Love in the Fast Lane – The Third Lap

Two weeks later, it was race weekend. Jessica flashed the media pass around her neck and entered the crowded media square.

 

Today’s race was a closely fought one that kept everyone on their toes and biting their nails from start till the very last second. The favourite of the race Kim Taeyeon slipped to second place after losing to her competitor Kwon Yuri by half a second.

 

Taeyeon waved to the fans and bowed to a few of the important guests along the way as she walked to the podium for the prize presentation ceremony. Her mood wasn’t dampened by her loss. On the other hand, the half a second difference served as a motivation for her to improve her skills for the next race in order to stay on top.

When the silver medal was hung around Taeyeon’s neck, she broke into a toothy grin and gave a quick wave to the crowd. The first and second place winners fist-pumped and hugged each other to congratulate each other on their win. It was a friendly competition among the racers and there wasn’t bad blood no matter who won or lost.

 

“It was a tough fight,” Taeyeon said firmly, patting Yuri’s back several times.

 

Cameras flashes were firing away like fireworks lighting up the sky. It was definitely a picture perfect moment for the media and shutters went on continuously until the winners broke apart from their brief hug.

 

“Better luck next time.” Yuri flashed a smirk when they broke away from the hug.

 

As Taeyeon was walking back to the lounge after the prize presentation ceremony, a bright pink object caught her attention among the crowd of reporters and cameras that lined the walkway. A sense of familiarity washed over Taeyeon as she shielded her eyes from the sun to take a better look.

 

Where have I seen this pink phone cover before? Ah, it belongs to the girl at the bar!

 

Taeyeon looked around for the phone’s owner but was unable to find her among the towering male journalists who were trying to fight for the best position to take photos.

 

Stopping in front of the barricade, Taeyeon managed to catch a glimpse of the phone’s owner through the shoulders of the people standing in front of her. Her eyes lit up instantly when their eyes met. Taeyeon nodded her head slightly as if to acknowledge Jessica’s presence.

 

Taeyeon stretched her hand out to take the mobile phone from Jessica’s hand. Security officers were busy trying to fend off the reporters who were sticking their cameras over the barricade to take photos. It was an extremely rare moment for the media and they were fighting for space to snap a close up shot of Taeyeon, especially a smiling Taeyeon.

 

Taeyeon took a photo of the silver medal that was hanging on her neck before returning the phone to its shocked owner. Then she flashed a wide smile and waved to the media before disappearing into the lounge.

 

Jessica was lost for words when Taeyeon stopped in front of her and the gentle look in Taeyeon’s eyes when the moment they looked at each other. All she could remember was Taeyeon’s touch on her back of her hand when the latter took her phone from her hand. Then she remembered the loud gasps of the male reporters and camera flashes around her and it was over in a matter of seconds. She repeated the scene in slow motion in her head, still in disbelief, as it was the first time the race driver had such a close interaction with the press.

 

“You’re the luckiest person on earth, do you know that, Jessica Jung?!” Onew exclaimed, waving his hands wildly when he finally caught up with Jessica.

 

Jessica was still in a state of shock. The moment between Taeyeon and her felt so surreal. She couldn’t believe it had just happened. She could still feel Taeyeon’s touch lingering on the back of her hand.

 

“Maybe you’re a girl, so you stand out from the crowd,” Onew reasoned.

 

“Then I’m a very lucky girl,” Jessica smiled, looking at the photo of Taeyeon’s medal.

 

She remembers me.

 

The following morning, Taeyeon made the headlines in the sports sections across major newspapers and tabloids.

 

‘Ice Princess no more?’

‘The ice princess has melted!’

‘Race Driver Kim Taeyeon up close and smiling.’

‘Kim Taeyeon’s interaction with the media. A rare sight.’

 

Minwoo spread the day’s papers on the huge table in front of Taeyeon.

 

“Taeng, you’ve caused a media frenzy yesterday. Most of the reports seemed to be in favour of you. Whatever it is, you’ve generated free publicity for yourself and the team. Great!” Minwoo was overjoyed with the amount of free positive publicity it generated. It wasn’t easy to get Taeyeon to interact with the media and the fact that she did made him a very happy man.

 

Minwoo stopped in front of Taeyeon, who was giving him the dirty look as if he was a lunatic who escaped from the mental hospital.

 

“What made you so that? Why choose that person in particular? Do you know her?” Minwoo asked excitedly.

 

“I don’t know. I just felt like doing something different,” Taeyeon replied plainly, still staring at her manager with an arched eyebrow. Minwoo didn’t detect the sarcasm in Taeyeon’s voice because the broad smile seemed permanently plastered on his face.

 

“Good good. Keep it up, Taeng. The media loves you even more now. I’m going to head over to the office. See you later,” Minwoo said merrily as he skipped out of the room.

 

Taeyeon scanned the news articles and stopped at one of the tabloids. She picked up the paper to have a closer look at the article. It wasn’t a big article but the photo they used caught Taeyeon’s attention. Jessica’s face was seen clearly in that photo and the article’s headline read ‘Taeyeon’s new girl?’

 

Usually Taeyeon would have crushed the newspaper and threw it into the bin immediately without bothering to read it. Not this time. Her body felt as light as a feather and she couldn’t help grinning stupidly by herself.  She couldn’t pinpoint the reason for this strange feeling but it made her feel good.

 

=========

 

Three weeks later, Jessica found herself among the crowd that was invited for the launch of a range of Casio G-Shock watches that were specially designed for the race season. It was a relatively cosy group of media and some business partners of the watch store. There were many fans crowding outside the store to catch a glimpse of the star of the event, Kim Taeyeon.

 

This was Taeyeon’s endorsement deal for a non-automotive related product and she was quite excited by it. One of the watches showcased at the launch was a limited edition watch that was sold in a specially designed tin box, complete with Taeyeon’s signature ‘309’ number embossed on it. The watch featured a carbon fibre print on its watch face, gold Roman numerals and hour and minute hands. The bezel featured metal parts and accents that emphasized a tough look. On one side of the black rubber strap was the number ‘309’ printed in gold.

 

Taeyeon was accompanied by Minwoo, who was busy introducing the race driver to various business partners at the event. She smiled and greeted each of them politely, shaking their hands. It was a very important opportunity for her to get to know more people in order to secure future endorsement deals and to get more sponsors for her and the team.  That was how the business worked.

 

Midway through the event, the emcee invited Taeyeon up a mini stage as they were about to unveil the brand new watch. Invited guests gathered around the make-shift stage in the store, waiting patiently. There was a single stand on the stage and it was covered with a black and white checkers satin cloth. At the count of three, Taeyeon pulled the cloth away from the stand to reveal the special edition of the Casio G-Shock. Confetti popped, showing the guests with a multitude of colourful papers and silver streamers. Taeyeon wore the watch on her wrist and posed for the camera. Flashes were going off non-stop as the media present took numerous photos of her.

 

Shortly after the photo-taking on stage, Taeyeon was escorted to a small room at the back of the watch store where interviews would be conducted. The media from various publications waited outside the room patiently for their turn. Jessica wondered how Taeyeon would react the moment she handed over her business card. Her media industry colleagues wished her luck in trying to get enough material for their interview as Taeyeon wasn’t a very chatty person. However, Jessica had a gut feeling that Taeyeon wasn’t such a person having met and chatted with her at the sports bar.

 

Jung  Jessica

Editor & Writer, Tempo Magazine

‘We make your heart beat with excitement’

 

Those words on her business card stared back at her, especially the tagline of the magazine. She was indeed very excited to meet the race driver again. How apt. She had been hoping to meet the race driver again but didn’t expect their next meeting to be in a work-related environment. Nonetheless, she had a job to do and she would do it to the best of her ability.

 

Reporters were streaming in and out of the room fairly quickly, with the average time of ten minutes. That duration of each interview was very short but typical when it involved Taeyeon. Minwoo was the moderator and coordinator for all the interviews.

 

An hour later, it was finally Jessica’s turn. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door apprehensively.

 

“Come in,” a man’s voice called out.

 

When Jessica entered the room, she saw a small round coffee table in the middle of the room with two bottles of water. One of the bottles was nearly empty. At one side of the table were two chairs and the other side had one. A man rose from his seat and approached Jessica as she walked in.

 

“Hello, I’m Lee Minwoo, Taeyeon’s manager,” Minwoo greeted with a smile, shaking Jessica’s hand.

 

“Hello Minwoo sshi, I’m Jessica from Tempo magazine.” Jessica handed him her business card and he pointed to the single chair at one side of the table.

 

“Taeyeon sshi had just gone to the washroom and she’ll be back shortly. Meanwhile, please make yourself comfortable.” Minwoo couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear when he turned away from Jessica.

 

Jessica could feel her heartbeat increasing rapidly with each second. She wasn’t usually a nervous person, having done numerous interviews in her life. However, today felt different. She was under more pressure. Sooyoung and some of her other seniors had warned her that Taeyeon wasn’t a fan of the media and often spoke very little during interviews.

 

Taeyeon entered the room from a side door and headed straight for Minwoo. She stood close to her manager and mumbled something into his ears. After they were done, Minwoo informed Taeyeon that the interviewer was here and she could start anytime she was ready. Taeyeon turned around to see the interview. The moment she saw Jessica’s face, she let out a soft gasp and her eyes lit up instantly.

 

It’s the woman at the sports bar, the owner of the mobile phone in the bright pink case!

 

Taeyeon’s soft gasp didn’t go unnoticed by Jessica. Jessica knew that Taeyeon remembered her and she was glad. Now her challenge was to complete the interview without any hiccups.

 

Minwoo saw a smile gradually appearing on Taeyeon’s face and that made him let out a sigh of relief. He knew that Tempo was one of Taeyeon’s favourite lifestyle magazines. She made him buy the magazine for her religiously every month and if she needed to travel, that magazine would accompany her too. Minwoo had intentionally left out informing Taeyeon about this particular interview from Tempo as he wanted to give Taeyeon a pleasant surprise.

 

“Hello Taeyeon sshi, I’m Jung Jessica from Tempo magazine. We’re a lifestyle magazine that focuses on topics that inspire you, that makes your heart beat with excitement,” Jessica said in her professional tone of voice.

 

“Hi Jessica sshi, I’m Kim Taeyeon. Pleased to meet you and am glad I finally got your name.”

 

Jessica handed her business card to Taeyeon and they shook hands.

 

I like the touch of her soft hands. I hope mine aren’t too rough for her silky smooth skin.

 

“You’ve met her before?” Minwoo looked at Taeyeon for an answer.

 

“Minwoo oppa, let’s start. We’re running on a tight schedule, right?” Taeyeon dismissed Minwoo’s question and waved for him to sit down. Minwoo looked at his watch and nodded in agreement.

 

Throughout the interview, Taeyeon was leaning forward, listening attentively to what Jessica asked. Jessica was surprised that Taeyeon was rather chatty, at times even giving long answers. It was totally different from what she had expected.

 

“Jessica sshi, I’m afraid we need to end the interview here. There are a few more people waiting outside,” Minwoo interrupted when Jessica paused to take down some notes.

 

Both Taeyeon and Jessica glanced at their watches and realised it had been nearly forty minutes since the interview started. They looked at each other and smiled, indirectly telling each other they enjoyed the session together. As Jessica packed her notebook into her bag, she toyed with the idea of featuring Taeyeon’s Melbourne recommendations as part of her travel section in the magazine. In the end, she decided not to push her luck too far.

 

“Thank you for the interview. I’ll send some copies of the magazine to your office when it is published,” Jessica said politely. She gave Minwoo and Taeyeon a little bow before she headed for the door.

 

Just as Jessica twisted the door knob, she felt someone tapping her shoulder. She turned around and realized it was Taeyeon.

 

“I have a question which I need to ask. Do you use a pseudonym when you write in the magazine?”

 

Jessica was taken aback by the question. She guessed that Taeyeon read Tempo, else she wouldn’t have popped such a question.

 

“Yes, I do. In the ‘Her Say’ column, I do contribute to it once in a while. My fellow editor and I take turns to write on random topics. Since it is meant to be a fun piece to read during one’s leisure time, we decided to use a pseudonym.”

 

Taeyeon’s eyes twinkled with anticipation. “Are you ‘CaramelCoffee’?”

 

Jessica let out a giggle and nodded. “That’s me.”

 

“I like to read your column. I’m your fan,” Taeyeon beamed. She never thought she would one day meet the editor behind her favourite column in Tempo.

 

“No way! I never dreamt that I would have a celebrity who likes to read my writing.” Jessica was secretly pleased when she learnt that Taeyeon read her articles.

 

“You should write more. It is humorous yet there’s an underlying meaning to what you discussed in the column.”

 

“Nowadays I tend to write lesser and focus more on layout and content. I’ll bear your kind words in mind and contribute more frequently to the magazine. Thanks for the compliments. Since you’re so supportive of our magazine, I’ll ask my circulation department to put on our mailing list so that you wouldn’t miss a single issue of our magazine,” Jessica offered.

 

“That would be awesome! Thanks!” Taeyeon was smiling from ear to ear.

 

“You’re welcome. I better get going else your manager looks like he’s going to eat me up,” Jessica whispered.

 

Taeyeon turned around and saw Minwoo was frantically pointing at his watch, using gestures to tell her that they were running out of time.

 

Once Jessica was out of the room, there were at least four pairs of eyes staring at her, giving her the dagger looks. All of them were wondering what Jessica did inside the room because she was the only one who spent the longest time in the room. Jessica quickly avoided the remaining reporters and left the store.

 

In the interview room, Taeyeon and Minwoo were taking a short break before the start of the next interview.

 

“I’m surprised you spoke so much in an interview. Is it because she happens to be an editor of your favourite magazine?” Minwoo asked as he brought out two new bottles of water to replace the empty ones on the table.

 

Taeyeon didn’t answer Minwoo but instead, flashed a mischievous smile at her manager.

 

“Now you know how being a fan feels. In future, please give a bit more fan service to your fans. A simple gesture goes a long way,” Minwoo lectured. “Shall I get the next person in?”

 

Taeyeon nodded as she settled into the seat. “Yes please. I want to get the rest of the interviews over and done as soon as possible.”

 

That night, Jessica was busy sorting out the interview materials for her article. She had to cover this event for a colleague who was on medical leave. Not that she minded since it gave her the opportunity to see Taeyeon. She was surprised at the race driver’s friendliness during the interview. In fact, Taeyeon was very patient in answering the numerous questions she asked. Jessica sucked on a mint as she started to draft her article. She couldn’t help smiling to herself as she recalled the interview they shared. It felt like friends catching up with each other than work.

 

At the same moment, Taeyeon was digging out several other backdated copies of the magazine and searched for Jessica’s column in Her Say. She read each of them slowly, chuckling at times, savouring each word Jessica wrote. The mere thought of Jessica’s name made somersaults in her stomach.

 

 

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