I felt a dull ache in my abdomen, and the pain increased gradually. I tried to move and I felt like I was restrained. What was this thing covering my mouth? I lifted my hand up to touch it. A mask? I opened my eyes and was greeted by the sight of an unfamiliar room. A faint light shone in from the window and illuminated the room. Where was I? I turned to my left and saw Jae Joong sleeping in a chair, with his face down on the side of the bed I lay on. I looked at my hand. An IV needle was stuck to it. Thank god I wasn’t awake when they hooked me up. I’ve always been terrified when I saw the huge needle. Why was I in a hospital? Jae Joong stirred and he looked up at me with his eyes half-closed.
“You’re awake,” he said as he rubbed his eyes. “Are you okay? Do you still hurt?”
“I can feel this horrible ache in my stomach,” I said.
“Do you want some water?” he asked me, and I nodded. He got up to pour some water into a glass. Then he removed the oxygen mask for me and he helped me up so that I could sip from the glass he held in his hand. “I’m going to call for the nurse,” he said as he lay me back down on the bed.
“Okay,” I said and I closed my eyes as I felt the pain come again.
The nurse came in with Jae Joong a minute later and she injected something into my IV drip.
“This will help ease the pain,” she said.
“Kamsahamnida,” Jae Joong said to her as she walked out. He closed the door after she left and came back to sit beside me.
“Why don’t you go home?” I said as I reached out to touch his cheek.
“I’ll stay here with you,” he said as he brought my hand to his mouth to kiss it.
“What happened?” I asked him.
“You collapsed while talking to Bi,” he said.
“Yea… I remember him being the last thing I saw,” I said.
“The doctor said that you had internal bleeding, and that you didn’t feel it because you’ve been taking painkillers,” he continued.
“Internal bleeding?” I said as my eyes widen. This was the first time I’ve heard of such a condition.
“I was kinda wondering why your gastric hadn’t acted up lately. You worked late and you worked long hours without rest and I know you don’t eat regularly.”
“Now that you say it, it feels so scary. To think those painkillers were able to numb all my pain.”
“Another few days, it would’ve been fatal,” he said as his grip tightened around my hands.
I just kept quiet as I looked at his grim expression. A few more days of not knowing, and I would’ve ceased to exist. Life was scarily fragile.
“So how long do I need to stay here,” I asked.
“Until you’re healed of course,” he replied.
“What about all the award shows coming up? All those scheduled recording sessions?”
“Now’s not the time to worry about it.”
“The management won’t be happy.”
“It’s either they continue to work you hard and lose you, or they wait 2 weeks and have you back on board.”
I sighed and turned my head so that I looked straight at the ceiling. Why did I always get myself in such situations? Was this payment required from me for achieving my dream? I once asked the singing coach. Since a singer needs the strength of her stomach to help her sing, does it matter if I had gastric. She’d said that it didn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter when it came naturally. My condition hasn’t affected my ability to sing, but it now affected my ability to live.
“You’ll get better soon,” Jae Joong said as he pushed my hair away from my face. The pain had gone away, and I was feeling sleepy again. There must’ve been a sedative in that shot the nurse gave me.
“I think I’ll go back to sleep,” I said. “You should go home and get some rest.”
“I’ll leave when Shoei comes in the morning,” he said. “You rest now, araji?”
“Araso,” I smiled. “Jae Joong-ah,” I said as I looked at him, studying his face.
“Saranghae,” I whispered.
“Na tto saranghae,” he smiled. “More than you can imagine,” he added.
The next morning, I was awaken by a faint chatter of voices. I opened my eyes slowly to see Shoei and Shi Kyung hyung sitting on the sofa near the foot of my bed, talking.
“Finally,” hyung said as he walked up to me. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Fine, I guess,” I smiled. “Until the sedatives wear off.”
“Then we’ll need to get you more,” he smiled.
“Hyung,” I said.
“Am I really going to have to stay here for 2 weeks?”
“That’s the doctor’s orders,” he said. “And the management has given their approval.”
“What about the awards, the album?”
“Skye and Shoei can attend them without you, and the album can wait. Right now, you need to get better. You only have 2 weeks, so make the most of it.”
“Yea,” Shoei added. “You’re so lucky to get a break.”
“Right… so lucky,” I laughed. “Where’s Skye?”
“I dunno… he was here awhile ago,” Shoei said. “He must’ve gone to the cafeteria.”
“I’m leaving,” hyung said as he got up. “I have lots of paperwork waiting for me at the office, and I need to reschedule our appointments.”
“Okay,” Shoei said.
“Take care, hyung,” I said.
“You take care of yourself,” he said, pretending to sound stern. “You’re the source of all my extra work now.”
“Mianhae,” I smiled. “I know you love me still.”
“Yes, yes… what can I do? You three are the source of my income,” he laughed. “I’m going,” he said as he walked out.
“Bye,” Shoei and I said in unison.
Skye finally came back, about an hour later.
“Where did you go?” Shoei asked him.
“To make a call,” he answered and he started to rustle through the fruit basket someone had given me.
“If you’re going to eat that, you eat it outside,” I said when he produced an orange from the basket. I didn’t eat oranges and I couldn’t stand the smell of oranges. They made me feel like puking. Skye made a face at me and put the orange back in the basket.
“You were calling Hae Rin?” Shoei asked.
“Yea,” he replied as he picked up the remote and turned on the TV.
“Isn’t it a little expensive to call her like that?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “She’s coming back early next week.”
“I thought she wasn’t due to come back for another 4 months?” Shoei said.
“I guess the management changed their mind, and all the better for me,” he smiled.
I could see that he was really happy that Hae Rin was coming back. But I couldn’t help feeling that something ominous would be happening with her return.
“Well, you’re too busy to have any time to actually date her anyway,” Shoei commented.
“I’ll make the time,” Skye said.
“Tell that to hyung,” Shoei laughed.
“I’ll find a way,” Skye insisted.
“Just make sure you don’t get in trouble,” I reminded Skye.
“Yes, omoni,” he sighed as he turned his attention to the entertainment news on ArirangTV. They were recapping last night’s awards.
“2 year old R&B group S-Cube was the surprise of yesterday night, taking home the Digital Popularity and Best Lyrics awards.”
Videos of us receiving the Digital Popularity award flashed onto the screen.
“S-Cube, however, was not available to receive their award for Best Lyrics and was represented by Xiah Jun Su from TVXQ. We have received reports that their only female member, Sierra, was rushed to the hospital after their live performance. At this moment, we are still unable to confirm her condition.”
“Wow,” I exclaimed softly. “How did they get a whiff of the whole thing from yesterday?”
“Someone backstage must’ve reported it,” Shoei said.
“And the management hasn’t released any comments on this?” I asked.
“Nope,” Skye said. “They wanted to hear the doctor’s full diagnosis before they proceeded. It’s still early. The news will be out by noon I guess.”
“We should go now,” Shoei said as he got up. “We have rehearsals.”
“Can’t I stay here?” Skye whined. “I wanna stay to accompany nuna.”
“You mean to use me as an excuse to get out of rehearsals?” I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Can’t you play along for once?” he pouted.
“Go on,” I said. “Go for rehearsals. I’ll be fine. Come see me later,” I smiled.
“Come on,” Shoei said as he dragged Skye off the chair and out of the room with him. “Bye, nuna!” he said as they walked out.
I turned on the television and the news now was focused on TVXQ. They’d won last night’s Daesang, Best Group, Best Dance and the list went on. I think the awards they’d won last night totaled up to about 6 awards. I smiled when Jae Joong’s face came onto the screen. As usual, Yoo Chun had tears streaming down his face. They hugged each other and on their faces were expressions of joy.
When Jae Joong gave his speech, he made a sign with his fingers, discreetly. I smiled when I realized he’d done it; it was our secret sign. The management had specifically informed us that we were not allowed to thank our girlfriends or boyfriends during our speeches, so Jae Joong and I came up with a secret sign to show that we were thanking each other. I’d done it myself while accepting the Digital Popularity award, and he’d smiled at me when he saw it.
I turned off the television and decided to take a nap. Oddly, the pain had pretty much gone away since I woke up this morning. Had I really gotten better? Or it’s just that it hasn’t acted up yet. I decide not to care and went to sleep.
“Sierra,” I heard someone call as he touched my hand. I opened my eyes wearily to see Yun Ho standing beside me.
“Yun Ho,” I said in a puzzled tone. “What are you doing here?”
“I just dropped by to see you,” he smiled.
“Yes. Do I need to be chaperoned when I visit you?”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” I said. “Where are the rest?”
“They’re on their way. I left a little earlier from our rehearsals,” he said as he sat down.
“Ch’uk’ahamnida,” I said.
“For what?” he asked.
“The 6 awards you guys swept up last night.”
“Oh…,” he said. “All in a day’s work,” he laughed.
“You’re so modest,” I smiled.
“I have to be a little more confident than most. And so do you. We’re leaders,” he said.
“Yea, some kind of leader I turned out to be; always ending up in the hospital.”
“You can’t control your body all the time.”
“But just need to take better care of yourself,” he said as he took my hand. I gently pulled my hand away. I felt uncomfortable when he touched me like that. “Sorry,” he mumbled when he realized what he’d done.
“It’s alright. Old habits die hard,” I smiled.
He smiled back at me, and for a moment, I relived the sense of familiarity I felt around him.
“Hyung!” Chang Min yelled as he bounced into the room and the rest of TVXQ followed in behind him, but Jae Joong was nowhere to be seen.
“Where’s Jae Joong?” I asked them and they looked at me with a nervous expression, or at least I deciphered it to be a nervous expression.