Taeyeon was eating strawberries when a bright voice called her name. After putting the tray of strawberries on the table, she leapt onto the bed and rolled in front of the laptop.
“The hotel’s bed is so comfy!” Taeyeon declared, propping her chin on her palms. Her lips automatically formed a wide smile upon seeing the person on her laptop screen. “It would be perfect if you are beside me now….naked.”
“Wipe that perverted grin off your face, darling. You know it ain’t going to happen,” Jessica frowned and pouted. She wished she was lying next to Taeyeon instead of being miles away. The feeling was worse when she knew the seductress Yukiko was lurking near her lover. She could only hope that Taeyeon remained true and steadfast.
The only lights in Taeyeon’s hotel room were from the bedside lamps and the glow from the laptop. Jessica was in awe at how beautiful her fiancée looked after a long day. Taeyeon was attractive despite her ‘just-showered’ wet hair and bareface.
“Awww, I would love to curl myself around you, feel your warmth, touch every inch of your supple skin and listen to your heartbeat. Thump thump thump thump…”
Jessica giggled. That silly baker was vomiting cheese and she missed hearing it face to face. Chatting over a laptop screen just wasn’t intimate enough. She wanted to reach out and squish Taeyeon’s cheeks with her hands.
“Are you sharing a room with anyone?”
Taeyeon nodded, a glint of mischief flashed in her eyes. “Yeah, I’m sharing a room with a hot babe. She’s in the shower now.”
For a brief moment, Jessica got a little worried. Then she figured if Taeyeon was out to cheat, she couldn’t have blatantly said her intentions out loud.
“Hey baby, I’m only kidding,” Taeyeon quickly added, noticing the slight frown on Jessica’s face. She missed the consultant a lot, more than she could imagine. They had been engaged for more than a year and were happily living together. Taeyeon wanted to register their marriage overseas since it wasn’t legal in South Korea. However, she knew Jessica wasn’t ready to commit fully whenever that topic was brought up and she didn’t want to push her for it. Besides, she was satisfied with her life and couldn’t be more happy when she reunited with Jessica.
The couple continued to chat for a little longer. When asked about her activities tomorrow, Taeyeon clenched her teeth before letting out a sigh.
“What’s wrong darling? Are the interviews stressing you out?”
“No, not really,” Taeyeon paused. Her jaws were tight and she hesitated for a moment, wondering how to tell Jessica about the actress. It had been bothering her for a while and she didn’t want to hide anything from Jessica. “But there is something else…”
“What is it?” Jessica’s nerves began to act up. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, wondering if it had something to do with the actress.
Taeyeon tilted her face away from the screen, staring pensively at something in the room.
“Darling, are you alright? Is everything fine?” Jessica asked softly despite the growing unease in her heart. “Taeyeon ah, are you okay?”
“I’ll be right back,” Taeyeon mumbled as she rolled off the bed, leaving an anxious Jessica waiting on the other side of the world. Jessica had to get to work soon but she figured Taeyeon was more important than work right now. Plus, their project was completed and today was mainly to wrap up the loose ends.
Seconds felt like minutes as Jessica waited by her laptop for Taeyeon to return. Her heart beat quickened and she was randomly spinning a pen with her fingers just to keep herself occupied.
When Taeyeon appeared on screen again, Jessica noticed she was holding a small plastic card in her hand.
“Sica, you know how popular I am right?” Taeyeon tried to smile a little. “Everyone loves me.” However, Jessica saw through that weak smile and knew there was something wrong instantly. Plus, Taeyeon often used affectionate terms such as ‘baby’ or ‘cupcake’ when calling out to her.
“Remember Jiyeon? My student from the Academy?”
Jessica nodded slowly.
Jiyeon having a huge crush on Taeyeon.
Jiyeon’s gaze on Taeyeon and how it followed the baker wherever she went. The thoughts Jiyeon had in her head on the things she wanted to… …
Jessica’s shook her head in a bid to stop her wild imagination. Yet it seemed her worst fear was about to come true in real life.
“This,” Taeyeon waved the plastic card in front of the camera. “Is something of a much higher level.”
Jessica’s legs grew weak but fortunately she was seated. She leaned forward, her eyebrows furrowed and fists clenched.
“Baby, this is a hotel room key card.” Taeyeon flipped the card around to reveal the hotel’s logo printed on the reverse side. All this while, Taeyeon had a very stern look on her face.
“The key card isn’t yours and it belongs to the actress,” Jessica interjected involuntarily. She didn’t realised that her knuckles were turning white at the intensity of her balled-up fists.
Taeyeon’s eyes widened and her eyebrows raised in surprise, covering her mouth with her hand. “How… how did you know?”
Jessica shook her head slightly and tried to compose herself. It was time to talk about her past. “Darling, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Shifting her weight in the chair and taking a quick glance at her watch, Jessica decided that work could wait. It was definitely not the best idea to talk about past flings over a laptop but she had no choice.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Taeyeon’s eyebrows tightened, her mouth slightly open and there was a knot in her chest seeing Jessica’s sudden change in expression and hearing her out of the blue confession. Jessica’s jaw was tight and her brows knitted while her eyes narrowed in concentration. A sense of dread filled the air.
“Remember I told you that I didn’t believe in love until I met you? Cheesy as it may sound but that’s true. Previously, I had casual flings and…” Jessica pursed her lips and weaved her fingers together, “Yukiko Takahashi is one of them.”
Hearing what Jessica said, it felt like all the air in Taeyeon’s lungs was forced out. She remained stunned for a moment, trying to remember how to breathe as Jessica’s words bounced around in her head.
When they were dating, both of them did share a little about their previous relationships but not in details. To them, their past didn’t matter as long as they were blissfully together now. Still, the sheer coincidence of a casual fling between the popular Japanese actress and her lover was a little too much for her to swallow at the moment.
Jessica was in pain seeing how shaken Taeyeon was. No one could have predicted that such a day would come. She hated herself for breaking such a news to Taeyeon over Skype and wished she could have been by the baker’s side. She tried to hold back the tears that were threatening to spill.
After a few minutes and collecting herself, Taeyeon finally spoke. “I am… I’m just a little… loss for words…”
“I know, I can understand and I’m so sorry about it,” Jessica extended her hand and touched the screen, as if she was caressing Taeyeon’s face.
“It…it is just a little surprising…I mean…like….wow. She is such a popular actress,” Taeyeon paused, her lips shaking a little. “Maybe that’s why she thinks she can have whoever she wants…”
“I guess so…” Jessica answered slowly, her words were filled with regret.
Taeyeon leaned against the headboard and rested the laptop on her knees. There was a mixture of emotions inside of her. Surprise, anger, confusion and hurt ran through her mind.
“Darling, I’m sorry… I really am. Taeng, I’m so… terribly…sorry,” Jessica’s voice trembled.
Seeing Jessica’s remorseful expression, Taeyeon couldn’t help but feel sad. She knew it was not wholly Jessica’s fault and anyway, they had agreed that the past was not important. It was just the surge of mixed emotions which made her unable to say anything.
“You need to get to work soon. I’ll be fine. I just need some time to digest what’s happening around me.” Taeyeon managed a small smile. That was all she could do at this moment.
Jessica knew the shock was big and Taeyeon needed time to gather her thoughts. Without resisting, Jessica reluctantly ended the video call after Taeyeon assured her once again that she was fine and there was no need to worry.
The moment the call ended, Jessica buried her face in her palms and felt tears streaming down her cheeks. The coincidence was also too much for her to bear. She was angry at herself for being the cause of her lover’s sadness and her past had come back to haunt her.
At the same time in Tokyo, Taeyeon closed the cover of her laptop and sat it on the space next to her. She stared blankly at the television in front of her, unable to focus on the movie that was playing. She hugged the pillow for a few minutes before throwing it aside. Then she hugged her knees instead. She rocked front and back a little, trying to make sense of the whirlwind of emotions within her.
Could she blame Jessica completely?
Could she have fallen for the actress’ charms had she not been attached?
There were so many instances of married couples who had affairs behind their partners’ backs, but in this case, it happened before they were together.
Many questions and scenarios played in her head like a continuous stream of movie trailers.
After an hour or so, Taeyeon managed to calm down a little. The surging emotions had stopped and she felt a bit more relieved. She realised it was already very late at night and she had an early morning television interview. She stretched out on the bed and tucked herself underneath the warmth of the blanket. It was then she suddenly became aware of the ring on her necklace as it slid to the side of her neck. Lying on her side, Taeyeon picked up the ring and ran her finger across its smooth surface. Somewhere in the middle, her skin felt the engraving on the inner side of the ring and subconsciously the corner of her lips slowly formed a gentle smile before she succumbed to sleep.
“Psst, psst…Earth to Jessica.”
Jessica looked up from her documents and saw Josh standing in front of her, holding a hot cup of coffee.
“I figured you need this when I saw you coming in this morning. Something happened?” Josh asked as he passed the coffee to Jessica.
Jessica took a small sip and leaned back in her chair. She merely nodded before taking another sip of the hot coffee.
“I’m guessing it has something to do with someone in Tokyo.” Jessica was almost never late for work and appointments. Josh instantly knew something had happened when she texted him about coming in late. After working together for so many years, he knew it had to be something personal and of great importance to Jessica.
Yet another slow but firm nod. “Yeap,” Jessica answered before letting out a short sigh.
“Hey, cheer up.” Josh gave Jessica a friendly pat on her arm. “Let’s go for the meeting and ace it. It’s the last one already.”
Jessica mentally told herself to put on her professional front as she followed Josh to the meeting.
During the final meeting, Jessica’s mind wandered off a few times but thankfully Josh was there to cover for her. It was probably the first time in her professional career she acted this way which was extremely unlike of her. She prided herself for being able to draw the line clearly between personal and work. However, this time the impact was hard.
After the meeting, Josh pulled Jessica aside. They stepped into a nearby empty meeting room.
“Are you alright?” Josh asked, his voice filled with concern.
“Yes, thanks for covering me.” Jessica patted Josh’s arm gently.
“You did your part during the whole project. If you were slacking, I wouldn’t have helped you,” Josh teased. “And we’ve been colleagues for so long.”
“I owe you drinks when we get back to Seoul,” Jessica promised.
“Great! I have that on record!” Josh waved his phone in the air.
Jessica gave Josh two smacks on his arm. “Oh come on, as if I have never bought you drinks before!”
“Anyway, I have a piece of good news for you.” Josh flashed a merry grin while dodging Jessica’s attacks.
“Oh, what is it?” Jessica asked, curiously, raising an eyebrow.
“I told the admin to book you the first available flight out to Tokyo. I said there is a meeting you need to attend and that you wouldn’t be flying to Seoul. So….you don’t have to stay here a moment longer,” Josh paused for effect before continuing in a hush tone. “The additional charges are at your own expense of course.”
“Are you serious?!” Jessica exclaimed. Her legs went wobbly and she had to grab the nearest chair to support herself.
“Jessica Jung Soo Yeon, do I look like I’m joking?” Josh pretended to look stern but ended up bursting into laughter. “Yes, I’m serious. Keep it down ya. Hyun Seung doesn’t know and don’t worry about it, I’ll have my way to deal with him.”
Josh knew how much Taeyeon meant to Jessica. Even though he didn’t know what had happened, he wanted to help and understand that face to face communication was the best way to solve problems.
The next instant, Jessica enveloped Josh in a hug and gave him a cheek kiss.
“Now I owe you more than just drinks,” Jessica declared delightedly.
“Of course! Meanwhile, I need your autograph on the last page of the contract before you jet off to Tokyo.”
Josh patted Jessica’s back twice before he pulled away from the hug. An ecstatic Jessica dashed out of the meeting room at the speed of light and right into her office. She took deep breaths to calm herself down before reading through the contract for the final time. Despite her anxiety, she made sure to check the details carefully. Once she was certain it was perfect, she inked the document and handed it over to Josh.
Josh flashed a wide grin and motioned for Jessica to quickly leave before Hyun Seung appeared. Jessica hurried to the office lobby and flagged a taxi to the hotel. Her heart was pounding and she couldn’t have been more grateful to Josh for helping her out. Her relationship with Josh was more than colleagues; they hit off very well after they first met at work and became close friends. Thankfully, the project ended earlier than expected, hence she was able to leave without any worries. Otherwise, being the responsible person, she would have stayed in Los Angeles to complete the work and find some way to deal with her feelings.
Tokyo , 5.30am
The bright lights at the dressing room were blinding. The noisy chatter felt like people were shouting right next to her ears. Taeyeon was nursing was a throbbing headache. She hadn’t slept well, barely surviving on less than four hours of sleep. Images of happy and painful memories filled her dreams last night; memories of her proposal in Melbourne, the interaction with the actress, the thought of the actress and her lover together… …
“Kim san, did you sleep very late last night? You have very dark eye circles,” the concerned makeup artist asked.
“I’m so sorry. I must have been too nervous for this morning’s television interview,” Taeyeon apologized guiltily.
“It is okay. It is very normal to feel nervous. Not everyone feels comfortable in front of the camera.”
The last sentence reminded Taeyeon of Yukiko and the fact that she was going to see the actress in a few moments. She sighed deeply, not knowing how to reply the makeup artist.
“Don’t worry, nothing a little makeup can’t fix. I’ll make you very pretty in front of the camera,” the makeup artist giggled, thinking that Taeyeon was worried about her tired eyes.
Taeyeon forced a small smile and wished the interview would be over soon. She closed her eyes and let the makeup artist do her magic.
Thirty minutes later, the chatter in the dressing room grew louder. Taeyeon’s makeup was done and her hair was being styled at the moment. She couldn’t turn her head to see the commotion behind her but she knew the actress had arrived.
There were exchanges of morning greetings between the actress, her stylist and the staff in the dressing room. The energy level shot up as the staff whispered among themselves as the actress made her way into the room.
Yukiko Takahashi had her makeup and hair done at her usual salon instead of at the television station. While greeting the staff politely, she was busy hunting for the baker whom she knew had arrived at the television studio. The moment she spotted Taeyeon at the corner of the room, she immediately made a beeline for the empty seat next to the baker.
“Good morning Taeyeon san!” an irritatingly cheery voice greeted, then a cold hand rested on her thigh.
Taeyeon’s morning had just gone from bad to worse.
A/N: An early Christmas gift, from me to you. Merry Christmas to all my readers and have an awesome 2018!