The Fourth Lap

“Why does this have to happen to me on such an important day?!” Jessica was trying her best not to pull her hair out as she stared at the flat tyre on her cousin’s car. She couldn’t believe how unlucky she was.

It was her cousin’s wedding and Jessica was in charge of bringing the flower bouquet and wedding corsages to the wedding venue. Since she didn’t own a car, her cousin loaned his car to her so that she could help to run errands for the wedding as he would be tied up with wedding preparations.

Jessica was running late as there was a slight jam along one of the main roads. Now, the flat tyre added onto her misery. In addition, the incident occurred along a small road leading to a cottage which was deep inside the gardens. It was a road which people hardly frequented unless they were heading to the cottage for functions such as weddings and birthday celebrations.

Jessica opened the boot, carefully picking up the wedding corsages from the boot and transferring them to the back seat. She had to arrange the corsages carefully since there wasn’t a lot of space and she had to ensure that the flower bouquet wasn’t damaged. After carefully transferring the wedding stuff, she hunted for the spare tyre and tool set. She knew nothing about fixing cars since she didn’t own one. There were only two options available to her at that moment; call a mechanic and wait for him to turn up or attempt to change the tyre herself.  The answer was apparent to her. She couldn’t afford to wait for the mechanic to arrive since it was a Sunday and most of the workshops were closed. Thus she was left with the second option. Picking up her phone, Jessica searched for Youtube videos which demonstrated how a tyre change was done.

Jessica managed to lug the spare tyre and car jack to the affected wheel. By now, her face was covered in perspiration and her hands were covered with black stains. Taking a glance at the video again, she attempted to replicate the steps to change the flat tyre. She placed the jack under the frame where the flat tyre was and attempted to raise the jack.

A few moments later, a car passed her slowly. The driver parked the car in front of Jessica’s and got out of the car.

“Need help?” the driver asked.

Jessica was relieved when someone offered help. She turned around and saw someone smiling broadly at her.

“Taeyeon sshi, what an unlikely place to meet,” Jessica commented, surprised at the unexpected encounter. She noticed that Taeyeon was dressed in formal wear, as if she was attending an important function. Taeyeon wore a navy blue jacket over a white blouse, paired with a royal blue pair of loafers. Her shoulder length hair was tied neatly into a short ponytail.

Taeyeon flashed a toothy grin and waved her right hand. “Yes it is. What are the chances of meeting someone familiar along this quiet stretch of road?”

“Having trouble with a flat tyre? Let me help you with it,” Taeyeon offered, seeing Jessica’s exasperated look.

“That would be great but I won’t want to dirty your clothes.”

“No buts. I hope you didn’t forget my profession. It’s something I’m quite good at too,” Taeyeon interrupted with a firm voice. She was already removing her jacket and leaving it in the driver’s seat of Jessica’s car.

Jessica had no choice but to step away and allow Taeyeon to perform her magic. On one hand, she felt bad for imposing on Taeyeon since she seemed to be attending an important function and the latter may dirty her clothes by helping her change a flat tyre. On the other hand, she was truly relieved when someone finally appeared and offered help, else she would never be able to make it to the wedding reception in time.

Rolling up the white long sleeves of her blouse, Taeyeon started jacking up the car to a reasonable height before she proceeded to unscrew the lug nuts from the rim.

Jessica watched in silence as the race driver changed the tyre in a seemingly effortless manner.

The curve of her arm muscles as she jacked up the car, the way she handles the metal tool…that that…spanner! The concentration on her face, the beads of perspiration that were rolling down her face, the strength in her fair-skinned arms… why didn’t I find changing a tyre so sexy prior to watching her?

 

“Thank you.  I appreciate your help,” Jessica said gratefully after the tyre was changed.

“You’re welcome. You would need to get to a tyre shop to replace the spare that’s in your boot,” Taeyeon advised as she placed the flat tyre into the boot before closing it. She was looking around for something to clean her hands on when a packet of wet wipes appeared in front of her.

“Use these to clean your hands. Without you, I’ll probably be stuck here trying to figure out how to change a flat tyre while watching a Youtube video. Thank you!”

Taeyeon’s lips curled into a bright smile. “You’re welcome.”

“Heading off somewhere?” Taeyeon asked as she slipped her jacket back on.

“Yes, my cousin is holding his wedding at the cottage down at the end of the road.”

“I see. Have a good time at the wedding and send my congratulations to him.”

Jessica noticed a slight change in tone in Taeyeon’s voice. It sounded more cheeky and she wondered why.

“Thank you. I’ll pass your congratulations to him.”

“Goodbye then.” Taeyeon waved and headed for her car.

Running late, Jessica jumped into her car and drove off, passing the gun-metal Mercedes that was parked in front of her.

The wedding went on without a hitch as Jessica managed to arrive in the nick of time. Many people lingered around the gardens, enjoying the cool late afternoon breeze and beautiful flowers.

Jessica was helping herself to a cocktail at the makeshift bar in the garden when she heard her cousin calling her name.

“Sica, let me introduce a special guest to you. I used to work with her technical team in my previous job.” Jessica’s cousin, Yunho, pointed to the person standing next to her.

Thankfully Jessica didn’t drop her plate of food when she turned around to face the person. She couldn’t wipe the look of surprise on her face. The person wore a cheeky grin on her face and was trying to suppress her laughter.

“Taeyeon sshi,” Jessica blurted out in amazement.  It didn’t dawn on her earlier on that the small road only led to the cottage. Since Taeyeon bumped into her along that stretch of road, it was obvious she was heading to the same place. Moreover the only event at the cottage on that day was Yunho’s wedding, therefore Taeyeon could only be heading to the wedding.

No wonder she sounded so cheeky earlier on. She knew that she was definitely going to see me at the wedding! I was so silly!

“You know each other?” Yunho asked in surprise, turning his head from one person to another.

“We just met a while ago. She interviewed me quite recently and on the way here, I helped her to change a flat tyre on her car.” Taeyeon couldn’t take her eyes off Jessica even though she was replying to Yunho.

Standing in front of her seemed to be a completely different person to the one she helped earlier on. She was taking in the beautiful pink satin dress that Jessica was wearing. It had a white ribbon tied around her waist with two tails at the back of the dress. She could see Jessica’s silky smooth shoulders and her collarbones. It was a total contrast to the loose fitting white tee and beige capris Jessica wore earlier on.

“To be specific, it’s the flat tyre on your car, dear cousin.” Jessica jabbed her cousin in his ribs using her elbow.

“Yunho oppa, that piece of junk is yours?” Taeyeon asked, pretending to be very surprised. There was a total change in her tone of voice; something more playful and relaxed.

“Hey, that car is still in pristine condition and I can’t bear to let such a vintage model turn into sheet metal at the scrapyard,” Yunho said proudly, rubbing his ribs where Jessica had jabbed him.

“That’s quite true. You’ve always taken good care of your cars. I’m envious of your antique car,” Taeyeon said jokingly, poking Yunho repeatedly.

“Hey, how about trading your SL 65 with mine? I don’t mind trying your car for a week,” Yunho grinned and blinked his eyes several times, trying to give the puppy-eyes look.

“A week? No way! I don’t want to be caught dead driving that piece of junk!” Taeyeon crossed her arms in front of her like the letter ‘X’.

Jessica was chuckling as she watched her cousin and the race driver’s banter. Her laughter didn’t go unnoticed. Yunho stepped up beside Jessica and draped an arm across her shoulders.

“Sica’s my kid cousin. Our families used to stay very close to each other so we grew up together. From wearing diapers to such a beautiful pink dress, she has grown up well,” Yunho said proudly, patting Jessica’s arm.

“You’re sounding like my dad instead of my cousin. No one would be convinced that you’re just four years older than me?” Jessica wriggled out of Yunho’s grasp and playfully smacked his arm.

“You two are very close. That’s nice,” Taeyeon said wistfully. She missed her family since all of them were in Australia and she was the only one in Seoul. They tried to visit her once a year but sometimes they were unable to take a break from the family business they were running in Melbourne.

“The two of you can chat while I entertain the rest of the guests. Since both of you are of the same age, drop the formalities and enjoy yourselves. Catch up with the both of you later. Sica, don’t drink so much. Please help me to entertain Taeyeon.” Yunho grabbed the glass of cocktail which Jessica was holding and slipped away among the crowd.

The moment Yunho left, a guest came up to Taeyeon and asked for her autograph. Another soon arrived and asked if he could pose beside Taeyeon for a photo. Then a few children came along and asked for a photo with Taeyeon. Taeyeon gamely agreed to the requests, smiling and posing with the guests with Jessica offering to be the photographer.

Jessica couldn’t help but stare at the race driver as the latter smiled warmly for the camera. When it came to the photo for the young children, Taeyeon made an effort to squat down and wrap her arms around them.

After Taeyeon was done, they moved to a bistro table at the corner of the garden where they had a panoramic view of the lake that was just beyond the cottage.

“You’re very popular. Everyone wants a piece of you,” Jessica commented. Celebrities didn’t have any privacy wherever they were, including private functions.

“It is a part of the job I guess,” Taeyeon replied. There was a sudden tinge of weariness in her voice.

The bright smile faded from the race driver’s face. Worried, Jessica was trying to think of a different topic to talk about when Taeyeon started to speak.

“Fans. When you do not have any, you fret. When you have a lot of them, you wished you have more privacy instead of having a camera or a microphone shoved into your face each time you step out.”

Taeyeon had her fair share of fans and was thankful that in her industry, the fans were generally well-behaved and were more matured, unlike fans of other industries as such entertainment.

Jessica’s sympathies went out to Taeyeon. That was the price to pay for being a celebrity.  The inquisitive writer in her wanted to probe further but her rational mind prevented her from doing so. It was a private function, her cousin’s wedding, not a media interview.

“Yunho oppa didn’t tell me that he knows someone so famous. How did you know him?”

Taeyeon’s expression softened a little and a smile returned to her face. “Yunho oppa used to work with my technical team a few years ago. The company he was working for provided the lubricants for my race car. I often see him around during race weekends and we ended up becoming friends. He’s a really nice person to chat with and he knows a lot about cars.”

“His passion is cars. He loves cars since he was a little boy. I remembered he used to ask me to join him for go-karting during my school days. If I didn’t want to, he would bribe me with cakes and I ended up following him. Go-karting is fun.”

“Oh, you like go-karting?” Taeyeon asked, her eyes lit up with excitement. It wasn’t easy to find females who enjoyed motor sports. Go-karting was Taeyeon’s favourite past time and she was happy to find someone else who enjoyed the same hobby as her.

Jessica nodded. “I used to go karting with Yunho oppa and his friends quite often but since I started work and he got attached, now married, we haven’t been able to go karting anymore.”

“Karting is fun. I started out with karting before ending up where I am now.”

“Now that you mentioned it, maybe I ought to revisit this sport,” Jessica replied, voicing her thoughts aloud.

“Actually, would you like to…” Taeyeon’s sentence was interrupted by Yunho who appeared by their side.

“Hey, I’m back. Nice to see you two getting along fine,” Yunho said as he stood in the middle of the two women, wrapped his arms around their shoulders and gave their arms a squeeze.

“Yes cousin, we’re not at each other’s throat. Isn’t your bride going be jealous with all the attention you’re showering on us?” Jessica said, smacking Yunho’s arm.

“Nah, she’s cool. So Taeyeon ah, how do you find my kid cousin? She is very beautiful right?” Turning his attention from Taeyeon to Jessica, Yunho continued, “Too bad we’re blood related else I would have married you instead,” He pinched Jessica’s cheek lightly and that earned him a jab in the ribs from Jessica.

Jessica swore she was blushing from head to toe at that comment and she couldn’t look at the two of them.

Yunho oppa is saying silly things about me! What would Taeyeon think?

“Aigooo, Sica is turning as red as the beautiful roses in the gardens.” Yunho pinched Jessica’s cheeks again but this time he managed to dodge the incoming jab.

Taeyeon couldn’t help but laugh at the comical scene in front of her. It was heartwarming to be able to spend time with family members. She was envious of them and wished she could see her family more often.

“Hey, why the sudden sad look on your face?” Yunho gave Taeyeon a light punch on her arm and grinned at her.

“It’s time for me to hit the gym. I’ve been slacking quite a bit and Minwoo oppa has been nagging at me. Have a blessed marriage, Yunho oppa. Thank you for inviting me here.”  Taeyeon turned to face Jessica and continued, “It has been nice talking to you, Jessica.”

“It has been my pleasure too.” Jessica shook Taeyeon’s hand and watched the race driver walk away. There was a burning curiosity to find out what Taeyeon wanted to ask her earlier on but she would never know now.

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