Chapter 1

It was the last performance of the music program and everyone was waiting with bated breath for the singer to appear on stage. A moment later, the lights on the stage dimmed. Only one spotlight shone on a spot in the middle of the stage. Fans were chanting the singer’s name with vigour and waving their fanboards. A petite figure emerged from the backstage and everyone shouted for joy.

The singer wore a white dress with gold trimmings, with a tiara on her head. She smiled and nodded to her fans as she walked towards the microphone stand. The cheers died down the moment the singer placed one hand on the microphone. It was her signal that she was about to sing.

The music played in the singer’s crystal encrusted ear piece. Taking a quick breath, the first few words of the song floated out of her mouth, filling everyone’s ears. In a matter of seconds, the singer’s powerful and emotional voice tugged at everyone’s heartstrings as she belted out the sad ballad.

~*~*~*~

The singer changed out of her stage clothes and wore a simple printed tee beneath a black leather jacket. She wrapped a knitted red scarf around her neck as she waited for her manager to take her home after the performance. It had been a long day and she couldn’t wait to get back to her apartment to rest.

“Taeyeon, you did a great job!” Minjoon, Taeyeon’s manager praised as he entered the waiting room. “It’s a good start for your new album promotions!”

“Thanks Minjoon oppa,” Taeyeon said quietly. She walked alongside Minjoon as they made their way out of the broadcast station.

Fans were waiting for her as camera flashes went off continuously, lighting up the carpark at night. Taeyeon managed a smile and waved to her fans before entering the MPV. Once she was in, Taeyeon settled comfortably on the seat, put on her earphones, closed her eyes and rest. The next few weeks were going to be hectic for her, with performances at the various broadcast stations to promote her new album. Rest was her utmost priority whenever she had the chance. Her voice was a valuable asset and she needed to protect it.

“Taeyeon, is there any problem?” Minjoon asked, noticing Taeyeon’s sullen look after the first week’s performances had concluded.

Since the start of her promotions, Taeyeon had been feeling stressed. She had been monitoring her own performance, trying to learn from her mistakes and see how she could improve and make the next stage better. Each time, she grew more and more frustrated with herself though she tried not to show that side of her emotions on stage. She was a professional and she couldn’t let any personal feelings affect her work. Standing on the stage, she reminded herself she was Taeyeon the singer. A person who was supposed to bring out the emotions of the song she was singing.

Taeyeon was played with the ends of her jacket, her eyes not meeting her manager’s.

“Taeyeon, if there’s a problem or something you’re not satisfied with, please tell me,” Minjoon requested.

“Ah…”

“Is it because of the comeback stage? Something’s wrong with the audio? Or is the setting on the stage too distracting for you? Tell me,” Minjoon urged.

Taeyeon bit her lower lips. No words were said.

Taeyeon and Minjoon had been working together for the past three years and became closer as friends. It was obvious to Minjoon that the singer was bothered by the recent promotions.

“I’m not giving excuses just because the song didn’t top the charts for a long time. It’s just…the song isn’t satisfactory. I am…not satisfied with it. It didn’t feel right. I’m trying very hard to convey the emotions in the song but the tune just doesn’t cut it,” Taeyeon explained.

“I’ve seen you at the recording studio. I know you’re trying your best to bring out the emotions of the song. I can tell it’s tough to work with the current songwriter. Maybe his writing style doesn’t suit you. Everyone knows you’re a good vocalist. I’ll speak to the management about it and we’ll look for another songwriter for your next song. Don’t worry, Taeyeon,” Minjoon assured, giving a pat on Taeyeon’s back.

“Thank you, Minjoon oppa,” Taeyeon said gratefully.

After a month, it was finally the last day of her comeback promotions. Taeyeon was glad when it was over. This time, her song didn’t do as well as expected. It only topped the charts for two weeks before it was overtaken by another popular singer IU. Nonetheless, she was grateful for her fans for supporting her throughout the promotion period.

Taeyeon emerged into the waiting room after changing into a set of casual clothes. The waiting room was a hive of activity as everyone was busy packing up and preparing to leave.

Minjoon went towards Taeyeon and gave her a pat on the back.

“You did great. Everyone is proud of you, Taeyeon,” Minjoon praised.

“I have to thank everyone for their effort. Without them, I wouldn’t be here,” Taeyeon said humbly.

“Everyone knows how hardworking you are. Right now, I want you to part your brows, lift your lips and enjoy yourself at the celebratory dinner, okay?”

Taeyeon nodded, a smile slowly appearing on the singer’s face.

“Let’s go!” Minjoon gave Taeyeon a nudge as they headed for the MPV.

~*~*~*~

It had been more than three months after Taeyeon’s last album promotion. While on a break, Taeyeon took time to meet up with various songwriters in preparation of her next album. Many of them wrote a demo song or two in hope of impressing the singer and ultimately being able to work together with her. However, none of them caught Taeyeon’s eye.

Besides having a good song, establishing a good working relationship and being comfortable with the songwriter were also important factors for Taeyeon. It would be difficult to present her best if she wasn’t able to communicate well with her team members.

Minjoon arranged for Taeyeon to meet an upcoming songwriter at a quiet cafe in the neighbourhood despite the singer’s reluctance.

“Though she’s only in this industry for two years, the ballads she had written so far received rave reviews from critics and she is touted as a rising star. In fact, one of her ballads ‘Heart Road’ was featured in a recent drama ‘The King’s Dream’,” Minjoon assured. It took much persuasion for Taeyeon to agree to meet the songwriter.

“Minjoon oppa, I’ve already met so many but none of them …”

“Don’t worry Taeyeon. I guarantee you wouldn’t be disappointed when you meet her.”

“I hope so,” the singer replied softly. Based on the background information given by Minjoon, this young songwriter was the same age as Taeyeon and recently moved from Los Angeles to Seoul. Trusting her manager’s taste, she decided to meet up with her.

Climbing up to the second floor of the cafe, Minjoon saw the songwriter sitting in a corner.

“There she is,” Minjoon announced.

He gave Taeyeon an assuring pat on the arm and pointed to a woman who was sitting among the cushioned seats. She had long dark brown hair with soft curls and she was reading a magazine.

The moment Taeyeon lay her eyes on the songwriter, she let out a short gasp. At the same time, the songwriter heard someone approaching and looked up. She turned her head slightly and met the eyes of the singer. Both of them held each other’s gaze for a brief moment before the songwriter broke into a warm smile.

Taeyeon was mesmerised by the sight in front of her. She hadn’t expected the songwriter to look so beautiful. The soft brown hair framed her sharp face and her bright brown eyes look pleased to meet the singer. Her smile warmed the singer’s heart and gave her a fluttering feeling in her stomach. It was the first time Taeyeon had seen such a beautiful songwriter in her life.

“Hello Jessica, I’m Kwon Minjoon, the manager for Kim Taeyeon. Pleased to meet you,” Minjoon greeted the songwriter with a handshake.

“This is Kim Taeyeon, the singer I was telling you about.” Minjoon nudged Taeyeon forward and pointed to the petite singer. He had met up with Jessica a week earlier to give a brief introduction of Taeyeon.

“H-hi, I’m Kim Taeyeon. Nice to meet you.” Taeyeon extended her hand, trying to keep her cool.

“Nice to meet you Taeyeon, I’m Jessica Jung.”

Jessica’s voice was higher-pitch than Taeyeon had imagined. There was a tone of femininity and gentleness in her voice that sounded pleasing to the ear. Their handshake was firm and warm.

Jessica shared her musical background and experience with the duo. Taeyeon was listening intently; her eyes were always focused on the songwriter. Minjoon was elated to see Taeyeon nodding along as Jessica was talking. On and off, Taeyeon asked a few questions and Jessica gladly answered all of them. Minjoon was hopeful this would turn into a good partnership.

“Actually, I wrote a song for Taeyeon once I knew I’m meeting her today. Would you like to listen to it?” Jessica asked after they had concluded their meeting.

Taeyeon’s eyes lit up. She was surprised Jessica had prepared something for her. Most of the songwriters she met merely introduced their works and showcased what they had done. A few of them hummed a small section of a brand new work just to show their talents but none of them wrote a full song for her.

“Sure, why not? Would that be okay, Taeyeon?” Minjoon asked.

“I’m all ears,” Taeyeon said with a smile as she relaxed into the comfortable sofa.

Jessica pulled out her iPad and went to the mini stage in the cafe. There was a microphone stand and speakers which were meant for the cafe’s live band to use every evening. A keyboard sat in the middle of the stage. Currently it was mid afternoon and there was no other people on the upper level of the cafe, hence it would be the perfect opportunity to sing without any distractions.

Setting the iPad on the keyboard, Jessica took a seat and adjusted the microphone. She cleared her throat and began to play a tune on the keyboard.

Is this what love is?
Does it hurt the more you do it?
The more I get closer to you
My feelings grow bigger
It scares me

Such a precious person to me
That person, who won’t ever come again
That’s it for me, that’s enough
Just the fact that I love you

Throughout the song, Jessica noticed there wasn’t any expression on Taeyeon’s face. The singer didn’t seem to like the song very much. Occasionally, the singer would close her eyes or flip randomly at the papers on the table. Jessica grew anxious at the singer’s disinterest in her song, wondering if she would be selected.

Therefore, Jessica was surprised when Taeyeon applauded immediately when the last note was played. The singer wore a smile on her face and it was a total contrast to her earlier ‘bored expression.

“That’s amazing,” Taeyeon praised when the songwriter joined them at the table.

It was heart wrenching and definitely tugged at people’s heartstrings, which was what a sad love song should do. Taeyeon was hooked to the songwriter’s clear yet soulful voice.

“Thank you,” Jessica said gratefully.

“You pulled it off so well! You ought to be a singer instead!” Minjoon praised.

That comment made Taeyeon glare at Minjoon in mock anger, resulting in the poor manager apologising for his blunt comment.

“Thank you for the compliment. I prefer to work behind the scenes,” Jessica replied shyly. “This song would be suitable for Taeyeon. She would be able to invoke the emotional feel in this song and would definitely be able to pull it off much better than me.”

Taeyeon was beaming from ear to ear when she heard Jessica singing her praises. It wasn’t the first time she heard such a compliment. However, coming from the songwriter, it sounded like honey to her ears.

Minjoon and Taeyeon thanked the songwriter for her efforts and told her they would need to discuss internally before making a decision. Jessica shook hands with both of them before leaving. Taeyeon wished she didn’t have to let go of Jessica’s hands so soon.

“I can safely conclude that we would be going into a partnership for your next album, right, Taeyeon?” Minjoon flashed Taeyeon a wide smile once Jessica was out of sight.

“Yup,” Taeyeon answered with a lopsided grin. There was a slight flutter in her heart and she couldn’t wait to work with Jessica. It had been a long while since someone got her so excited to start work.

In the following week, Minjoon inked the deal with Jessica to work on Taeyeon’s upcoming album. Everyone, especially Taeyeon, was excited to start work on the new album. Minjoon had arranged for an introductory dinner at a small cosy Korean restaurant. It was located in a quiet district, away from the hustle and bustle. One of the reasons was also to prevent fans from mobbing the restaurant so that they could eat in peace. By the end of the night, everyone was chatting away like old friends in the company of alcohol and good food.

At the end of the night, Minjoon, Taeyeon and Jessica were the only ones left after everyone went home.

“Minjoon oppa, I think it is better for you to leave your car here and catch a taxi home. You had too much to drink and I’ll be worried for your safety if you drive home in this condition,” Taeyeon urged, her voice filled with concern. She noticed how Minjoon was walking a little unsteadily as he exited the restaurant.

“Mr Kwon, Taeyeon is right. Safety is very important. It is best not to drive in your current state,” Jessica added.

“Then how are you getting home? Let me get a taxi for you. I am responsible for you since I am your manager.”

“Don’t worry, Minjoon oppa. I can always hail a taxi by myself,” Taeyeon assured, patting her manager’s arm.

“No, I can’t let you go home alone,” Minjoon insisted, raising his voice a little.

Seeing the tensed atmosphere between the singer and her manager, Jessica spoke up.

“Mr Kwon, I could send Taeyeon and you home. I only had one drink so I’m perfectly fine. Moreover, it’s not easy to get a taxi at this hour in this district.”

Minjoon waved his hands in front of his body and made a cross sign. He frowned as he spoke. “No no I can’t let you do that. You’re a guest!”

“Don’t stand on ceremony. I insist. Let’s go.” Jessica gave Minjoon a slight nudge in the direction of her car.

Just then, Jessica spotted a taxi and flagged it down. In the end, Minjoon got into the taxi since Taeyeon and Jessica stayed relatively near each other and the songwriter assured him that she would send the singer home safely.

“Remember to text me once you get home, Taeyeon ah. You too, Jessica. I need to know you girls are safe!” Minjoon commanded before the taxi drove off.

Taeyeon couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s just how he is. Naggy ahjusshi but he’s a really nice person.”

“I am sure he isn’t that old! Let’s go home, shall we?”

That sentence resonated well with Taeyeon. Pulling up her hoodie to cover her head and face, Taeyeon followed behind Jessica as they walked towards Jessica’s car.

In the following weeks to come, Taeyeon and Jessica met frequently to discuss about the singer’s upcoming album. They talked about the concept, the expectations and their ideas at a meeting room in Taeyeon’s entertainment company. As they were often surrounded by company staff, their conversations were mostly related to work and idle chat was kept to the minimum or over lunch.

One day, Jessica suggested going outdoors to get inspirations instead of being cooped up between the four walls in the meeting room. Since they were planning for ballads and love songs, it was only apt to go to a place where they would find love such as parks and along the Han river.

Taeyeon’s heart leapt with joy at the suggestion. However, Minjoon insisted on tagging along for Taeyeon’s safety.

“Minjoon oppa, it would look really really really weird for a guy to hang out with two girls at a park in the evening, don’t you think so?” Taeyeon pleaded, piling her voice with aegyo.

Jessica giggled under her breath. It was the first time she saw the cool and composed singer behaving like this and she found her adorable. She caught Taeyeon throwing her a wink, as if to say that she was succeeding in preventing Minjoon from following them.

“Erm…I could stand a little distance away, as long as you’re within my sight,” Minjoon suggested.

“I’ll never be able to get an inspiration if I know someone is constantly lurking near me. It feels like there’s a stalker!” Taeyeon said dramatically, wriggling her hand at her manager and narrowing her eyes at him.

“But…but it’s for your own good!”

“Oppa, I’m not going to hang out alone at the park. Jessica is going to be there with me. We need some bonding time in order to come up with something awesome for my next album!” Taeyeon exclaimed enthusiastically.

Minjoon could only reply with a nod and a short sigh. “Alright. If you need any help or get into any trouble, call me. Call me and I’ll be right there.”

Taeyeon curved her arms on top of her head, making a heart sign and beamed. “Thank you oppa!”

Jessica couldn’t help but smile along with the singer. At least she knew she wasn’t the only one who was looking forward to that outing.

 

A/N: Song featured is The One Like You by Jessica. Official MV

Picture credit godspeller369

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