He ran towards me, braking just before he crashed into me, and gave me a quick kiss on the lips.
“See you later,” he said and the guys were shouting for him to hurry up as he turned and ran back into the elevator.
I closed the door and went back to my cereal. As I was washing my bowl, Shoei popped his head into the kitchen.
“Nuna, wanna go somewhere for brunch?” he asked.
“Brunch? I just had breakfast.”
“Aww… come on. I know you still have a little room in there,” he smiled.
“Well, it depends. What is it we’re eating?”
“Well, will hash browns be able to tempt you?”
“I’ll get dressed,” I said as I walked towards my room. I popped my head out again as soon as I walked in, “We’re going to that place where they have those heavenly hash browns, right?”
“Yes,” he laughed. “Ppalli!”
Half an hour later, we were sitting in this little café we frequented. They had delicious hot chocolate, which we only drank on really special occasions in case it killed our voices for the next few days, and they served the best hash brows, potato wedges and fries I’d ever eaten, after McDonald’s of course. I still think McDonald’s served the best hash browns. The café had a very homey and warm décor. Couches and tables high enough, instead of coffee tables, so that we didn’t have to hunch over our food. The place was lit with dim lights with a few eccentric looking lamps placed around the café. The color tones for the furniture were mostly earthy tones like brown or grey and since Christmas was coming, the place was beautifully decorated with green, red, gold and white. A modest Christmas tree sat near the bar where the drinks were prepared.
“Have you bought your Christmas presents?” I asked Shoei.
“Do I look like I have the time?” he laughed as he sipped his juice.
“I bought mine,” Skye said nonchalantly as he chewed his pancakes.
“So that’s why you were sneaking out so often during our recording sessions,” Shoei said. “Do you know that you nearly drove hyung mad when you kept doing that?”
“He’ll get over it,” Skye said as he continued to eat.
“Yea, right,” Shoei said as he leaned back and stretched leisurely.
We come to this café often because it offered some seclusion. Had we gone to some really popular hangout, we’d have been mobbed, and this happened the last time we went to McDonald’s. Group after group of fans kept coming up to take pictures and get something signed. Since then, the only McDonald’s we get to eat was a takeaway that the PA would run out and get for us.
“What are you gonna do later?” I asked Shoei.
“Dunno… play some computer games, sleep. What are you doing?”
“Jun Su asked me to join them for soccer.”
“What?” Skye exclaimed and stopped eating. “He asked you to join them for soccer?”
“Yea… what’s wrong with that?”
“He didn’t ask me,” Skye sulked.
“They probably find you too annoying, that’s why,” I laughed.
“I wanna go with you!” Skye said.
“Right, come with me,” I said as I ate another forkful of hash brown.
“Huh? Then I’m gonna be home alone?” Shoei asked.
“Hmm… should I come along then? Who are they playing with?”
“I dunno. The usual gang I suppose; Hee Chul, Hyuk Jae and the others.”
“On second thought, I’ll just stay at home and get some beauty sleep,” Shoei smiled.
“Suit yourself,” I said.
We left the place around 2pm and as we walked into the apartment grounds, Yoo Chun’s blue VW Beetle turned in at the gates and zoomed past to stop in front of our block. Jae Joong got out of the car and I noticed something different about him. They’d trimmed his hair again. He waved at Yoo Chun and closed the door, then he turned around and took off his sunglasses as Yoo Chun drove off.
“Jae Joong,” I laughed as I walked up to him. “They cut your hair?”
“Yes,” he sulked. “I thought they’d let me keep it long this time.”
“I like it at this length,” I said as I touched his hair. It was as short as it had been in the pictures they’d taken for their 3rd album. I preferred it this way because it made him look tough and masculine.
“You like it whenever the management does something weird to me,” he said as he stuck out his tongue.
“You look fine,” I said. “You look great, as always,” I said as I tiptoed and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Aaahhh! Andoe!!!” Skye screamed from behind me.
“Waegurae?” Jae Joong said as he looked up at Skye.
“Think about me, my innocence… don’t do that in front of me,” Skye said in a dramatic voice.
“Right… Don’t think I’ve not heard all those stories of you being a flirt during your training days,” Jae Joong laughed.
“Who told you that?” Skye exclaimed.
“I have my sources,” Jae Joong smiled.
“Hmmph!” Skye pouted as he started to walk into the building.
“Skye,” I called after him. “Didn’t you want to join us for soccer?” He stopped as soon as he heard the word ‘soccer’ and turned around.
“I get to come?” he asked.
“Don’t you want to?” I asked him in return.
“Of course,” he smiled.
“Let’s go,” Jae Joong said as he walked towards his car which was parked near our apartment block.
We drove to a park about 20 minutes away and the guys were already on the field, kicking the ball around. Chang Min was nowhere to be seen, so my guess was that he was out with Kristi.
“Hyung!” Jun Su yelled when he saw us approaching. He looked like he always did when playing soccer; ecstatic.
We walked up to them and there was a short interval of hellos before we started to pick our teams. Jun Su and Hyuk Jae were the captains and they started to pick the members they wanted.
“Jae Joong,” Jun Su called out.
“Sierra,” Hyuk Jae pointed at me. All at once, Jae Joong and I realized that there was a conspiracy.
“Yah!” I protested. “You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?” The guys were laughing as if they’d been planning this all along, before we’d arrived at the field.
“Aniyo,” Hyuk Jae said as he tried to keep a straight face.
“Can’t you guys not be on the same team for once?” Jun Su asked.
“It’s okay,” Jae Joong smiled. “But I want to guard her,” he added.
“No problem with me,” Hyuk Jae smiled. He must think that Jae Joong would be gentle with me and give our team an advantage. But from the way Jae Joong smiled, I knew he had no intention of doing so.
Ee Teuk, Hee Chul, Han Kyung, Shin Dong, Yoo Chun, Kyu Hyun, Ki Bum and I were on Hyuk Jae’s team. On Jun Su’s team was Jae Joong, Yun Ho, Dong Hae, Si Won, Ryeo Wook, Kang In, Skye and Sung Min.
“I’m telling you, I’ve not played in years,” I told Hyuk Jae as we walked out across the field to take our positions. We were playing street soccer, where all the usual rules were eliminated and they could tackle whoever, however they wanted. There was no assigned striker or defender, but the goal keepers were decided. On our side was Shin Dong and on the other was Sung Min.
“It doesn’t matter. All we need you to do is to get the ball and pass the ball,” Hyuk Jae laughed as he put his hands on either sides my shoulders and steered me to stand on the right side of the field where Jae Joong stood waiting, with his hands on his hips.
“You’re gonna regret this,” I laughed.
“Yah! Jae Joong, don’t take advantage of her, okay?” Hyuk Jae said to Jae Joong.
“Who’s taking advantage of whom?” Jae Joong yelled at Hyuk Jae as he was walking off.
“Ya…” I said as I elbowed Jae Joong lightly. He was standing behind me with his arms loosely around my waist. “What are you planning to do?”
“You’ll see,” he smiled.
It was a windy day and the sun shone weakly since it was winter time. We were all dressed in t-shirts and had our scarves on. But we’d discarded our jackets since they were too bulky to run around in.
They tossed a coin and our team got the ball. As soon as Hyuk Jae kicked off the ball, we all rushed forward to intercept it. Hee Chul managed to get the ball and he dribbled it up the field for a short distance, before passing it to Yoo Chun, when he was tackled by Yun Ho. Yoo Chun rushed forward with the ball and kicked it to Han Kyung who was waiting near the goal post. Just as Han Kyung moved forward to intercept the ball, Jun Su zipped past and stole it. Our team groaned as we ran after Jun Su. Jun Su passed the ball to Jae Joong and I ran a little harder so that I can catch up with him. Once I did, I did my best to steal the ball away from him as I clung to his shirt.
“Yah!” he laughed. “You can’t do that. Let me go!”
“I don’t care!” I laughed as I continued to try and steal the ball away.
I finally succeeded by kicking the ball away from the side but because I wasn’t aiming, the ball went to Si Won, who laughed like a madman as he dribbled the ball towards the goal post.
I gave up after that and squat at the spot I’d kicked the ball away from Jae Joong as I watched the boys fight it out among themselves. After a few minutes of tussling, Dong Hae managed to kick the ball into the goal post, past Shin Dong. Jun Su’s team cheered like crazy as they ran around the field and they hugged each other as if they’d just won the World Cup.
We’re back into our starting positions for the 7th time. So far, the score is 4:2; 4 goals for Jun Su’s team and 2 for ours.
“Come on Sierra!” Hyuk Jae called out to me when Jae Joong scored a goal. “Guard your man.”
Hyuk Jae passed the ball to Ki Bum, and then Ki Bum passed it to me. I moved forward, dribbling as fast as I can. I wasn’t really good at dribbling, so I had to move fast or someone would steal the ball from me. Sure enough, in a split second, Jae Joong appeared beside me. I stopped and held the ball with my feet, trying to make sure he couldn’t get it while I searched for someone to pass it to. Then, he lunged forward and hugged me, dragging me away from the ball.
“Yah!” I yelled as I tried to free myself. Kang In rushed forward and took the ball away before anyone else could react.
“That’s a foul!” Han Kyung yelled.
“This is street soccer, baby,” Skye laughed as he ran past.
Jae Joong and I continued to struggle until we both fell onto the ground. I pushed Jae Joong off and sat up on the grass. I was already breathless to begin with and Jae Joong’s tackle had knocked the rest of the breath I had out of me. He sat up beside me and we watched the rest of the guys continue.
“Michoso!” I said as I smacked his arm.
“Hey… when else do I get an excuse to jump on you like that,” he smiled.
“As if you don’t do that often enough,” I said and he just smiled his knowing smile at me.
The game ended with Jun Su’s team winning, as expected. We were all sweaty and grimy by the end of the game and then, someone started a water fight with the bottles of mineral water they were drinking from.
“Aaa…” Skye yelled as he ran past and drenched Dong Hae and Ryeo Wook with his water. The both of them chased after him and when they caught up with him, Dong Hae pinned him down while Ryeo Wook emptied a whole bottle of water all over him. I sneaked behind Jun Su, poured my bottle of water on his head and ran away.
“Yah! Sierra!” Jun Su yelled as he turned around to chase me. I quickly hid behind Jae Joong and Jun Su stopped running when he faced Jae Joong. “Hyung, hand her over.”
“Andoe!!” I yelled. Jae Joong held up his hands, gesturing that he didn’t know what to do and he wasn’t going to get involved. Jun Su tried to get behind Jae Joong and as he moved, I dragged Jae Joong by his shirt and turned him around so that Jun Su was faced with Jae Joong again.
“Yaah!!” Jun Su yelled in frustration as we kept going around in circles. Suddenly, when he least expected it, Hyuk Jae came up from behind him and splashed him. This successfully distracted him from me and he ran off to chase Hyuk Jae. When Hyuk Jae splashed Jun Su, some of the water hit Jae Joong on his face. I pointed at Jae Joong and laughed.
“Haha… you got drenched.”
“You think this is funny?” he said as he smiled menacingly.
“Ah… no, not really. It’s very funny,” I said as I ran off.
“Come here!” he yelled as he started chasing me with his bottle of water.
By the time we were ready to leave, we were wet, sweaty and grimy. Some of them had grass stuck in their shirts and hair. We piled into the cars and drove some distance to a stall we frequented. We had to sit in 2 groups since the tables there weren’t that big. The guys were really boisterous on that day; singing and dancing on the chairs. It must be because this would be the last break we were all going to have until mid-January. For most of us, it wasn’t just the awards season but also the time when we were doing intensive recording for our upcoming albums. It was a good thing there weren’t many customers around or those of us who were sober and sane would not be able to live it down.
Somewhere in the middle of the festivities, Skye jumped onto his chair and started dancing, Sung Min followed. The rest of them cheered and continued singing as they both did and then Skye started to get really out of hand, jumping and gyrating to their singing. Before anyone could react, he slipped and fell to the ground.