It was 11pm. We’d finally wrapped up the concert and were on our way to the after-party. I went in Jae Joong’s car with Jun Su, Chang Min and Yoo Chun in the back. Tonight’s finale had been spectacular. There were fireworks set off as we performed the final song and after the concert, hundreds of fans stayed behind just to catch a glimpse of us leaving. It was truly memorable and a testimonial of S-Cube’s first complete year as a band.
“I’m so tired,” Jun Su rubbed his eyes. “I just want to go home and sleep.”
“And miss the after-party?” Chang Min asked.
“I’m here now, aren’t I?” Jun Su yawned.
“He can always sleep when he gets there. They’ll all be partying like crazy, no one would notice him sleeping,” Yoo Chun laughed.
“Then I’m definitely gonna take a nap when I get there,” Jun Su said happily.
“Just be sure you pick a good corner. You don’t wanna get sat on in the middle of your nap,” I laughed.
When we arrived at the bar they’d reserved for the after-party, the guys zipped in quickly, leaving Jae Joong and me outside.
“Kidariyo,” Jae Joong said as he pushed me back so that I stood about 2 feet away from the door.
“What’s going on?” I asked Jae Joong.
“Just wait here for a few seconds,” he said and he went into the bar as well. Just then, Skye, Shoei and Yun Ho came up from behind me.
“Nuna, why are you standing out here?” Skye asked me.
“Jae Joong asked me to wait out here.”
“Let’s go in,” Yun Ho said, smiling mysteriously as he steered me to the door with his hand on my shoulder.
As we entered the bar, we saw that it was filled with balloons, blue and silver balloons, the colors of S-Cube. On the stage was a banner, which read, ‘S-Cube Ch’uk’ahamnida!!’ Everyone present started clapping their hands and cheering.
“What’s this?” Shoei asked Yun Ho.
“I guess you hadn’t heard. S-Cube’s album reached its 350,000 sales mark yesterday.”
“Chongmal?!!” I said excitedly. We had not been informed by Shi Kyung hyung. He’d obviously wanted it to be a surprise.
“So who planned the party?” Skye asked.
“I did,” Jae Joong said as he stepped forward with a bouquet of flowers for me. They were baby blue roses with sprinkles of silver tinsels on them. “Ch’uk’aeyo,” he said and kissed me on the cheek.
“Komawo,” I said and hugged him. I’d totally lost track of time. It’s been almost 2 years since I’d left Malaysia and it’s been a year since the first day I met Jae Joong. I was touched that he made the effort to celebrate my band’s achievement with me.
“The moment I told Jae Joong about the album sales, he immediately asked for us to celebrate it during the after-party tonight,” hyung said.
“Was that why you were MIA this morning?” I asked Jae Joong and he nodded.
Then, Hee Chul and Si Won pushed in a trolley with a huge cake on it. Skye, Shoei and I blew out the candles on it and everyone cheered again.
“Speech!” someone yelled and the three of us laughed nervously.
“Why don’t you start, Shoei?” I said. Shoei was always the best at kicking speeches off.
“Erm… yeoreobun, kamsahamnida. Thank you for celebrating this achievement with us tonight. It means a lot to us,” Shoei said and received loud applause.
“Ye, kamsahamnida. We want to thank our manager, Ahn Shi Kyung for doing such a good job in managing us and to SM for giving us the opportunity to begin with,” Skye continued.
“And to our friends who are here tonight, we are thankful for your friendship and support throughout the beginning of our careers till now. Chongmal kamsahamnida.” I ended the speech and everyone cheered loudly.
“I also have an announcement to make,” Shi Kyung hyung said. “In view of their performance, SM has decided that S-Cube will join TVXQ as their opening act when they perform at Madison Square Garden in New York, in November.”
“Yaaahh!!! Chongmal??” Skye shouted in excitement.
“You guys have earned it,” hyung smiled.
“We’re going to New York together?” I said in disbelief as I looked at Jae Joong.
“Yes, we are,” he smiled and pulled me in for a hug. I was so happy. We’re finally getting somewhere. Finally getting the recognition we were waiting for.
“Erm… Jae Joong, don’t you have something to add?” Hee Chul tapped Jae Joong on this shoulder.
“Oh, right?” Jae Joong smiled. He grabbed my hand and pulled me forward so that everyone would focus on us. What was he up to? “I know it’s a bit overdue,” he started, “but I’ve wanted to make this official for a long time… I’d like to announce that Sierra and I are officially a couple.”
I stared at him with my mouth hanging open as the crowd started to cheer again and this time were wolf whistles. He’d never asked to make a public statement regarding our relationship and I’d always assumed that he wanted us to be a quiet couple, though not exactly a secret couple. What was he thinking to announce this just before his upcoming barrage of promotional activities?
“Neo mich’oso?” I asked him. “The reporters are going to have a field day when you start promoting your new album next week.”
“Yes, I’m so crazy about you. I want to be able to talk about you when I’m with the press, to talk about you when I’m on TV and I want to tell everyone that you’re mine.”
“You really want to do that?” I asked him.
“I’ve wanted to do it since the day you were mine.”
I hugged Jae Joong and tears started to well in my eyes. He tightened his arms around me and whispered into my ear, “Saranghamnida.”
“Ya… Jae Joong, you didn’t have to announce it,” Typhoon of The Trax laughed and patted Jae Joong on the back. “Everyone knew about the two of you.”
“Yea… since the two of you can never keep your hands off each other,” Yoo Chun piped in.
“Kiss!!” Chang Min yelled and everyone started chanting. Jae Joong turned me around and dipped me low, like in the movies, and he kissed me.
“I really have no idea what you kids are thinking these days. So all I have to say is treat each other well. We don’t need a repeat of your last scandal, Sierra,” hyung sighed.
“I’ll take good care of her,” Jae Joong answered for me. “She’ll never get hurt again.”
That night, all of us partied hard as we were promised the day off tomorrow. I danced with Jae Joong the whole night, allowing Yun Ho and Han Kyung to cut in once or twice. At one point, I even had a mini dance battle with Yun Ho. Towards the end of the party; they started playing some slow songs. Half the people had already left and those left on the dance floor were most couples. Jae Joong and I were dancing slowly with our arms wrapped around each other, and my head rested on his shoulder. Lee Min Woo’s ‘Last First Kiss’ was playing and as we danced, Jae Joong sang the chorus softly in my ear.
“I’m so in love with you, ije nan neowa duliseo. You'll always be my boo chigum i sungan. Saranghandago yeongweonhi malhago shipeo haengbukhan shigandeul keureon sunganijanni.”
Translation: I'm so in love with you, so you and I together. You'll always be my boo, now at this moment (I just hug you). I want to tell you forever that I love you in the happy moments like we're having right now
I felt like the luckiest girl alive that night and I was practically floating on air. I lay in my bed that night thinking of all the things which had happened at the party and the things Jae Joong had said to me tonight.
“Sierra-ya,” he said when we were sitting in his car outside my apartment block.
“Wae?” I said as I stroked the back of his hand.
“When we come back from New York, do you want to meet my family?”
I was stunned when he said it. Were we going a little too fast? We’re not getting married any time soon. Why does he want to introduce me to his family?
“Isn’t it a little too soon?” I asked him.
“I think its perfect timing. I want my family to meet the girl of my dreams.”
“Isn’t meeting the parents for a girl you want to marry?” I asked.
“Would you marry me if I asked you?” he said.
He must be drunk. The Jae Joong I know would never think of getting married at 22.
“You’re acting crazy, you know? Stop scaring me.”
“I’m serious. Let’s get engaged. I know we can’t get married now. Maybe we can have a long engagement. Then when our careers have stabilized and quieted down, we can get married.”
“Jae Joong, what… why are you having thoughts like that? If this is just to make sure we stay together, there’s no need for it. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I just want you to be truly mine.”
“I’m yours,” I said and I kissed him. “Never forget that.”
To be honest, I was terrified of the thought of meeting his family. He has 8 sisters!!! That is scary. And he’s the only son; the pride and joy of his family. What if they don’t think I’m suitable for him? And I’m 2 years older. I don’t think they’d dig that. Thankfully Jae Joong had listened to me and understood that I wasn’t prepared.
“This is for you,” he said as he handed me a box.
“What’s this?” I said as I held the box in my hand and studied it. It was a Tiffany box; blue with a white satin ribbon.
“I’d meant it for the question I had earlier. But it’s all the same, I just want you to have something to wear so that you’ll always think of me.”
I opened the box and it was a fine platinum necklace, with a beautiful pendant. The diamonds were arranged on a frame of platinum rings according to the constellation, Cassiopeia, and right in the middle, there was an extra diamond.
“It’s beautiful,” I breathed. “But I thought Cassiopeia had only 5 stars.”
“The 6th represents you.”
“Isn’t it a little odd?”
“It means that you have a special place amidst all my fans. You’ve always supported me like you were my number one fan.”
“It must be really expensive. I can’t accept a gift like this,” I said as I started to close the box.
“I had it custom made for you, Sierra. Please wear it… to show that you love me.” He took the box from my hands and unhooked the necklace, and then he put it around my neck and fastened the clasp.
“Komawo,” I said as I touched the pendant which now rested just below my collarbone.
“I should thank you instead,” he said as he stroked my cheek with one hand.
“For what?” I asked.
“For loving me…”
The next day, I was alone at our dance rehearsal. Skye and Shoei had gone for a photo shoot for a men’s clothing line they were going to represent. I turn on the stereo and slowly warmed up to ‘Maybe I Love You’ by Girlfriends.
“Enough warming up,” Lex oppa said 1 minute into the song. “Let’s start with the routine.” I started to dance as Lex oppa watched.
“Straighten that leg,” he said from where he was standing. I put my leg down and tried the steps again. “Sierra, you’re not putting enough energy in your movements. You’re not listening to the music. Do it again.”
It’s pretty frustrating to train with Lex oppa, alone. When there were three people, there would be plenty of other faults for him to shout at. But since it was only me today, he had his full attention on me. I turned and landed, bending my knees low, then lunged forward. I’d underestimated the momentum from my turn and as I lunged forward, my left leg, which was behind, slipped, and I fell on my knee.
“Ouch!” I winced.
“You rushed into that turn,” Lex oppa said, not blinking an eye. He sure was a slave driver today.
“Can I take a break, oppa?” I asked.
“5 minutes,” he conceded and walked out of the room. Talk about PMS; did he forget to take his pills today?
As I stood up, I saw a figure at the door.
“Onni,” Hae Rin called out to me as she hobbled over. She was still walking with the aid of crutches.