“Why Jae Joong?” I asked.
“Since you and Jae Joong are both at your peaks, career and relationship wise, the company decided to capitalize on it and have a special single for the both of you.”
“Can’t it be someone else?” I asked.
“Are you and Jae Joong having problems?” the other producer asked, raising his eyebrow.
“Of course they’re not,” hyung cut in quickly, and glared at me, hinting for me to keep my mouth shut.
“Then it’s settled,” the producer said and they started packing up. “We’ll have a copy of the plans relayed to you later, Manager Ahn.”
“Ye,” hyung replied and we all stood up as they walked out.
“Hyung,” I started as soon as the door was closed, but was cut off.
“I don’t care what is going on between you and Jae Joong. This is the management’s assignment and if you’re having a quarrel, you’re going to pretend that nothing has happened.”
“No buts. Do you know how hard it is in the industry these days? With so many new stars popping up, you need to fight to keep your space in the charts, in the market.”
“She knows, hyung,” Shoei stepped up and put his hands on my shoulder.
“Don’t defend and coddle her. As the band leader, she should know not to reject assignments.”
“I’m hungry,” Skye said, attempting to change the subject, and hyung turned to stare at him, still fuming. Skye reacted by shrugging his shoulders.
“Let’s go for dinner,” hyung said, and we filed out of the room.
“I’m showering first,” I said, as soon as we walked through the front door of our apartment, after getting home from dinner.
“Go ahead,” Shoei said as he dived onto the couch and turned on the television.
Skye walked straight out to the balcony, probably to call Hae Rin.
I’d picked up my towel and clothes and was about to walk out of my room when my mobile phone rang.
“Yoboseyo,” I answered without even looking at the caller ID.
“Why didn’t you call me?” Yun Ho said.
“I was busy today. Who made you my keeper anyway?” I replied; annoyed at the tone he was taking with me.
“I’m just concerned. You’re so busy that you don’t have time to pick up your phone? I called like 5 times.”
“It was on silent. I had promotional activities and a program to shoot.”
“Araso…” he sighed. “So how was your day?”
“Busy… I’m tired. I need to shower. Can I call you back?”
“Sure,” he said. “Talk to you later.”
“Bye,” I said and hung up.
I tossed my phone onto the bed and walked out of my room.
“Oppa!” Hae Rin said sweetly as soon as the call was connected. “Where have you been all day?”
“Just got back to Seoul early in the morning, promotional activities, shooting a show outside of Seoul, and back in Seoul for a meeting with the producers. I’m going to Taiwan for about a month, at interval.”
“I’ll be spending a few days here and a few days in Taiwan, each week, for the next month.”
“Yah… already I hardly see you, and you're going out of the country?” she whined.
“Mianhae. I’ve gotta earn all that money so that we can retire in style, nae?” I joked.
“Aisshiii… chintcha shiro,” she said.
“You’re pretty busy yourself. I bet you won’t miss me at all,” I teased.
“Says who? I’ve not seen you in a week. You’d better have time for me this weekend.”
“I’ll try,” I promised. “If I get an off-day, I’ll come visit you at the studios.”
“You can’t!” she grumbled.
“Ji Tae oppa has been watching me really closely, lately.”
“What did you do?”
“I don’t know. He keeps following me everywhere I go.”
“Do you think he suspects?”
“Why would he? I’ve not seen you for more than a week. How would he know?”
“Do you think he’s been checking on the calls you’ve made and saw that most of them were to me?”
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“Just be careful,” I said.
“I’ll drop by your place one of these days, alright?”
“I’ll be waiting,” she said, and I could imagine her smiling as she did.
“I gotta go,” I said reluctantly. “I’m dying for some sleep.”
“You’d better. Or you’re gonna look like crap tomorrow,” she giggled.
“Ya… since when do I look like crap?”
“Hmm… let me count the occasions…” she laughed.
“I’m gonna come over and torture you,” I threatened.
“Oooh… I’m so afraid,” she said sarcastically. “What are you going to do? Tickle torture me?” she laughed.
“Very funny…” I drawled. “You obviously do not know my powers.”
“Yea… I’m dying to see them,” she said.
“I gotta go,” I said again.
“Araso,” she sighed. “Talk to you tomorrow?”
“Saranghae,” she said.
“Saranghae,” I replied.
I walked into the apartment and saw that nuna was just entering the bathroom.
“Yah!” I yelled at her. “Didn’t you say you wanted to shower first? Why are you just only getting into the bathroom now?”
“I was interrupted,” she grumbled.
“Yun Ho,” she said.
“I see,” I said.
“I’m going in now,” she said and she disappeared into the bathroom.
I walked towards the sofa and sat down beside Shoei.
“So what’s up with her and Yun Ho hyung?”
“How would I know?” Shoei said.
His face was expressionless when he said it, and that could only conclude that he knew something.
“Right… I know you know something.”
“Don’t be nosy,” he said.
“I’m just concerned about nuna,” I said.
“Good. And you don’t need to know anything more,” he said.
“Meanie,” I grumbled, and kicked his feet off the coffee table.
His feet hit the floor, and he just put them back up again, ignoring me. I can never understand how he can be so indifferent. If it were I, I would’ve kicked me back.
“Don’t you ever wanna just smack me in the face?” I asked him.
“Sometimes,” he said.
“Then why don’t you?”
“Plastic surgery would be expensive,” he said, his lips twitching into a small smile.
“Sometimes, I just don’t get you,” I laughed.
Shoei could be so indifferent, and yet sometimes, he’d crack a joke out of the blue. Having him around keeps us grounded, but sometimes, he can be a real drag.
“You shower first,” he said as he got up from the couch. “I’m gonna make a call,” he added, and he went into his room.
I sat down on the edge of my bed and dialed Jae Joong hyung’s number.
It’s been days since he stormed out of our apartment, and I didn’t want to see him and nuna keep at this.
“Yoboseyo,” he answered.
“Hyung, Shoei here,” I said.
“You heard about the project? The single,” I asked him.
“Yea,” he said. “I did. I just heard about it awhile ago.”
“You’re still in the studios then?”
“So?” I asked him, and he sighed loudly.
“Yun Ho helped me reject it. He’s going to do it instead.”
“What? How did he…”
“He suggested that me and Sierra wouldn’t be such a surprise, since the whole world knew we were together. But if he and Sierra collaborated, it would raise more interest. I agree with him.”
“Are you saying that you have no intention of making up with nuna? I saw this project as the perfect opportunity.”
“We need time apart. At least so that we’re clear of what we mean to each other.”
“And you think pushing her onto Yun Ho hyung is going to help?”
“I’ve always felt that they had some unfinished business. I would be glad for them if they used this project to resolve them.”
“It’s been decided. Leave it,” he said.
“She’s hurt, hyung,” I said. I just had to tell him. I had to remind him.
“So am I,” he said. “We’ll work this out at our own pace,” he said. “It really doesn’t concern you.”
“I have to look at her each day,” I said. “Do you know how hard it is for us to see her like this? Do you know how insecure she feels? If you thought that she’s the one who makes you feel insecure, think again.”
“Shoei, keuman,” he said.
“Andoe,” I said. I was starting to get really pissed. “All you’re upset about is that she doesn’t want to promise to marry you. Have you thought of the things that upset her? ‘I’m not pretty enough, I’m too fat, I’m not talented enough.’ She said all that. To her, all these things make her feel like she doesn’t deserve to be by your side.”
There was a long moment of silence after I’d finished with my outburst, then Jae Joong hyung spoke.
“She’s said all that before, but I never really paid attention to it. I would always tell her that she’s being silly. I didn’t know that they affected her that much.”
“Why do you think she doesn’t want to meet your family? Because she thinks she isn’t perfect enough to be the girl you would want to marry.”
“Aisshiii… chintcha pabo. Why would she think that?”
“You know how critical she is of herself. You of all people should not be surprised.”
“Then what do I do now? The project has been assigned to Yun Ho.”
“You just need to come see her. You need to patch things up with her.”
“She’s probably upset now.”
“And you know that she needs to be responded to when upset. Leaving her alone is like allowing the wound to fester.”
“I know… I know…” he said.
“Find a chance to talk to her, alright?”
“Araso,” he said.
“I’ll ring you up when I see an opportunity,” I said.
“An opportunity for what?” nuna suddenly said.
I turned around, and saw her standing behind me, her hand on her hip as she glared at me. I hadn’t noticed that she had come into the room.
“Who’s that you’re on the phone with, Shoei?”