The Seventh Lap

“It seems someone’s busy go-karting recently? Is that why you look a little darker?” Sooyoung leaned over Jessica’s low partition. There was a cheeky grin plastered on her face as she studied Jessica’s face.

 

Yesterday, there was a small article published by an online sports magazine which featured the Jamsil Go-kart Circuit. There were several photos of the circuit accompanying the post. In one of the photos, Sooyoung’s eagle eyes spotted Taeyeon’s Mercedes Benz was parked among some cars. Recently, she also noticed that Jessica was watching youtube videos about go-karting during their break time. Putting two and two together, Sooyoung came to her own conclusion.

 

“That colour’s bronze and it’s a sign of radiant skin,” Jessica replied flatly, without looking up from her laptop. She was trying to focus on writing her article but at the mention of go-kart, her heart went into a mini roller coaster ride.

 

“Hmm…then what does the blush on your cheeks symbolise? Being in love?”

 

A flying eraser just missed the tall lanky girl as she swiftly avoided the incoming object that was aimed at her face. Sooyoung plonked herself on a nearby chair and rolled herself next to Jessica.

 

“Tell me, is she as cold as what everyone says?” Sooyoung propped her elbows on Jessica’s table and rested on her on it.

 

Jessica continued typing, completely ignoring the presence of her colleague.

 

“How much have the both of you progressed? Have you held hands? Or maybe…kissed?” Sooyoung teased.

 

The feelings of last night’s close contact with Taeyeon came rushing back into Jessica’s mind. They almost kissed, or at least that was what Jessica thought if she hadn’t made an effort to push herself away from Taeyeon.

 

“Ah, someone decided to play dumb now eh? Nevermind, the psychic Sooyoung can read facial expressions very well.” Sooyoung lifted Jessica’s face by her chin and turned the latter’s head to face her.

 

Jessica was half-staring and half-smiling at Sooyoung. It was a rather odd expression.

 

“The psychic Sooyoung has her answer. Judging from the curl of your lips, it is obvious which stage you’ve gone,” Sooyoung said very slowly, sounding like a wise old fortune teller.

 

Jessica swatted Sooyoung’s hand away from her chin and shook the taller girl by her shoulders.

 

“We didn’t do anything and don’t plan to be doing anything. We’re just friends who happen to have a common interest. Don’t go starting some rumour and sell this to some trashy magazine or this would be the end of our friendship,” Jessica warned in a hushed voice, lest any other colleague heard her. She was thankful most of her colleagues weren’t the gossipy type but there was always an exception.

 

“I’ll need more than a threat to keep my lips sealed. You can start off by buying me dinner tonight and telling me all the juicy details,” Sooyoung smirked, knowing that she had won the battle.

 

“Aish!” Jessica muttered.

 

“I’ll pick the place and text you later. Now, please go away and leave me to finish the report in peace, Choi Sooyoung the psychic.” Jessica commanded. She spun Sooyoung around and pushed the chair away from her.

 

Sooyoung let out a snigger as she rolled away.  “Ya, free meals for the rest of the week, or maybe the rest of the month!”

 

~*~*~*~

 

A week later, Taeyeon and Jessica arranged to meet at a quiet café in Apgujeong where the interview would be conducted. Minwoo was joining them too since it was an official work schedule.

 

One day before their meeting, Jessica sent an email to Minwoo to remind him of their appointment in case there were any last minute changes. Minwoo replied, saying that both Taeyeon and himself would be there at the stipulated time.

 

On the day of the interview, Taeyeon was feeling hyped up. Her personal trainer noticed Taeyeon’s unusually high spirits during her gym training. When she was done with her training, Taeyeon hurriedly went to shower so that she could prepare for the interview later on. While she was changing, she decided to check her phone for messages and missed calls.

 

I hope you didn’t forget about our interview this afternoon.  J – Jessica

Of course I wouldn’t forget. It’s etched in my mind. I’m still deciding what to wear. – Taeyeon

 

It’s just an interview, no photos would be taken so don’t worry about your clothes. – Jessica

 

It wouldn’t be respectful if I dress too shabbily to meet you. – Taeyeon

 

To meet the beautiful you. Taeyeon thought to herself as she typed the reply.

 

I’m easy. Maybe you can put on a nice pink dress then. Haha! – Jessica

 

Taeyeon let out a laugh and the people in the changing room turned around to look at her.  Her cheeks turned red as she mouthed a sorry. She quickly grabbed her gym bag and left the changing room.

 

I shall surprise you later on. See you soon. – Taeyeon

 

The arranged interview time was due to start at 3pm at the cafe. Jessica was sitting in the café at 2.30pm as she wanted to get a good corner seat so that there would be lesser distractions from the café crowd. She was reading a book on her iPad to pass time while waiting for the race driver and her manager to arrive.

 

Minutes felt like hours as the hour hand moved towards the numeral three on her watch. Jessica kept glancing at her watch every few minutes once it was 3pm, wondering if Taeyeon was late.

 

I guess most celebrities are the same. Never punctual.

 

At 3.45pm, Jessica had a bad feeling about today’s interview. Based on what she heard from people who had interviewed Taeyeon, the race driver was never this late. The latest Taeyeon ever turned up for an interview was ten minutes and even then, she was extremely apologetic about it.

 

This time, it was almost an hour and there was no sign of the race driver. Jessica sent a text message to Taeyeon, asking her if she was on the way. She didn’t want to call her in case the latter was driving. Remembering that Taeyeon and Minwoo were coming to the café separately, she sent a text message to Minwoo as well. She didn’t get a reply from him too. Thinking that they might be caught up with some last minute matters, she decided to wait a little while more.

 

Jessica ordered another cup of latte and continued waiting patiently at the café. At 4.45pm, she decided to call Taeyeon but there was no answer at all. Five minutes later, she dialled the same number again and there wasn’t a reply. Anxious, Jessica decided to call Minwoo. Minwoo’s phone went straight to his voicemail. Jessica thought it was rather unusual since he never turned off his phone.

 

Finally at 5pm, Jessica decided to leave. She sent a text message to Taeyeon and Minwoo, informing them of her departure.

 

At home, Jessica took a shower before settling in front of her television with a cup of hot coffee. She couldn’t figure out why Taeyeon didn’t appear at the café. Taeyeon had personally granted her an interview and it didn’t seem like the race driver was forced into agreeing.

 

Maybe something cropped up at the last minute.

 

A news flash on the television that jolted Jessica out of her thoughts.

 

“This afternoon, there was a terrible accident involving a sports car and a bus at Olympic Road. The bus driver had apparently lost control of his vehicle and skidded across the centre divider, hitting the passenger car that was travelling on the other side of the road. The impact of the hurtling bus caused the car to spin around several times and sent the car crashing against a lamppost along the side of the road. The bonnet of the car was badly damaged in the accident .The bus finally came to a stop when it hit the barriers along the road,” the news caster reported.

 

Jessica couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the footage of the accident that was playing on the screen now. The passenger car was a gun-metal Mercedes Benz, the colour which Taeyeon owned. From the upper right corner of the screen, a public bus was seen hurtling across the centre divider and hitting the front of the sports car. The driver of the sports car had tried to swerve seconds before the bus hit but it was too late. The whole accident happened within seconds and it was definitely too sudden for anyone to react.

 

When the car came to a stop, there was a close up shot of the rear view of the car. Tears couldn’t stop flowing down Jessica’s face when she saw the chrome ‘309’ numbers that were on the rear of the car, below the brake lights.

 

“It is said that the sports car belonged to Kim Taeyeon, the champion of last season’s motorsports race. She was alone in the car when the accident happened. One of the passengers on the bus called for an ambulance. It seemed that she was badly injured in the accident. The bus driver was injured but the four passengers on the bus suffered from scratches and bruises.”

 

Jessica buried her face in her hands and sobbed for a long while. She finally realised why Taeyeon didn’t respond to her phone calls and text messages. She tried calling Minwoo again but his phone was still switched off. She suspected that he may have turned it off intentionally so that the media would not be able to bug him for news about Taeyeon.

 

Just then, Jessica’s phone rang. She picked up the phone anxiously, hoping it was either Taeyeon or Minwoo who called.

 

“Sica, did you see the evening news? It seems like Taeyeon got into a serious accident!” exclaimed Sooyoung.  She was concerned about Jessica, knowing that both Taeyeon and Jessica were close.

 

“Y-yes…” was all Jessica managed to say amidst her tears. It suddenly struck her that she may lose Taeyeon. A wave of fear washed over her. Her brows were knitted and feelings of worry started to overwhelm her concurrently. She was at a loss of what to do at that very moment.

 

“I’ll find out which hospital she’s at and come over to pick you up in a jiffy. Wash up and be ready in fifteen minutes.” Jessica was thankful she had such a reliable friend like Sooyoung. She got changed and waited at the lobby of her apartment for Sooyoung.

 

Along the way to the hospital, Sooyoung said nothing but offer Jessica the box of tissues that was in her car. When they arrived at the hospital, it was a media frenzy. Several reporters were waiting outside the Accident and Emergency (A&E) building. There were three news vans parked outside the hospital as well. Several police officers were on site to control the traffic and keep the media at bay.

 

The reporters were anxious to get first hand news about Taeyeon. The race season was ending soon and everyone was curious about Taeyeon’s condition. If she wasn’t certified fit for racing, she would have to drop out of the race and give up her crown for this season.

 

Jessica and Sooyoung stood a short distance away from the entrance of A&E, wondering how to enter the building amid the security. While they were formulating a plan, Jessica’s phone rang. She gasped when she saw the caller id.

 

Lee Minwoo

 

“Minwoo oppa, how’s Taeyeon? Is she alright? Is she badly injured?” Jessica fired a string of questions, anxious to find out how Taeyeon was doing. She could hear her heart beating rapidly against her ribcage.

 

“Jessica, calm down. Sorry I couldn’t pick up your call earlier because I was busy with the administrative procedures at the hospital. Taeyeon has just finished her operation and is resting right now.”

 

“Can I see her? I’m at the hospital now.”

 

“Give me fifteen minutes. I’ll meet you at the vending machine near the lift on level two. You can enter via the door at the end of the building. There should be lesser reporters over there.”

 

Sooyoung was pleased to see a faint smile on Jessica’s face when the latter ended the phone call. She gave Jessica a reassuring hug before letting her go.

 

Jessica met Minwoo at the vending machine. Minwoo gave her a weak smile before leading her to the lift.

 

“I have to bring you here personally. The police has been informed not to let any unauthorised personnel. Taeyeon needs rest and the last thing she needs is the media hounding her,” Minwoo explained.

 

There was a police officer standing outside the room which Taeyeon was at. Minwoo spoke briefly to the police officer before he turned his attention back to Jessica.

 

“Taeyeon is sleeping right now. Don’t be too alarmed when you see her,” Minwoo said firmly. There was a faint look of worry on his face. It was evident he was still worried about Taeyeon.

 

When Jessica entered the room, she let out a gasp and her legs turned into jelly almost immediately.

 

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