The hustle and bustle of the crowd, the heat of the purring engines, the stretch of the driver’s suit. Tiffany took a deep breath, holding it in for a beat before releasing it through puckered lips. It was the second race of The Roulette and this time, they were at another circuit an hour out of Seoul. It wasn’t the same as street races held in the dead of the night but it had its charms. Precision, accuracy, mastery. Absolute, perfect control. Professional races demanded all of them. Nothing less would do. A split second lapse of concentration could have disastrous consequences; such was the nature of high speed racing.
She got into her car and settled in. A sense of calm descended like a cloud and she closed her eyes, listening to her breaths. All was quiet in her car. She was ready.
Hands gripping the steering wheel, her mind did the necessary to control her car. This was going to be a tricky race. The challenge was in helping Denise without making it too obvious. Denise had not done well in the first race and they were behind in Constructors’ points. Paul had made it clear that they needed Denise to place higher this time if they wanted to keep their chances of winning the Constructors’ title up. ‘A place or two would help’, were the words of Paul.
Currently, Denise was a few places behind her. Her job was to slow it down and create a bottleneck that would allow Denise to take over one or two racers at least. It wasn’t difficult to do; the biggest hurdle had been to get over her reluctance to do it. She slowed as she went around the corner, while making sure the window to overtake her was closed. When they entered the straight, she checked the mirror constantly to make sure she was blocking the car behind. The radio update from her people informed her that Denise had taken over one racer and was now in the seventh position.
Several corners later, Tiffany was getting impatient. The car behind her was practically breathing down her exhaust and she was itching to push her car to its fullest potential. But Denise had yet to overtake another racer yet and her orders were to hold back as much as she could. It took all her self-restraint to maintain her speed, just a fraction slower than she would have gone, as she continued to close out windows of opportunity for overtaking.
“D is up to sixth. D is up to sixth.”
At last! Tiffany flashed a quick grin and acknowledged the message received and manoeuvred the next series of curves and turns, awaiting the long stretch to blast off at full speed. And from that moment on, there was no looking back.
There was nothing more she wanted than to run straight into Taeyeon’s arms and soak up the adoration her girlfriend would have lavished on her for winning the race. But duty called and she had to freshen up and make herself look presentable for the camera. Stepping onto the platform when it was her turn to be interviewed, she flashed a smile and waved at the cameras. Paul was right beside her and she knew what that meant, which made her smile a little harder to pull off but she did as she was supposed to nonetheless.
The usual questions came through, asking her about the race conditions, the competition and her thoughts on the next race. She fielded the questions with confidence and a winning smile and Paul did the same with the questions concerning the Constructors’ championship. All in all, the interview was going well, but a flurry of heads turned when someone from the back yelled, “Just in! Ted has been caught by the police! Miss Hwang, what do you have to say about that?”
with all eyes on her, Tiffany took a deep breath and maintained a solemn expression. “If that information is accurate, all I have to say is that I hope the truth will come to light and I hope the case can receive proper closure.”
“And what do you have to say about your rumoured lesbian relationship with an illegal street racer?”
Paul opened his mouth but Tiffany spoke quickly to get her word in first, “I would rather not address that question.”
“Why not? What do you have to hide?”
“Miss Hwang is not seeing an illegal street racer,” said Paul. “Neither does she have a lesbian relationship.”
“What about the rumours about Miss Hwang getting into Hyundae because of Mr Kim? Do you deny them?”
Paul stepped closer to Tiffany and she felt his hand on her back. “It’s true that I’ve known Miss Hwang for a long time. We’ve always been on good terms and we’re close friends. I’m good friends with her father too. But she’s not in Hyundae because of that. As you can see, she has won two races already. She’s a top racer and that’s why she’s in Hyundae.”
“There has been talk about your relationship with Miss Hwang too. What do you have to say about that?”
“Let me answer that,” Tiffany spoke up, smiling at Paul. “Yes. We are seeing each other.”
It wasn’t easy to keep her smile up with the excited buzz of the crowd but she managed.
“When did you start dating?”
“We started shortly after I came to Seoul to join Hyundae.”
The reporters threw many more questions at them but Paul stopped them at that point. “That’s all for tonight. Thank you.”
Yes. That was all she could take tonight. Tiffany got off the platform, grateful to leave the blinding flashes and glaring lights. It was all part of the plan but why did she feel thrown off? Why did she feel like the world was spinning the wrong way? She smiled and nodded as Paul congratulated her for her second win and clapped her back for a job well done in helping Denise get a higher placing. Their Constructors’ points was healthier now, he told her and she gave him the necessary reactions but her heart wasn’t in there with her. Her heart was somewhere out there, wherever Taeyeon was.
“Taeyeon unnie, what was that about?”
Taeyeon didn’t quite know what to say to Yoona as the woman stared at her, mouth agape.
Seohyun held Yoona’s arm. “Yoona, this isn’t a good place—”
“It’s okay,” Taeyeon interjected. “It’s not a surprise to me. I know about it.”
“You know? But you and Tiffany are—”
Taeyeon clapped her hand over Yoona’s mouth. “I’ll explain later,” she said in a quiet tone, only lifting her hand after Yoona nodded.
“Whatever you’re gonna say, I’m not gonna like very much,” said Yoona. Taeyeon sighed deep inside. She didn’t like it either. “But whatever. Have a good dinner with your mom. Daddy said she’s looking forward to seeing you tonight.”
Taeyeon wasn’t sure if that was the case, but a tiny spark of hope glowed in a corner of her heart, shining the first bit of light she hadn’t seen in a long, long time.
u ok hon?
make it up to me
i will. whr r u rn?
Carpark. At the restaurant.
Whatever happens just
know i’m here for you ok
Taeyeon allowed herself a smile as she sent her reply to Tiffany. It was a good thing they didn’t break up. She wouldn’t know what to do with herself if they had. As it were, Tiffany had given her an extra boost of strength and courage. She could do this. She could give her mother a chance to explain.
The venue was familiar but the situation was not. It had been a long time since Taeyeon last sat down for a meal with her mother and she was feeling like a fish out of water as she took her seat. She hadn’t said a single word since entering the private booth; her mother had nodded at her and she had done the same. She sneaked a few looks at her mother, wondering if they were ever going to speak to each other. Well dressed in a soft cotton blouse and naturally styled hair, her mother looked every bit the part of the wife of a wealthy man. But her mother didn’t look her way and Taeyeon couldn’t find an opening to break the ice.
Several moments later, her mother finally broke the silence. “I ordered the four-course set.”
“Okay.” Taeyeon didn’t care about the food. She wasn’t here for the food. But more awkward silence followed after that and it was broken when the waiter knocked. He entered with a tray and served their shallow bowls of soup before leaving, and the booth fell back into silence once again.
This is ridiculous. Are we ever gonna talk? Taeyeon sipped her soup, spoonful at a time and tried not to look at her mother. The soup was certainly tasty but that wasn’t the point of the dinner and she was more interested in getting rid of the heavy cloak of silence that shrouded them. But her mother remained quiet and she couldn’t find the words to start the conversation and they finished their soup without uttering a single word.
The waiter knocked again and entered, this time, with the main course. He set the large plates of what Taeyeon discerned to be crayfish and prawns, in front of them and cleared their empty bowls of soup before leaving the booth. Taeyeon picked up her fork and knife with an internal sigh. How much more silence did she have to endure? It was getting to her. By the time she had eaten half of her main course, she was done waiting. At this point, they were better off quarrelling than being strangers like this.
“Are you planning to say anything else before the end of this dinner?”
Her mother froze for a second but recovered right away, and continued to slice her crayfish. “Yes.”
“We’ll talk after the main course.”
Confusion and irritation were intensifying within. What game was her mother playing this time? There was nothing much she could do about the situation however, so she opted to eat faster. That way, they’d get to the conversation a little sooner. When they were finally done, Taeyeon looked at her mother, expecting her to begin but the waiter knocked yet again and came in to clear their plates.
“I would like both the salad and dessert to be served together,” said her mother and the waiter nodded.
“Right away, m’am.”
Taeyeon stayed quiet until both the salad and dessert, a small mango pudding, were served before saying, “Now, can we talk?”
“Yes. Let’s talk.”
“Good. Let’s get it done and over with.”
Her mother looked at her sharply. “If you’re that eager to leave, why did you come.”
Taeyeon huffed. “I was all ready to listen to what you have to say but you just made me sit through two courses in total silence. I don’t know what you’re trying to do but if you want to screw with me, it’s working.”
“I’m not trying to screw with you. I just thought it’d be better to get the main course out of the way so that we won’t ruin our appetites.”
“I’m not here for the food.”
“Taewon will ask about it.”
“You can tell him whatever you want.”
“I don’t want to lie to him.”
Taeyeon blinked. Was this really the same woman who used to lie to her men to get what she wanted? Or was Uncle Im right about her mother? “Uncle Im said you wanted to see me. Is that true?”
“Yes. I want to see you.”
With a thumping heart, Taeyeon asked, “Why? Why now? Why didn’t you do this earlier?”
Her mother put her fork and knife down. The metal clattering against the ceramic was jarring to Taeyeon’s ears. She didn’t like it. It disturbed the little calm that remained in her mind. “There is no easy way to say this.” She pressed her lips into a hard line. “But I suppose I owe you an apology.”
Suppose? Suppose?! What the fuck are you trying to tell me. The restraint it took to hold her words in made Taeyeon shake. She knew it. Her mother was the same fucked up woman from before. Uncle Im was wrong after all. “You don’t owe me anything,” she said, almost spitting out each word.
“I know you hate me. And I don’t blame you for hating me. But I’m marrying Taewon soon and he wants the family to be together.”
All at once, Taeyeon knew what her mother meant. “You want to see me because Uncle Im wants us to reconcile.”
“It is not only his wish. It is mine too.”
“Uncle Im said you were too embarrassed to see me.” Taeyeon snorted. “I don’t suppose that’s true?”
Her mother looked straight at her. “No.”
“So you lied to him.”
“I never used the word ‘embarrassed’. I told him I don’t know how to talk to you. I don’t know what to say to you. That’s what I said.”
“Why didn’t you tell him that you have always been more interested in talking to men than me? Why didn’t you tell him that you never bothered to spend time with me? Huh? Why didn’t you tell him that you would rather I didn’t exist? ‘Cos that’s the truth, isn’t it.”
“No. I don’t wish you didn’t exist. You’re my daughter, no matter what. I would never wish that on you.”
“But you’ve never ever bothered to talk to me. To sit down and really talk to me. Never. You threw me aside and ignored me while you went after men.”
“It was hard for me. But I never let you or Hayeon go hungry. Maybe you don’t agree with my methods, but you’re sitting here, healthy and beautiful, because I raised you.”
“Yes. Yes, I made it this far because of their money but have you ever considered the fact that I might rather be poor than to live like this?”
Her mother snorted. “You say ‘poor’ like it’s such an easy thing. You don’t know what poor is like. You’ve never been poor. I made sure you went to school and got all your books. I made sure you got three meals a day and all the food you needed. I didn’t let us end up homeless and hungry like beggars. You don’t even know—”
“I know. I know you did your job. But that’s all it ever will be to you. Just a job.” Taeyeon shook her head. “Not even a job. More like a chore. You never wanted me and you still don’t. Mother.”
“I wasn’t ready for you at that time. It wasn’t easy. I was—”
“I’m tired of hearing these excuses. I’ve tried to tell myself the same thing over and over again but there comes a point when I have to admit that you just don’t care.”
“Hate me all you want. But for the sake of this new family, I hope you can put it aside.”
Taeyeon shook her head. “You’re mistaken. I don’t hate you. It’ll be easier if I hate you but I don’t.” She stood, her insides trembling from the gigantic ball of anger that was on the verge of imploding. “I have nothing left to say to you. I won’t make things difficult, don’t worry. I’ll go along with the whole act. But bear in mind, everything I do is for Hayeon, Yoona even. So if I get as much as a whiff that you’re doing anything to hurt them, I’ll make sure you go down with us.”