Love in the Fast Lane – The First Lap

Numerous reporters lined the path leading from the carpark to the VIP lounge, waiting to take photos of the race drivers that were arriving at the track. The path resembled an army parade, except that it was lined with dozens of cameras instead of army rifles. Most of them were chatting with one another or reading news off their mobile phones and iPads while waiting patiently for the last driver of today’s race to arrive.

 

More than forty minutes past when someone spotted a white Kia Sorento coming around the bend that led into the carpark. The horde of reporters jumped to their feet and scrambled to get their cameras and recorders ready. The security officers were standing shoulder to shoulder, using their bodies and arms to create a barrier for the driver who would be walking down the path from the carpark to the VIP lounge. It was a rather chaotic sight.

Once the rear passenger door of the SUV opened, a pint size woman wearing a dark blue military cap, black tank top paired with a striped Adidas jacket and black skinny jeans hopped out of the car. Her manager, a man with cropped blonde hair followed closely behind, smiling at the reporters as he walked down the path.

 

“Taeyeon sshi, please look this way!” (sounds of cameras snapping)

 

“Taeyeon sshi, how do you feel about on this race?”

 

“Taeyeon sshi, please look to the right!” (sounds of cameras snapping)

 

“Taeyeon sshi, do you think you’ll emerge as the champion again?”

 

The pint sized racer waved her hand briefly with a hint of smile on her face as she hurried towards the VIP lounge.

 

“Excuse me, excuse me…I just want to take a photo…argghh…”

 

A woman was shoved aside by a security officer when she attempted to stick her arm beyond the security barrier to take a photo of the race driver.

 

“Sheesh! Do they have to be so rude?” the woman grumbled.

 

Once Taeyeon entered the lounge, the reporters packed up and dispersed in a twinkle of an eye.

 

Taeyeon disappeared into her designated dressing room. She sank into the leather sofa, tilted her head backwards and closed her eyes. It was another day at work for her. However, work wasn’t as simple as preparing for a race nor was it about winning the championship. Work included entertaining the media, something which wasn’t Taeyeon’s cup of tea. She was more of an introvert; someone who didn’t like to scream for attention unlike some of her peers.

 

“Taeyeon, it’s time to get changed,” Taeyeon’s manager, Minwoo called out.

 

Taeyeon opened one eye lazily and looked at the short man standing at the door. He was pointing to the fiery red racing suit and a set of fireproof clothing that were hanging from the clothing rack. Giving herself a good stretch, Taeyeon rose from the sofa and locked the door so that she could change in private.

 

=========

 

“Hey Jessica, I’m surprised to see you here. You’ve decided to become a sports reporter or are you writing for some tabloids?” Onew greeted, flashing a dazzling smile.

 

“I’m still writing for Tempo. My boss had a spare media pass so I decided to take a look,” Jessica replied, staring at her phone, not bothering to look at the male reporter in front of her.

 

“How’s your photo?” Onew tried to take a peek at Jessica’s phone.

 

“Gosh, the photo turned out so terrible. The security officer pushed me away when I tried to take a photo just now. I need a better camera next time,” Jessica complained, holding up her phone for Onew to take a better look.

 

Onew slapped his forehead and sighed. “This is only a mobile phone, you would need a better camera. Moreover that race driver is such a ninja! She only does brief appearances and always enters the lounge at the last minute before a race. You would be lucky if you could get a clear shot of her. The only time I managed to get a good picture is when she stands on the winner’s podium,” he lamented.

 

“Thanks for the tip. Race is starting soon, catch you later,” Jessica said as she headed for her seat at the grandstand.

 

When the race was over, Jessica headed over to the winner’s podium. The square was already packed with reporters who were clamoring to get the best view of the podium. Huge cameras with telephoto lens were lined up like canons on a parade; some white while others are black. Jessica squeezed her way to the side of the square and found a small gap where she could stick her hand out to get a shot.

 

As the winners emerged from the VIP lounge, sounds of cameras snapping away resembled a live firing squad. It was almost deafening and blinding as numerous flashes went off, lighting up the podium. The winner of the race, Kim Taeyeon, had a straight face while the other two winners were busy smiling and waving to the crowd.

 

This must be why people call her the ice princess of the race track. She doesn’t smile! Jessica thought to herself.

 

The most deafening cheers went to Taeyeon. Despite her cold demeanor, she was the crowd’s favourite and was the champion of the race that evening. When her face was projected onto the huge LCD screens that were positioned around the race track, Taeyeon kissed her trophy before waving it triumphantly in the air. The crowd was ecstatic and their chants of Kim Taeyeon were heard echoing around the race track.

 

After the prize presentation ceremony, the winners were ushered off the podium. Taeyeon walked briskly, stopping to sign a few autographs before disappearing into the lounge. The other two winners stopped along the way to sign autographs and shook hands with their fans that were crowding around the barricades.

 

“Great job, Taeng! The team is very proud of you!” Minwoo patted Taeyeon’s left arm and gave it a tight squeeze.

 

“Thank you, Minwoo oppa. The glory goes to the team as well,” Taeyeon replied sincerely.

 

“By the way, the moment you kissed the trophy, the crowd went wild.” Minwoo patted Taeyeon’s back and took the trophy from Taeyeon’s hands for safe keeping.

 

“I’m glad that fans are happy,” Taeyeon replied.

 

“I hope the media got what they wanted.” She knew the media wanted shots that shouted victory as that would aid them in filling up the cover page of the newspapers and tabloids. The smile on her face was replaced with a tired one as she headed for the changing room.

 

=========

 

Jessica had a drink at the café before heading to the train station. If she had left the race track immediately after the race, she would have been squashed like sardines in a tin can in the crowded train. Smelling strangers’ perspiration in close proximity was something she didn’t fancy.

 

As she was walking, Jessica scrolled through the photo gallery on her phone. She had several good shots of the second and third place winners but the only clear shot she had of champion was that of her back as she entered the waiting room after the prize presentation ceremony.

 

“Onew’s right, that woman is really a ninja,” Jessica mumbled to herself, kicking a small stone that was on the ground. It ricocheted off a nearby car with a high pitched ‘ting’ and landed on the pavement a distance away. Jessica let out a gasp, hoping that no one saw her act.

 

Just then, she heard voices behind her. Turning her head around, she saw two people walking towards a gun-metal Mercedes roadster that was parked nearby. It was a SL 65, AMG edition with customised paintwork. Jessica stopped and drooled over the sexy roadster, complete with the full AMG bodykit. It was something she could only dream of.

 

The man got into the driver’s seat and there was a smaller figure who sat at the passenger’s seat. The driver started the engine and opened the vario-roof. The sexy piece of metal came alive with a throaty roar. As the car drove past Jessica slowly, she was able to catch a glimpse of its occupants. Jessica spotted the signature military cap with a silver ‘309’ embroidered on its left side. She had seen several photos of Taeyeon wearing this cap and was certain the smaller figure was Taeyeon though the latter had her head down and her face was partially blocked by the upturned collar of the jacket she had on.

 

That night, Jessica sat in front of her laptop, with a cup of hot coffee in hand, and spent the night surfing the internet for motorsports news. Her interest in the sport was still running high from the adrenaline of watching the exciting race earlier on.

 

One of the race drivers that intrigued her the most was the champion – Kim Taeyeon. Her ‘icy’ attitude stood out among the rest of her friendly competitors. Taeyeon appeared aloof most of the time and she didn’t smile much.

 

From the reports on the internet, Jessica found out that Taeyeon was the youngest female driver to win a championship title in an open category at the age of eighteen. In addition, it was uncommon to find females who excelled in the field of motorsports as this industry was a male-dominated one. Her writer’s instincts ignited her curiosity to find out how and why a young girl like Taeyeon started out in motorsports.

 

Jessica found out that Taeyeon was born in Jeonju and her family migrated to Australia when she was only two. Then at the age of fifteen, Taeyeon made headlines when she won first place at the Asia-Pacific Go-Kart race in Melbourne. Three years later, she won the silver medal in the junior category at a Continental Tyre Sports Car challenge in Seoul. Since then, all eyes were on this talented young female driver.

 

Digging through Taeyeon’s previous interviews, Jessica noticed that Taeyeon hadn’t done as many interviews as the rest of her peers. Taeyeon’s interviews were usually brief and centred around her racing career. The journalists weren’t allowed to ask any personal questions and for certain interviews, questions had to be sent to her manager three days in advance for vetting purposes.  The more she searched about the elusive race driver, the more she was drawn towards her.

 

Snapping the lid of her laptop close, Jessica leaned back on her chair and drank a mouthful of coffee. Being in the media industry for the past six years, Jessica came across people from all walks of life. Each of them had a story to tell; some more dramatic than others.

 

What is Taeyeon’s story?

 

The next day at the office, Sooyoung, Jessica’s colleague, stopped by Jessica’s desk to find out about her experience at the race track since it was the first time she was there. Jessica described her evening at the track and that she had a close up view of Taeyeon in a flashy Mercedes roadster.

 

Sooyoung was intrigued by that piece of news. “Looks like that kid is making big bucks to be able to afford that flashy car. Then again, she had been winning the past few races and it appeared that she’s a sure winner for the current race season as well.”

 

“Maybe the car belongs to the guy, whom I assume is the manager. Yesterday night, he was the driver while Taeyeon was the passenger.”

 

“Was he a short guy with cropped blonde hair? That should be Taeyeon’s manager, Lee Min Woo. They have been working together for the past three years. I’m betting the car belongs to Taeyeon but she was too tired to drive home last night after the race, so the manager drove instead,” Sooyoung proclaimed excitedly, waving her pen in the air like a magician who had just pulled a rabbit out of a hat.

 

“Maybe… you seem to know a lot about her.”

 

Sooyoung used her pen to tap Jessica’s forehead. “The power of the internet. Just google for her name and you’ll see all sorts of news popping out. Keen to know what’s the brand of toothpaste she’s using? I can ask one of my numerous sources.” Sooyoung scrolled through the never-ending list of phone numbers in her mobile phone.

 

“Choi Sooyoung! You ought to work in a trashy entertainment magazine instead of wasting your talents here.” Jessica threw her pencil at Sooyoung but the agile tall woman managed to dodge the flying object.

 

“Who says I’m wasting my talents? I get to enjoy free food and discounts at restaurants, that’s enough to make me stay in this job. Where else can you find a job that marries your interest with work?” Sooyoung laughed heartily.

 

“Shikshin!”

 

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