“Hold still!” I yelled at Skye as I tried to maneuver the needle closer to his skin.
“Is it gonna hurt?” Skye asked worriedly as he tried to stay as still as he possibly could, but the more nervous he got, the more he moved involuntarily.
“It won’t hurt as much if you didn’t move. Now, hold still,” I warned him again.
Skye had a huge zit on his neck which was dying to be popped. Lucky for him, I was the jack of all trades, manicure equipment, facial equipment, you name it, and I’ve got it. Now if only I could break the skin in one prick, then all that icky pus will ooze out and I wouldn’t scar Skye’s precious neck.
“Nuna, are you d- Oow!!!” he yelled.
“Got it!” I said gleefully. I dabbed his wound with a tissue and applied a product which would reduce the inflammation and scarring.
“There’d better be no scarring, nuna. We have promotional activities next week.”
“Aigoo…” I said and threatened to smack him, “The wound will heal in a few days. Stop overreacting.”
It has been a month since the day I was discharged from the hospital. I’m starting to get used to the compliments I get for my improved features, and as for my longing for Yun Ho… I try not to think about it. Jae Joong has been a great friend for the past month. He came around often, when he wasn’t busy with his own album and promotional activities. He never mentioned the stuff that had happened between us before the assault. He’d just been here for me, no questions asked. As for Shoei, he’d apologized for his outburst.
“Nuna, remember what I’d said before I ran out that day?” he asked.
“Yea, what about it?”
“I’m sorry for saying that. I do still love you, but I’m fine just being a brother to you.”
“Are you being honest with me?” I asked as I scrutinized his face.
He seemed really honest at that moment; I couldn’t bear to hound him about it anymore. They do say, let sleeping dogs lie. I’m not about to revive his passion and get myself into another mess.
SM had pretty much kept me out of the public eye. They didn’t want me to expose too much of my new look and to save it for the release of the next album. Because of this strategy, I didn’t get to participate in variety shows and events as often as Skye and Shoei did. When I did go out, I’d have to have some sort of disguise or dress inconspicuously. There had been a lot of speculation in the papers on what had happened to me. Some said that I’d been sent back to Malaysia. Some said I had been sent overseas to recuperate. There was even one which said that I’d been killed by my anti-fans. SM released a statement in reaction to these assumptions. They announced that I was currently recuperating in Korea and preparing for the next album and will remain out of the media until the release of my next album with S-Cube.
It’s almost the end of spring again. I can’t believe it’s been more than a year since I’ve arrived in Korea and so much has happened. Much of it feels like a memory of a distant past, but at this moment, there are many things that are very real. I have a confession I really don’t think I should be making… but what the heck. Ever since Yun Ho disappeared from my life, I found myself drawn more and more to Jae Joong. In my mind, I’d give anything to dwell on the fact that Yun Ho was the one who’d given up and I am now entitled to choose a new path in life for myself. But I’d still feel guilty when I catch myself forgetting Yun Ho. Despite all these feelings battling in my head, I know that sometime in the past month, I’d let Jae Joong set foot in my heart.
“How’s your day been?” he asked one night.
“It’s fine. Recording, as usual. Dancing, as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary,” I babbled.
“But are you happy?” he asked as he turned to look at me.
“What’s with the weird question?” I asked as I peered at him. He seemed so earnest when he asked me that. I wondered why.
“If you weren’t, then I’d try to make sure you were,” he replied.
“And how would you do that?” I smiled.
“I would ask you, what makes you happy?” was his answer.
What makes me happy? I couldn’t say that I wasn’t happy at this moment. Sure, there’d be times when I’d dwell on the stuff that happened months ago, but these days, the satisfaction I get from my job and my relationships with those around me have made me pretty happy. I wasn’t blissfully happy like I used to be, but I really can’t complain with what I have now.
The biggest hit I’d had since the assault incident was a scandal. Not mine, but Yun Ho’s.
‘Yun Ho caught frolicking with co-star’, the header said. The article read:
Hardly a little more than a month after announcing his split with the Malaysian kasu, Sierra, from R&B trio, S-Cube, Yun Ho has been seen about town in Tokyo with his hot, young co-star Ayumi.
There was a photo of him holding hands with this Ayumi girl. Needless to say, I was devastated for days after seeing that article.
“Ignore it,” Jae Joong said. He’d called me as soon as he saw the article. “You know it’s not true. Yun Ho isn’t like that.”
I comforted myself with the thought that Yun Ho would not be so thoughtless as to subject himself willingly to this scandal. Once had been enough. But what if he was really hurt? What if he really didn’t care anymore?
Two more weeks before the launch of S-Cube’s new album; Skye, Shoei and I have been training really hard with Lex oppa. This album had a harder and edgier vibe to it. That meant stronger and faster movements for our dances. We’d be training 6 hours straight each day just to perfect our routines. I could feel that I was getting better at this, but the physical demands were beginning to take its toll on me. I finally collapsed during training while trying to execute a pirouette.
“Nuna, are you alright?” Shoei said as he immediately supported my back and sat me up.
“Did you hurt yourself?” Lex oppa asked as he started to inspect my ankles and knees.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I just need a break.”
“Nuna, why don’t you stop for the day? We’ve been dancing since 9am. You don’t have to continue,” Skye said.
“I’m calling Jae Joong hyung,” Shoei said as he flipped out his mobile phone.
The guys have gotten used to calling for Jae Joong for whatever which concerned me. Somehow they knew that he’d be the one who’d come and take charge of me if anything went wrong.
“No,” I protested as I tried to stand up. As I did, I felt like the room was spinning and immediately sat down again.
“You might be a little tired and dehydrated,” Lex oppa said. “You’d better take the rest of the day off. I don’t want you to miss tomorrow’s training.”
I sat there and sighed. “A little tired is an understatement,” I muttered under my breath.
Shoei was on the phone with Jae Joong and had begun relating the whole situation to him. “So you’ll be here in 15 minutes?” he asked Jae Joong. “Great, we’ll meet you outside.” He hung up and turned to me. “Let’s get you out of here.”
After resting for a few minutes and being forced to drink up 600ml of water, Shoei supported me as we walked out to the lobby while Skye carried my bag. Jae Joong was already waiting and he ran forward as we approached the entrance.
“How are you feeling?” he asked as he took over Shoei’s position as my crutch.
“A little dizzy, somewhat bloated and I feel like peeing,” I said and laughed.
“Huh?” Jae Joong said as he looked at Shoei with a puzzled expression. “Did she hit her head or something?” he asked.
“Nah… we just felt she wasn’t drinking enough fluids so we kinda force-fed her a bottle of water,” Shoei explained.
Jae Joong laughed, “You almost scared me there. I thought you’d gone nuts.”
“I am nuts,” I said as I smiled, trying to look a little loony at the same time.
Jae Joong drove me home and helped me up to my apartment. The moment I reached my apartment, I must’ve felt so relieved that I would finally get some rest that my knees sort of gave out from under me. Jae Joong caught me before I slid to the floor, dropping all my stuff in the process.
“Are you alright?” he asked, a little shocked at what had just happened.
“I’m fine. Maybe my body got a little too comfortable once I got home. It kinda forgot that I was still standing right here,” I giggled.
Jae Joong cursed under his breath and then he picked me up and started walking to my room.
“Hey!” I exclaimed, “I can walk! Put me down.”
“You obviously have no legs to speak of at the moment, so shut up and let me do my job,” he said.
“This isn’t your job,” I said quietly as he continued to walk toward my room.
“Then whose job is it?” he asked as he opened the door to my room.
“Yun Ho,” I said. Jae Joong’s face darkened immediately and he tossed me onto the bed angrily.
“So you still can’t forget him,” he said, his dark eyes glittering with an anger I’d not seen in a long time.
“Can you?” I asked.
“I’ve done everything I could for you for these past months. What more do you want from me? What can I do to make you forget him?”
“He’ll be back soon, and we’ll all have to face him.”
“Kokjongma, he probably doesn’t want to see you.”
“So you know why he doesn’t want to see me,” I accused.
“I don’t. But every time I mention you when I’m having a telephone conversation with him, he’d cut me off or change the subject.”
I lay back on my bed and closed my eyes. What have I done to Yun Ho? Why does it seem like he’d never forgive me? Jae Joong pulled me up by the shoulders and shook me hard.
“Stop thinking about him. Forget about him,” he said.
“I wish I could,” I replied as a tear rolled down my cheek. Jae Joong pulled me toward him and hugged me.
“Sierra, please give me a chance. I’ll do my best to make you happy. Whatever Yun Ho’s done for you, I’ll try to do it. I know you can never forget him or love me as much as you did him-”
“Who said I couldn’t?” I interrupted.
“What?” Jae Joong said, surprised.
“Who said I couldn’t love you as much as I did him?” I couldn’t keep it inside any longer. I can’t bear to see Jae Joong beat himself up just because he thinks that he can never measure up to Yun Ho in my eyes. The truth was they had been neck to neck all along.
“Sierra, stop playing,” he groaned.
“I’m serious, Jae Joong.”
“You mean to say you’d had feelings for me all this while?”
“I just didn’t want to face them. I’d invested my soul in Yun Ho, only to have it crushed. The reason I couldn’t let go of him was that he still had a hold on me, even though he wasn’t here. I felt that I owed him something. I owe him my loyalty.”
“Loyalty? Loyalty to someone who’d left you without a second glance?”
“Jae Joong, don’t say things you would regret later on. You love Yun Ho like a brother. You don’t really believe he would be such a heartless person.”
Jae Joong sighed, “You’re right, but that still doesn’t change the way I feel for you.”
“Jae Joong,” I said as I took his hand, “Saranghae. I can say that to you now that I’ve left my baggage behind. But I don’t want us to get hurt in the end.”
“We wouldn’t. I won’t let it happen,” he said as he pulled me toward him and he kissed me. It’s been a long time since anyone kissed me. I’d not felt such a rush of pleasure and emotions in such a long time. I gave in to Jae Joong as I wrapped my arms around him. He pulled away for a moment and whispered against my lips, “Saranghae.”