“You drive really well,” said Seulgi, as the car came to a stop in front of her apartment. “Thanks for sending me home.”
Taeyeon smiled. “You’re welcome.”
Seulgi smiled as she leaned in and planted a kiss on Taeyeon’s right cheek.
“What was that for?” Taeyeon asked in surprise.
“For a great dinner. For being so charming.”
“I didn’t do anything special.”
Seulgi flipped her long blond hair over her shoulder and leaned forward. “You are something special.”
“Seulgi, I hope I didn’t do anything to cause a misunderstanding.”
“Oh, you didn’t. There’s no misunderstanding. But it’s very easy to like you.”
“I hope we can just be friends.”
Seulgi leaned back, elbow resting on the cup holder ledge of the car door. “You’re very quick to close the door. Why be like this when you’re not seeing anyone?”
“I’m focusing on my job. And it takes up a lot of my time. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone.”
Seulgi chuckled. “How many girls have you dished out these lines to?”
“Just a couple. Including you.”
“Look, I’m fine just being friends. If that’s all you want, I’m good for it too.”
Taeyeon nodded. “It’s what I want.”
“Okay, friend.” Seulgi’s smile was cheeky as she opened the car door. “See ya.”
Taeyeon smiled and waved and watched as her new friend entered the apartment building before driving away. Seulgi would be a cool friend, she thought. But what about Tiffany? Careful to give Tiffany space to recover from her trauma independently, she had kept out of the woman’s way for the past two weeks. But meeting her tonight had messed it up a little, especially when Seulgi spotted Tiffany and made her go over. From the looks of things, however, Tiffany had gotten over the trauma of the incident and was actively socialising with friends, so it was probably all good now.
On the information front, Lee had not come up with anything so far. There had been no orders for hit jobs or abduction on females of Tiffany’s age lately so Taeyeon knew Tiffany was relatively safe. As she drove around town, heading back to her home for the past couple of weeks, she took in the bustle of the city at night. Her job was a highly stressful one and night drives were like alcohol swabs on the skin—cooling and relaxing.
It was just after midnight when she finally turned into the gates of Tiffany’s massive home. She headed to the kitchen to get a glass of water and there, pouring out water from a bottle, was Tiffany. The woman looked up when she entered and for a moment, they stared at each other.
“Hey,” Taeyeon said at last.
“You’re back late.”
The chiding tone made Taeyeon smile. “I went for a drive.”
“Alone?” Tiffany sounded surprised.
Taeyeon took the bottle from Tiffany and poured herself a glass of water. “To wind down. Relax a little. So it’s better to be alone.”
“Isn’t it easier to relax with friends?”
Putting the glass down, Taeyeon put the cap back on the bottle. “I prefer quiet. Just a drive and some music.”
“Don’t you feel lonely?”
Taeyeon considered Tiffany for a moment. The woman was looking at her with wide eyes of sincerity. “Well, sometimes.”
“So this Seulgi, you aren’t dating her or anything?”
“No, we’re just friends.”
Taeyeon returned the bottle to the fridge and picked up her glass of water. “Goodnight, Tiffany.”
“What is it?”
“I want to know if you don’t like me.”
Taeyeon did a double take. “What?”
“I want to know if you—”
“I heard you the first time. But where did you get the idea that I don’t like you?”
“You’ve been avoiding me these past two weeks, right?”
“It’s my job to stay out of the w—”
“Don’t bullshit me. I’m twenty-seven years old. Not seven. Anyway, even a seven-year-old can tell that you’re avoiding me.”
It was time to tell her the truth. Taeyeon put the glass back on the counter and turned to Tiffany. “I have been avoiding you because I wanted to give you time to get over the incident on your own.”
“So if I’m done getting over it, you’ll stop avoiding me?”
Taeyeon nodded. “Although the nature of my job also requires me to stay out of sight so you still won’t see me too much, I won’t have to avoid you during after work hours.”
“So starting now, you’ll stop avoiding me ‘cos I’m over it.”
“Is this another order?” Taeyeon asked, amusement bubbling up in her chest.
“This is an order. I hate the feeling of being avoided.”
“Fair enough. I will stop avoiding you after work.”
“Okay. Goodnight, Taeyeon.”
“Goodnight, Tiffany,” Taeyeon said with a smile, remembering the fight Tiffany had put up in the beginning, refusing to call her by her name. Things had improved since then and this was good for her. And Tiffany too.
By now, it has been more than a month and the bodyguard was well on her way to becoming the longest running bodyguard for Tiffany. The bodyguard no longer avoided her after work and even joined her for breakfast or dinner in the dining room on a few occasions. Tiffany felt better about it and she found herself enjoying the bodyguard’s company during mealtimes too. The bodyguard was interesting. She was also twenty-seven, but had a vastly different experience and stories to share. So there were times when Tiffany chose to stay home for dinner instead of going out.
On the work front, however, the bodyguard remained relatively invisible. But Tiffany grew aware of a blue car following hers after sometime and knew that it was the bodyguard going to work and returning home with her. There were moments at work when Tiffany would wonder where the bodyguard was, so she asked during dinner one evening.
“I scout the area around your studio. I watch the people going in and out as well. I have the data on your business partners so if anyone new appears, I check them out and make sure they have legit identification.”
Tiffany’s eyes grew wide. Was this bodyguard meticulous or what? “Do you have to go this far? You’re acting like I’m the President’s daughter or something.”
Shrugging, the bodyguard didn’t seem to think much of it. “It’s just part of the work that I do.”
Tiffany narrowed her eyes. The bodyguard could be holding something back. “Is that all?”
“And you do the same for everyone you’re hired to protect?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Even when there’s no danger?”
“Bodyguards are meant to expect the unexpected. We are supposed to prevent something from springing up and taking us by surprise. Constant vigilance works in two ways.” The bodyguard held up one finger. “One, it deters.” Two fingers. “Two, we’re ready for anything.”
“You demand a lot of yourself.” Tiffany shook her head. “The other bodyguards I had before were not like you.”
“And that’s why they’re no longer working for you and your father,” the bodyguard answered with a smile.”
Tiffany smiled and let out a short laugh. “That’s true.”
Leaning forward, the bodyguard clasped her hands together and asked, “Why did you stop trying to make me quit?”
Tiffany bit her lip. The bodyguard had been perfectly aware of her motives after all. “You saved me. I saw how you fought. Like a ninja or something. After seeing how you took on those two fuckers, I have to admit you’re a really good bodyguard. And I’m not stupid enough to chase such a good bodyguard away.”
The bodyguard laughed. “Thank you for giving me such a raving review of my work performance.”
Tiffany frowned. “Don’t laugh at my sincerity.”
The bodyguard stopped but continued to smile. “I’m sorry. I appreciate your sincerity even though it’s packaged in a very different way.”
“May I be honest?” the bodyguard asked with a grin.
Tiffany rolled her eyes. “What do you want to say?”
“You can be quite nice even though you’re quite bitchy.”
Tiffany couldn’t believe her ears. Did the bodyguard just insult her and praise her at the same time? It was quite true though. “Don’t be too honest next time. I’ll let it pass this time since you asked for permission.”
The grin on the bodyguard’s face widened. “Roger that.”
A few evenings later, Taeyeon was summoned to Mr. Hwang’s study room. When she was seated, he slid a handsome envelop, black and crisp, across the table and told her to open it. There was a card inside. It was an invite.
“My daughter and I have to attend this charity gala. We are allowed to bring a partner so you have to go with her, as her friend.”
With the invitation in her hands, Taeyeon stared at Mr. Hwang, wondering if how she was going to blend in with the crowd at the gala she had to attend with Tiffany. The dress code stated was black tie optional. While she was relieved it wasn’t black tie, black tie optional still required formal attire, anything from a long gown to a cocktail dress.
“Don’t worry about the dress code for the gala,” said Mr. Hwang. “I’ll set up an account for you so you can get any dress you want. Go with Tiffany. She will style you.” He chuckled. “Let my daughter show you what she’s good at.”
Taeyeon walked out of Mr. Hwang’s study room with a sigh. If there was any part of her job that she didn’t enjoy, this would be it.