Taeyeon furrowed her brows as she tried to recall where she had seen the young lady in front of her.
The young lady had long wavy dark brown hair that framed her fair complexion. Her hazel eyes were beaming with excitement and she was twiddling her fingers.
“I’m Seungwan ah, Son Seung Wan.” Seungwan pronounced each word of her name slowly and clearly.
The name rang a bell and the face was vaguely familiar but Taeyeon was unable to recall where she met this person before.
“I attended your Choux Pastry workshop at the Seoul Culinary Academy two years ago. I had blue highlights at the ends of my hair,” Seungwan explained while doing a hair flip.
“Ahhh…!” Taeyeon exclaimed when she finally remembered the person. Seungwan was four years younger than Taeyeon and had the tendency to mix English with Korean whenever she got too excited. Initially Taeyeon had difficulty understanding Seungwan and often had to ask her to slow down when she talked.
“It has been a long time since I last saw you. You look so pretty now and you lost a lot of weight,” Taeyeon complimented with a sincere smile. She was delighted to meet someone familiar.
Seungwan let out a chortle and did a little spin. “Thank you. My effort of strict dieting hasn’t gone unnoticed.”
Taeyeon was amused by Seungwan’s actions.
“Gummies are still your favourite?” Seungwan noticed Taeyeon was staring at the confectionery earlier on.
Taeyeon flashed a sheepish grin. “Old habits die hard.”
Seungwan’s eyes travelled to the cold can of beer in Taeyeon’s hand. “Going drinking by yourself?”
.Taeyeon gave a small nod. “Planning to.”
“It’s so boring to drink alone! I know of an izakaya nearby. Let’s catch up over drinks. It has been ages since we last met!”
Seungwan took the can of beer from Taeyeon and placed it back in the fridge.
“Follow me!” Seungwan beckoned as she skipped out of the store. Taeyeon followed behind, smiling to herself, grateful to have company tonight.
They went to a small quaint bar. Two menus were plastered on the wall; one for food and the other for drinks. Rows of sake bottles lined the shelves in a glass cabinet. The smell of alcohol and barbecued meat lingered in the air. There were several groups of Japanese, mostly men in business attire. After settling down at a table in a corner, they ordered a pint of Kirin beer each and several sticks of yakitori.
Seungwan did most of the talking, sharing about her working life and what she was up to after attending Taeyeon’s class. Baking gave her an escape and relief from the daily grind. She spoke very quickly and gestured a lot; an animated person who was bright and cheery.
Taeyeon listened patiently, occasionally offering some advice while enjoying her beer. Meeting a familiar person whom Taeyeon got along with provided a good escape from the loneliness she felt at night when she was alone. On previous business trips (before she was in a relationship), Taeyeon was comfortable spending time alone. Since meeting Jessica, Taeyeon enjoyed spending time with the consultant and doing things together with her. On this particular trip, the loneliness was amplified due to the long period of separation.
“What brings you here?” It was Taeyeon’s turn to ask questions after listening to Seungwan’s chatter.
“There is a charity event featuring the famous Daichi Suzuki and his team! He’s the grandmaster of all patissiers! I wouldn’t miss it!! I heard Hinata Shoyo is one of the team members. Oh boy, he’s so suave!” Seungwan fired without catching a breath. Her eyes were as round as dinner plates and she was waving her hands excitedly as she spoke.
Taeyeon let out a laugh. Seungwan was still the same as before; always so expressive.
“I’ll let him know he has a huge fan waiting for him at the event,” Taeyeon remarked casually before chugging the remaining cold beer in her mug. The icy sensation travelling down her throat and into her body was heavenly. Her weariness and stress were washed away by the frosty alcoholic drink.
Seungwan blinked twice as Taeyeon’s words sank in. “Did you just say you’ll let Hinata Shoyo know I’m a fan of his?”
“Ah huh.” A mischievous grin sprouted across Taeyeon’s face.
“Oh. My. Goddd!” Seungwan gasped and covered her mouth. “You actually know him!”
“Yes I do. He’s my senior at the school where Suzuki san taught,” Taeyeon said calmly, the grin still plastered across her face. She enjoyed watching Seungwan’s fangirl reaction.
“Oh my God!” Seungwan jumped off her high chair and bounced around. “I never knew you are a student of Daichi Suzuki! Oh I should have thought of it! Ah, silly me!”
Taeyeon tilted her head to one side and smiled widely. “I don’t usually mention it.”
Seungwan’s eyes were twinkling as she looked straight at Taeyeon. “Seonsaeng-nim, my admiration for you has gone up to a new level.”
Taeyeon folded her arms across her chest and flashed a sneaky smile. “By the way, I’m also working alongside Suzuki san and Hinata senpai for the charity event.”
“Oh my God!” Seungwan exclaimed repeatedly. “You’ve just elevated yourself to Goddess status!” She almost fell out of her chair in her exhilaration. Fortunately Taeyeon reached over and placed her hands behind Seungwan’s back to prevent the younger woman from falling over.
“Be careful! Calm down, Seungwan ya.”
“Seonsaeng-nim…it’s just…wow, I mean, it’s a double surprise for me!”
“Let me turn it into a triple surprise for you.”
By now, Seungwan’s puppy eyes were fired up with excitement. “What is it?”
“Would you like a pass for the press conference?” Taeyeon offered.
“Of course!” Seungwan squealed, clapping her hands rapidly like a sea lion.
“I’ll make the necessary arrangements,” Taeyeon paused for effect.
“Just for you.” Taeyeon added a wink accompanied with a wide smile.
Seungwan was on cloud nine. “Thank you, thank you! Thank you Seonsaeng-nim!”
“Here’s my Japan mobile number. Give me a text when you arrive and I’ll get someone to hand you a pass.”
Seungwan held Taeyeon’s right hand between her palms and shook it vigorously. “I cannot believe my luck! Thank you so much, Seonsaeng-nim!”
Taeyeon laughed heartily, seeing how excited and thankful Seungwan was. She was glad she brightened someone’s day through a small gesture.
That night, Taeyeon slept like a baby. She went to dreamland almost immediately after her head touched the pillow. Her loneliness and stress were momentarily forgotten after her delightful encounter with her former student.
By 8am the next morning, Suzuki, Hinata and Taeyeon arrived at the hotel. They were told to meet in the conference room on level three where a briefing would be held. Two of the staff from the organizing committee met up with the trio to run through the press release details, as well as, what to expect once the news was out. Although Suzuki was familiar with the procedures having being a veteran in the industry for many years, he paid close attention to every detail. That was his professionalism and the same went for Hinata and Taeyeon. All of them took notes and asked questions if they were unsure.
There were many interviews lined up; newspapers, television stations and digital portals. This event was attracting a lot of media attention and it was definitely going to be hectic juggling interviews with preparation work.
It was past 11.00am when the briefing was completed. The three of them proceeded to the designated kitchen to meet the rest of their team members to begin preparation works. There was a lot of work to be done in the final stages leading up to the event. Taeyeon dropped Jessica a text, telling her the announcement would be out in less than an hour and she was eager to share the details. Minutes felt like hours as the hand on the large clock in the room ticked.
At 12pm sharp, the media embargo for the charity event was released. A press release was sent out by Yukiko Takahashi’s agency, stating the actress’ participation in the event. The organizing committee also sent out their press release which listed the details of the event. All proceeds (after deducting the cost of the event) would be donated to the nominated charity for underprivileged children. A press conference would be held a few hours before the actual event. Ticket sales were already doing relatively well prior to the press release. With the announcement, the organizers were confident of a fully sold out event.
When the news was officially out, Taeyeon texted Jessica the details of the event, including the actress who was fronting it. She added a tease about how beautiful the actress was, wondering if Jessica would be jealous. In the end, she added a sentence about how Jessica was always the most beautiful person, inside and out, in her eyes. She was certain that was cringe-worthy and yet she wouldn’t land herself in hot soup when they reunite in Seoul after their busy schedules.
After tucking the phone in her pocket, Taeyeon wrapped the apron around her waist and straightened the chef’s hat on her head. It was time for business.
Jessica was glad her day was almost over. The entire day was spent brainstorming ideas with the clients. It was very draining both mentally and physically. Thanks to her terrific team, the project was ending faster than planned. She couldn’t wait to go home and reunite with Taeyeon. Never did she imagine she would miss someone so much. Despite the advancement of technology which allowed people to be connected in more efficient ways such as via Skype and chat apps, nothing beat the warmth and security of being in Taeyeon’s arms. The little gestures, such as the morning kiss and the welcome hug when they met after a day at work, were sorely missed. The longing feeling in her heart was growing with each passing day.
The consultant collapsed onto her office chair and closed her eyes for a while. Her body was exhausted and her brain mentally drained. She tried to push out the negatives, conjuring images of positives and the image of Taeyeon with a toothy grin instantly appeared in her head. The smile which always made her heart flutter.
Cheesecake, it wouldn’t be long before I see you. Gosh, I miss you so much. I’m going to hug you so tightly and kiss you so hard until you turn into the same shade of blue as the Smurfs.
Jessica laughed out loud at her ridiculous idea. Fortunately she had her own little room in the office and her door was closed.
Just then, Jessica’s phone vibrated. She picked it up and couldn’t stop smiling when she saw the sender’s name. It was as if Taeyeon knew Jessica was thinking of her right at that moment. As she read the message, her smile disappeared the moment she saw the two particular words in the long message and blood drained from her face.
That name struck a chord with her. An image of a Japanese lady appeared in her head. It was blurry at first as Jessica tried to recall where she had seen that name before. A feeling of uneasiness started filling her heart.
“This name…where have I seen her before?” Jessica mumbled, her brows knitted and her lips pressed tightly.
A few moments later, a clearer visual and three letters came to mind.
“Yukiko Takahashi…,” Jessica muttered as her slender fingers flew across the keyboard to google for that name. “Yukiko…Yuki… Yuki chan?”
Jessica was hoping it wasn’t the person she had in mind. They had been calling each other by their pet names, hence Jessica wasn’t a hundred percent sure Yukiko Takahashi was Yuki chan’s full name.
When the image of the actress appeared on screen, Jessica exclaimed and pressed her hands against her face, “What the hell!”
Jessica couldn’t believe what she saw. She rolled away from the table, burying her face in her palms and shaking her head. She had not expected to see her former fling’s picture on screen, and what was worse, Yukiko was the actress who was attending the charity event which Taeyeon was working on. What an unfortunate combination!
Knowing Yukiko’s hunger for lust, Jessica was certain the actress would try to hit on Taeyeon. Yukiko was infamous for being flirtatious and seductive. Many women had fallen for her charms and sweet talk. Thinking back to the past, it was Yukiko who first initiated a drinking session with Jessica after they met at a business event. Jessica, who then wasn’t in a relationship and didn’t mind company on her business trip, agreed to go along. Yukiko showed her fondness for Jessica very plainly and after the second meeting, they were involved in a no strings attached affair. At that time, Jessica was heavily involved in a Japan project and had to visit the country very often. The pair took the opportunity to meet up whenever their schedules allowed, mostly at night.
Jessica was worried about Taeyeon. Taeyeon, being the nice and accommodating type, would find it difficult to fend off Yukiko’s persistent advances. Also, Taeyeon had to work with Yukiko on the event and it wouldn’t seem polite if Taeyeon intentionally kept her distance from the actress. She had to rely on her trust in Taeyeon that the baker wouldn’t be tempted to do any funny business behind her back.
As she read the news about the event, Jessica’s lips tightened, turning down at the ends. She clenched her jaw as she clicked on the gallery of images in one of the news articles.
There were three photos which accompanied the press release. The first photo featured the actress in a profile shot, typical of a celebrity. She was dressed in a khaki trench coat and brown pants with boots. Yukiko wore the celebrity smile; straight, white polished pearly whites framed with a semi-matte red lipstick. She had the effect of drawing people towards her, as if she was a human magnet.
The second was a group photo of Suzuki and his team. They wore white baker’s uniforms bearing the name of Suzuki’s chain of cafes on their left chest. Since the photo was taken in an official setting, Taeyeon had a small smile on her face, unlike her usual goofy smile. Jessica stifled a laugh upon seeing how Taeyeon was posing ‘professionally’. It was her typical smile whenever she had to appear in front of the media; somewhat shy and reserved.
In the third photo, Yukiko and Taeyeon were kneading dough in a kitchen. Jessica guessed it was a posed photo because Yukiko’s hands were relatively clean and there were only light sprinkles of flour on her arm. Also, she was merely pressing her hands into the dough, creating an imprint. On the other hand, Taeyeon’s arms were dusted with flour and the muscles in her forearms were clenched as she exerted force in kneading the dough. One thing which disturbed Jessica was the way Yukiko was looking at Taeyeon. To be exact, the actress was gazing lustfully at Taeyeon. The smile on Jessica’s face was instantly replaced with a scowl.
The vibration of her phone broke Jessica’s thoughts. She realised she hadn’t replied any of Taeyeon’s messages yet. Taeyeon informed her that she was going for a television interview, along with the rest of the team, in a few hours’ time. The actress would be present as well. There were other interviews lined up, almost back to back. It was part of the plan to drum up publicity for the event.
Jessica’s finger hovered above the green call button on her phone. She was tempted to call Taeyeon but figured the baker would be busy preparing for the interviews. She typed out a few messages and sent them across, wishing the baker good luck but leaving out any mention about the actress. On one hand, she was concerned if Yukiko made her move on Taeyeon. Taeyeon was rather dense at times and it was evident in her past encounters such as with Jiyeon. On the other hand, it would seemed weird if she became agitated or asked too many questions about Yukiko.
Letting out a bitter laugh, Jessica muttered about how small the world was and what a coincidence for her ex-fling to meet the love of her life.
A/N: It’s Girls’ Generation 10th Anniversary, an update to Heartbeat is a must.