.

“No,” I replied.

“They’re awesome,” he exclaimed. “And we’re gonna fly towards the audience tomorrow on these cables.”

“I think that’s only for you guys,” I laughed.

“They’re gonna have this lift that’s gonna take the both of us up in the middle of the stage for our duet. Kinda reminds me of when we shot the MV on the cliff,” he smiled as he put his arm around me and pulled me close.

I smiled back at him and put my arm around his waist and we walked towards the others. Jun Su and Skye had started teaching Chang Min their silly dance and they were making a big production out of it.

“I think you should perform that tomorrow,” I laughed.

“I might,” Jun Su said.

“Don’t forget your dolphin cry,” Yoo Chun added.

Jun Su pumped his fists into the air and gave his loudest dolphin cry. His voice echoed through the arena, which was empty apart from the crew and us and our laughter followed.

We went through the choreography for tomorrow with Sang Min oppa. Thankfully, he didn’t make us dance it. We merely discussed it and did a short walkthrough, trying out entrances and exits and some of the lifts.

“It’s almost 12am now,” Sang Min oppa said as he looked at his watch. “You’ll need to be here at 9am tomorrow. We’ll have a full rehearsal and a break. Then you guys will need to be back here by 5pm for hair and makeup.”

“9am?” Skye groaned.

“Yes,” Sang Min oppa replied. “Don’t be late, or I’ll have a punishment ready for you. You guys had better get to bed once you’re back at the apartment.”

We were finally allowed to leave MSG. The night air was crisp and cold as I got out of the MPV in front of Atlas. I ran after Jae Joong and put my arms around him.

“Cold?’ he asked as he rubbed my back.

“Very,” I replied.

“Let’s hurry inside then,” he said as we quickly walked into the lobby through the revolving doors.

“Can I not shower?” Skye asked as we walked into our apartment.

“You can, if you want the whole arena to be able smell you tomorrow,” I replied.

“I’m first!” Shoei yelled as he rushed to grab his towel and run into the bathroom. There was an attached bathroom in my bedroom, so I didn’t have to fight to shower first.

“Do you want to shower first?” Jae Joong asked me.

“Okay,” I said and I started picking up my toiletries and pajamas.

When I walked out the bathroom and saw that Jae Joong was already asleep on this bed. I leant down to kiss him on the forehead.

“Jae Joong,” I said softly as I nudged him.

“Mmm…” he moaned and covered his face with his pillow.

“Come on,” I said as I pulled the pillow off his face. “You haven’t showered all day.”

He reached out his arm before I could dodge and pulled me onto the bed, on top of him.

“Ya…” I said as I blew at his eyes and he blinked. “I know you’re not really asleep.” He smiled, but kept his eyes closed. “Yah!!” I said and flicked his forehead.

“Aah!” he cried and rubbed his forehead. His eyes were now wide open.

“See!” I exclaimed. “You were awake!”

“You violent girl,” he whined, still rubbing his forehead. Did I flick him a little too hard? I didn’t think so? I was always the weakest at doing that. How could I have managed to hurt him? But his forehead was starting to turn red; probably from the rubbing.

“Let me see,” I said as I pulled his hand away. “Does it really hurt that much?” I asked as I touched his forehead.

“It wouldn’t hurt as much if you kissed it,” he said.

“Yah! Kim Jae Joong! Does it hurt or not?” I said in my fiercest tone.

“Yes it does,” he nodded as he made a sad face, like a child.

“You big baby,” I laughed and I kissed him on the forehead. I lifted my head and looked at him. I traced his lips with my index finger. “Pabo…” I whispered.

“No pabo…” he replied and he pulled my head down to kiss me.

The next morning, I woke up to the sound of my beeping mobile phone. I’d set it to ring at 7:30am. I tried to reach for my phone, but Jae Joong was pinning me down with his arm and half his body. We’d pushed the single beds till they were side by side, so that we could sleep together. I groaned as the beeping continued to annoy me. I tried to push Jae Joong away but he just bounced right back.

“Jae Joong…” I groaned as I tried to push him off. He finally decided to roll over and I reached out to grab my mobile phone and turn it off.

“What time issit?” Jae Joong mumbled sleepily.

“It’s 7:30.”

“Why on earth do we need the alarm to ring at 7:30?” he said as he buried his head under his pillow.

“Cos I need time to get ready, and you know that when it’s cold, I take a longer time to move around.”

“Mmm… you go shower. Let me sleep,” he said.

“Twaeji!” I said as I smacked him on his butt. He slowly rubbed the spot I’d hit, yawned and went back to sleep.

After showering, I was standing in front of the sink, brushing my teeth. I was wiping away the mist that had formed on the mirror when I saw a figure behind me.

“Aaahhh!!!” I screamed in shock.

“Aaahhh!!!” the figure screamed too. I turned around to see Jae Joong standing there.

“Don’t ever do that again!” I yelled at him.

“I knocked,” he said.

“I didn’t hear you. Liar!”

“Mian…” he said as he walked over to put his arms loosely around my waist.

“I almost got a stroke,” I complained. He laughed as he wiped the bubbles from the toothpaste off the sides of my mouth. “It’s not funny,” I pouted and pushed him away so that I could rinse my mouth over the sink.

“Mian…” he said sweetly. “I won’t do it again.”

“You know I’m easily spooked!” I said, pointing my toothbrush at him threateningly.

“Please don’t kill me…” he laughed as he held his hands up to shield himself.

We were ready and waiting in the lobby for our transport at 8:30am. The guys busied themselves with their PSPs and MP3 players while I stood near the door, looking out at the street. There were lots and lots of people rushing up and down the streets, trying to get somewhere on time. City life… I don’t think I’m really cut out for it.

“Are the cars here yet?” Jae Joong asked as he came to stand beside me.

“Nope,” I said. He put his arms around me and kissed me on my temple.

“Are you hungry?” he asked.

“I’m fine.”

“If you are, we can always run out to grab something to eat before the transport arrives.”

“I’m okay. I’d rather not risk being late. Sang Min oppa might murder us,” I smiled.

“Just tell me if you don’t feel well,” Jae Joong said.

Jae Joong was always overly concerned about my gastric problems. He was always asking me if I was hungry and always made sure I had a snack. At the same time, he reminds me constantly that I need to watch my diet. I guess he is the best person to take advice from regarding dieting. What he did to himself by the time their 2nd album was out was spectacular. I’d always found his face to be a little round during TVXQ’s 1st album, but by the third album, he had cheekbones so sharp, they could burst balloons. As for me, if I put on about 2 kilograms, it would immediately show on my arms and face. So I had to be cautious with my diet, especially when there was an upcoming shoot.

I remember last year, when S-Cube was shooting a joint photo book with TSZX, the producer made a remark which affected me till today.

“Sierra, your face is coming off a little too round in the photos,” he said. “Have you been watching your diet? What’s your current weight?”

“48 kg,” I replied.

“You need to lose a little more,” he said. “We’ll have to fix your photos for you this time round, though. Since there’s no way you can lose that weight overnight.”

I was really silent after the shoot when we were having dinner with the guys.

“What’s wrong?” Yun Ho asked me. We were still together back then.

“Nothing,” I sighed and picked at my food.

“What happened during the shoot today?” Yun Ho asked Skye.

“The producer told nuna that she needed to lose weight,” Skye blurted out through his mouthful of rice and I glared at him. He shrugged when he saw my expression.

“It’s nothing,” I said.

“Sierra,” Yun Ho said. “You’re not fat. If anything, you’re underweight for someone of your height.”

“But not by the industry’s standards,” I replied.

“To hell with the industry standards,” Yun Ho bit out. “I don’t want to see you get sick just because you were asked to lose a few kilograms. Araji?”

“Araso…” I sighed. A week later, I successfully reduced my weight to 46 kg.

We arrived at MSG just in time. As we were walking along the corridor that leads to the backstage area of the arena, I heard someone call my name. To be precise, there were two voices hollering at me.

“Sierra onni!!” they shouted. I turned around and I saw 2 dark-haired girls walking very quickly towards me.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Chapter 40: Minutes

We arrived at JFK International Airport after more than 17 hours on the plane. I can never bear sitting on a plane for such long hours. Throughout the entire flight, I couldn’t sleep. I was either walking up and down the aisle or watching a movie on the screen in front of me.

“This is like the hundredth time you’re going to the toilet,” Jae Joong complained as I squeezed past him.

“You were the one who didn’t want to sit by the window,” I said. “Stop complaining.”

After making through the customs in one piece, our American crew received us as we exited the arrival hall. They had a few MPVs parked outside, waiting for us. The weather was pretty chilly since it was almost December. We’d put on our windbreakers before we walked out of the airport. Jae Joong had his arm around me as we walked out, to keep me warm. After 2 years in Korea, I still detested the cold weather and had never gotten used to it.

It was about 1pm, Eastern Time, when we arrived at Atlas apartments, where we were going to stay throughout our duration here at NYC. The time difference with Korea was minus 10 hours, which meant that we should be in bed now. We were allowed 2 hours of rest before our appearance on MTV’s TRL. They’d rented 2 apartments for us at Atlas and we grouped into fours. Jae Joong joined Skye, Shoei and I. There was a room with two single beds and there were another 2 single beds in the living area.

“Skye,” Shoei nudged him, “I don’t think we need to bother requesting, we’re gonna end up sleeping out here.”

“Hyung… I want to sleep in the room,” Skye whined to Jae Joong.

“The room’s mine,” I said and stuck my tongue out at him.

“Then can I sleep with nuna?” Skye asked Jae Joong, while raising his eyebrows suggestively.

“In your dreams,” Jae Joong said as he laughed and Skye pretended to cry.

“Come here, Skye,” Shoei laughed as he put his arm around Skye. “I’ll love you.”

Our assistants came in shortly after with racks of our outfits for outings and television appearances. Our costumes for the concert will be sent directly to MSG (Madison Square Garden). I grimaced when I saw that most of my outfits were not going to provide me much protection from the cold weather.

“Nuna,” I asked one of the assistants, “Isn’t there like a thicker coat for me?”

“These are all the clothes the company had provided. You’ll probably have to wear your windbreaker over these if you’re really cold.”

I went into the room and lay down on the bed for a catnap. I could hear someone entering the room and then, I could feel Jae Joong lying on top of me.

“Get off, fatty,” I said, without opening my eyes. I knew it was him from the way his body felt against mine and I could smell his scent.

He bent down until his lips were a millimeter away from my ear, “Make me,” he whispered.

“I’m too tired,” I said. “Get off before you regret it.”

“How are you going to do that,” he said and he shifted so that more of his lower body weight was against mine.

I slid my hands underneath his shirt and he flinched a little as my hands came into contact with his skin.

“Your hands are cold,” he said.

“That’s why I’m warming them,” I smiled. I still had my eyes closed as I slowly slid my hands up his back, reveling in the warmth of his body and his muscles. He didn’t have rock-hard muscles. They were nicely toned and firm, just the way I liked them. I brought my hands slowly around the side of his body to his front and I slid my hands up his chest. My right hand touched the piercing on his nipple and he inhaled sharply as I did. I opened my eyes to see him looking at me with that expression of his. The expression that always made me melt like an ice cube in a pool of lava. His eyes mesmerized me as always. I never ceased to drown myself in those eyes of his.

I licked my lips. They were chapped from the dry and cold weather. His eyes flicked down to look as I did. I pulled my hands out from under his shirt and guided his head, with my right hand on his neck, towards me to kiss him lightly on the lips. He pulled away and his hand came to rub his thumb across my lips. Then he leant back forward and kissed me. His arms came around me, underneath me, to lift me up tighter against his chest as he kissed me. I put my arms around his neck and pulled his head down towards me so that his lips came down harder against mine. In a sudden moment of panic, I pushed him away.

“Did you lock the door?” I asked him. I didn’t need Skye and Shoei barging in and catching us in this state. He smiled and leant back in to continue kissing me. I took that as a ‘yes’.

Sometime later, Jae Joong fell onto the pillow beside me, breathless. I moved over to lay my head on his chest, and his hand came to stroke my hair. I closed my eyes and fell asleep almost immediately.

I was awoken by a knock on the door.

“Nuna,” I heard Skye call through the door. I nudged Jae Joong awake and he dragged himself over to unlock the door before he went to flop facedown on the other bed.

“Nuna, we leave in half an hour,” Skye said and he shut the door quietly. I looked at my watch. It was almost 4pm.

We arrived at TRL’s studios at Times Square. After watching countless of episodes of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, I finally get to see Times Square for myself. It was dazzling. The LCD screens on the street had been prepped before our arrival, they now flashed photos of TVXQ and S-Cube. Nothing had prepared me for the way I felt when I saw all those lights and graphics flashing before me.

“Wow!!” Skye exclaimed as he got out of the MPV. “Look at us!”

“I didn’t know the program was such a big deal,” Jun Su said.

“It almost reminds me of the last time Rain was here,” Chang Min said. “I heard he was plastered all over Times Square as well.”

“Finally… we’re global!” Yoo Chun exclaimed.

“Hwaiting!” I shouted and raised my hand up.

“Hwaiting!” the guys shouted as their hands joined mine.

We came dressed in our outfits for the show. All we had left to do was to put on our war paints, or more commonly known as makeup. Each of us was dressed in individual casual outfits instead of the usual coordinated colors and designs. I was in a pair of low-cut skinny jeans and a complicated halter top. There were slashes on it that revealed my skin at the abdomen and across the neckline. While waiting for our turns to be made up, we read through the script or rather a list of stuff we may be asked during the show. In the middle of our preparation, Park Su Chin, our host for the show, walked into the dressing room.

“Annyong haseyo,” she said.

“Annyong haseyo,” we all replied.

“It’s such an honour to finally meet you,” she said as she went around shaking our hands.

“It’s an honour for us too. We’ve always seen you on MTV and we’re so in awe of all the artistes you get to meet,” I said when she came to shake my hand.

“Sierra. I’ve heard so much about you. You’re from Malaysia , aren’t you?” she said.

“Yes. Everyone’s from Korea, except for Shoei, who’s from Japan.”

“S-Cube is almost more of an Asian group rather than a Korean group. You have three different nationalities in just one band.”

“Right, but we’re aiming for international, really,” I laughed.

“Who isn’t?” she smiled.

We were wired and ready to go within the hour. We looked out and saw that fans had gathered outside the building. There were hundreds of them. They carried huge placards and banners with our names and we could see a sea of red and blue (with silver streaks) balloons. In the studio itself, there were many fans too; mostly screaming for the guys. Park Su Chin walked out and stood in front of the camera, and they cued her that she was on air.

“Annyong haseyo, Park Su Chin-imnida. I’m Park Su Chin and welcome to a special episode of Total Request Live. Tonight we’re here to meet two of the hottest groups from Korea who are here in NYC to perform in their first large scale concert ever in the USA. Let’s give them our biggest welcome as TVXQ and S-Cube take NYC!”

The whole studio cheered and the music started. We were positioned on either side of the studio; S-Cube on the left and TVXQ on the right. The lights focused on TVXQ and they started dancing to ‘Rising Sun’. The fans’ screaming were deafening as they waved their balloons in time to the song. Midway, the song switched to 'Desperate' and S-Cube was now in the spotlight. Surprisingly, the screams for us were equally deafening. As our opening performance ended, we gathered in the middle with Su Chin and were handed a few microphones.

“That was an awesome performance.” Su Chin exclaimed.

“Kamsahamnida,” we said in unison.

“Why don’t you guys introduce yourselves, starting from TVXQ,” Su Chin said.

“Annyong haseyo, Dong Bang Shin Ki-imnida,” TVXQ shouted in sync.

“Chonun Xiah Junsu-imnida.”

“Wassup NYC! Micky Yoochun-imnida,” Micky shouted and was met with more screaming.

“Yongung Jaejoong-imnida. Pangabsumnida.”

“Choikang Changmin-imnida.”

“Hello everybody, U-Know Yunho-imnida!”

As they went from one to another, introducing themselves and bowing, they were greeted by endless screaming from the audience.

“Annyong haseyo, S-Cube-imnida,” Skye, Shoei and I announced.



“And I’m Sierra,” I said in English.

“Thank you, TVXQ and S-Cube. Aren’t you guys excited?” Su Chin asked the audience.

“Yes,” some of them shouted back.

“I can’t hear you, everybody, say ‘Ne!’” Su Chin shouted.

“Ne!” the audience shouted back loudly.

“Right… let’s get things started with a little Q&A. I’m sure most of the fans here know almost everything there is to know about both bands. So what we’d like to do is dish a little dirty secret from the each of you or maybe talk about what you guys have been doing and your plans for the coming year. I know it’s the end of the year and these are nerve wracking times for the two bands with the upcoming awards.”

“Ne, we were mostly busy preparing for our concert at MSG tomorrow night,” Yun Ho was cut off by the fans screaming. “And we’re also preparing for our performances at the upcoming awards.”

“I hope you guys haven’t been overworking. I heard that sometimes, you guys get really sick,” Su Chin remarked.

“We’re stronger now. After more than 3 years in the business, we’d started to become immune to the schedule’s demands,” Jun Su laughed.

“What about S-Cube? How are you guys coping?” Su Chin asked.

“Well,” Shoei said and the fans screamed again. He laughed nervously before he continued, “Of course we’re not as busy as TVXQ since we’ve not reached their level of popularity. But as far as coping with the schedule goes, we’re doing fine.”

“How about you, Sierra? Has adapting to the Korean culture been difficult for you?”

“I’ve always loved the Korean culture. I may have had a little problem with the food, but as for the lifestyle, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with it,” I smiled.

“So, no live octopuses for you yet?” she laughed.

“None, I’m afraid.”

“She’s always forcing us to eat Chinese food,” Skye piped in and everyone laughed.

“I’ve heard TVXQ and S-Cube share a really special friendship; almost as close as TVXQ’s friendship with Super Junior. How is it that you guys are so close when you could easily be rivals?”

Yun Ho cleared his throat and said, “First of all, we’re label mates. As label mates, we meet each other often during events organized by the management. Secondly, being young and in the same industry, it’s perfectly normal to bond together.”

“Ah…” Su Chin exclaimed softly.

“And not to forget, we have a couple here,” Chang Min added.

“Right, I’ve forgotten. Sierra and Jae Joong,” Su Chin smiled. “I’m sorry girls, but Jae Joong is taken,” she said and was met with a few wails from the audience.

“Don’t worry girls, you still have the six of us here,” Jun Su laughed and the audience applauded.

“Right,” Skye said and they pushed Jae Joong away so that they could have a group hug with just the 6 of them, causing a wave of laughter from the audience.

“So Sierra, is it hard dating someone who has so many fans?” Su Chin asked.

“I often fear for my life,” I laughed. “But I’m glad that Jae Joong’s fans understand and they only want Jae Joong to be happy.”

“And if I’m ever unhappy, you guys know what to do,” Jae Joong laughed as he came over to speak into my microphone and I pushed him away.

“You guys are so sweet,” Su Chin laughed.

“You see what we have to put up with each day?” Yoo Chun said.

“So are we going to have to special preview of what we will see at the concert tomorrow night?” Su Chin asked.

“And spoil the surprise?” Yun Ho exclaimed and raised his eyebrows.

“How many of you want a preview?” Su Chin asked the audience and was greeted with loud applause. “You see. You have to give us a preview. That’s the main reason we invited you here.”

“Shall we?” Yun Ho asked all of us and we pretended to look unsure of our decision. Some of the fans wailed and shouted for us to perform.

“Come on…” Su Chin urged us.

“Oh well, why not?” Yun Ho said and the audience screamed in delight.

“Everyone, give it up for TVXQ and S-Cube, performing an exclusive song meant for tomorrow’s concert at MSG. You’re seeing it here first on TRL, tonight. This is ‘Hold On’,” Su Chin announced and lights dimmed.

The few LCD screens behind us lit up with graphics as the music started. We were already in our starting positions. The sounds of violins filled the air and as the intro ended, I moved forward from between the guys and started singing.

Sierra: I want you, I need you

Each day I wanna be with you

I’m cold now, please hold me

[Jun Su: I’m cold now, please hold me]

When you leave, please don’t forget me

[Jun Su: When you leave, please don’t forget me]

Jae Joong: To see you, and touch you

Brings out the beast inside me

To own you, to have you

[Sierra: To own you, to have you]

I’ll never let you go

[Sierra: I’ll never let you go]

Skye: In this world where love isn’t forever

In this world where affections could turn to hate so easily

Shoei: In this world where wanting someone, becomes pure torture

In this world where love may just disappear

Guys: Hold on, grab my hand

Don’t you ever let go

[Sierra: Let go…]

Baby, if you don’t

I might lose you forever

Sierra: Hold on, take me with you

Don’t leave me here alone

All: If you don’t, baby

You may regret it

Chang Min: I want you, I need you

Your smile I’ll always remember

When we kiss, I shudder

[Sierra: When we kiss, I shudder]

Waves of pleasure wash all over me

[Sierra: Waves of pleasure wash all over me]

Yun Ho: To see you, and touch you

So near that I could smell you

Your face imprinted in my mind

[Jae Joong: Your face imprinted in my mind]

I can never love another

[Jae Joong: I can never love another]

Yoo Chun: In this world where life is turning meaningless

In this world where no one cares what happens to you

Jun Su: In this world where you and I could be one forever

In this world where I would never give up on you

Guys: Hold on, grab my hand

Don’t you ever let go

[Skye: Let go…]

Baby, if you don’t

I might lose you forever

Hold on, take me with you

Don’t leave me here alone

If you don’t, baby

You may regret it

Shoei: Hold on, grab my hand

Don’t you ever let go

S-Cube: Baby, if you don’t

I might lose you forever

Jun Su: Forever… yeah, yeah…

By the time the song had ended, we were sweating and breathless from dancing and singing live.

“Was that the most awesome performance you’ve ever seen?” Su Chin hollered to the audience and they cheered. “Well, we’re going to go for a break now. Don’t go away. More sizzling performances and answers to questions by TVXQ and S-Cube after this,” and we received a cue that we’ve gone off the air for the moment.