Status: 16 chapters. Complete.
Length: Almost 19.000 words
Author: Fallissa Ananda Putri
Pairing: To be guessed by the reader.
Other characters: SMTown
Rating: PG. No male-male relationships. No sexual explicit content. Not even a single swear word.
Summary: K-Pop idols may be stars. But they’re nothing compared to Hollywood stars. When a famous star from the States came to SME, Minho was intrigued, while Onew was starstruck. However, was it merely admiration that Minho felt for the star, or was it something more?
The characters in this story are NOT mine, EXCEPT Fall. The rest belong to their rightful selves. The titles I used for the chapters are NOT mine either. They’re the titles of SHINee’s songs. All of them.
The song quoted in Chapter 15 is also NOT mine. It’s a song by an Indonesian band called Sheila on 7. The original title is “Pemuja Rahasia”. It literally means “Secret Admirer”. I have translated the original lyrics to English so you can understand the song better. Even though I made the song as a ballad in the story, it’s actually a rap song. But you don’t need to think about it. I just wanted to quote the lyrics from that song, because they suited the story well. You can listen to the original song here. You can also listen to Minho singing MORE THAN TWO LINES here. Click the latter. You won’t regret it.
The particular Dream Team scene in Chapter 16 is also NOT originally my idea. I was inspired by the real scene in this episode.
This fanfic is HIGHLY Minho-biased with tidbits of OnHo moments here and there. So, Minho haters can go to the left.
If you read this, drop a comment. Just say anything. You can praise, criticize, bitch, whine, laugh, complain, ANYTHING! Even a simple “Hwaiting!” or “You suck!” would be welcome, because I want to know how many people read this fic. I’m gonna stick this post for a week, k? So, please, drop a comment. I would really appreciate it.
Last, but most important, if you want to distribute this fic somewhere else, it’s fine as long as you take it out with full credits. Put in my name and the address of the blog. Period.
I’m sorry the author’s note has to be this long. I’m getting sick of all these people plagiarizing my works.
Thank you for reading! Enjoy! ^^
Chapter 1: Noona, Neomu Yeppeo
Chapter 2: Ring Ding Dong
Chapter 3: SHINee Girl
Chapter 4: Amigo
Chapter 5: Talk To You
Chapter 6: Countdown
Chapter 7: Graze
Chapter 8: Forever or Never
Chapter 9: Juliette
Chapter 10: Y Si Fuera Ella
Chapter 11: Jojo
Chapter 12: Hit Me
Chapter 13: Scar
Chapter 14: Please Don’t Go
Chapter 15: Best Place
Chapter 16: The Name I Loved
She was always beautiful. Not that kind of common beauty. Her skin was slightly darker than those girls you usually saw on TV. Her nose was also not as pointy. But she was beautiful. Her smile radiated some kind of warmth that made you want to inch closer to her. She was indeed beautiful.
I still remember the day she stepped on our company’s front door. We were all there. Complete from DBSK sunbaenims to F(x) dongsaengs. Lee Soo Man had asked us specifically to attend the welcoming party. He said a special guest was coming. So we prepared ourselves for it. The SNSD noonas dressed up so pretty. The Super Junior hyungs also dressed really nice. The rest of SHINee members and I also prepared the best of ourselves. And there we were that night. Waiting patiently as the car drove in the building. “Who is this special guest really?” Key asked under his breath. Nobody answered.
The door of the car opened up. I saw a quite plump blonde Caucasian woman stepped down from the car. She went to the back of the car and helped one of SM manager hyungs taking out the very big suitcases. Somehow I doubted this was the special guest Lee Soo Man meant. But then, another figure materialized. Her long hair kept me from getting a clear look of her face. She spoke to manager hyung for a while and nodded. She went forward and walked towards the front door. The blonde woman opened the door. The special guest stepped in and looked up. That was when I finally saw her beautiful face.
“Annyeonghaseyo,” greeted Lee Soo Man kindly. She seemed bewildered for a moment, taken aback by the welcoming party she clearly never expected.
“Hello,” she replied in a very womanly voice. The kind of voice that was full of charisma, you just had to listen to it.
“Everyone, I don’t think I have to introduce her. I’m sure you’ve all known her. This is Fall. She kindly enough has agreed to come all the way to Korea to share some of her knowledge with you,” explained Lee Soo Man.
“Annyeonghaseyo,” Fall said and bowed down to us.
“So, should I introduce the party or you already know all of them?” Lee Soo Man asked Fall playfully. She laughed. A joyful simple laugh. Seeing the cue from Lee Soo Man, Leeteuk hyung led the Super Junior members to introduce themselves. “Urineun Super Juni-o-e-o!”
She tried so hard to hold her laugh and managed to say, “Choneun ELF o-e-o!” to everyone’s surprise. Everyone went into an astonished excitement immediately. “You know us?” Heechul hyung asked, obviously amused.
She laughed again. She laughed a lot. “Actually, I’m an ELF. A pretty hardcore one at that. I know all of you. DBSK, Super Junior, SNSD, SHINee, and F(x).”
Everyone clapped and cheered. “She knows us! Wow!” Jonghyun hyung exclaimed excitedly. I just grinned, amused by our popularity. But most of all, I was amused at how we dressed up to the maximum for this welcoming party and yet there she was in plain old jeans, t-shirt, and jacket. No make-up whatsoever. And she still looked exotic.
Since it’s a welcoming party, Lee Soo Man led her to our hall. We followed behind. Complete set of dinner had been prepared for this occasion. Almost all employees of SME attended the party. Everyone looked at her in awe. Who wouldn’t? She was famous. A brilliant actress from Hollywood. Her Asian blood had made her stand out among other famous Hollywood actors. She won her first Oscar when she was ten, yet now she was twenty. Highly talented in acting. It had only been a few years before she finally released an album with her band, proving the world that she was not only talented in acting, but also music. Famous and talented. Who wouldn’t be ecstatic to meet her?
I could hear the SNSD noonas whispered excitedly to each other, talking about how she had roled in many movies and acted with many gorgeous actors. I could hear Heechul hyung talked about how he really loved her rock band. But none of those things came far enough to her ears. She was engrossed in a conversation with Lee Soo Man. I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I could only see her smile.
“Minho-ah, you’re not falling in love with her, are you?” Donghae hyung suddenly appeared on my left. I gave him a chuckle.
“Hyung, I’m just excited. This might be the only time I will ever meet a real Hollywood star. A really famous one at that!” I answered him. He just laughed and patted me on the shoulder before joining the rest of Super Junior hyungs.
Anyway, with or without the special guest, this simple party was quite a nice change in our busy schedule. We finally had time to relax and just chilled out with the whole SM family. Even for just one night. We stuffed ourselves happily and chatted with other SM idols. When we were having our dessert, Lee Soo Man asked for our attention.
“Everyone, I’m sure you’ve known already Miss Fall as an actress and musician. Thanks to her high interest in K-Pop industry, it wasn’t really hard to ask her to stay in Korea for a few months. More thanks to her for willing to give us some acting lessons which I’m certain you will find very useful in your career.” The whole room clapped.
“But not just that,” Lee Soo Man continued. “This is the most important part. She has also agreed to produce a few songs for us. I really hope you can learn a lot from her. And ever since she’s a guest, I hope you can make her as comfortable as possible. Please treat her as one of our own, because I, myself, have considered her as one of our SM family.” The whole room clapped again. Then Lee Soo Man gave the mic to her. She stood up, smiling widely from ear to ear. She was obviously happy. How I loved to hear her voice again.
“Well, of course it wasn’t hard to drag me to Korea. I’m a very big, big, big fan of all of you. So please forgive me if I ever lapse into my fangirling mode. You have no idea how much I’m restraining myself from hugging you one by one at the moment. Trust me.” Everyone laughed. It was touching how a celebrity of her caliber could be so down-to-earth. If anyone was going to fangirl (or fanboy) over anyone, that would probably be us. However, she did look like some of our fans, eyes twinkling upon meeting their idols. The sight was amusing.
“Anyway, as Mr. Lee Soo Man had said, I’m going to give some acting classes and produce songs for you. However, I’m really looking forward to be your friend. After all, you’re all my idols I’ve been dying to meet.” She laughed again and everyone followed suit. “You can talk to me anytime. I don’t bite. That’s all, I guess.” She put down the mic.
She was back in her conversation with Lee Soo Man. The others had started to buzz excitedly at the prospect of meeting this uber famous actress on a daily basis. Me? I silently stared at her in awe. She may not be as pretty as Yoona noona, but she was inexplicably beautiful in my eyes. I just couldn’t stop staring.
I saw her again the very next day. We were practicing in SM building. She came in the afternoon wearing formal suits, looking very office-like. She was talking with an old westerner. They were going over a few serious looking papers before they finally went in to the meeting room. The meeting room’s glass was quite big, so I still could see what everyone was doing there through the practice room door.
“Minho? Earth to Minho?” I snapped out of my thoughts and looked at Jonghyun hyung beside me. “Wow, I think we got some serious problem here. Minho can’t stop looking at Fall noona since the moment she arrived,” he said.
“Onew hyung too!” I replied defensively. But it’s true. Onew hyung couldn’t stop talking about her. Our dorm last night was full with Onew hyung saying, “She played this! She sang that!” We may have been big in Korean Pop industry, but still, we’re nothing compared to those Hollywood stars. I wondered how Rain sunbaenim felt when he made his first small step in Hollywood.
“I think we should just leave Minho. He spaced out again,” Key hyung said. I snapped out of my thoughts again. I realized that everyone had gathered their things to go home. Just as we were stepping out of the practice room, we passed her by.
“Annyeonghaseyo,” Key hyung greeted her. It was supposed to be Onew hyung’s job, but he was too starstruck. She smiled her sweet smile. Looking more womanly than ever in her formal suit.
“Hello, where are you going?” she asked us.
“Actually, we’re going home to our dorm, Noona,” answered Jonghyun hyung.
“Oh, I was about to ask you out for some late lunch. Interested?” She asked us in a very friendly and homey manner that it was impossible to refuse. Who would refuse to spend sometime with her anyway?
“Sure!” Onew hyung exclaimed with more excitement than he supposed too.
Moments later, we were in a restaurant near SM building. Thankfully there weren’t many people there. It was fun to have some normal moments without having fans hovering over us once in a while. We took a table in the corner. I purposefully took a seat in front of her, but I didn’t think anyone noticed. Onew hyung looked disappointed. I bet he wanted to take my seat. Nevertheless, he sat on my left. Taemin sat on her right, while Jonghyun hyung sat at the head of the table.
“Is this the menu?” she asked and then took the menu. She opened the menu and then closed it again. Then she handed it to Taemin. “You read it. Hangul fail big time.” I chuckled. I thought it was cute.
“I’ll read it for you, noona.” Onew hyung offered. He eagerly took the menu only to have his sangtae relapsed by knocking over a bottle of sauce. His face turned into horror. Mercifully, it was a plastic bottle. Jonghyun picked it up for him. “Thanks, Jjong,” said Onew hyung.
“Why did you call me ‘noona’? You’re an 89-er too, right?” she asked, confused. Onew hyung’s face lit up all of a sudden.
“True, but you’re still older than me by more than six months, so you’re still my noona.”
“Your noona?” Key hyung interrupted. Onew hyung blushed.
“No, no! I mean you’re a noona, but –“
“That’s alright, hyung. We know what you mean.” Jonghyun hyung patted Onew hyung on the back, trying to relieve him. I tried so hard not to laugh out loud. In the end, we succeeded in ordering our food, thank the heavens.
“Noona, why are you alone? Where is your manager? Whom did you come with this afternoon?” Taemin asked curiously, putting his aegyo-ness into effect to her.
“My manager? You mean Sarah? She’s handling some papers with my lawyer at the moment. The old man you saw coming with me today is my lawyer. We were just finishing some details in our contract,” she answered with her womanly voice.
“How long are you going to stay here?”
“About three months. Wow, Minho, you really are quiet,” she suddenly addressed me, taking me by surprise.
“Ah, noona, he always does that when he meets new people. In order to maintain his cool image,” said Jonghyun hyung. I didn’t know why, but I felt like throwing my chopsticks to his face for saying that. However, she laughed. And I liked her laugh, so I forgave him and refrained from shoving my chopsticks down his throat.
“Well, I know he’s quiet from the variety shows I’ve watched. I just didn’t expect him to be this quiet in real life,” she said.
“Ah, so you’ve seen our shows?” I asked her, trying to divert the subject from me.
“As a matter of fact, yes! I’ve watched them all. I told you I’m a very big fan of SMTown. You name it, I’ve watched it,” she told us excitedly. Wow, she was truly a fangirl.
“Really, noona? Then you must have known by heart about the Onew condition! Please forgive him if he ever does anything nonsensical out of the blue,” Key hyung said.
“Key!” Onew hyung tried to defend himself and failed miserably. His face getting redder by the second.
“Oh, yes! I know Onew sangtae well. Don’t you know there’s a compilation of your condition on Youtube?” she said, which made everyone on the table laughed, leaving Onew hyung to blush violently.
“We definitely have to see that video,” Taemin chirped.
We were finally back in our dorm after our late lunch with her. Her treats. So not only she was beautiful and talented, she was also generous. I couldn’t help getting more interested. Meanwhile, Onew hyung was complaining to Key hyung.
“Why did you make fun of me in front of Fall noona?” He protested, looking like he was about to cry, only to make Key hyung laughed out loud.
“Because I know you like her!”
“Don’t worry, hyung, we’ll help!” Taemin comforted Onew hyung with his optimism.
I shook my head in amusement. So Onew hyung is having a crush, huh? Well, I wouldn’t know. I’d never taken a crush in anyone yet. I thought I should just go to bed. I wondered what she was doing now…
Today was our first day in acting classes. I was looking forward to this, because I hadn’t seen her in forever (okay, I hadn’t seen her in two days). She was busy making herself at home in her new apartment (which was in the same building with our dorm) and trying to familiarize herself with the studio crew and SME staff. I kept forgetting that she was here to work. Anyway, I was so excited that for the first time ever I was already prepared to go before everyone else. I may not be really into acting, but I was into meeting her.
When we arrived in SM practice room, Super Junior and SNSD sunbaenims were already there. So was she. Again, she looked so simple. Plain old t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants with her hair tied up nicely in a bun. No make-up. I could name some Korean celebrities who were not as famous as her but a lot more stuck up (not to mention wearing make-up everywhere).
“Looks like everyone is here.” She finally looked up from whatever she was reading, sitting on the floor.
“You know what? When I saw you came in, I thought you were here to give us some English lessons,” Kangin hyung said playfully. As expected, she laughed again.
“But all your English are good! I can understand you just fine. English is not my first language too, you know.”
“Really? Wow! How is it being an idol in foreign country?” Leeteuk hyung asked her curiously. Her laugh increased.
“Idol? I’m not an idol!” she complained.
“Then what are you?” Key hyung asked, confused.
“Hmm… Let me see. I don’t know. I act. I play music. But I’m not an idol. Bearing an idol title is too much responsibility for me. There’s nothing from me worth idolizing for. There’s nothing exemplary from me either,” she explained thoughtfully.
“So you’re an artist in its literal meaning, noona?” I suggested her. She turned her attention towards me.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’m an artist in its literal meaning.” She smiled, then the class began. She started by telling us a few basics about acting. Her teaching was somewhat… unorthodox. I didn’t even think ‘teaching’ was the right word. She was sharing. She told us honestly that she never had formal classes on acting. She didn’t even know how she could win that Oscar. That was why she didn’t want to teach. She wanted to share. To the best of her knowledge (and talent, I must add). I could see Kibum hyung was listening to her with full attention.
The acting class was actually fun. She was so relaxed, content in her own self and surrounding. Thanks to Super Junior sunbaenims’ restless jokes, the acting class had become an even more fun schedule to attend to than it already was. But the most fun part was looking at Onew hyung, whose sangtae kept relapsing everytime he got anything to do with her. To make things worse for him, Key hyung had succeeded building an army whose sole purpose was to tease Onew hyung on his newly-developed crush. She just laughed along with us, oblivious to the fact that she was the cause of our neverending tease towards Onew hyung. She was just nice like that.
“Hey, wait, Fall unnie is an ELF, right? I want to know who is her favorite Suju member!” Sooyoung noona suddenly piped up. To my surprise, the addressed person blushed.
“Please, don’t ask me that. How am I supposed to answer that?” she defended herself. Everyone went into a riot of “Tell us! Spill! Come on, noona!” She finally gave up.
“Okay, okay! Oh my… How should I say this? I’m so embarrassed!”
“You don’t have to answer. That must be me!” Leeteuk hyung was in his prince mode again.
“Well, actually you’re not.” Leeteuk hyung was crestfallen, much to everyone’s amusement. “But you’re in my top five!”
“What? You got a top five? Now you have to tell us all of them!” pressed Heechul hyung. She looked so helpless. I couldn’t say that I did not pity her, but I was also curious. She sighed.
“Okay.. My top five are Kibum oppa, Sungmin oppa, Leeteuk oppa, Hangeng oppa, and Kyuhyun oppa. Please, don’t shoot me!” she said meekly. Everyone was yelling loudly, especially those in her top five. Heechul hyung looked disappointed, because he’d lost his chance to boast around. I felt like laughing over his sorry face.
“Thank God, you’re not asking who is my favorite SHINee member,” she said under her breath. Unfortunately, Taemin and I heard that.
“What, noona? You also have a favorite SHINee member? That must be me, right?” Taemin squeaked cutely. I glanced at Onew hyung. He was smiling widely, but I knew that anxious look of his. Meanwhile, everyone was pressing her to spill her favorite SHINee member. She laughed and covered her face with her hands, expressing her embarrassment.
“Who? Who? Don’t whisper, noona, we can’t hear you!” Jonghyun said excitedly.
Now that was unexpected. Somehow I got this feeling of leaping up in the air, but thanks to Key hyung for wrestling me down out of envy, I refrained from doing that. When I was on the floor, an image of Onew hyung passed me by. He still smiled, but it wasn’t as big nor as shiny as it was a few minutes ago.
“Minho! Wake up! God, why is it so hard to wake you up in the morning!”
I squinted my eyes, blinded by the daylight.
“Good morning,” I said sleepily and yawned. Couldn’t I just sleep for five more minutes? Then I heard someone laughed.
“Morning? Hyung, it’s already 11 PM. Get up, hyung! We’re going to Fall noona’s apartment,” Taemin said. I was awake all of a sudden.
“For what?” I asked him.
“You do realize that visiting our new neighbor is a polite thing to do, don’t you? The sunbaenims are also going to be there.”
I got up and took a shower without wasting anymore minute.
Moments later, I was already in front of her apartment’s door with other SMTown. We brought food and housing appliances. Leeteuk hyung pressed the bell. She opened the door. She looked very pretty in her too-big t-shirt and sweatpants.
“Oh, I didn’t expect this!” She smiled and let us in. “I’m actually in the middle of filling the apartment with some stuff. So, sorry if it’s a bit of a mess.”
“Wow, your apartment is really small!” Yesung hyung commented.
“Of course! I live alone here. What are the many rooms for?”
“Doesn’t your manager stay here too?” Jessica noona asked.
“She does. But she’ll be in the States a lot, because she has to take care of my things there. Please, sit down anywhere you can sit down. There really isn’t much space here. Sorry,” she told us, giving the prettiest apologetic smile she could ever give.
However, being the curious people we were, we ended up exploring her little apartment. It was quite nice actually. She used the best of the place. She got one master bedroom and two guest rooms, but she turned one of the guest rooms into a mini studio.
“Wow! Your mini studio is so cool! Maybe you can teach me how to play some of this instruments!” Jonghyun hyung exclaimed.
“For what? Sungmin oppa is good with his guitar. He can teach you,” she said playfully, making Sungmin hyung laughed.
In the end, we gathered in the living room, eating the food we had brought earlier. Everyone asked her so many questions, it almost looked like she was being interrogated. But she didn’t mind. She just smiled and answered them one by one. I actually had questions too, but I was too amused by Onew hyung’s bashful expression. He kept opening and closing his mouth, as though he didn’t know what to say. Taemin, being the very kind magnae he was, encouraged Onew hyung to talk to her.
“How come she’s gonna notice you if you don’t talk to her, hyung?” Taemin whispered to Onew hyung. Instead of asking her, Onew hyung suddenly was asking me.
“What are you laughing at?”
“Hyung, your face is so red, it looks even more cooked than this lobster!” It was true! Observing the famous Onew condition is such an entertaining thing to do. Onew hyung just sighed and ate his food in silence while everyone around him cheered and giggled at each other’s jokes.
We were back in our dorm at dinner time. Key hyung busied himself in the kitchen, Jonghyun hyung updated me2day, and me? I tailed Taemin and Onew hyung to the living room. They sat on the kitchen, I dully flicked the TV channels.
“Hyung, why do you look so sad?” I could hear Taemin talking to Onew hyung.
“I am? No, I’m not. I’m fine!” I bet Onew hyung was giving Taemin his best forced smile now.
“Are you sure, hyung? You look so… disappointed. You’re not really that serious with Fall noona, are you?” Taemin asked cautiously.
“Me? Of course not! I’m just a fan of her! That’s all! Yes, I’m just a fan of Fall noona! Right, Minho?”
“Sure, hyung. But, you know, it’s okay to be more than just a fan.” I teased him, again. Onew hyung’s face reddened again. He suddenly excused himself to help Key hyung in the kitchen. Taemin and I laughed. I loved teasing Onew hyung about her. The main reason was because I doubted he would had had a chance anyway if he were really serious.
Another interview. This was kind of getting old. Thankfully, everyone accepted my quiet image. I didn’t really like to talk that much. Well, talking was fine. However, being asked the same questions over and over again would eventually bore into you one day. That was what I felt. Take this for example. The interviewer asked us the one question that had been asked many many times before. “Have you ever been in love?”
We giggled upon hearing the question. Natural reaction.
“You should ask Onew hyung! He’s been in love before!” The Almighty Key was on the loose again. Poor Onew hyung. Thanks to the thick make up, it wasn’t visible how violent his cheeks were blushing. Onew hyung could only laugh for the sake of the interview.
“Honestly, I don’t know whether I’ve been in love or not. I think I like the girl, but I’m not sure if I love her,” answered Onew hyung. Nice escape. No wonder he became our leader.
“I’m sorry, Onew hyung is such a confused boy,” interrupted Jonghyun hyung.
“Minho, how about you? Have you ever been in love?” the interviewer asked me.
“No, I don’t think I have,” I answered him firmly.
It was after midnight. I just got back from Dream Team filming. I didn’t think the weather was good for me. My head was spinning like hell.
“Minho, you’re home,” Onew hyung greeted me when I stepped into our dorm.
“Hi, hyung,” I greeted him back weakly. I threw myself to the couch and laid back. “Why aren’t you asleep?”
“I’m just making sure you come home alright. Are you hungry? I can cook you some dinner.”
“No, thanks. I think I’m going straight to bed. I don’t feel too good.”
Onew hyung put his arm on my forehead.
“You’re a bit warm,” he said. “Just go to sleep. You don’t have to come to dance practice in the morning.”
I went to bed.
I felt something cold on my forehead. That coolness was all over my face. I opened my eyes and she was the first thing I saw. I must be dreaming.
“Good afternoon,” she said, taking the wet towel off of my face.
“Noona?” I wondered outloud. She laughed a little.
“Minho, are you really awake? Because if you are, I’ve prepared a soup for you.”
I wasn’t dreaming.
“Why are you here?”
Somehow my heart was beating faster.
“Onew and the others dropped by my place this morning. They asked whether I could look after you while they’re gone on their schedule. Luckily, this is my free day!” she said cheerfully. Was she ever sad? “Here. You need to eat.”
I got up and sat on the bed. She put a bowl in front of me.
“It smells good,” I told her.
“Because it is good. Don’t you dare to tell me it doesn’t taste good,” she joked.
I took a sip. It was indeed good.
“It’s delicious, noona.”
“Of course it is!”
I feel elated by the brightness on her face when I praised her.
“Why are you looking at me? Eat!”
Damn, I spaced out again. So, I ate. She was checking out her mobile phone. Why was the silence so loud? I wanted to hear her voice.
“So… Onew hyung and the others came by your place this morning?” I hoped I didn’t sound desperate to make a conversation. She put down her phone.
“Yeah.. They were so nice to bring me a box of sandwich. Key is a great cook! And does Onew always stutter like that?”
I almost choked on my soup when I heard that.
“Why are you laughing?” She asked me, obviously confused.
“Yes, noona, he always stutters when he’s nervous.”
She looked even more confused.
“That doesn’t make sense. Why would he be nervous?”
“Probably because he was talking to you?”
She looked shock.
“Why would he be nervous talking to me?”
It was my turn to look at her in disbelief.
“Noona, you really don’t realize how starstruck you make us here in Korea, do you?”
I could see an understanding finally dawned in her.
“Ah, I see. I think it’s totally unnecessary, you know. I’ve told you I’m just someone who works in showbiz. Nothing more.”
She fell silent. I ate my soup again.
“Do I make you nervous too?” she asked me out of the blue. I thought about it for a while. Then, I shook my head.
“No, noona. You don’t make me nervous.”
On the contrary, she made me feel right at home.
I must had fallen asleep again. I was woken up by the sound of the others outside the room. It was already dark again when I opened my eyes. It seemed like the others just got back from their schedule. I touched my forehead. My temperature was back to normal. I got up to meet the others.
“Hi – !” I welcomed them cheerfully when I was interrupted by a chorus of “Sssshhh!”
Confused, I noticed that they were gathering around the couch. She was sleeping there.
“Why is she sleeping on the couch?” Key hyung asked me accusingly.
“Well, I don’t know. I fell asleep myself,” I answered him defensively.
“You could have offered her the guest room,” Jonghyun hyung added.
“I told you that I didn’t know.”
“Is it okay for her to sleep here?” Taemin interrupted. Everyone looked at him.
“What do you mean ‘is it okay’?” Jonghyun hyung asked him back.
“Mmm, well, you know.. Isn’t this the first time a girl is having a night-over in our dorm?”
We all went quiet. I saw Key hyung and Jonghyun hyung blushed.
“Ya, what are you talking about? She has helped us taking care of Minho. She could spend the night here. She looks really tired.”
That was Onew hyung. He had brought a blanket and put it over her. However, that gesture had waken her up. She blinked at us a few times.
“Oh my… I fell asleep, didn’t I? I think I’ll just go home now that you’re all back. Are you feeling better, Minho?” she said.
“Yes, noona, I’m better. Thanks to you,” I told her.
“Noona, you’re tired. You can sleep in the guest room,” offered Onew hyung. She answered him with a smile. He blushed.
“It’s okay. My apartment is only two floors away, remember?” She gathered her things and stood up. “Goodnight, shining SHINee. Get some proper rest.”
Sometimes I wondered why SME hadn’t fired me for my tardiness. Today I woke up late. Again. Therefore, I was late for the day’s recording session. I found numerous missed calls on my cellphone. I called manager hyung, assuring him that I’d be in the studio as soon as possible. I managed to take a shower no more than five minutes and then rushed to SM studio. Thank God the dorm and SM studio weren’t really far off. I arrived in the studio in several minutes, painfully gasping for breath. Weird. Nobody asked me if I was okay.
When my breath was finally normal, I looked around the studio. The other four members were seated on the couch with her.
“Whoa, noona! You’re so smart! You’re able to read Hangul in fifteen minutes!” Onew hyung cheered.
“Or maybe Onew hyung is just a really great teacher! You know, noona, he’s always the top two of his class,” Taemin chirped, making Onew hyung laughed. His face flushed with obvious happiness.
“I want to try writing it!” she said. She wrote something on the paper. “There! Is this how your name is spelled in Hangul?” she asked Onew hyung.
“That’s right!” Everyone clapped.
“Now let me try writing the name of the boy who just arrived.”
Everyone turned their attention towards me.
“Minho! You’re finally here!” Key hyung exclaimed.
“Is this how your name is written?” she showed me her writing. I nodded in approval. Everyone clapped again. She cheered for her achievement.
“I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. Thank you Onew for teaching me!”
“Anytime, noona. Just tell me anytime you need help on Korean stuff,” he replied.
She and Onew hyung suddenly seemed close. Strange. Somehow, I didn’t like this.
“Hyung, where are you going?” I asked Onew hyung.
“I’m going to Fall noona’s. I haven’t thanked her yet for taking care of you,” he answered.
“Then I should come with you. I’ll grab my jacket.”
Moments later, we were on the elevator up to her apartment.
“What is that in your hand?” I asked Onew hyung again.
“It’s chocolate. Just a small token of gratitude. She really likes chocolate, you know.”
The look on Onew hyung’s face when he said it. He looked really happy.
“Where did you get that kind of information from?”
“Minho-ah, you really need to spend sometime googling the internet.”
He smirked at me.
“Chocolate! Thank you, Onew!”
Onew hyung looked even happier than her.
“I’m not interrupting you or anything, am I, noona?” Onew hyung asked brightly.
“Not at all! I’m just meddling around the studio. You want to check out my new piece?”
Could Onew hyung’s smile get any bigger than that?
They went to the studio. The door was open. I could hear her playing the keyboard. I went to the wall of pictures in her living room. There, I caught a glimpse of her life in the States. I recognized a picture of her and her band. There were also pictures of her in her movies. And this one… I thought this must be her ex. I knew him because their break up was all over the entertainment gossip segments several months ago. Why did she still keep a picture of her ex? Well, what did I know about relationships anyway? I never had one myself.
I heard a loud laughter coming out of the studio. I went there immediately. It looked like Onew hyung and she were sharing some kind of private joke I knew nothing about. They looked so content. This was worrisome.
“Don’t you think Onew hyung and Fall noona look so fine together?” Taemin asked me excitedly.
“No, he’s too young.” My answer turned out to be colder than I intended it to be.
“Ya, love is love. What does age have to do with it?” Key hyung argued.
“What do you know about love?” I accused him.
“Ya, why are you so pissed?”
That was a good question. Why was I so pissed?
I woke up this morning to the smell of delicious breakfast. I followed the smell to the kitchen. Then, I found she and Onew hyung laughing in front of the stove. I hated it. What were they laughing at?
“Good morning, Minho!” Onew hyung said cheerily. “Have some orange juice!” He put a glass of orange juice in my hand. He went back to help her with whatever she was cooking. I looked at both of them in confusion. What was this? I felt myself getting angrier and angrier by the minute.
“Minho, are you okay?” she asked me, must be noticing something in my expression.
I put my juice without finishing it and then left the kitchen.
“What’s his problem?”
I could hear her asking Onew hyung.
I sulked through the whole period of acting class. She seemed to be getting closer with everyone, especially with Onew hyung, except with me.
“Minho, have I done something wrong?” she asked me. I kept ignoring her all day.
“No, noona. I’m just not in a good mood.”
That night, it was my turn to help Key hyung washing the dishes. We cleaned the kitchen in silence until he broke it.
“You know, Minho…”
I glanced at him, encouraging him to go on.
“I don’t know what you’re mad at, but you’re really pissed a lot recently. It’s okay to be pissed, but…”
“Be pissed at whatever making you pissed. Don’t be pissed at random people.”
Key hyung left the kitchen, giving me some time to ponder over his words. I knew exactly what he meant. I guessed he noticed my little encounter with her today. He was right. I should find out first the sole cause of my anger. However, I could not find it. One thing though, whatever that was, I wasn’t mad because of her. Hell, I wasn’t even mad at her.
The bell rang a few times until she opened the door.
“Hey.. Come in.”
I stepped into her apartment.
“You’re doing something?” I asked her.
“No,” she smiled. “Have you eaten?” I nodded.
“What are you watching?”
I sat down beside her.
“Nothing. I was just randomly flicking the channel when you rang the bell. What brought you here this evening?”
I fell silent. Apparently at a loss for words.
“Wait here,” she said. A few minutes later, she came back with a glass of warm tea.
“Drink it. Relax. You look really tense.”
I was. I couldn’t comprehend why my heartbeat wouldn’t slow down.
“Do the others know you’re here?” she asked.
I shook my head. The others were asleep, except Key hyung maybe. I thought I saw him taking a peek before I went out of our dorm quietly.
“I assume you have something to tell me, but alas, I fail miserably in making you speak,” she joked. I relaxed a little when I heard her laughter.
“I… came to apologize,” I spoke softly. God, why was I so nervous? Was it because of her? She was so close next to me, I could smell her shampoo. She grunted though.
“Apologize for what?”
I looked at her. She was even more beautiful in the dim of light.
“For… being pissed at you? Ignoring you?”
I wasn’t sure myself on how to say this. She smiled though
“Oh, please, Minho. There’s no need to apologize. I understand everyone has that kind of days once in a while. You need to relax, dude.”
I did. I was so relaxed, I sat there in silence for a while, watching her watching the TV. She frowned at the repetitious Hanguk she couldn’t understand. She looked so cute. And smelled so nice.
“Are you smirking at my Hangul fail?” she suddenly asked me.
Of course I lied. How was I going to tell her the truth? Damn. She was so close. A few more centimeters and we were nose to nose. I saw something passed in her eye. She turned her attention back to the TV. Darn. I thought I just lost an opportunity.
No. I still had a chance to ask the one question that had been nagging me since the beginning.
“So… you and Onew hyung… what’s up?”
I tried to ask her casually.
“What do you mean ‘what’s up’?” she asked me back.
“Both of you seem pretty close.”
I gulped. Was that too obvious? But she didn’t seem to notice though. She just chirped on happily.
“Well, he’s nice! I like his company. And he helped me a lot to get through many Korean things I don’t understand.”
“But I thought your favorite SHINee member is me.”
I swore to God I didn’t know why I said that. It just came out and there was no turning back now. I knew it. She laughed.
“Are you afraid of losing a fan? Don’t worry. I’m still a Flame.”
She winked at me.
“You know,” she continued. “The reason why I became your fan was your quietness. I guess they weren’t wrong in naming you the flaming charisma. You got me curious. What is going on in your head?”
Wrong, noona. You got me curious.
“However, Onew is a really fun person to talk with.”
I was thrown back to earth.
“Oh.” I managed to say. She chuckled.
“That’s probably because we’re around the same age anyway,” she said.
“Does age matter to you?” I asked her.
“Nah. Even old people can act more childish than kids.”
An hour later, I left her apartment with a feeling that I had a chance. Yes!
I had no idea what I was feeling. All I knew was it gave me some kind of spirit to go through the day. And I couldn’t stop smiling.
“Hyung, stop smiling! You look stupid!” Taemin said. But I couldn’t stop. Everything I saw made me happy. The sight of her made me happy. I couldn’t look at anything without relating it to her. Today, I went out for a quick jog and ended up in the mini market, buying her some chocolate. When I finished my jog, I didn’t go straight to my dorm. I went to her apartment instead. I knew exactly that she was home at the moment (okay, I did stalk her schedule. Happy?)
I rang her bell with high enthusiasm. A few seconds later, she opened her door. I went in before she could say anything.
“Well, well, look who we have here,” she said and closed the door. I smiled and gave her the chocolate.
“Chocolate! Thank you!”
She immediately unwrapped the chocolate and shared it with me.
“What do you want?” she asked me. I looked at her in confusion.
“You didn’t come all the way here just to give me chocolate, did you?”
“I went jogging today. I passed a mini market and saw a chocolate. I bought one for you. That’s it,” I explained. She looked like she was considering it. Then, she smiled.
“Okay, I believe you. That’s very thoughtful of you, my flaming charisma,” she said. Did she say ‘my flaming charisma’? Was there anywhere I could go to yell with joy?
“Anyway, Minho, since you’re here. Would you like to hear my new song? I need some second opinion and –“
I nodded before she could finish her sentence. We went to the mini studio. I’d never really paid attention to the inside of studios before, but this time it was different. I was curious. I wanted to know what she was working on and what she was doing it with. I asked a lot of questions regarding the many sophisticated-looking stuff I found in her studio. She answered my questions one by one patiently. I liked her more and more with each passing second.
Was it because I liked her so much? Or was it because of other things? I didn’t know. I just missed her so badly, that I came to her place again the next day and the day after that and the day after that. We spent a good deal of our time in the studio. I even managed to learn a few of the instruments in there. If we wanted to get some fresh air, we would just simply go out for a little jog or buy some snack in the nearby mini market. I didn’t really mind doing whatever as long as it was with her.
One afternoon, when we were seated on the studio couch eating chocolate, she asked me a question.
“Why, Minho? You’re talking a lot now, but why are you so quiet on TV?”
That was not a hard question to answer.
“What would I speak for? So the gossip tabloids can make a twist out of everything I say? The audience are satisfied enough with my hyungs talkativeness anyway.”
It was so easy to be honest with her. She just looked at me, as if trying to comprehend my answer. She was so close.
“You’re a quite bitter and sarcastic kid, do you realize that?” she said again. I shrugged.
“I guess I think about a lot of things beneath my solitude.”
“Okay, this topic is getting heavier by the minute. Let’s have some light and junk discussion.”
“Like what, noona?”
“Like the ones all SHINee World are dying to know. Have you ever had a girlfriend?”
She had that fangirl look on her face again. She giggled.
“Noona, I spent most of my adolescent in training. Where would a girlfriend fit in that?”
“Ooo we fangirls are so happy to hear that. So you’ve never been in love before?”
I looked at her straight in the eye.
“No, noona, I haven’t. I was hoping you could tell me what love is.”
“You’re asking the wrong person. If you’re asking me for love advice, you’re only gonna get a hundred ways of ruining a relationship,” she told me sarcastically.
“If I may ask, what happened in your last relationship?”
“What are you asking me for? It was all over the TV and tabloids.”
Darn, she was so sexy everytime she was being sarcastic.
“Based on experiences, I tend not to trust tabloids,” I said.
“The tabloids were right, Minho. He cheated on me. I was humiliated on national TV. Best moment of my life.”
“Well, he’s a jerk. I would never do that to you.”
Argh. My tongue slipped again. I felt like facing my own palm. She laughed.
“That’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard coming out of someone who never have any relationship experience before.”
It was my turn to sigh.
“I know, noona.”
She turned my head towards her direction and looked at me straight in the eyes. She looked like she was about to say something, but didn’t know how to say it. Was it just me, or there was really a worried look in her eyes?
“Why do I feel so alive everytime I’m around you?” she wondered out loud.
Well, I always asked myself the same thing, noona. But I didn’t tell her that. I was staring at her face. Her eyes. Her nose. Her lips…
It was now or never.
What they said were true. First kiss felt like an electric shock. I felt like being electrocuted the moment my lips touched hers. Her lips were so soft caressing mine. I felt like drowning with every pressure our lips had against each other. And that was that. She pulled herself back as quickly as the kiss happened. The worried look was back on her face.
“What is it, noona?” I asked her. She scared me.
“You need to leave now.”
“No, buts. I think you’ve known very well already that we can’t do this.”
“Please, Minho. Just leave.”
I woke up this morning in a daze. I opened my eyes and stared at the bottom of Key hyung’s bunk. I thought I dreamed of kissing her. Was it a dream? If it was, why could I still taste the sweet taste of her lips? But she shooed me out of her apartment after that though. Was it really real?
“Where did you go to last night?” Key hyung asked me as I opened the fridge in the kitchen.
“Fall noona’s apartment,” I answered drowsily. Key hyung didn’t say anything. Why did I get the feeling his eyes were boring into my back?
“Where is everyone?” I asked him to break the silence.
“Taemin’s at school. Jonghyun’s in the gym. Onew hyung’s in recording session with Fall noona.”
I almost dropped the milk carton.
“I’m gonna go to the studio now. You better take a shower and hurry to the studio too, Minho.”
Key hyung opened the front door, about to leave, without forgetting to say, “And don’t you dare drink the milk from the carton.”
“I thought you’re supposed to be recording,” I asked Onew and Key hyung when I arrived in the studio.
“We are, but she’s in a meeting with Lee Soo Man now. She’ll be back shortly,” answered Onew hyung. There was still that smile on his face. This could be just my imagination, but his smile was like telling me, ‘I know a lot of things about her that you don’t. Haha!’
Onew hyung was right though. She was back a few minutes later. There was that troubled look on her face again. She glanced at me and then quickly looked away. Was last night really real? I couldn’t help asking myself over and over again.
“Is everything alright, noona?” Key hyung asked her. She smiled. I knew that was a forced smile. That wasn’t her usual smile. But it seemed like I was the only one who noticed.
“Yes, Key, but I’m afraid I’m a bit behind the deadline. Your new songs might not be finished in time.”
She sighed and threw herself on the far end of the couch. Was she avoiding me?
“May I know why?” Onew hyung asked and sat beside her. Between me and her.
“Composing songs for you is harder than I thought. Everytime I’m giving you lines, I have to remember that you’re gonna be dancing. I can’t give you too many lines, unless I want you to perform gasping and out of breath.”
“Don’t worry, noona. I know you can do it.”
She smiled at Onew hyung. She didn’t even look at me.
I grabbed my chance when Onew and Key hyung were out to pick up Taemin.
“Noona, about last night –“
“Oh, Minho, I was hoping you would not bring that up,” she interrupted. So it was real.
“Why? You’re asking me why? Do you think my life is gonna be safe around your fans when this gets out?”
“You’re planning to leak this out?”
“Of course not!”
“Well, me neither!”
We stared at each other in silence.
“Is it because I’m Minho, the member of SHINee, I can’t have a chance to live a normal life? I’m not allowed to like someone now?”
She took a really deep breath. She looked at me. I could sense a commotion was happening in her head.
“You’re really making this harder for me,” she said.
Suddenly I felt scared. For the first time ever I liked a girl, and I couldn’t have her, not even a chance, just because I was this so-called idol. Was the rest of my life going to be like this?
“Minho, are you okay? You’re shaking.”
Was I? Well, a prediction of my lonely future just passed in front of my eyes. Somehow, I felt so vulnerable.
“Can I hug you?” I asked her. My voice was barely audible.
She hugged me. She was so petite in my arms, and yet I felt like she was the one who protected me. I didn’t want to ever let go.
“You’ll be alright.”
She whispered softly in my ears.
Following that hug in the studio, the rest of the time spent was an endless chain of hide and seek events. Maybe I was lucky all SM artists were in some kind of semi hiatus, because that meant I could spend some time with her without having the press pressing me around. Even that, we were worried everyone would make a big deal out of it. So we would spend the time in her apartment instead, or maybe jogged around in the afternoon. We loved to jog. However, no matter how hard we tried, I guessed it was still too hard to hide the smile from my face. Or her face. Hell, why would anyone matter? This was our little secret. Mine and hers. The others didn’t matter. I could do this forever, as long as I was with her.
“Don’t you think Minho seems to be very happy lately?” Jonghyun hyung said on dinner. I just gave him a smug smile.
“Dream Team won a lot recently,” I lied.
“Are you sure?” Key hyung asked me. He didn’t look at me. He kept on eating. But there was something in his tone. Something I couldn’t really tell.
“Whatever it is, hyung, please stop smiling. You look stupid!” Taemin complained.
But then, I found that another saying was also true. Good things came to an end.
We were all in the studio for recording. She seemed pretty bumped, because she thought the progress was going nowhere.
“This is useless! This doesn’t sound good!” she ranted.
“I think the song is fine,” Onew hyung tried to console her.
“No, this isn’t what I wanted.”
Right that moment, an SME staff came and told her that she was to be expected in Lee Soo Man’s office. There she went.
A couple of hours later, she was still nowhere to be seen, until the same staff that fetched her told us to go home instead. I hope she didn’t get any trouble because of the recording progress.
At night, when the others were playing video games in the living room, I looked for solace in the emptiness of our shared bedroom. I took my mobile phone and called her. She didn’t answer. Was she still working? I sent her a text message, asking if she was home. If she was, I’d go up to her apartment immediately. She didn’t reply. Oh well, maybe she was tired. I was tired myself. Too many nights spent awake with her. So I fell asleep.
The next morning, we attended the acting class as usual. She looked tired. There was these heavy bags under her eyes. But she still managed to smile beautifully. She always smiled. We didn’t have a chance to talk though. Today’s lesson was one of the hardest one to learn, emotion. She was occupied with the rest of the class anyway. Especially with Kangin hyung kept pranking everyone every five minutes, the lesson didn’t proceed quite smoothly.
When it was finally over, I approached her in the corner. Then I heard everyone stood up and greeted someone who just visited the practice room. He was Kim Young Min, SME CEO. Now this was unusual. He was a highly busy person. We didn’t get to meet him often. Was something wrong?
“Fall and I are going to have a meeting. Since I passed this room, I might as well pick her up and see how you’ve been doing,” he said. Everyone replied him politely. She was quiet though. In fact, she went a bit pale. Before I could say anything, she already went with Kim Young Min.
The next day was no different. I only met her whenever we had a schedule together. The words we exchanged were nothing more than technical briefing or anything that had to do with the current session. The rest of the time, she would disappear and stay unreachable. Wow, she was really busy, I thought.
But I really missed her. We hadn’t said anything worth saying to each other the past few days. I made my decision. That day, I stopped her on her way to wherever.
“Is something wrong?” I asked her. Her face was unreadable.
“We really should stop seeing each other.”
“You mean I should stop attending acting classes and studio session?”
“You know exactly what I mean, Minho.”
Okay. This looked serious.
“Why?” I asked her in confusion. I was starting to feel scared again.
“You know why.”
“Is it still about my fans?”
“If this continues, next thing you know, you’ll be getting letters written with my blood. Your fans will murder me.”
I laughed again. Was she really serious?
“We’ll talk about this later. Lee Soo Man is waiting for me.”
She left me dumbfounded in SME corridor.
As scheduled, we met again in SM studio. I was late (as usual). She was there with the rest of SHINee members and Super Junior hyungs. They were laughing over something I had no idea about. Yes, I was always late in joining jokes.
Everyone welcomed me when I arrived. She didn’t say anything. She just smiled at me. Then we proceeded with the recording. She seemed pretty relaxed that day. Maybe yesterday she was just stressed out from work. I made up my mind that I’d talk to her again today.
My chance never came though. She was still as busy as a bee. She seemed to be spending time with everyone. She had lunch with Super Junior hyungs. She shopped with SNSD noonas. She joked around with F(x). But to think about it, she never really said a word to me.
“Do you think Fall noona is getting further from us?” I asked my members when we had a break in the studio. She was out, getting all of us lunch with SNSD noonas.
“What do you mean ‘further’?” Jonghyun hyung asked.
“Well, she used to drop by our dorm.”
“Obviously, she’s busy,” Onew hyung said.
“But she never seems to be too busy to spend a moment or two with you, hyung.”
I turned my head to the right to see Taemin. I thought he was talking to me, but his sentence was directed to Onew hyung instead. Was I hearing this right? I turned my head to the left to watch Onew hyung’s reaction. He laughed. And blushed. What the heck?
“Hyung, you’re really slow, did you know that? It seems like your sangtae always keeps you away from getting a girl,” Jonghyun hyung said.
“What do you mean ‘getting a girl’? We’re just friends!” Onew hyung said defensively, but he was still blushing like mad.
“Aish, hyung, confess already!” Taemin pushed him.
I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation. I was too focused in putting all of my emotion to my balled-up fist. Even though I didn’t see it, I knew Key hyung was looking at me.
I went late into the studio again. No, it wasn’t caused by my tardiness. I was shooting Dream Team. I was meant to be late. But Taemin said the recording hadn’t started yet. When I asked him what they were doing, he only answered, “Trot show!”
I looked at my cellphone in confusion. Onew sangtae must be acting up again.
When I arrived in the studio, I heard shoutings and laughters from the inside. They were gathered in front of the TV, holding mics and… is that a karaoke machine?
The mics were currently in the possession of Onew hyung and her.
“Show me one more song! One more!” she said to Onew hyung. Onew hyung started clicking away with the remote and then played a trot song. He started to sing Trot with his Donald Duck impression. She laughed herself to death.
“That was GOOD!” she yelled.
“Noona, we never knew that you like Trot so much!” Jonghyun exclaimed in amusement.
“I LOVE Trot! I want to sing my favorite!”
She started clicking away in the Hangul remote. She can read Hangul easily now?
“I’m pressing the right buttons, right?”
Taemin gave her two thumbs of approval. Was no one going to welcome me?
Out playing Super Junior T’s “Don’t Go Away”. She sang like mad, as though she was in a real karaoke. Onew hyung joined her singing, while the others started to dance.
“Hyung, you’re here! Join us!” Taemin beckoned me to come nearer. I was glued to my spot, watching the intimacy between her and Onew hyung that must be just in my imagination. The song stopped.
“Wait wait wait! I think I saw something before.”
She began clicking the remote again. She finally chose a song. Out playing Onew and Jonghyun’s hyung duet, “Please Don’t Go”.
“May I sing this?” she asked the original singers.
“Sure! I’ll sing too!” Onew hyung said.
They started singing. My ears went hot, because they just sounded beautiful together. I couldn’t take this anymore.
“Where are you going?” Jonghyun hyung asked me.
We started the recording. The itty bitty happiness I saw earlier when I arrived soon vanished as each minute went by in the recording session. She complained about a lot of things. She complained about the poor mixing, wrong harmonization, off tune chords, not-so-right fillers, and other musical things that I didn’t really understand. She became really frustrated. Well, I wouldn’t be the one to comfort her now. She had been avoiding me since yesterday. Onew hyung could do it. See? He was beside her already. Damn. Why did she treat me like this? Just when I thought I finally began to know her, she became an even bigger maze all of a sudden.
She may be the nicest girl who ever walked on earth, but I guessed everyone with responsibilities were the same anywhere. They tended to nag when they were anxious. Her anxiousness was contagious to us. Obviously, she wanted our song to be perfect, but somehow it never lived up to her expectation. She wouldn’t stop frowning. She stopped the session every ten minutes to fix something here and then something there. It was really exhausting. And I just got back from Dream Team filming! Thank God she was needed in Kim Young Min’s office. We had a chance to have some break.
“I never thought she could be really scary,” Jonghyun hyung said.
“Ya, she’s just tired. We all are. We don’t know what kind of pressure she has on her. She’s been in the CEO office a lot. Why is it?” asked Onew hyung. Nobody answered.
She wasn’t long this time. When she came back, she looked calmer, but still anxious.
“Everything okay?” Key hyung asked. She nodded.
“Sorry for snapping at you,” she said.
“It’s okay, noona. We understand,” Taemin replied.
“I’ll fetch us some water,” offered Onew hyung. He stood up and went outside. Key and Jonghyun hyung started to joke with each other to ease down the tension. It worked. She laughed. She looked less sad now. As much as I was sulking at her, I still loved to see her smile.
Onew hyung came back. He had several paper cups on his hands. There was a big smile on his face.
“Yay! Water!” Taemin cheered. Everyone stood up to help Onew hyung with the paper cups, but –
“Onew, be careful!” she shouted.
It was just like him to have his sangtae relapsed again and again. He tripped on air. The paper cups flew out of his hands and landed on the computer, sending water all over the Central Processing Unit. Onew hyung seemed to space out for a moment and gasped when he finally realized what he had done. There was an obvious horror on her face. Oh, no. This was serious. Even I didn’t have the heart to laugh.
“Call the audio engineer. NOW!” she said all of a sudden, making Taemin jumped. Key hyung fetched the man immediately. Onew hyung was still dumbfounded on the floor. She grabbed the coffee table clothe and used it to wipe away the water. I could see an electricity spark came out of the computer.
Key hyung was back with the audio engineer.
“What happened?” the man asked.
“We gotta save the harddisk now,” she answered shortly, still attempting to open the Central Processing Unit with the table clothe.
Onew hyung looked really pale now. Jonghyun hyung helped him stand up. He tried to say something to her.
“Noona, I –“
“Not now, Onew. All of you better leave the studio now. I got your next album to save.”
She was right. It was no good for us to stay here. I pulled Onew hyung out of the studio, along with the others.
We went straight to the dorm after what happened in the studio. She might be scary when we were recording, but this was beyond that. This was her job, our jobs, everyone’s job at stake. Did that water really hit the computer? It must be true, because Onew hyung’s face was paper white all the way to the dorm. He didn’t say a word. Nobody said a word. I really didn’t know how to react to this. Meanwhile, I knew the deadline of SMTown album was getting closer. If those songs were gone, that would mean we’re back to zero. Oh God, this was so messed up.
We’re all quiet in the living room. Unbelievable how the incident only happened around half an hour ago. Taemin looked like he wanted to say something, but not sure on how to say it. Then Onew hyung’s phone rang. He just stared at it. He seemed to have lost his ability to think. Key hyung grabbed the phone and put it on loudspeaker so all of us could hear. It was manager hyung.
“Where are you?” he asked.
“Home,” answered Key hyung.
“You – aish… No use now. Just get some rest. We’ll talk about what happened in the studio tomorrow.”
Manager hyung hung up. Onew hyung groaned and closed his face with his palms.
“Hyung….” Taemin started. He didn’t finish that sentence. Everyone was quiet again. The silence was deafening.
“Manager hyung was right. Just get some rest, hyung,” Key hyung said. Jonghyun hyung and Taemin helped Onew to get up from the couch. He was so lifeless. I couldn’t help being worried myself. What if the CEO heard this?
I followed them to the bedroom, but Key hyung stopped me. He motioned his head to the kitchen. It meant I had to follow him. I sighed. What was it again?
I heard the bedroom door closed. That was the time Key hyung chose to speak.
“Talk to her,” he told me. I frowned at him.
“Talk to who?”
“About this incident.”
“Do you think it’s gonna make a difference?”
“Yes, I do think so.”
“Why me? What makes you think she’ll listen to me?”
“Aish, don’t play dumb with me, Minho. I know.”
Oh God. Now I was really at a loss for words. How much did he know?
I didn’t understand why I even bothered to play stupid anymore. Key hyung grunted.
“I know where you’ve been going to in the middle of the night. And it’s not really hard to see how lovey dovey eyed the two of you are everyday. Onew hyung was just too clueless and too starstruck to notice things, but, yes, I do notice what’s happening with the three of you.”
“Fine. If you really notice, then you must have noticed that she’s been avoiding me since, like, uh, forever!” I told him sarcastically. He laughed.
“I can’t believe this! You’re just as clueless as your leader! Maybe when you stop being such an insensitive brat, you’ll realize more about the things around you!”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Aish. Forget it, Minho. We have to prioritize now. You have to talk to her.”
“Talk about what??”
I really didn’t get where he was heading at. Key hyung sighed.
“Minho, she’s been under a lot of stress recently. Her stress will only increase with the water incident. If those songs are really gone, then it will jeopardize the whole business, okay? She got all of the materials for SMTown album there. I –no, we- need you to talk to her. Be there for her. Ease her mind. Because you’re the only one she listens to.”
“But… Isn’t she with… Onew hyung?”
“Aish, you’re even more stupid than I thought. Haven’t you noticed that you’re the only one she opened her door for every night? Just talk to her. I’m going to bed.”
I was left speechless in the middle of the kitchen.
Onew hyung was expected in the manager’s office the next morning. We went there with him. He needed us. Onew hyung’s face was whiter than it was last night. He knocked on the manager’s door. The door was opened. It felt like none of us breathed when manager hyung’s face appeared in the doorway. Onew hyung was about to step in when she came running towards us.
“Wait!” she yelled. She stopped in front of us, gasping for air.
“Can I help you?” manager hyung asked her.
“The songs…” gasped, “the songs are saved…” gasped again, “problem’s gone.”
Suddenly it felt like there was a big bright light above our faces.
“Are you sure?” manager hyung asked. She stood up straight and told him firmly.
Manager hyung smiled and was relieved.
“You know I was this close to report this to Kim Young Min. You’re lucky, Onew. But I expect you to be more careful next time,” manager hyung scolded SHINee’s leader.
“Yes, hyung. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
Onew hyung bowed to him endlessly, we had to pull him away from the manager’s office. Then, we followed her to the studio. For the first time that day, we laughed and felt really really relieved. Onew hyung still couldn’t say anything, but at least he was smiling.
She wasn’t smiling though.
“Can I have a word with Onew, please?” she asked in the studio. I looked at Key hyung in confusion. I thought I was the one supposed to be talking to her. Key hyung just gave me a shrug. We left the studio. We intended to wait for Onew hyung, but five minutes later, he told us to go home instead. Something about his talk with her ‘is gonna be long.’
Why why why WHY was I always the only one who didn’t know everything?
It was almost 10 PM and Onew hyung hadn’t come back yet. The others were already asleep, while I was restlessly fidgeting on the couch. I kept flicking the TV channels, but nothing good came to sight.
What were they doing? Why hadn’t Onew hyung come back?
My prayer was answered. I stood up as soon as I heard the front door opened.
“Minho, you’re still awake,” Onew hyung said when he saw me in the living room.
“Hyung, where have you been?” I followed him to the kitchen.
“What took you so long?”
“I had a talk with Fall noona.” He got himself a glass of milk.
“Talk about what? Why for hours?” I demanded.
“Just give me a break, will you?”
He slammed down his empty glass and left to the bedroom.
I rarely saw her for the next few days. Even all acting classes were being canceled. They were replaced with dance practice instead. The managers said because the launch of SMTown newest album was only about a month away. So we were busy once again. We still passed her from time to time. She looked really really tired. I missed her smile. Maybe Key hyung was right. I had to talk to her. I tried, but she was unreachable. Her phone was switched off. Had I said that I missed her?
Tonight Onew hyung asked Key hyung to make more dinner.
“Who’s gonna eat it?” Key hyung asked.
“Put it in a box. It’s for Fall noona. Let’s visit her in the studio,” Onew hyung answered and smiled.
When we finished our dinner, all SHINee members went to the studio together.
“Hyung, are you sure she’s here? The studio’s so quiet,” Taemin said.
“Yes, Taeminnie, she’s here.”
Didn’t Onew hyung just know everything about her? Sarcasm intended there.
Onew hyung opened the door. We stepped inside the studio only to find her asleep in front of the computer. She approached her and woke her up gently.
“Noona,” he whispered. “Noona, wake up.”
She stirred and opened her eyes. Onew hyung greeted her with a box of dinner.
“Shining SHINee is here with dinner!” he said cheerfully. She laughed weakly.
“Thanks, everyone,” she said.
“Noona, you look so tired. Why are you still here?” Jonghyun hyung asked.
“I’ve been here since three days ago. Oh, this tastes so good!” she said as soon as she swallowed her food.
“Key hyung cooked it!” Taemin chirped.
“Thank you, Key!”
“You’ve been in the studio for three days? You have to get some rest!” Jonghyun hyung exclaimed. She smiled at him.
“I once stayed in a studio for a whole week. There were just so many things I had to finish. It’s all done now. Kind of. Never mind. I’m going home tonight.”
“Ya, isn’t anyone going to get her water?” Key hyung interrupted.
“Aish, not me. I don’t think I can be trusted with water in the studio,” Onew hyung joked. She almost choked at her dinner.
“Please, Onew, don’t talk about it again,” she said.
“I’m just joking, noona. Sorry.” He smiled at her. She smiled back at him. There. There it was again. Some kind of communication only the two of them knew. That was it. I couldn’t take this anymore. I had to know what’s going on.
“Minho hyung, are you okay?”
“Taemin-ah, help umma clean this up,” Key hyung fetched Taemin before I could snap at him.
We walked back to our dorm, right after she finished her dinner. I grabbed her tool bag before she did.
“I’ll bring this for you,” I told her. She didn’t reply.
We arrived at our building. We took the elevator. When my members stepped out of it, I told them that I’d be back after I took her to her door. I showed them the tool bag I was carrying for her. Onew hyung’s stare at me was the last thing I saw before the elevator door closed.
We stood side by side inside the elevator. No one spoke. I tried to control myself, but I felt like I was about to explode soon. I’d been holding this inside for too long.
“Thank you, Minho,” she said when we reached her door. She opened her door and attempted to take her bag, but I passed her and went inside. She looked at me.
“What happened?” I started.
“Nonsense! What is it? You’ve been avoiding me. You haven’t talked to me for days. What is it, noona? If I did something wrong, just tell me! What is it?”
“Minho, it’s late…”
“No! I’m not leaving until you tell me what is really going on!”
I was frustrated. I didn’t know what else to do.
“What do you think is going on?”
How could she still stay calm?
“I don’t know! So, please! Tell me!”
She stayed silent.
“It’s Onew hyung, isn’t it?”
There. I’d said it.
“What about Onew?”
“You always seem to choose him over me. It’s him, isn’t it?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Tell the truth, noona. Just say it, please!”
I felt like crying now.
“What is there to say, Minho? I don’t even know why you’re asking all of these questions!”
Her calmness was a bit gone.
“You think I do? I just want some answers! What is this? I feel like getting crazy over here! In fact, I feel like I’ve never been sane since the first time I saw you. What is this? What’s happening to me? Please, noona, just tell me something! Is this love? Is this it? Is it supposed to be this heavy and painful? Please, noona, please!”
It took all the strengths I had to keep my tears from falling. I was so confused. I turned left and right to search for a clue, but I got even more frustrated with each passing second. My questions just didn’t seem to be ending.
“You’ve been hanging me forever, noona! Have you any idea how lost I’ve felt these days? And all I want is just an explanation. One simple explanation that I can understand, because I can’t seem to understand everything that’s been happening around me! I – I –“
She hugged me. She didn’t say a word. She just hugged me.
“I’m sorry…” she whispered.
“Me too… Whatever it is… I’m sorry too…”
I felt like I was about to explode. But somehow our lips met and before I knew it, we were kissing each other. I hugged her so tight. She was here. In my arms. Kissing me. In my embrace. I didn’t want to ever let her go. God, I loved her. I loved her. I loved her.
After what seemed to be hours, our lips parted and both of us were filling our lungs with air. There was a moment when we just looked at each other in silence.
“I love you.”
I finally said it. She told me I should go home. The next morning she was gone.
I couldn’t concentrate on the dance practice. I hadn’t seen her. She wasn’t in her apartment. She wasn’t in the practice room. She wasn’t even in the studio. I kept messing up my dance steps, because my mind was somewhere else.
“Onew, this must be a record! You haven’t tripped in your own dance today. Not even once!”
Sungmin hyung interrupted my train of thoughts. I saw Onew hyung laughed and felt like slapping myself. I could have just asked him where she was. He must know. He always knew. When recess came, I came towards him in the corner.
“Where is she?”
He looked at me for a few seconds.
“No way. There was no one in her apartment.”
“Home, Minho. As in the United States.”
For a moment, I’d lost my ability to speak. How could this be?
“When did she fly?” I asked Onew hyung again.
“And you didn’t tell me?” I demanded.
“You were asleep. And there was nothing I could do to wake you up.”
“You didn’t try hard enough!”
“What do you want, Minho? She already left!”
“And you knew that she was leaving, but you didn’t even bother to tell me!”
“Yes, I knew that she was leaving! Maybe if you weren’t being such a flaming jealousy over me, I could’ve told you that she was going to leave!”
“I am NOT a flaming jealousy! I was –“
“Shut up, Minho! I am not having this conversation here!”
Onew hyung left, obviously very angry. I didn’t care. I was beyond angry myself. It was only when I had turned my back I saw that everyone was looking at us.
I couldn’t believe this. How could she leave? It was always like that. One night I was kissing here, and the next morning she would be gone. This had become some kind of scary pattern of my relationship with her. When I thought things were going to be alright, they always suddenly crumbled downhill. I was pissed. No. I was way beyond pissed.
“Are you gonna talk to Onew hyung soon?” Jonghyun hyung asked me when we were back at our dorm.
“He can talk to my hands.”
I was not going to talk to Onew hyung. He could have told me that she was leaving.
It had been almost a week and I still hadn’t said a word to Onew hyung. Not like he showed any effort to talk to me either. I could see Taemin kept questioning his beloved umma on what happened between me and SHINee’s leader, but Key only shushed him up. Jonghyun was more bearable, because he acted like nothing happened. That was just a façade though. I knew everyone was freaking out. I was just too mad at Onew hyung to care.
It wasn’t like I didn’t talk to him completely. We still talked, especially in front of the camera. At the dorm was another different matter though. I only spoke to him whenever it was necessary. That was it.
On the other hand, I tried to contact her in any way possible. I called her. Unanswered. I emailed her. Unreplied. Why did she do this to me? Hadn’t I told her already that I loved her? How could she do this? She succeeded in putting me through an emotion rollercoaster and I only had known her for a few months! God, I felt like losing my mind!
To make things worse, Key hyung decided to talk to me about this matter.
“Stop being such a child, Minho. The two of you can’t avoid each other forever. We live under the same roof for God’s sake!”
“Not fair! Why am I the only one being reprimanded for this?”
“Cos you’re too insensitive to notice that I have actually talked to Onew hyung and clearly he was more sensible in this matter than you.”
“Stop acting like you know me, hyung.”
“I know you, Minho, I know. We’ve been living together for the last couple of years. You’re the one who don’t know yourself.”
Aish, I wish he would just stop lecturing me.
A couple of week had passed since the last time I saw her. Still no words from her. I became even more messed up with each passing day. My mood swing got worse. I kept failing my dance steps. I kept having this sudden urge to punch the wall. I felt like pulling my hair to get rid of her face out of my head. I almost cried in the shower.
I missed her… I really did…
Today was one of those rare days when I got no schedule with the others. That meant I could have all the dorm to myself for a day. Scratch that thought. Turned out Onew hyung was staying home too. I’d rather spend the whole day in bed rather than being around him awkwardly. But I guessed I had to scratch that thought also.
“Minho-ah, wake up!” Onew hyung yelled at my ears. I pretended to not listen.
“Minho!” he yelled again. I laid still. He tapped my shoulder once. Twice. Thrice. He started pushing me off the bed.
“Okay, okay, I’m awake! What do you want?” I asked him furiously.
“Help your hyung to cook chicken!”
Onew hyung gave me a smile that could only be competed with sunshine.
“No,” I answered and went back to sleep.
“Fine,” Onew hyung pouted and walked out of the bedroom.
A few seconds later, I could hear him shouting in the living room.
“Omo! Fall noona is on TV!”
I stood up so fast, my head met Key hyung’s bunk with a loud thud. I sprinted to the living room only to be greeted by Onew hyung smiling, handing me a kitchen apron.
In the end, I helped Onew hyung cooking chicken. I had no choice. With Key hyung gone, I had to eat whatever Onew hyung was having and if I didn’t help him, he might not leave a single plate for me. We mixed the ingredients in silence.
“It’s been a while since the last time we had a quality moment, isn’t it?” he said. I only grunted.
“Are you still mad at me?” he asked.
“You think?” I replied, cutting the chicken with too much emotion. I could hear Onew hyung sighed.
“I’m sorry, Minho. I didn’t mean to yell at you in the practice room.”
“But you did.”
“That’s why I’m sorry.”
“She lied,” said Onew hyung.
“Who lied?” Still cutting the chicken with all my might.
“Lied about what?”
“The harddisk. It wasn’t saved. The songs were gone.”
I stopped torturing the chicken meat and looked at Onew hyung in confusion.
“Why would she do that?”
“Because she didn’t want to make everybody worry. It was only lucky that she still had the raw material. So I guess it wasn’t really all gone. But still, she has to redo most of the songs.”
“How did you know this?”
“She told me. That day in the studio when I told you all to go home.”
I see. I was back torturing the chicken meat.
“She didn’t want me to tell you that she was leaving.”
I threw away the chicken meat and took a really deep breath. This was too much. I left the chicken meat where they were and slammed myself on the living room couch. Onew hyung joined me there.
“So what else did she tell you?” I asked him.
“Pretty much the big picture. She confided in me quite a lot. So you should know that I’m not supposed to be telling you this actually.”
I looked at him questioningly.
“So why are you telling me this?”
“Because I care about you, Minho. You’re my dongsaeng. You’re like a family already. It’s painful for me to see you wasting away like this since she left.”
“What do you mean ‘wasting away’? I’m not – I don’t – I –“
I was at a loss for words. I could feel my face getting hotter. It felt like he just read my mind, my feelings for her. And he didn’t stop talking, despite my embarrassment.
“I know, Minho. Key might say that I’m too clueless to notice things, but I do know. As a leader, it’s my job to know everything about my members. As a hyung, it’s only natural to take care of his dongsaengs.”
I hung my head down in shame. After all, I had known Onew hyung for years. How could I ever question him? I felt so shameful for ever doubting him.
“And all these times… I thought… You like her..” I said slowly. I was too ashamed. Onew hyung laughed upon hearing it.
“Of course I like her! I’m her fan, remember?” His smile was so big, it only made me feel more shameful than before. I wanted to bury my head under my thick blanket.
“I admit I was so starstruck the first time I met her,” he continued. “She was just so nice, and I’ve been a big fan of her. I really wanted to get to know her but in the end…”
I glanced at him. He was looking at me caringly.
“In the end she became more like a sister to me.”
I groaned. This only made me feel even more ashamed.
“Maybe Key was right,” he said. “Maybe I am too clueless to notice things. It was only later that I realized you had this crazy flame of jealousy over me and I gotta tell you that it was quite annoying, Minho.”
I didn’t say anything. Still too ashamed to utter a single word.
“I intended to sort this out, but she told me to leave it. She said things were better this way. So I kept my mouth shut.”
I sighed. One thing clear. One thing left to ask.
“Why did she leave?” I asked him.
“To finish the songs. You see, no one knows about that water incident except us, her, audio technician hyung, manager hyung, and Lee Soo Man. She told me not to worry about the lost harddisk, cos she had been intending to rearrange the whole songs anyway. But she found that Korea held too many distractions for her. So she made a special request to finish the songs at her home.”
I exhaled a deep breath of relief.
“That means she will be back, right?”
“I won’t be so sure if I were you.”
I waited for him to continue his sentence.
“There was another reason why she flew back to her home. Apparently, somebody posted a picture of both of you together on the internet.”
My eyes went wide with disbelief. I thought she and I had been so careful.
“You know nothing about this, don’t you? I told you, you should surf the internet more,” he joked.
“How are we gonna sort this out?”
Onew hyung laughed at my panic reaction.
“It’s already been sorted out. That’s why she spent so many times with other groups, so it would not look like the two of you kept having a special time together. And I guess her flying back home is the only way to avoid the stalkers.”
Again, I couldn’t find any words to say.
“She might just come back. But don’t keep your hopes up.”
We paid attention to the TV for a while. I saw the moving images, but those weren’t what I saw in my head. I kept seeing her. After Onew hyung explained everything to me, I felt very much relieved. But on the contrary, my worry over her had also increased. What if I was the one who actually had messed up everything for her? It was only now that I realized all of my immature sulkiness and childish temper tantrum could be the only things that ruined everything.
“Minho-ah, why are you so quiet? You have to tell your hyung about your first love story!” Onew hyung nudged me annoyingly. He winked crazily at me, trying to make me talk. I ended up laughing looking at his silly face. The first whole-hearted laugh I had in days.
“Come on! Spill! Tell me everything! How was your relationship?”
I was breathless from too much laughing. I evened my breath before answering his question.
“There was no relationship, hyung. There never has been, there never is, and I guess there never will be.”
Onew hyung looked disappointed.
“Too bad. I was hoping you could tell me all the juicy details!” He winked crazily again. I laughed again. He laughed with me. Somehow, right this moment, I felt like Onew hyung and I could never be closer. We kept on laughing until both of us were out of breath.
“So, Minho, do you love her?” Onew hyung asked when his laughter stopped.
“Yes, I do,” I answered him firmly.
“Have you told her that?”
“Does she love you too?”
“I don’t know.”
I finally answered. Onew hyung patted my back.
“Well, only she can answer that. Not me.”
It had been a month now. I hadn’t heard from her in a month. All I found was tidbits of news of her here and there. Mostly it was about her collaboration with K-Pop artists. I guessed she, or the company, decided that it was time to go public. From what I could recall, she wasn’t supposed to be here for press coverage. It seemed like our irresponsible infatuation had changed all that.
Aish, that thought never failed to annoy me. What infatuation? I really did love her. Now she was gone and everything was messed up. No, maybe it was a good thing. Losing contact for a month had calmed me down. I no longer felt like hitting the walls. My addiction of her was finally able to be controlled. Credits went to Onew hyung, I guessed. He was always there, making jokes and certain conditions, just to distract me from my thoughts of her. He reminded me of my hyung at home. I missed him. Thank God Onew hyung was here to keep me company.
“Since when Minho and Onew hyung are like twins? I thought they weren’t talking to each other,” Jonghyun hyung said.
“Aigoo, don’t say that, hyung! I’m so glad they finally made up. I don’t think I can stand the tension anymore,” Taemin protested.
“That’s a lesson, Taeminnie. Don’t ever be involved in a fight with your brothers just because of girls,” said Key umma, making Taemin’s eyes go wide in surprise.
“So they were fighting because of girls?”
“No, Taemin, there’s only one girl,” explained Jonghyun hyung. Taemin’s eyes went wider.
“So there actually is a love triangle between Fall noona, Minho, and Onew hyung??”
Jonghyun hyung laughed so hard at Taemin’s innocent surprise. Key hyung sighed.
“This dorm is just too full of clueless people.”
“Wait, hyung! Tell me! Isn’t Fall noona with Onew hyung? I’m confused!”
Taemin’s confusion just sent Jonghyun hyung into a deeper laughter.
“Ya! Stop talking about us behind our backs!” Onew hyung suddenly appeared.
“How could we not laugh over your stupid predicament?” Key hyung asked rhetorically, not to mention sarcastically.
The dance practice had become more intensive with the new album launching date approaching. I drowned myself in those practices, because they drowned the thoughts of her. Until one day, I just stopped thinking about her. She was still there at the back of my head, but no longer knocking painfully at the skull. It seemed like my heart had finally frozen.
“Come on, boys! We’re almost late for the press conference!” manager hyung urged us. Today was the press conference for the new album. We were going to announce that a new SMTown album was coming. This would be the beginning of a very long period of promotion.
We had arrived at the conference room in SME. Everyone was also there. The managers had told us what kind of questions the press would ask, so we could prepare ourselves with the answers. Nothing new. The usual same old stuff.
“I heard you’re working together with Fall from the United States? How is it?” one of the press asked us.
“It’s really great! Fall-ssi is a great person to work with. She’s so talented and we always have fun whenever she’s around,” answered Leeteuk hyung.
“Speaking of which,” said SME’s public relation. “The most-talked-about girl in the music industry has finally arrived. Everyone, please welcome Fall!”
I craned my neck so hard to look at the door, it hurt like hell. There she was. Looking flustered, but still with the familiar smile whom I missed so much. I looked at Onew hyung questioningly, he just shook his head, meaning he didn’t know either that she was coming.
“I’m sorry everyone,” she said breathlessly. “My flight was delayed. I just arrived an hour ago.”
The cameras began clicking like mad. Everyone was asking her questions like there was no tomorrow. She answered them one by one, along with the others. She laughed here and there whenever someone threw a joke. I felt the ice wrapping my chest melting away with every ring of her laughter. But I wondered why she felt so far away from me.
We were in the living room the night after the press conference. I was watching the TV. Onew hyung was reading a magazine. Key hyung and Taemin were playing monopoly. Jonghyun hyung? He suddenly appeared in front of me and Onew hyung clasping both of his hands together.
“Now that she’s back, please don’t start fighting again. Please,” he pleaded. Onew hyung answered by throwing a cushion at him. Aish, he was the one who actually reminded me of her. Jonghyun hyung shouldn’t have mentioned her. I left for the bedroom, absolutely annoyed. I could hear Key hyung complained at Jonghyun hyung.
“Why, Jjong, why did you have to bring that up? Aish!”
“What? I just don’t want the cold war to start again!”
I closed the bedroom door to stop the sound. Now what was I going to do?
The next morning, we were all called to the practice room. The whole SMTown was there. She was also there. She smiled at us. In general. No special smile for me. Not even a glance.
“Hello, everyone! I’m so happy to be back here!” she told us.
“Us too, unnie! Why did you suddenly leave?” Yoona noona asked her.
“I’m sorry, dear. I had some stuff I had to finish at home. But now I’m here! And your songs are about to be wrapped!”
Everybody clapped. I was stunned in my spot. I could only look at her.
“You still remember the SMTown song, right? The one we’re gonna sing together. I’ve finished the studio version. The only thing left is to practice the live version. This is important, because you recorded the sound individually. You’ve never actually sung it together as a whole SMTown. So I’d like to ask for everyone’s cooperation, cos it’s one big choir we got here.”
Then, she started to lead us in our lines. We began by sorting out the lead vocals first. After that, she arranged the harmonization by groups of alto, bass, soprano, and baritone. This was the first practice, so this was bound to have many mistakes. But the atmosphere was really fun with all the gagmen we had in the room. At least, to me, it looked like fun. I felt like an outsider, shut out by her light. The kind of light I could never penetrate without fear of burning. I wanted to talk to her. But she felt so far away…
The very next day, SHINee was called to the studio. See? The busy season had just started. We arrived at the studio early in the morning. She was there, meddling around the mixer and computer. She looked just like she belonged there. It looked as though she never left. Onew hyung patted me on the shoulder supportively. I supposed he was smiling at me, but I didn’t see. My eyes were locked on hers. Strangely, my heart was no longer jumping like it used to when I laid my eyes on her. It now just felt painful.
“Noona, you’re back!” Taemin cheered.
“I am! I miss you!” She hugged Taemin cheekily. How I wished I could have Taemin’s innocence and carefreeness sometimes.
“Everyone here? Please, sit down. I have an exciting news!” she told us. She sure looked excited. She took something out of a map and handed us each a piece of paper.
“What is this?” Key hyung asked.
“That is your new song!”
Jonghyun hyung gaped at her.
“New song? You mean we got to record it from zero?” he asked in disbelief. She nodded, much to his surprise.
“But what about our previous song?” asked Taemin.
“I gave it to F(x). It suits them better anyway. I suddenly had an inspiration back in the States and decided to give you a new song. Don’t worry. The recording will be easy. I’ve made the whole track. The only things left are your voices. And I’m sure all of you will master the song in no time.” She seemed so certain, while the five of us were in shock. The launching was less than a month away!
I took a peek at the special song she made for us. I saw that the lines were so short. I frowned at the lyrics. For the first time since she came back, I talked to her.
“Noona, where are my rap lines?”
“There will be no rap, Minho.”
What?! Did she really hate me that much that she cut me out of the song?! I swore –
“You’re not gonna rap. You’re gonna sing.”
Five SHINee members shouted in unison. She nodded excitedly.
“All of you are gonna be singing! It’s a ballad! It’s time for the whole world to hear how beautiful all of you actually sound.” She said this in the utmost confidence.
How could she be so certain? I stared at my piece of paper in horror. Sure I had sung in public before. But that was when other members were sick. I was too shocked to notice that she was already beside me.
“If you’re wondering, here are your lines.”
She circled one whole verse on my paper. One verse! And I usually just got a couple of lines! This was too scary. I felt like she was looking at me. I glanced up. She looked at me straight in the eye.
“You’re not gonna back out, aren’t you? You’re a singer, for God’s sake. You’re not gonna tell me that you’re afraid of singing a ballad, surely?” she said slowly. Somehow there was a threatening tone in her voice. I gulped. This information was too much to take in a few minutes. Without realizing it, I shook my head slowly, meaning I was not going to back out. She smiled.
She stood up and clapped her hand.
“See? I knew you could do it! You’re not gonna be able to refuse anyway. I’ve talked to your music director and he agreed with the song concept. Ears alert! I’m going to introduce you to your new song!”
She turned her back on us and walked cheerily towards the computer. I swore she was dancing on her steps. While she was clicking away on the computer, the others looked at me with wide eyes.
“Hyung, we’re gonna be singing!” Taemin whispered.
“Why are you looking at Minho like that? He can sing very well!” Onew hyung defended me.
“But, hyung…” I told Onew hyung. “It’s not like I ever really had singing portion in our songs…”
“Minho-ah! You can sing! Otherwise you wouldn’t be in SHINee!”
I gulped again.
“Is everyone ready?” Her call interrupted our anxious conversation. “Before I press play, I want you to know that this song has a really special meaning for me. Hell, this might be one of the best songs I’ve ever written! I personally wrote, composed, arranged, and produced the whole thing myself. So you have to sing it with all of your hearts or I will be regretting the day I decided to work with SME. You understand me?”
She gave us her sweet sweet smile, but it might have been poisonous in our eyes. We gulped in unison.
“I’m gonna play the song. This one is sung by me. Please listen and read the lyrics at the same time so that you’ll get the full meaning of the song.”
She pressed play and a very soothing intro came to our ears. She started singing. And she sounded just as beautiful as her smile.
I start my day praying for you
So you would always be healthy and happy there
Before you forget me even further
Before you leave me even further
I never hope you will miss this pathetic existence of mine
All I want is, when you see me anytime, anywhere
Your heart will say something like this
This man is the one who falls for you
This man is the one who will always adore you
Uh uh yeah, Uh uh yeah
That’s how the rappers trying to cheer me up
I’m the one who always leave flowers and love notes upon your desk
I’m the one who will always watch you
Enjoying your beauty from the dark side of me
And let me be your admirer
Don’t ever think about how I feel
Be calm, just calm down, my dear
I will never have the heart to touch you
Maybe you will never know
How easy it is for you to be admired
Maybe you will never realize
How easy it is for you to be loved
I’m the one who will always adore you
I’m the one who will always stalk you
I’m the one who will always adore you
I’m the one who will always stalk you
Maybe you will never know
How easy it is for you to be admired
Maybe you will never realize
How easy it is for you to be loved
Just because of this deep longing of mine for you, I hold on to this life
So only with the trace of your heart
There’s a meaning to how I live this life
Forever I can only adore you
Forever I can only miss you.”
There was a sting in my chest. She might as well be singing about us. Or about Onew hyung. But who was I to be so conceited?
The music stopped. Everyone was quiet.
“How is it?” she asked. It seemed like she was holding her breath.
“Noona….” Jonghyun hyung voiced out. “This… is so beautiful.”
She looked relieved.
“Yay! I’m glad you like it! Shall we start practicing your lines now?”
“Yes, noona, this is great! I want to sing this!” Taemin said joyfully.
I sat still and read the lyrics over and over again. And I thought Onew hyung was doing the same thing.
The days afterwards were busy with post-productions. SHINee was busy with so many things themselves. We got so many rehearsals. We rehearsed for the SMTown song. We rehearsed our new dance routines. Most importantly, we rehearsed our new song. I didn’t know if it was because the song was really good or the song had a special meaning for her, we really took the song seriously. We practiced our lines all the time. I meant all the time. It wasn’t enough in the studio, we also practiced at the dorm. It felt like a competition on who could sing her song more beautifully than the others. Even Taemin kept asking Jonghyun hyung to teach him how to reach the high notes. I, on the other hand, still drowned in my low self-esteem of singing a ballad.
“Aish, Minho, it’s just one verse! One verse!” Key hyung told me agitatedly. He didn’t understand.
“Key-ah, don’t nag. Come with me, Minho.”
Onew hyung to the rescue. I followed him to the bedroom. I threw myself on my bed and hid my head under the pillow.
“Care to tell me what the problem is?” he asked me carefully. I sat up and took a deep breath.
“Don’t worry, hyung. It’s not about her. It’s about the bloody one verse.”
Onew hyung smiled.
“Minho, what are you afraid of, really? You will be just fine. She wouldn’t entrust you with that song if she didn’t think you could sing it. It’s so not like you to give up on things.”
I sighed again in reply.
“Get your lyrics. We’ll practice together.”
I got my piece of lyrics and we started to practice again. A few minutes later, the others joined us practicing. I could do this. I could sing this. I knew what this song was about. I could feel it. Yes. She made this specially for me to sing. I kept assuring myself until I had the confidence enough to sing the new song.
After endless amount of practice, I began to really like our new song. I even sang it unconsciously the whole time. The funny thing was, whenever we heard one of us singing it, the rest would immediately joined in harmony. Taemin was right. This song was indeed good.
The SMTown song also had gotten a lot better. In fact, the song was ready to be wrapped. When we finally thought that we all had a very clear picture of what our roles were in the song, she led us in one final rehearsal. We, the whole SMTown, sang our new song as though we were in SMTown concert already. When we finished, she told us that she actually recorded it. She played back and showed us the results of our hard work. Darn, that was so great! Everyone clapped and hugged each other, excited by our new song.
“You are so great! Each and everyone of you!” she praised us. Then, she continued. “While you’re having some rest, I want you to hear something.”
To our surprise, she called SHINee to come to the center front. Just like that, she told us to sing our new song. Suddenly I felt a butterfly was churning inside my stomach. I couldn’t believe this. I got a stage fright!
That was when she gave me her smile and my heartbeat miraculously slowed down. Jonghyun hyung led the intro and we started singing “Secret Admirer” in a cappella. When we were done singing, everyone was silent for a second before they started to clap like crazy.
“Minho, you should sing more!” I could hear somebody yelled.
“See? I told you. You will be fine,” she whispered beside me.
With the songs and album done, the next schedule was music video shooting. Her job was finished. She came to produce an album and she did it. She could fly back home immediately if she wanted to, but she stayed with us instead. She said she was staying until the SMTown concert was over. She accompanied all of us (SMTown, not just SHINee) through our schedule, watching our every progress. She spent so many times joking and fangirling with Super Junior hyungs, being the ELF that she was. She even had a regular karaoke schedule with the others, special trot session duet by her and Onew hyung. No, the jealousy no longer burned. As a matter of fact, emptiness was the only thing I could feel.
She seemed fine. I didn’t think she would avoid me if I tried to talk to her. But somehow, there was this part of me holding me back from talking to her more than necessary. It was just… I messed up so much already. I couldn’t afford to make things worse for her again. She was here. Stress-free. Her job was done. She was smiling again. Being able to see her smile was enough for me. So I was not going to ruin everything even further.
Then, I realized that I had never known her true feelings for me.
SMTown MV was out. SHINee’s new ballad became a hit in one night. SMTown concert was a blast. We got so many good reviews in medias. We could finally move on to our next schedule. However, it meant that her stay in Seoul was over. She was preparing her departure from this home of mine.
That morning, I knocked on her door. Just like I used too. She opened her door and greeted me with a warm smile. Just like she used too. I stepped in and saw many boxes all around the apartment.
“You need help packing?” I offered.
“Definitely. You can help me packing all these small stuff. Just put them all in those boxes. Thank you, Minho!”
She left me in the living room. I packed and arranged all of her things in boxes. When I took a peek, she was packing herself in her room. I kept packing and packing until I forgot my surrounding. I just felt stoned. I passed the studio couch, where we had our first kiss, and I felt indifferent. I passed the living room couch, on where we used to lay down and talked for hours, and I felt nothing.
I was still packing when she came with two glasses of hot chocolate. I took a glass and we sipped the chocolate in silence in the middle of the living room.
“Will you come to Korea again?” I broke the silence.
“I’m sorry if I ever did something wrong to you.”
“Forget it, Minho. There’s nothing to apologize for.”
“Thank you for everything. You’ve taught me many things,” I told her again.
“That wasn’t me, Minho. It’s a natural period of a human’s life called growing up. You picked your lessons by yourself.”
Silence again. After that, we didn’t really talk much until it was time for me to leave.
Incheon International Airport. A few of us were there to bid her farewell. I could see she was talking with everyone. I was a bit behind, afraid to go nearer. This would be the second time I experienced her leaving. I saw her talking to Onew hyung. They were saying something I could not hear. Then, they hugged for a good deal of minute. She went to Taemin and hugged him too. She took last pictures with SNSD noonas. Finally she saw me.
She walked towards me. I felt like running the other way, but my feet were rooted to the ground. She was finally in front of me. We could only look at each other.
“Can I hug you?” I asked her. “Just one last hug.”
I hugged her. Probably for one last time. If only she could stay like this forever in my arms.
“I love you.” I whispered in her ear.
“I know.” She whispered back.
After what seemed like a minute for eternity, we parted from our hug. I looked at her and asked the one question I’d been longing to ask since our first kiss.
“Do you love me?”
She only looked at me. Then, she smiled.
“My plane is leaving. Goodbye, Minho.”
She turned around and walked towards the terminal. Everyone waved at her. She waved back before disappearing behind the doors. I could only look at her. For one last time.
Fall turned on her laptop and waited until it was connected to the internet. She opened her Youtube page and looked at her channel subscriptions. Finally. Newest episode of Dream Team, English subbed. It had been almost a month since she left Korea. She still talked and chatted with Onew and a few others, but not Minho. He never contacted her. She wasn’t sure herself, whether she would talk to him or not if he ever did.
While waiting for the whole episode to load, her thoughts drifted to a time when she first stepped her foot on SME’s door. She felt like jumping up and down upon meeting Super Junior whom she loved so much. Then, she saw Minho, exactly liked how she saw him on TV. She always liked SHINee, especially Minho. She was intrigued by him. Who knew their relationship would go further beyond idol-fangirl relationship. Minho was so alive. She also felt so alive whenever he was with her. His company was like home to her.
She was so shocked when Kim Young Min showed her a stalker-taken picture of her and Minho together. She thought they had been so careful. Kim Young Min was eyeing her, waiting for an explanation. But she could only glare at the picture, absolutely lost for words. She needed not to understand Korean to know that the comments below the picture were written by very angry fangirls, judging by the numerous amount of exclamation marks on them. She didn’t know what to do.
“We can’t afford this to go public,” Kim Young Min said. “You’re the oldest of the two. I expect you to be more responsible.”
Fall could only look at Kim Young Min. She really didn’t have any words to defend herself. She knew she was wrong. Kim Young Min left the office for a meeting in agitation. There were only her and Lee Soo Man left. Slowly, Lee Soo Man approached and talked to her.
“Please, forgive Young Min-ssi. He’s under a lot of pressure at the moment. Nevertheless, you do understand what will happen if this picture is out, don’t you?”
“I know it’s not my place to say this. Who am I to say this anyway? I was young once. I know how it feels being young. But, Fall dear, I’m sure you’re old enough to understand. After all, you’ve been in this business much longer than Minho has. You know very well that what Minho has right now in his career is something he will never have again if he blows it up.”
She didn’t say anything.
“You certainly care about Minho, right?”
She nodded again.
“Then, I’m sure you know what to do. I’m sorry, dear. But not now.”
The days afterwards was full of crisis management application. Slowly but sure, the company was handling the issue well before it really turned to be a real hot issue. Fall was to spend more time with other groups and less time with SHINee, especially Minho. She wasn’t supposed to appear under the spotlight. Her presence in Korea was not for press coverage. But what she had with Minho had changed everything.
She avoided Minho. She ignored him. She tried everything to keep him away from her. But he was so persistent. He kept knocking on her door every night. And she just couldn’t refuse. His determination melted her. And the love in his eyes…. His eyes just talked too much. His eyes told her everything that his mouth couldn’t. It broke her every second to see Minho so frustrated over her avoidance. Yes, she did notice. She was always watching him.
However, Minho wouldn’t be Minho if he gave up. She knew it all too well. Somehow Minho succeeded in keeping touch with her. They would always steal time whenever they could. They were making their own chances to be together. But Lee Soo Man’s words kept talking in her head. Until one day the board of directors noticed that she and Minho still managed to meet each other.
Lee Soo Man talked her down for the second time. It was only because she respected Lee Soo Man so much that she agreed when he asked her to leave Korea for a while. She left. She left without saying a single thing to Minho. And he said he loved her…
Her heart was crushed all the way she flew to her home. She tried to get Minho out of her head by concentrating on her SMTown deadline. She failed miserably. She had to admit that Minho was a very big part of her inspirations for the album. She restlessly stalked every fansite and forum for news of Minho. She just wanted to know how he had been. She could have just asked him over the phone actually. After all, Minho called him endlessly on the first days of her absence from Korea. She didn’t answer any of his phone calls. She just remembered Lee Soo Man’s words.
When she was finally back in Korea, she couldn’t help but giving Minho the impression that she didn’t really care. She could still remember how he told her again that he loved her at the airport. Only God knew how badly she wanted to answer his sentence. However, maybe it was better for him to forget her.
Her train of thoughts was stopped when she saw that the whole videos had finally loaded. She smiled seeing Minho in action, bringing victory to Dream Team. In the middle of the show, Minho was given a lie detector test.
“I, Choi Minho, have never fallen in love with a girl,” the MC said.
“No, I’ve never fallen in love before,” Minho said. Of course he would answer such thing. Idols like him were trained to choose their words carefully. However, to everyone’s surprise, the device beeped and told everyone that Minho was lying. Minho glared at the device.
“Don’t lie, Minho! Next question! I, Choi Minho, have been in a serious relationship with my girlfriend before.”
“No, I’ve never been in a relationship before.”
The device beeped again and showed that he was telling the truth. Everyone on the screen laughed.
“Looks like Minho-ssi got his heart broken by a girl. Poor you! Think again, Minho. Maybe you’ve never actually been in love before!”
Minho laughed along with Dream Team members.
“But, hyung,” Minho said. “Unrequited love is also love.”
She stopped the video. She couldn’t watch it anymore. Without realizing it, her cheeks were already wet with tears.
The truth was she loved him too.
Onew stood in front of the bathroom sink. He took a picture out of his chest pocket. It was a picture of Fall. He stared at her face while his mind wandered to the moment when he was appointed to be the leader of SHINee.
“Onew-ah, you’re a leader now. You have to be responsible for your members. You can’t be selfish. A good leader will always put the needs of his members first. I trust you. I know you will be a good leader.”
Lee Soo Man’s words were still as clear as day in his head.
He looked at the picture in his hand for one last time. Then, he lit up a match and burned the picture. He looked at the burning picture in silence. He could hear Taemin was looking for him, but he didn’t answer him.
“Oh, there you are. Onew hyung, help me with my homework, please,” Taemin said on the bathroom door. Onew didn’t answer, so Taemin curiously stepped into the bathroom to find a pool of ashes in the sink.
“Hyung, are you burning something? What are you burning?”
Onew pulled the sink plug and watched the water went down the drain. Then, he looked up and smiled at Taemin.
“A first love story.”
Taemin eyes went wide.
“Hyung, I didn’t know you like to write stories!”
“The story was a big fail. That’s why I burned it. Now let’s get to your homework.”
Onew circled an arm on the magnae and they went to the living room together.
TAKE OUT WITH FULL CREDITS!
Author: Fallissa Ananda Putri @ http://www.fallissaputri.com