Jae Joong dragged me all the way to the car park, until we reached his car. He pinned me against the card with his body as he dug his back pockets for his keys.
“Jae Joong,” I said. “Let me go…”
He ignored me. When he found his keys, he opened the door and shoved me in. I was tempted to make a run for it while he was getting in, but decided not to. He seemed really upset and I didn’t want to drive him on. He slammed hard on the brakes as he reversed and the car jerked violently. My head almost hit the windscreen as I was thrown forward because I hadn’t put on my seatbelt.
“Jae Joong! Are you trying to kill me?” I yelled at him.
“What difference does it make since you’re trying to kill yourself?” he yelled back at me.
“Who said that I was trying to kill myself?”
“If you keep this up, it’s close enough to committing suicide!”
“Why are you overreacting? I just want to get back on track with my stamina!”
“You don’t have to do it this way? Can’t you take a step at a time? Why do you always rush into things?”
I kept quiet. Why did I always rush into things? I remember before the tour, I’d strained a ligament trying to perfect a routine. I was ordered to rest for a week, but I went for rehearsals anyway and ended up worsening the condition to a minor tear of the ligament. When Jae Joong found out, he was furious.
“Why didn’t you listen to the doctor?” he asked me at the hospital, his voice emotionless.
“I thought it was just a small strain. I didn’t know it would get this bad.”
“We have doctors for a reason; to ensure that we have a long career. Why do you refuse to listen to those who give advice for the benefit of your career?” he continued, and he was staring hard at me, like I was the most stupid person in the whole world.
“I really thought it was nothing,” I said, almost in tears. Thankfully, he sensed that I was upset and hugged me; he was standing by the bed I was sitting on, and I lay my head against his chest as a few tears slid down my face.
“I can’t always be there to stop you, Sierra,” he sighed. “I know that you want to succeed, but you have to set your limits.”
“I know,” I said. “I never meant to push myself over the edge. I just wanted to try harder.”
“You’re trying too hard,” he said as he stroked my hair.
I looked at him now. His face was still stern as he stared straight ahead. I reached over and put my hand over his hand which was gripping the steering wheel tightly.
“Mian,” I said softly. He still didn’t look at me. “Mianhae,” I repeated. His grip started to relax, and I took the opportunity to take his hand.
“Sierra,” he said and paused for awhile. “Do you think we can ever survive a lifetime together?”
“Why do you say that?”
“I hurt when you’re hurting, my heart aches when you cry. I wonder if I can survive feeling like that for the rest of my life.”
“What about the times when we’re happy?” I asked him.
“I know… whenever we have happy times, I forget all the pain. But when the pain comes, it consumes my thoughts.”
“And you think I don’t feel the same?”
“Mian…” he sighed.
“Jae Joong… we knew from the beginning that our relationship wasn’t going to be all rainbows and butterflies. You knew that even before we started.”
“Mian… I’m not giving up on us. I just worry about the future.”
“Then, am I what you want? You always said you wanted to fall in love at first sight. Did that happen with me, then? Or is it because that didn’t happen, you regret us?”
“I did. I didn’t acknowledge it then, but I loved you the first time I saw you,” he said as he squeezed my hand.
“Then is it because you were not my first choice?”
“That was my own fault. If I had made a move, I would have been.”
“But you’re my choice now, Jae Joong. Don’t forget that.”
He turned to look at me for a moment and smiled.
“I won’t,” he said.
The next morning, Jae Joong was waiting for me downstairs at 7am. He was going to join me for two hours in the gym before our rehearsals started.
“You don’t have to come with me,” I told him the night before.
“I want to,” he said, “and besides, I’m the best person to guide you.”
“What makes you think you’re the best?” I teased.
“Check me out…” he said as he flexed his arm.
“Drive!” I laughed and smacked his arm.
As soon as we reached the gym, I headed for the treadmills to warm up. I felt Jae Joong’s presence as he joined me on the treadmill beside me. I didn’t look at him as I was trying to focus on running, since it felt rather torturous after 2 weeks of not exercising, and I had to run for at least 30 minutes. I’d plugged in my MP3 player and turned to volume up. In the middle of the 2nd song, I realized that Jae Joong was trying to get my attention. I turned to look at him, and fell over at the shock of seeing him. He was wearing his Hamtaro pajamas. As I fell over, I slid off the treadmill, onto the floor. He immediately jumped off after me.
“Sierra, kwaench’ana?” he checked my legs for injuries. Even though I was in pain, I couldn’t help but laugh. “Stop laughing,” he said in an urgent tone. “Does it hurt?”
I calmed myself down and answered him, “Probably just a bruise,” I said. He helped me up and dusted off my pants for me.
“Are you sure you’re fine?” he asked.
“I’m fine. Seeing you in this outfit makes everything fine,” I laughed.
“It was a stupid idea,” he said.
“No, I love it,” I smiled as I reached out to straighten the hood over his head. “You look so cute!”
He smiled back at me, then made a face. I laughed again and this time, he laughed with me.
“I’d better get out of this outfit before I cause anymore casualties,” he said.
“Right, you’d better,” and I spanked his butt playfully as he turned to walk away.
We headed to the studio at about 10:30am for our rehearsal. They were all assembled and waiting as we entered the room.
“Are we late?” I asked as I put down my bag.
“Yes,” Yoo Chun said. “And we’re gonna tell Sang Min hyung that you guys were late because you went on a date.”
“I was at the gym!” I exclaimed.
“You were?” Chang Min said.
“But hyung doesn’t know that,” Yoo Chun teased.
“Stop teasing her,” Jae Joong said.
Micky put on a shocked expression and said, “Hyung, are you choosing Sierra over us? How could you?”
“You’re being ridiculous,” Jae Joong laughed. “Stop acting like a girl.”
Yoo Chun pouted and stomped his foot, and all of us laughed at his antics.
“Is everyone warmed up?” Sang Min oppa said as he walked into the dance studio.
“Ne,” we answered in unison.
Sometimes, it feels like as if we were in a Physical Education class in high school.
We started with the routine for ‘Hold On’. Then TVXQ rested while Skye, Shoei and I did our routines for our 2 solo songs. Since ‘Ghosts’ was our best selling single, we were going to perform it without Jun Jin. Yoo Chun was going to rap in Jun Jin’s place for the concert in NYC. The other song we were performing was ‘Desperate’, since most of the other songs were slow songs. After running through our routines, TVXQ rehearsed theirs while we watched. I still felt inferior when I watched them dance. Their routines were usually much more complicated than ours.
“Look at them,” I whispered to Skye. “They’re so good. Will we ever achieve that level of skill?”
“If we can dance the same routine as them for ‘Hold On’, we’re as good,” Skye said.
I never thought of it that way. But what was our one routine compared to 10 of theirs? It would probably take us another year or two before we catch up.
While everyone took their break, Jae Joong and I were asked to rehearse our duet. We played the version of ‘Insa’ we’d recorded yesterday and rehearsed to it as we lip synched. There wasn’t any dancing involved, but we had to rehearse the entrance and movement for throughout the song.
Rehearsal ended late, at 9pm and we went for dinner together at a nearby stall.
“Ajumma! One more manduguk!” Chang Min shouted.
“Slow down, Chang Min,” Yun Ho said. “Why are you so hungry tonight?”
“Hyung! We danced the whole day. I need my energy for tomorrow.”
“Let him eat,” Jae Joong laughed. “He doesn’t gain any weight anyway.”
“Chang Min,” I said. “How do you maintain your weight when you eat so much?” I asked him.
“He just keeps growing,” Jun Su laughed. “Upwards, that is. He never grows sideways.”
“Yea, so it’s like he stretched out the fats he gained,” Skye added and we all laughed hysterically.
“You guys talk about me like I’m some weird being,” Chang Min pouted. “I’m just a growing boy. What’s the big fascination about?”
“Alright, don’t get upset,” Yoo Chun patted his back. “We’re just envious of how you’re able keep the weight off.”
We finished with dinner and went out separate ways; Jun Su, Chang Min and Yoo Chun in Yun Ho’s car, Skye, Shoei and I in Jae Joong’s.
“Tired?” Jae Joong asked me as we drove home. Skye and Shoei were leaning on each other in the back, asleep.
“Just sleepy,” I said as I yawned.
“Go to bed as soon as you’ve showered. Araji?” he said.
“Araso…” I yawned again.
“Don’t go on the Internet. I know how you love checking your mails till late, but you need to rest early tonight.”
“Araso…” I said as I reached over to gently pinch his cheek.
After showering, I collapsed on the bed and picked up my phone to call Jae Joong.
“Do you still want to accompany me to the gym tomorrow?” I asked him.
“Of course. You’d be bored there without me.”
“Yes, I will.” I smiled to myself, remembering his outfit from this morning. Sometimes I feel so blessed that I have his love. He always tried to make me smile.
“Naeil payo,” he said.
“Naeil payo,” I replied. “Popo!” I said and he gave me a loud kiss through the phone.
“What about mine?” he said, and I returned it.
We’re at Incheon International Airport, waiting for our managers to check in our luggage. We sat on the seats nearby as the managers sorted everything out. We were all dressed casually in jeans, t-shirts and caps. Hee Chul and Han Kyung came to see us off.
“Knock ‘em dead!” Hee Chul said as he gave Yun Ho one of those manly hugs.
“How I wish I could come with you guys,” Han Kyung sighed.
I was really lucky to be able to go to NYC. Back in Malaysia, there would have been a very long wait in order to get a visa. And the process of obtaining a visa sometimes included an interview. Because we were celebrities in Korea, it made it much easier to get the visa from the American embassy in Korea.
“You’ll get your chance soon enough,” I smiled and patted Han Kyung on the arm.
We boarded the plane and I noticed that almost the entire plane was filled with our crew. Contrary to what people think, we rode in economy class with the dancers and crew. As the plane took off, I looked out of the window at the landscape as it slowly became miniature. In little more than 48 hours, we’ll be performing at Madison Square Garden. NYC, here we come!