“Good morning!” Hyun Seung chirped as he glided into the office pantry.
“Good morning,” Jessica replied after taking a sip of her coffee.
Hyun Seung stopped in his tracks abruptly and took a few steps backwards to face Jessica.
“Hey, do I detect a warm happy good morning?” Hyun Seung questioned, raising his eyebrow.
Jessica avoided his question and squeezed past him to exit the pantry.
“Ooh, someone’s in a good mood. There’s even a smile on her face,” Hyun Seung called out, sticking his head out of the pantry in the direction where Jessica was heading.
Jessica hadn’t realised she was smiling until she saw her reflection in the glass door of the meeting room she passed. Last night’s bedroom activities had been mind-blowing and it had been a long while since both of them shared so much passion with each other. She giggled to herself and walked towards her room briskly.
Throughout the morning, Hyun Seung took the opportunity of Jessica’s rare good mood to pop into her room every now and then. He would start off with work and later digress into some other topics such as shopping or dining. On a normal day, Jessica would have banned him from coming into her room unless it was a huge emergency.
At noon, Hyun Seung reappeared at Jessica’s room.
“Babe, it’s lunch time!” Hyun Seung announced. “In order to build our team relations for the upcoming trip, I’m getting Josh along for lunch too.”
Hyun Seung pulled the floppy hair American by his arm and pushed him into Jessica’s office. Jessica was reluctant to join them for lunch, especially with Hyun Seung around. Hyun Seung tended to be loud and talkative. However, she was in a good mood today, she decided to join them.
The talkative young man insisted on sitting opposite Jessica at lunch. He kept asking Jessica and Josh about Los Angeles; the places of interest to visit, the famous restaurants, the nightlife and shopping. Jessica contributed a fair bit to the topic of shopping, her favourite subject. Hyun Seung was delighted to know that they shared similar tastes and was looking forward to shopping with her when they arrive in Los Angeles.
Midway during lunch, while Hyun Seung was off to the washroom, Josh spoke.
“Hey Jessica, you do remember our plans for tonight right?”
Jessica sipped her coffee and showed an ‘okay’ sign with her free hand. Josh grinned from ear to ear. He couldn’t wait for the ‘action’ to happen tonight.
“Good. You’ve been awesome. The team owes you a huge meal for this.” Josh gave Jessica a pat on her arm.
“Each of you owe me one lunch each. That way, I’ll save a lot of money on lunches for the two weeks,” Jessica demanded, wagging her finger at Josh.
“For all the fun we’ve been enjoying at your expense, that’s a small issue,” Josh laughed heartily.
The trio finished the rest of their lunch without a mention of what was to happen later that night.
At 7.00pm, Hyun Seung appeared in Jessica’s office. He had removed his tie and rolled up his sleeves to the elbows. The top few buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned, revealing a hint of a toned chest. He had been working out lately in order to tone his body.
Hyun Seung plonked himself on the chair in front of Jessica and watched the latter work. After five minutes, Jessica finally looked at Hyun Seung in the eye. To be honest, he did look quite handsome but too bad he wasn’t her type. Perhaps another straight girl would fall for him and they could live happily ever after. For now, she was happy to find and be able to be with her soulmate.
“Perhaps you would like to go to the pub first and I’ll see you guys there in a while,” Jessica hinted. She was trying to finish a report before going to the party and didn’t want Hyun Seung to disturb her.
“I told the rest to go ahead, I’ll wait for you.” Hyun Seung leaned back onto the chair, flexed his arm muscles and placed his hands behind his head while keeping his eyes on Jessica. He flashed a dorky grin and winked.
“Please go ahead since you’re so free. I can’t work with someone staring at me,” Jessica replied, maintaining a serious tone. She hoped Hyun Seung would get the hint and leave her office.
Hyun Seung brushed his fingers through his hair and grinned. “I can’t help admiring such a gorgeous woman.”
“You’re one of the organizers for Hyuna’s welcome party, shouldn’t you be there first?”
“I told that shorty Yoseob to handle it.” Hyun Seung crossed one leg over the other, propped his elbows on the table and rested his chin the back of his hands.
Jessica let out an exasperated sigh. This guy is really persistent indeed. Pest is the best word to describe him.
“Come on, it’s the end of the day already and I’m sure whatever you’re doing can be done tomorrow. Hey, recently I learnt of this fantastic online shopping website where they have huge discounts on clothes. Some of the designs suit your style, let me show you!”
Hyun Seung jumped up from his chair and squatted next to Jessica. He placed his hand on her mouse before the latter could remove her hand.
“See, this is dress is so pretty. I’m sure it looks good on you. It’s on forty percent discount right now! Oh look, what about this? The tube dress would accentuate your figure,” Hyun Seung said sneakily, running his eyes down Jessica’s body.
“Jang Hyun Seung, do you need me to call security before you would disappear from my office and leave me to do my work in peace?” Jessica warned without hesitation.
Hyun Seung immediately sprang away from Jessica, as if she was a piece of hot iron. “Alright alright, chill babe. Anyway, it’s almost 7.40pm, shall we go? I heard Mr Sung is arriving soon.”
Hyun Seung knew that Jessica gave Mr Sung a lot of respect and that she wouldn’t dare to be late in front of her boss. Seeing Jessica packed her bag unwillingly, he knew he won the battle. He stood by the door and waited patiently for her to finish packing.
Arriving at the pub, it was packed like sardines. The pub was a popular place for the nearby office crowd to hang out after work. Being a gentleman, Hyun Seung walked in front and opened up a gap so that Jessica could follow him behind and be able to walk through easily.
Midway to the corner where the rest of the staff were hanging out, a tall burly man bumped into Jessica, causing her to almost lose her balance. Hyun Seung quickly placed an arm around Jessica’s shoulder and enveloped the woman in a side hug, preventing her from falling. Jessica fell into Hyun Seung’s embrace and he couldn’t help smiling to himself.
“Thanks,” Jessica said, somewhat embarrassed as she quickly freed herself from Hyun Seung lest anyone mistaken her interest in him.
“You’re most welcome, babe,” Hyun Seung said, flashing a toothy grin. “Let’s hurry.”
Hyun Seung grabbed Jessica’s hand and weaved through the crowd to the far corner of the pub. Jessica didn’t resist and let him lead the way since she didn’t know where the rest of them were at.
“Wow wow wow, you got your girl eh?” Yoseob raised his eyebrows at Hyun Seung when he saw them arriving at their table hand in hand. He gave Hyun Seung a friendly slap on his back when the latter got nearer.
Jessica immediately shook her hand free from Hyun Seung’s and disappeared from his side to join the other colleagues.
The team ordered a lot of drinks and some of them were busy showing off their moves on the dance floor. Spirits were high as everyone bonded over a mixture of music and drinks. Some of them went off to the dance floor to work off the alcohol in their body system.
Hyun Seung stayed close to Jessica all the time, much to her annoyance. Jessica kept pushing him to Hyuna since he kept singing praises about the new comer’s good looks. However, he refused to leave Jessica, citing a lame excuse that he was loyal in his pursuit for love. Jessica almost choked on her Baileys when she heard that remark.
Suddenly, there was a commotion on the dance floor. Everyone was staring at Hyuna in awe as she grinded her hips and moved her arms sexily all over her body. Her low cut tube top and tight short skirt caught the attention of almost everyone in the pub.
Hyun Seung was staring at the new comer with his mouth wide open.
Sheesh, men, only wired to gawk at a woman’s physical body. Jessica thought to herself. She watched Hyuna show off her sexy dance moves while enjoying her Baileys. The rest of the male colleagues who were sitting at the couch all rushed to the side of the dance floor to watch the ‘dance performance’.
As the midnight approached, some of Jessica’s colleagues left as they had to meet clients early next morning. Hyun Seung and Yoseob kept ordering drinks and insisted on playing drinking games with Jessica and Hyuna. Hyuna was very game at playing and even won the guys several times. Not wanting to be a spoilsport, Jessica joined in the games but she lost on a few occasions, resulting in having to finish a few shots at one go.
About half an hour later, all of them left the pub. Some of them caught a taxi along the street while others headed back to the office to pick up their cars.
“Are you alright, Jessica?” Hyun Seung asked, his arms hovering around Jessica’s back as she was flushed red.
“Whose fault is it that I ended up looking as red as a fire hydrant?” Jessica scolded. She was still sober despite her red face.
“Blame it on Hyuna’s beginner’s luck. I had to drink a fair bit too,” Hyun Seung defended, looking at Hyuna. Hyuna glared at him, obviously not pleased that she was used as a joke.
“You just said you drank a fair bit and you expect me to feel safe in your hands?” Jessica berated.
“I definitely look way more sober than you. I can hold my alcohol very well,” Hyun Seung boasted. “Pass me your car keys, I’ll send you home.”
As they crossed the road to their office building, Hyun Seung spotted a small figure coming out of a lightning blue hatchback and approaching them.
“Looks like the troublemaker is going to be disappointed,” Hyuna said aloud with a sneer when the person got nearer.
“Hello,” Taeyeon greeted everyone with a bow.
The small of group of them exchanged greetings with each other. Jessica went straight towards Taeyeon and slipped her hand into the baker’s. Taeyeon was a little startled by Jessica’s open affection in front of her colleagues. She weaved her fingers with Jessica’s and stroked Jessica’s hand with her thumb.
“Hey Taeyeon, when are you sending us some of your Mont Blanc again? It’s delicious!” Josh praised, holding his thumb up.
“I’m happy you like it. I’ll ask Jessica to bring some over to the office when I bake them,” Taeyeon replied with a smile and turning to face a red-faced Jessica. The alcohol was taking effect in her body and she was flushed.
“This is Kim Hyuna, my new colleague. Hyuna, this is Kim Taeyeon,” Jessica paused for effect. “My fiancée.”
“Fiancee?!” Hyun Seung exclaimed. He thought he was misheard Jessica’s words. He pinched himself on the arm just to verify that it wasn’t a joke.
Taeyeon and Hyuna exchanged formal greetings with a handshake. Hyuna wasn’t surprised by their relationship since she had already suspected Jessica’s preference on the first day they met. Josh and Yoseob were trying not to burst out into laughter seeing Hyun Seung’s shocked expression. Josh’s brilliant idea of roping in Jessica to teach Hyun Seung a lesson for his arrogance finally paid off.
“Are you serious?” Hyun Seung looked at Jessica with his eyes wide open. His eyes travelled to the couple’s intertwined fingers and back to Jessica again.
Jessica raised her left hand and flashed her engagement ring at Hyun Seung.
“Isn’t that ring just an accessory?!” Hyun Seung said in disbelief.
By now, Josh and Yoseob were bending over in laughter while Hyuna was sniggering away by the side.
“Oh my God, someone please tell me it’s because I drank too much just now so I’m hearing and seeing things,” Hyun Seung exclaimed as he smacked his own forehead in disbelief.
To drive her point home, Jessica swiftly turned around and gave Taeyeon a light peck on her cheek. Taeyeon was a little surprised at Jessica’s public display of affection but nonetheless enjoyed the brief kiss. A chorus of wolf whistles emerged from the small audience.
“I must be drunk! I must be drunk!” Hyun Seung buried his face in his hands, unable to accept the heart breaking news.
“Brother, let’s go and leave the loving couple alone. Good night, Jessica. Good night Taeyeon!” Yoseob said, pulling Hyun Seung by his shirt sleeve and dragging him into the office building.
Everyone bade farewell to each other and Taeyeon led Jessica to her car. Jessica hadn’t driven to work since she knew she had to attend a party at the pub.
“Now look who’s the heartbreaker this time? You break the hearts of both men and women. I wonder if Hyun Seung is going to recover within the next few days before you leave for LA,” Taeyeon chuckled as she started the engine. “Did you see how heartbroken he was?”
“Aren’t you glad that he wouldn’t be bugging me from tomorrow onwards, knowing that I’m already taken?” Jessica rested her head against the seat as she strapped herself in. It had been a long day and she was exhausted.
“Of course! I was quite worried of losing my precious cupcake to that good looking guy. It’s a weight off my shoulders,” Taeyeon said with relief, patting their interlocked hands.
Jessica’s lips stretched into a smile.
“Though I know my baby wouldn’t sway to the other side,” Taeyeon concluded confidently.
The smile disappeared from Jessica’s face. “Things may change. Maybe I’m bored and need something new to spice up my life.”
“What?!” Taeyeon wailed like a little kid who had her candy snatched from her. “You must be joking right? I can be as sweet as sugar and as hot as chilli peppers, whatever you want me to be, just as long as you don’t leave me!”
Jessica patted Taeyeon’s head and drew a circle on Taeyeon’s heart. “It’s good to know that I have an important place in here. How could I leave when you’ve already stolen my heart and don’t intend to return it back to me?”
“Jung Soo Yeon, I’m so gonna make you pay for it when we get home later!” Taeyeon threatened after knowing that Jessica was merely making fun of her.
“I will be waiting.” Jessica grinned, tapping her fingers together. She was contented to know that she held an important place in the baker’s heart.
Two days later in Tokyo
Taeyeon and Ren were in shopping in Tokyu Hands, a large chain of Japanese department stores where a person would get almost anything she wanted. It was a last minute trip for Taeyeon and Jessica wasn’t too pleased about it. Jessica couldn’t understand why no one else in Tokyo could help and that they had to get Taeyeon instead. They hardly had much time left to spend with each other before they go to their respective business trips and this last minute trip was certainly not welcomed. However, Taeyeon didn’t want to reject and disappoint her mentor Suzuki. Moreover he had personally called her to help. The only saving grace was that it was just a two day trip.
The huge store at Shinjuku spanned six floors and the both of them had been hanging around the Houseware department for a while.
“Taeyeon senpai, aren’t you supposed to get a gift for your partner?” Ren asked, suddenly recalling their purpose of visiting the store. “It’s almost closing time.”
“Oops! Thanks for the reminder, Ren. I better head to the Beauty department to get a gift for her,” Taeyeon said distractedly while studying a cake dish.
“Taeyeon senpai, I’ll meet you at the ground floor in half an hour. I want to head to the bags department to a haversack for myself. See you later,” Ren said before dashing off.
Taeyeon decided she didn’t need another cake dish and headed for the beauty department. The wide array of beauty products dazzled her. It was unfamiliar territory for her since she hardly used cosmetic due to her work in the kitchen. Stopping at a popular brand of Japanese cosmetic, Taeyeon asked the sales person to recommend suitable products which she could get for Jessica as a gift.
After listening to the sales person’s explanation, Taeyeon pondered for a few minutes before she made her decision. She looked up and noticed a familiar face staring back at her at the next cosmetic counter. It was Yukiko Takahashi’s face on a full length wall poster of another cosmetic brand.
She’s endorsing a snow-range of products, how apt. She’s really popular.
Taeyeon picked a few items from the counter and paid for her purchases. On her way to meet Ren at the main lobby on the ground floor, Taeyeon saw a small stage at the event hall and it bore the details of a fan sign by the cosmetic brand Yukiko Takahashi endorsed.
Spotting a toilet sign ahead, Taeyeon decided to make a quick pit stop before meeting Ren. The toilet was surprisingly quite quiet despite the crowd that was in the shopping mall. Perhaps everyone was waiting patiently for the actress to arrive and didn’t want to move away from their strategic spot near the stage.
While she was washing her hands, Taeyeon saw a small group of ladies gathering at the lounge area that was within the toilet via the reflection in the mirror above the sink. There was a lady who was wielding a hair curler while another was holding a makeup brush in her hands. Both of them were standing beside a lady who was seated. Taeyeon couldn’t see the person’s face clearly since the person was partially blocked by the person with the makeup brush.
Taeyeon dried her hands and left the washroom. She met up with Ren and they headed for the huge Kinokuniya bookshop located just beside Tokyu Hands.
“Is Yukiko Takahashi-san very popular in Japan?” Taeyeon asked, curious about the actress’ popularity.
Ren nodded eagerly. “Yes! She’s a popular rising star and is featured in a few magazines recently. In fact, I think she is having an autograph session at Tokyu Hands today.”
“Yes, I saw a stage at the main lobby. There was a small crowd gathered around it, presumably waiting for Takahashi san. I think I briefly saw her in the washroom earlier on,” Taeyeon replied while flipping through a magazine. She saw two advertisements that featured Yukiko Takahashi.
“Senpai, did you ask for her autograph?!” Ren’s eyes lit up and his invoice almost went up a pitch.
“Obviously not. You sound like you’re a big fan of her, are you?” Taeyeon raised an eyebrow at the young baker.
Ren merely grinned sheepishly, his cheeks turning red.
“No matter how big a fan you are, we have to remain professional at all times when handling this important project. Do not start to squeal or act in a silly manner, especially when you see her. Got it?” Taeyeon said sternly.
The smile disappeared from Ren’s face as he nodded in acknowledgement.
After buying a few magazines and books, both of them went for a quick dinner at a nearby ramen shop before heading back to the cafe. It was located on a quieter side street, away from the hustle and bustle of the main street where the crowds were. Ren insisted the ramen was awesome and wanted Taeyeon to try it.
“Everyone goes to the shop at the main street but no one realised the ramen at this little shop is one of the best too!” Ren said excitedly, his eyes lit up with delight.
Inside the cosy little shop, there was a row of seats at the counter facing the ramen chef and a handful of tables and chairs tucked away further in. The store was dimly lit except for the kitchen. There was a middle-aged ramen chef with a head full of white hair and dressed in a traditional Japanese costume as he diligently cooked the ramen in boiling hot soup. There was an old lady helping him to prepare the bowls and ingredients.
Taeyeon and Ren took a seat at the counter. They ordered the chef’s special and it arrived a few minutes later. They tucked into the delicious noodles that were soaked in thick broth hungrily.
By the time the duo was done eating their ramen, it was closing time. Taeyeon noticed the chef was preparing four bowls of ramen into takeaway containers though there weren’t any other customers in the shop besides Ren and her. Perhaps it was meant for the customer who called the shop ten minutes ago.
Taeyeon and Ren thanked the chef for his delicious ramen before leaving the shop. Just as they stepped out, a man dressed in a grey jacket rushed in, brushing past Taeyeon and almost causing her to drop the paper bag she was carrying. The man uttered a quick apology before heading into the shop.
“Are you alright, Taeyeon senpai? He must be really hungry to be rushing into the shop like that,” Ren asked with concern.
“Maybe he doesn’t want to hold up the chef and his helper,” Taeyeon replied.
Both of them walked towards the main road, intending to catch the train back to their hostel. They saw a large MPV parked by the side of the road, the type that usually Japanese artistes preferred to use. They wondered who it could be as they walked past the MPV.
A few moments later, the man in the grey jacket was running back to the parked MPV.
“Takahashi san, I bought the ramen as you’ve requested. It’s freshly prepared by the chef,” the man said as he got into the front passenger seat.
“Thank you very much,” came a reply from the back row seat.
“You’re welcome,” the man replied. He turned towards the driver of the MPV and gave him the signal to drive.
A few hundred metres away, the MPV came to a stop at the traffic light junction. Two people crossed the road and headed towards the train station. Just as one of them turned around to speak to the other person, Yukiko let out a gasp when she saw the person’s face.
“Taeyeon chan?” Yukiko muttered to herself.