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.
“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.
“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.