“Samjung has confirmed Krystal as their lead racer. We have looked into her background and it seems she has been racing long before she stepped foot into professional racing.”
“Which means she was racing illegally?”
“Which are illegal.”
“Well, technically, not all of them are illegal.”
“Most of them are. And it’s reckless. And reckless driving leads to accidents. Case in point, the Taeyeon-Jessica crash in Hongdae.”
“Accidents happen in legal races too.”
“But there are safety procedures to ensure risk is at its lowest. The necessary help is on standby to provide help required. Those illegal races don’t have any of that.”
“Taeyeon and Jessica weren’t seriously injured in the Hongdae crash though.”
“Are you waiting for a death to happen before you will agree that illegal races should be cracked down upon then? Let me tell you, there have been deaths before.”
“I know, Dad.”
“I’m not your father when we’re at the office. How many times must I remind you? You’re lucky there’s nobody else present to hear that.”
“Well, you are my Dad first, Director second. It was a slip of tongue, but it won’t happen again.”
“It’d better not.”
“But I’m so sick of this. Do you really have to keep me unknown like this? After naming your company after me?”
“It’s for the best. Otherwise people will think I’m being biased to my daughter. They will question your position. Tongues will wag. Venomous minds will twist it into a weapon against me and my decisions.”
“But I worked my way up here from the bottom. I went for the interview like everybody else. Shouldn’t they have been convinced by my work all this time?”
Her heart continued to sink as her father shook his head.
“Yoona, it doesn’t matter how you got in. It doesn’t matter because there are people who want to bring you down no matter what you do. I will introduce you as my daughter when the time is right. But the moment is not ripe yet.”
“Well, I sure hope the moment ripens soon. I’m getting sick and tired of this and I don’t know how much more I can take.”
“You’re my daughter. You can take it.”
“I’m not so sure, Dad. I’m not so sure.”
“How’s things with Taeyeon lately?”
Tiffany choked on the coffee she was drinking. “W-What do you mean—”
Paul laughed out loud and handed her some tissues to clean up with. “Calm down. There’s no need to panic.”
“W-Why are you asking about her suddenly.”
“Taeyeon was approached by Yoona during our car launch. I want to know if you know anything about it.”
Not Paul too?! “Who is this Yoona? Why are you asking about her?”
Paul leaned forward with his elbows on the desk between them and looked straight at her. “Yoona, we suspect, is the daughter of SsamYoong’s Mr Im.”
“Mr Im? The chairman? Who owns 51% of SsamYoong?”
Paul nodded. “Yes. Yoong is not the real name of his daughter as he so proclaims. Her name on paper, is Him Yoona, which we suspect is not her actual family name either. Besides, Him and Im are pretty close. They probably used Him to throw off the scent.”
“How do you know so much? And how reliable is this information?”
“It’s reliable.” Paul leaned back, wearing an expression of assuredness. “Currently, our company is in alliance with KEA Motors as you’re well aware of, and they have some of the best scouts who are capable of finding out details as distant as five generations back. This sort of investigation hardly even challenges them.”
“If they’re that good, why would you need to ask me about this?”
“You might have insight into the Yoona-Taeyeon alliance that we don’t.”
“I’m sorry to say this, but no. I don’t.”
“Do you think you can try to find out?”
Tiffany shook her head. “I can’t.”
“Aren’t you two…”
“We are. Sort of. But that isn’t the point.”
“So what’s the point?”
“I can’t ask her about Yoona because I’m not telling her the truth about you.”
“If that’s the only thing stopping you, tell her.”
It took Tiffany two whole seconds to speak again. “Are you absolutely sure?”
“Haven’t you already told some people that you have nothing to do with me?”
Tiffany looked away, guilty as charged. “I just couldn’t stand it any more. I only told the people I work with though.”
“You should be fully aware that word, once told, will spread? But it’s fine. Now nobody knows who to believe. What’s even better is some of my family now thinks I’m a total playboy, toying around with women, which is perfect.”
“But as you said, word once told will spread. What if it leaks out after I tell Taeyeon?”
“Do you trust her? Like I trust you?”
Funny how Taeyeon had brought the same word up this morning. It was part of the reason for her temper too. She had proclaimed her trust in Taeyeon during their fight but now that she was calm and unprovoked, what did she really think? Did she trust Taeyeon enough to tell her the truth?
And even in the light of day and the calmest of minds, the same answer came back to her crystal clear.
“I trust her.”
Paul nodded, as though expecting that answer all along. “Tell her. Trade secrets.”
Trade secrets. Another exchange. Another deal. Was their relationship to be built upon deal after deal? She didn’t like it. But this was the way things were.
“Who’s the girl who answered your phone this morning?”
“Why did you call so early.”
“Is she your girlfriend?”
“Why did you call so early.”
“It’s fine if you won’t tell me. I’ll find out.”
“I specifically told you not to try anything funny.”
Yoona sighed, throwing her hands up in the air. “I called after the sun has risen way up into the sky. That’s not ‘trying something funny’. That’s just you being a pig and lazing in bed.”
“I’m not obliged to wake up early for you. Neither am I a morning person. You almost ruined my morning with that call.”
“Almost. Which means I didn’t.” Yoona’s grin was exactly like that of a cheeky student daring the teacher to punish her and it irritated Taeyeon so she stood up, ready to leave. “Wait—where are you going?”
“I’m leaving. I have better things to do than to take on a smart ass student. Like…sleeping, for example.”
Yoona stood too and grabbed her arm. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. I’m sorry…” She batted her eyelashes. “Please give me another chance.”
“No more early morning calls.”
Yoona pouted but she nodded. “I promise. But when can I call you then?”
“You can call me after McDonald’s stops serving breakfast.”
Yoona’s eyes open wide and she almost splutters. “What?! That late?”
“It’s that or no calls at all. No coach either.”
“Good. Now we can start talking.”
“Was that not considered a ‘talk’?”
“That was not a talk.”
“So what’s talking like.”
“Talking is when we negotiate.”
“What do you want to negotiate?”
“Ah,” Yoona’s eyes gleamed as she sat up and leaned forward, “how do you want to be paid?”
“I checked the rates. I’ll charge according to the market rate for each session. But if you do win the race, I want a bonus.”
Yoona’s grin couldn’t have been any wider then. “I knew you’d be more interesting than a market rate. So what is this bonus you want?”
“I want your company to hire me.”
“Hire you? As?”
“A race consultant.”
Yoona clapped. “So. You want to design race tracks now huh. What else have you set your eyes on. Taking over the racing world?”
Taeyeon didn’t smile nor respond to her flippant tone. She simply stayed on track and asked, “Can get me the job?”
Yoona’s answering grin was as confident as the hare in a race with a tortoise. “Sure.”
Taeyeon walked down the row of stores feeling considerably lighter than before. The negotiation with Yooona went well. Her plan for the future was under way, even though she had taken on a huge gamble. But wasn’t that how her life was? She was destined for it.
Her gamble with God when her father got involved in a car accident. Her gamble with Life when her mother went astray. Her gamble with her future when she left home. Gamble after gamble. Even her relationship with Tiffany became with stakes on a race. So what was another gamble?
Besides, she was confident of winning this one. Just as confident as she had been during that race with Tiffany. There was still no doubt in her mind that she would have won if it weren’t for her tyres and the fucking police. But all that aside, she had won even though she had lost. And she was still winning because Tiffany was still with her.
The conclusion of her train of thought came at a timely moment, just as she reached the store that she had bought the candle from. But her face turned red as soon as she stepped foot into the store. The same lady was in the store and she would probably ask her why she needed a new jar. She could only hope the lady had forgotten about her.
“Good afternoon, Miss. What are you interested in looking at today? Did your girlfriend like the present?”
Her cheeks burned. “I’m not sure if she likes it.”
The lady smiled. “She’s one of those mysterious girls, huh. Well, are you here to get another gift for her?”
“I’m here to get a new jar for the candle,” she said, placing said object on the counter.
The lady gasped. “Did she hate it that much that she had to destroy it?”
“Uh…no…it…it wasn’t her.”
“I see. Well, our glass jars are designed to withstand moderate drops so it must have taken a great force to break it open. There’s no other way to get the candle out, you know. Our products are of the highest quality.”
“Well, I’m very sorry to tell you this, but we don’t sell the jar without the candle. Perhaps, you might like to purchase another to replace the broken one?”
Taeyeon looked at the candle. It looked sad in her hand. How could it be replaced? It was the very first present she had ever bought for a girlfriend who wasn’t going to end up a fling. It was a proper present, given with proper feelings, then destroyed with the silliest of tempers. She couldn’t replace it. She had to salvage it somehow.
“I would like to fix it. Do you know where I could get an empty jar? A pretty jar?”
“There’s an art supply store just around the corner. Down the road and to the right. You’ll see the entrance in the alley.”
Taeyeon put the candle back in her bag and went on her way. Down the street a few stores later, she turned right into a smaller street. She kept her eyes peeled for an alley but there was none. Sensing that she might have missed it, she turned back and walked slowly, looking on both sides. She was halfway back when she saw it. There it was, a little sign in the narrow alley that said ‘ART’.
A little bell rang when she stepped in and a smiling old lady came out from the back.
“Hello, do you require any help?”
Taeyeon shook her head. “No, I’ll look around by myself.”
“Alright, but I’ll just be in the back so yell if you need me.”
With that, the old lady disappeared and she was left alone to browse. She found the shelf that had an assortment of empty glass jars and sifted through them. None of them were big enough for the candle to fit and she was about to turn around to leave when she noticed a jar right at the back. She pushed the others out of the way and reached in for it.
Crystal clear and straight with a wide neck, it was the perfect fit. But it didn’t seem enough. Some paints for decoration maybe? She thought it was a good idea. The jar would look so much prettier with little pink and red hearts all around it.
The glass jar, previously rather dusty from being on the shelf for some time, was now sparkly clean after she rubbed it down with water and vinegar. Then, she put on gloves and began.
Two hours later, she was surrounded by papers she had laid to keep the floor and table clean. Two bottles of enamels stand to her right, opened and used. Two paint brushes, red and pink tipped, now lay flat on the table. But in the center of it all, was a beautiful jar that looked good as new with red and pink hearts all over it.
Next, it was time to heat up the glass.
The lady the in the shop had advised her to use heat to set the glass. Thirty minutes in the oven at just under 200 degrees Celsius was all it would take, she said. That way, it would last longer. She sat and watched the glass jar in the oven as it heated up. More and more heat built up and it was incredible to imagine that something as fragile as glass could withstand high heat like this.
Could she, like the glass jar, withstand the heat too?
The time was up sooner than she realized and it was time to take the glass jar out. She took it out with great care and set it on the table.
Wow. It was beautiful. A home worthy of her sad, lonely candle.