“Oh! Hae Rin,” Jae Joong exclaimed as Hae Rin approached us.
“Oppa!” she smiled brightly. “Can you give me a ride home?”
“I thought you were recording late tonight?” I asked her, since that was what Skye had told me earlier.
“The producer had an emergency, so they called it a night,” she said.
“Have you had dinner?” Jae Joong asked her.
“I had a snack earlier,” she said.
Jae Joong turned to look at me, sort of asking me if I was okay with her joining us. I sighed and turned to Hae Rin, “Do you want to join us?” I said.
“It’s okay. I don’t want to be a third wheel,” she said shyly.
“It’s fine. We’ll drop you off after dinner,” I said.
“Erm… okay then,” she said.
All this time, I was thinking in my head ‘Quit pretending to be embarrassed. I know you planned this.’ I wanted to strangle Hae Rin. Maybe it’s time I told Jae Joong about Hae Rin.
Since Hae Rin was tagging along, there wasn’t much point to go somewhere nice. We ended up at our usual haunt, the ramyun shop. There, we met Kang In and Eun Hyuk.
“Sierra!” they waved when they saw us walk in.
“Hey, raccoon,” I said, and Kang In pouted.
“Ignore him,” Eun Hyuk said as we sat down to join them.
“Hae Rin,” Kang In said. “You’re here too? Where’s Skye?”
“He left before I could catch him,” she said.
“Liar,” I said, under my breath. I don’t know why, but whenever Hae Rin is around, I get annoyed really easily.
“Did you say something?” Jae Joong said as he leaned towards me.
“No,” I replied sulkily. “I was just sighing.”
“What’s with the sighing?” he said as he put his arm around me.
As he did, I could see the expression in Hae Rin’s eyes. They were starting to look pretty green. I leaned my head to the right, where his hand was hanging on my shoulder, and I kissed it.
“I’m fine,” I said, and I smiled back at him.
“Ya…” Kang In said as he covered his eyes. “Can you people not do that in front of me?”
“Why not? You want some too? Eun Hyuk, give it to him,” Jae Joong laughed.
Eun Hyuk turned to Kang In and wriggled his eye brows at him.
“You want some of this?” he said in a deep voice, and we all cracked up as Kang In glared at Eun Hyuk with a look of disgust.
“Eugghh!!” Kang In said. “Stay away from me.”
“You’re so gorgeous,” Eun Hyuk drawled as he reached out his hand to try and touch Kang In’s face.
“Shiro!!!” Kang In wailed, and we laughed even harder.
After dinner, Kang In did something that made me want to hug him until his guts spilled out. He offered to send Hae Rin home.
“Hae Rin,” he said. “I’ll send you home. We shouldn’t intrude on the power couple of Korea,” he snickered.
“What power couple?” I said and I stuck out my tongue.
“Yong-ung Jae Joong of TVXQ and Sierra of S-Cube,” Eun Hyuk said. “Are you both not the power couple? Name me another couple that’s as publicized as you.”
“Let’s go,” Jae Joong laughed as he tugged me away from them. “Thanks guys.”
“No problem,” Kang In replied and they walked the other way with a very reluctant Hae Rin.
I kept looking up at Jae Joong as we walked to his car. I wondered if I hadn’t tried to make things up with him, would he have come to me instead. He looked normal now, his usual self; the way he walked, the expression on his face, the way he put his arm around me.
“Waegeurae?” when he caught me looking at him.
“Nothing,” I smiled, and I leaned my head on his shoulder as we walked on.
“Still thinking about our argument?” he asked me.
“Yea,” I replied. He sighed, and we walked on in silence.
“How long do you need?” he asked me.
“What do you mean?”
“Give me a time frame. So that I can handle it better. When would you be comfortable to meet my family?”
“I really don’t know, Jae Joong,” I said. “We’re both at the peak of our careers. Marriage is the last thing on my mind now.”
“I’m not asking you to marry me tomorrow,” he said as we stopped by his car. “I just want you to be a part of my life. Not just here in Seoul, but back home, with all the people I love and care about.”
I looked up and him and held his face in my hands.
“Jae Joong, listen to me. I love you, and I do want to be a part of your life.”
“Then why is it so difficult for you to just meet my family?”
“Because I don’t feel ready. I still need time to build the confidence I need to face them. Look at me now. My Korean isn’t even perfect yet. I want to be perfect when I meet your family.”
“They know you’re not Korean. So what’s the big deal?”
“I want them to have no reason to not accept me.”
“They will accept you. You are my choice.”
“Yes, in the end it’s your choice. But they will still form their own opinions. I want them to only have positive opinions about me. So I need your patience, I need your help.”
Jae Joong lifted his hand to touch my cheek, then he turned away and sighed. Seeing that he wasn’t giving me a response, I pulled him by his collar until we were face to face.
“You’re mine,” I said, and I kissed him.
I took him by surprise, but he returned my kiss still. He put his arms around my waist and pulled me closer to him, and I put mine around his neck. As we pulled apart, I saw a figure standing behind Jae Joong. I patted Jae Joong on the arm to signal to him that someone was there. He stepped aside to reveal Hae Rin standing there with a pained expression on her face.
“Hae Rin,” Jae Joong said, “What’s wrong?”
“Oh…” Hae Rin exclaimed as she snapped out of her moment of remorse. “I left something in your car, oppa.”
“Is that so?” he said and he unlocked his car to open the door for her.
She leaned in and picked up a bag, and closed the door.
“Komawo. I’m leaving with Kang In oppa now. See you both,” she said and she sprinted off.
“Was is just me, or did Hae Rin look devastated over something?” he said as he turned to me.
“She was,” I said.
“I used to think you were very perceptive,” I laughed softly. “I guess not.”
“What do you mean?”
“Hae Rin likes you,” I revealed. I never wanted to burden him with the fact, but as time passed, it has become annoying and I didn’t want to keep it a secret any longer.
“She likes me? Isn’t she dating Skye?”
“I don’t know how much she actually likes Skye, but Skye and I know that she likes you, a lot.”
“Then why is she dating Skye? What is the world coming to these days?” he exclaimed.
“She’s dating him because he likes her enough to tolerate her obsession with you.”
“Are you serious? Is she really that into me?”
“Let’s go,” I said. “We’ll talk in the car.”
“How long have you known?” he asked me as we drove out of the parking lot.
“For a very long time,” I smiled.
“And you just kept it to yourself? You should’ve told me.”
“Why? So that you know that you have an option of dumping me since there was someone waiting for you?” I joked.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said as he nudged my head.
“Yea… so why would you need to know then?”
“Cos it must’ve been hard for you, keeping it to yourself.”
“It wasn’t hard. But it was annoying. Because I knew how she felt, I noticed everything she did. I can tell when she was upset because of our closeness, and I’d notice her trying to get your attention when she’s around you.”
“I never noticed anything out of the ordinary,” he said.
“You guys can be so dense. That’s why I said… I used to think you were very perceptive.”
“Why do I need to be? I used to be because back then I didn’t have you. Now that I have you, I don’t need to be perceptive to the signs other girls send me. Am I right?” he smiled.
“Yes, you’re right,” I smiled back. “So now that you know, what are you going to do?”
“I dunno. Just try my best to keep some distance and not send her the wrong signals.”
“That I might be open for change,” he said.
“Yah!” I exclaimed.
“I said I didn’t want to send her that signal,” he laughed.
“Then are you saying that you might be ‘open for change’?” I asked him.
“Of course not,” he replied as he took my hand in his. “We’ve worked so hard to get where we are today. Why would I want to change us?”
“Good,” I smiled.
“About my family,” he said, and I braced myself for another round of debating. “Just tell me when you’re ready for them.”
I was a little dumbstruck that he’d decided that so quickly. I thought he’d try to convince me until he succeeded.
“Komawo,” I said softly, and I leaned over to kiss him on the cheek.
“You’d better not be stalling for time only to run away in the end,” he said. “You’ll kill me if you do.”
“Araso,” I said. “I’ll stick with you until you decide that you’re tired of me.”
“I’ll never be tired of you,” he said. “You’re too much of a challenge.”
“Good!” I said happily.
The days flew past quickly, and it was soon Friday, the day I was to record with Hae Rin. In a way, I dreaded seeing her, because of all the unresolved issues between us. I could never confront her about her feelings towards Jae Joong, and yet I find myself unable to tolerate her attitude, since I knew everything. I wonder if she knows that Skye has told me about it.
“Annyeong,” I said as I walked into the studio on Friday morning.
Hae Rin’s manager and the producer are already there, holding a discussion.
“Sierra,” Ryu Ji Tae, Hae Rin’s manager greeted me.
Ryu Ji Tae was one of the top managers at SM. He’d been managing most of the popular kasu debuting under SM as of late, and Hae Rin was predicted to be the next, hence, her being under his wing. He was known to be tough to those he managed, but generally friendly towards everyone else. But because of his reputation, most people didn’t exactly take to him. Despite that, everyone treated him with politeness and respect, even if they hated him.
“Where’s Hae Rin?” I asked him.
“She’ll be running a little late. We’ll just record you first.”
“Are you planning an MV release for this song?” I asked him.
“We are actually discussing that at the moment. We were thinking that your appearance in a MV with her would generate some interest and help her boost her sales.”
“So is this just a song in her new album, or is this going to be a single?”
“We’re planning for this to be a collaboration single for the both of you.”
“That means that we can’t include this song in S-Cube’s new album?”
“That can be discussed. I’ll be in touch with your manager.”
“Alright,” I said.
We started recording my solo bits of the songs. From what hyung had told me, there will be a duet version of 'Wanna Be', and also be one where Hae Rin will sing alone. He was trying to get permission to record me singing my solo version of Wannabe and include it in S-Cube’s 3rd album as a bonus track. Since Ryu Ji Tae wasn’t that keen on discussing the details with me, I should just let hyung handle things with him.
Half an hour into recording, Hae Rin finally showed up, and she looked ill.