(Spin-off from the Beyond Words series.)
Sooyoung's Story: His Princess
“Will you go out with me?”
Her gaze, which was fixated on the many people working to set up a set in the studio, suddenly shifted to the good-looking man beside her when something over his shoulder caught her eye. Eyes widening, she suddenly stepped around him, hands on her hips, “What happened to your hair!?”
The celebrity singer, whom Sooyoung was talking to, sighed heavily as she picked up a limp lock of hair, “Mob.”
Sooyoung shook her head, “I knew we should’ve waited to do your hair. C’mon, let’s go to your dressing room and we’ll fix your hair.” She began gestured for the singer to precede the way. She turned to leave, when a hand clasped on her arm, stopping her. She looked over, “Yes?”
The man blinked before stammering, “I just… I just asked… I just asked you to go out with me.”
It was Sooyoung’s turn to blink, “I’m really sorry, I’m busy with work. I really don’t have time for a social life.”
“But, you went on a date just yesterday,” he countered, his hand tightening on her arm.
“That was yesterday and this is today. I said no, so just remove your hand and leave me be,” Sooyoung said coolly, her usual winning smile scarce from her expression. When he made no move to listen to her, a dangerous glint entered her wide, dark eyes, “This is my last day here. After this I have other clients to attend to. I suggest we keep this as civil as possible.”
“Is it because I’m just some coffee guy and you’re a hair stylist? Huh?” He asked, his hand tightening even more on her arm,
“Get. Your. Hand. Off. Of. Me,” Sooyoung stated, her voice firm and stern, as she bit down hard to stop from flinching.
“I believe the lady asked you to let go of her.”
Sooyoung watched, intrigued as a foreigner stepped forward. Dressed in simple jeans and a polo golf-shirt, he laid his hand over the coffee guy’s and pried it off of her arm. He interjected himself between them smoothly, as if there was more than half a foot between them,
“Now, I believe the director is looking for you,” the foreigner replied.
Sooyoung was stunned as the good-looking coffee guy threw her a look but turned and left anyway. Suddenly, a rather large, bald man approached Sooyoung, “Is there a problem here, Sooyoung?”
She looked over at him and noticed he was eyeing the foreigner suspiciously. Immediately she smiled at the large man, “No, no, actually this man here-”
“Hankyung,” the foreigner supplied,
“Hankyung was just helping me,” Sooyoung explained, “Did you have a good break?” The large man nodded, “I’m sorry I make work boring for you, Joon.”
The foreigner was startled when the large man, who was at least a few inches taller than himself and about twice his weight in muscle, reached out and patted the woman’s head. “A boring day is a good day for me.”
“My hair, Joon,” she chided warmly as she ran her palms over her long, black hair. Suddenly she gasped, “I forgot I have to fix her hair!” She turned to leave before turning back to face Hankyung, “I really appreciate your help. Do you have dinner plans?” He shook his head, “My treat, then!” Before Hankyung could say anything, she turned and dashed away.
“What did you have to help her with?” Joon asked,
“Some coffee guy was holding her arm and she looked very… very… upset,” Hankyung stated. He saw the serious look on the large man’s face as he watched Sooyoung disappear through a doorway. He laughed lightly, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were her bodyguard.”
Joon swung his piercing gaze to Hankyung, “I am her body guard.”
Hankyung let his arms drop from the singer’s svelte body as he smiled and bowed to her. She smiled at him, “Hankyung, thank you for being a part of my music video.”
“No problem,” Hankyung smiled, “You’ll pay me back when my next movie comes out, right?”
“I’ll be the first in line,” She threw him a wink as she walked off the set.
Hankyung turned to leave, the director smiling his way, “Thank you for agreeing to this. I know you’re used to bigger sets and more talking-”
“It was my pleasure, I assure you,” Hankyung bowed to the director. He threw a smile to others who turned towards him, but his eyes swept through the crew, trying to find a specific, pretty lady. When he broke away from the crowd of shifting crewmen and extras, he spotted her off to the side, the singer talking to her and the very large Joon standing just a few feet away from her. As he approached, he heard the singer talking amicably with the lady – he recalled the bodyguard Joon calling her Sooyoung. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay?”
The singer blinked, “Hankyung, you know my wonderful hair stylist?”
“I only met her before we started filming,” Hankyung answered,
“I’m just fine,” Sooyoung replied, throwing him a big smile. “Hankyung was nice enough to help me with a… problem earlier.”
“It was nothing,” Hankyung insisted,
“Well, at least he was dressed good while doing so,” Sooyoung grinned, when Joon suddenly came up beside her, holding out her phone.
“It’s your sister.”
Sooyoung excused herself and stepped a few feet away to talk privately. The singer turned to Hankyung, a grin her on her face, “Look at you, catching Sooyoung’s eye.”
Hankyung blinked, “What?”
“No guy has ever caught her attention longer than five seconds,” the singer replied, “Trust me, she’s been my hair stylist for over a year.”
“Jessica, I’m not looking to catch anyone’s attention,” Hankyung insisted,
The singer, Jessica, shook her light-brown hair at him, “You achieve what no other man has and you don’t even want it. Trust me, Hankyung, Sooyoung’s surrounded by celebrities every day and she doesn’t even bat an eyelash – many men covet more than a sentence from her.”
“Well I’m not one of those men,” Hankyung insisted, “If anything, I’d want to be her friend. After all, how else am I supposed to perfect my Korean?”
Before Jessica could reply, Sooyoung walked over, “I’m really sorry about dinner, Hankyung, but I completely forgot I’m supposed to go out to dinner with my sister.”
Jessica, immediately intrigued, watched the exchange with bright eyes and an amused smile.
“It’s fine, really,” Hankyung insisted, “Besides I helped you because I wanted to, not to get some reward.”
“Still,” Sooyoung chewed on her bottom lip,
“Will you be my friend, then?” Hankyung inquired, “I’ve only been in and out of Korea for the past year, so I don’t get that much practice.”
Sooyoung laughed melodically, “Of course you can have my friendship.” She turned to Jessica, “You’ll call me the next time you need me?”
“I do believe you accepted an invitation to my birthday party in two weeks,” Jessica prompted and added, “But you’re coming as a guest, not my stylist – okay?”
Sooyoung threw her a beautiful, winning smile, “Sure. I’ll see you two around.” She turned towards Joon, “We’d better hurry. The filming went longer than I expected.”
The large, muscular man nodded his bald head and followed her away.
When Jessica turned back to Hankyung, he had a slightly confused expression on his face. She tilted her head slightly, one perfectly shaped eyebrow rose, “Is something wrong?”
“She agreed to being friends but… she never gave me her phone number,” Hankyung stated, still watching her walk away,
Jessica laughed immediately, a hand covering her mouth, “Maybe you didn’t catch her eye after all.”
Sometimes, Sooyoung wondered why they even tried. She truly did. She wondered why she – and the rest of her family for that matter – even attempted to walk the ten feet distance from the curb of a street to the front doors of a restaurant. Most people, she assumed, could get out of their cars and casually, leisurely walk towards the restaurant’s door. She – and said family – had to mentally prepare themselves for battle prior to opening her car door. So, when the town car pulled to the curb outside of the restaurant, there was a span of five seconds before the vultures – as she thought of the many paparazzi, who seemed to always know where celebrities were – swooped around the car.
When Joon came to open the back door, she slipped out and stood just to the side to serve as another shield as her older sister slipped out of the back seat. For not the first time since she graduated university two years ago, she was grateful of Joon’s large and intimidating built. Most of the paparazzi were afraid to even touch Joon. Those who did venture to crowd the bodyguard, however, met with steel muscles and a not-so-subtle growl.
Once inside the doors, Sooyoung’s sister turned to Joon. She offered him a big smile, having to tilt her head back quite a lot to look up at the bodyguard, “I’m always so grateful to you for protecting my sister, Joon. But times like these you have to protect me, too.”
“It’s not a problem, Princess,” Joon replied.
Sooyoung, youngest princess of the Korean monarchy, rolled her eyes, one hand on her hip, the other hand rubbing the opposite upper arm, “You don’t call me ‘princess’.”
Joon shot her an amused glance, “Because you’re Sooyoung,” his large hand came to her head and patted it.
Sooyoung glared at him, the effect destroyed by the smile on her lips. She brushed her hair away from her eyes, flicking her long locks over her shoulder, “You really didn’t have to accompany us here, Joon; you’ve been off duty since six.”
“I’d like to see you get through the vultures without me,” Joon stated dryly, crossing his arms as he spoke. He looked out where half of the paparazzi had already dispersed, “I’ll be heading home now. It’s my daughter’s birthday.”
Sooyoung’s jaw literally dropped, “Joon! You should’ve said! You could’ve had the day off instead of working overtime!”
He waved off her words, “She’s a teenager. She’s probably still out doing karaoke with her friends. I’ll see you in the morning.” He slightly bowed to the princesses before leaving.
They headed towards the major-domo to get seated. Taeyeon laced her arm with her younger sister’s, “How was work today?”
“I was with Jessica today,” Sooyoung replied. After university it had taken her a year to establish herself in her profession, working hard to separate the public’s view of her away from her royal station. Then, after the first time she had been hired to do Jessica’s hair for a music video, she had become a much-demanded hair stylist to other singers and, eventually, actors as well. Jessica was one of her regular employers. “She had a music video.”
“Oh,” Taeyeon cooed as they were led to a private booth closer to the back, which gave them a perfect view of the rest of the dinning area. They both smiled at people who greeted and bowed as they passed. “A solo video or did she have another hot actor?”
Sooyoung laughed lightly as they sat at their table, “Unni! You’re married!”
Taeyeon rolled her eyes as she clipped back her long, dark, wavy hair; “You say that like I don’t know; our two-year anniversary IS in a few months. Besides, if he can look, so can I!”
“Oppa looks?” Sooyoung raised an eyebrow as she picked up a menu, absent-mindedly reaching with one hand to rub the opposite upper arm,
“He did the other day,” she narrowed her eyes even though before her was her own menu and not her offending husband; “A commercial came on and he said ‘she’s looking pretty’.”
Sooyoung subtly lowered her menu to gape at her sister, “That’s hardly looking… what did you do?”
“Punch him,” Taeyeon said simply, “His arm is hardly bruised, but he understood my thoughts.” Before Sooyoung could comment, a waiter came to take their drink order and promptly left. Taeyeon laid her menu down, folding her hands lightly atop the open menu, “So? Did Jessica have another actor?”
Sooyoung nodded absent-mindedly as she chewed on her bottom lip, her eyes perusing the items on the menu, “He’s a Chinese actor that came over last year. I can’t remember seeing him in anything – not like I watch a lot of movies to begin with – but he’s good looking.”
Taeyeon crossed her arms loosely about her torso, “Hmm… Is it that Hankyung guy?”
“That’s his name,” Sooyoung replied flippantly as she turned the page of her menu, “I’m so glad you picked this place; I LOVE this place.”
Taeyeon shot her a grin, “I know, that’s why I chose it.” She tilted her head slightly as she regarded her only sister, “I hardly see you anymore. First I got married and then you started becoming this famous hair stylist. Eunhyuk insists you’re only at the house at night to sleep.”
Sooyoung grinned at the mention of their older cousin who, three and a half years ago, ascended to the throne as the King. The house Taeyeon referred to, was the Royal House where they had all lived as children. Taeyeon had moved out when she married her husband. Their older – and only – brother, Kyuhyun, had moved out just a few months ago when he had married.
“Oh my – Sooyoung, isn’t that Hankyung over there?” Taeyeon asked, looking over her shoulder at the front door.
Sooyoung glanced over and, sure enough, there was Hankyung in all his sexy – did she really think sexy? – glory. Patrons either immediately whipped out their phones to get his picture or ran over to ask for an autograph. She shrugged and looked back at her menu, “Yup, that’s him.”
“Can you introduce us?” Taeyeon asked, her hands going to her cheeks, “I’ve never met a celebrity before!”
Sooyoung rolled her eyes, “That’s because you’re too busy to see your baby sister work.”
“I have a duty to my country to keep the peace with the rest of the world!” Taeyeon exclaimed, placing a hand over her heart. She smiled at her sister, “So? Will you introduce us?”
Sooyoung laughed lightly as she put down her menu, “I knew there was a reason why I never asked you to visit me while I work. Maybe after dinner.”
Hankyung had seen her almost immediately when he stepped into the restaurant. When his car pulled up to the curb, he had wondered why photographers were outside of the restaurant, aiming their cameras into the building. When he stepped up, they crowded him and he rushed into the restaurant. When he stepped inside, as people came up to him to ask for an autograph, he caught sight of her. She was sitting near the back of the restaurant in a private booth with another woman, presumably her sister.
As he was smiling for pictures and signing his name, which became an automatic process, his gaze drifted to that table often. The sister had turned and seen him. He saw Sooyoung glance over; he could’ve sworn she did. However, that was all. No smile, no wave – no indication at all that his existence registered in her attention. Was that why she had forgotten to give him a number, email or any way to contact her?
He was having dinner with another actor friend and, being the attentive friend he was, gave his friend his full attention. However, despite all better judgement, his eyes periodically wandered over to Sooyoung’s table. He was quite sure her eyes never wandered his way. When he saw the waiter bringing the sisters their bill, he was perplexed as the waiter took out a writing pad and held it out to both sisters with a pen. It looked like the waiter was getting their autograph, but why?
He picked up his glass to drink and watched as the sisters began making their way towards the doors. Hankyung knew that to do so, they’d have to walk by his table. The moment Sooyoung was almost beside their table, her attention directed completely to her sister, Hankyung called her name, his actor friend startled.
Sooyoung paused a moment. When her eyes fell on him, she bestowed upon him a big smile, “Hankyung! How good to see you so soon!” She turned to the other actor, “Heechul, how are you doing?”
Heechul stood up and bowed to both sisters, “I’m doing fine.”
“Please don’t,” the sister said almost immediately.
Hankyung blinked at him, confused, before asking, “You two know each other?”
“Besides his own lovely locks, I’ve styled the hair of a number of celebrities who dated him,” Sooyoung grinned at the other actor who rolled his eyes and slowly lowered back into his chair. She felt her sister not-too-gently nudge her in the ribs, “Hankyung, this is my lovely, older sister, Taeyeon.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Taeyeon smiled at him, extending a hand that he shook immediately.
“Guess who I saw the other day,” Sooyoung said to Heechul, a mischievous light in her wide eyes.
“I don’t think I want to know,” Heechul said dryly,
“I think you do,” Sooyoung grinned brightly as she reached with one hand to the opposite upper arm and rubbed it lightly.
Taeyeon looked at her sister, “You’ve been doing that all night; did you get a bug bite of some kind?”
Sooyoung looked at her arm, clad in her cardigan and dropped her hand, “No, no, it’s nothing,” she threw her sister a bright smile, but she felt Hankyung’s suspicious stare on her nonetheless. She instinctively knew that Hankyung was going to call her on the lie, when the young man who had been their waiter ran up to them,
“Princesses!” He huffed as he stopped before them, holding up a small, plastic rectangle, “Princess Taeyeon, you forgot your credit card!”
Taeyeon blinked, startled, when she took the card, a smile immediately infusing her expression, “Thank you so much!” She tucked it into her small purse, “My husband would have killed me if I lost another card.” She looked into her purse, “It’s why he doesn’t let me handle cash… Sooyoung, do you have cash? Our waiter just saved me from being murdered by my beloved husband.”
Sooyoung began to open her own purse when the waiter shook his head, holding up his hands, “Please, it’s fine, Princesses,” he insisted, “I did it because I wanted to, not for some reward.”
“If you’re sure?” Taeyeon said reluctantly as Sooyoung looked at Hankyung, the words mirroring what he said earlier that day.
“Yes, I am. I hope you both have a less eventful evening,” he bowed to them again before returning to his duties.
“Let’s go, Sooyoung, I’ll ask the major-domo to give it to him later,” Taeyeon looked back to the two actors, “Gentlemen,” and quickly added, “Please don’t,” when she saw Heechul moving to stand up again.
“Bye Hankyung; Heechul, I’ll be seeing you soon?” Sooyoung threw him a teasing wink.
“Not if you’re just going to throw my exes at me,” Heechul scoffed,
“But how will you ever get rid of those split ends?” Sooyoung asked innocently before following her sister back to the entrance.
Heechul watched as the princesses left before turning his attention back to Hankyung. “How do you know Sooyoung?”
“She was at the music video filming today,” Hankyung explained,
“The woman… I swear, she’s pure evil sometimes when it comes to hair,” Heechul shook his head. He caught the peculiar look in Hankyung’s eyes, “What?”
“She paid attention to you,” Hankyung stated,
Heechul blinked, “So?”
“I was told today that she doesn’t give any guy the time of day,” Hankyung explained as he looked over his shoulder just in time to see Taeyeon and Sooyoung re-enter the restaurant,
“She doesn’t,” Heechul replied, “And if it wasn’t for my hair, she probably wouldn’t give me more than a passing greeting. From what I’ve witnessed, Sooyoung’s always moving, always busy, her mind always jumping to one thought or another. I’m not saying she’s scatter-brained because you can tell just from her wit that she’s intelligent; what I mean is that nothing of great importance has ever caught her attention for too long. There have only been two exceptions.”
Hankyung, who had been listening with one eye on the sisters, slowly rose to his feet, “What are those exceptions?”
“Hair and her family,” Heechul said simply, “What are you doing?”
Instead of answering him, however, Hankyung walked over to the pair, “Is something wrong?”
Taeyeon, who was startled, jumped slightly, but immediately smiled when she saw who it was, “Oh, it’s nothing,” Taeyeon insisted with a wave of her hand, “We just thought we’d be able to make a run for our car, but the vultures swept in ridiculously quick this time.”
“Vultures?” Hankyung looked through the glass doors, not spotting any birds in the sky,
“The paparazzi,” Sooyoung explained who was still looking out the window. When she sighed and turned to face them, her hand was instinctively rubbing her arm again.
“What if I escort you ladies out there?” Hankyung offered, “Since it seems that large man you were with is absent.”
“Joon is off duty by six,” Sooyoung replied flippantly just as Taeyeon inquired hopefully, “Really?”
Hankyung turned his attention to the shorter, but older sister who actually gave her attention to him. He gave her a smile, “Yes. I love sacrificing myself for the sake of beautiful women.”
“Typical,” Sooyoung said bluntly before turning her gaze back outside,
Taeyeon looked back and forth between the two, not sure what to do. Taking a deep breath, she steadied herself before pasting on her biggest smile and turned to Hankyung, “Shall we go then?”
Hankyung, whose gaze had sharpened on the younger sister, nodded stiffly and then held the door open for them. He did the best he could, making a path for them to the curb where a driver immediately ran to open the back door for them. Hankyung waved him away as he grabbed the door instead. Taeyeon was the first to go in. Before she did, she turned back to the Chinese actor,
“I am in your debt, sir, and I assure you, that almost never happens.” She subtly glanced to her sister before smiling at Hankyung, “If you ever need anything, just give me a call.”
She crawled in and Sooyoung moved to enter. She had one foot inside the town car when Hankyung grabbed her hand. She looked back at him, head tilted slightly and one eyebrow raised in question. He slipped a hand into his pocket before extracting said hand and pressing something into her palm. When she sat down in the backseat, he let go of her hand and she was able to see a small business card.
“What’s this for?” She asked, looking up at him,
“We’re supposed to be friends, right? Since you forgot to give me your number, I’m giving you mine. Besides, I feel as if I did something wrong, so call me whenever you want me to make it up to you,” Hankyung said before securely shutting the door. He turned to leave when the window rolled down and his name was called. He turned back to find Taeyeon leaning across her sister to look out the window,
“My sister is also in debt to you,” Taeyeon said with a genuine smile, “I’m sure if you ever need anything, all you have to do is give her a call.”
“If you shout out my number to Hankyung with all the paparazzi around…” Sooyoung’s voice was light, but the threat was there.
Taeyeon rolled her eyes, “I’m not stupid. Call at the Royal House; you can get in contact with either of us there.”
Hankyung watched, silently, as the window rolled back up and the town car immediately pulled away from the curb. He was immediately swarmed from all sides by the paparazzi. Sighing heavily, he turned and retreated back to the restaurant. When he got back to the table, Heechul was slowly sipping his glass of wine, one eyebrow raised in amusement.
Hankyung unceremoniously plopped back down into his chair, running a hand through his thick hair, “I didn’t know she was a princess.”
Heechul swallowed hard and barely contained a laugh. Slightly shaking his head, he smirked at Hankyung, “You, my friend, need to spend more than two weeks at a time in the country.” He cocked his head slightly, glancing towards the restaurant door, “Or perhaps that won’t be a problem this time?”
Hankyung picked up his utensils and said nothing. In his head, however, he was completely agreeing.
“It’s just another press conference. I don’t know why you felt the need to accompany me.”
Sooyoung grinned as she reached up and adjusted the sweep of bangs across the King’s forehead. Her eyes danced as she fixed her cousin’s hair, as it became instinct; “Press conference means cameras and if a relative of mine was seen looking less than spectacular… well, if you don’t look good, I don’t look good, Eunhyuk-oppa.”
Eunhyuk laughed as he straightened the blazer of his black suit with silver pinstripes, “I’m glad this is for my benefit.” He swept his eyes over his cousin, “You look ready to have your own conference…” He reached over to one of the short sleeves of her red, silk blouse and tugged it up a little, “Sooyoung, what’s this bruise?”
“I just fell the other day,” Sooyoung said, throwing him a brilliant smile, “You know how I can be.”
“Yes, I do and you’re never clumsy,” Eunhyuk stated.
“There’s a first time for everything,” Sooyoung countered, her voice slightly lowering to a more forced tone.
Eunhyuk opened his mouth to argue when one of the doors to the conference hall within Seoul’s city hall opened and a young man appeared in black slacks and a black button-up. He smiled immediately at Sooyoung, “I didn’t know you’d be coming.”
“Like hell you didn’t, Donghae. You left the house early just so she couldn’t get to your appearance,” Eunhyuk muttered,
Donghae shot him a look, “No mentioning where I live in public, remember?” He looked at Sooyoung, “Are you staying through the conference? We could get lunch after?”
“But I have a meeting after the conference,” Eunhyuk argued,
Donghae rolled his eyes, “Yes. ‘We’ as in Sooyoung and I. I do have a life away from you, Your Majesty.”
Sooyoung laughed melodically as, after pulling her sleeve back down, she stood with arms akimbo, “I’d love to have lunch with you, Donghae.”
“Great. Eunhyuk, the other advisors and your uncle are waiting for you inside to begin the conference,” Donghae stated.
Eunhyuk blinked, “You won’t be in there with me?”
“I have to get everything prepared for your meeting,” Donghae replied. His eyes locked with Eunhyuk’s and his ‘professional’ expression softened immediately to allow his affection for the King to shine through; “You’ve been crowned for three and a half years. You expected me to be there for all of your meetings?”
“Yes,” Eunhyuk muttered, resentment adding an edge to his words, “What’s the point of being king and having you as an advisor if not to have you around all the time.”
Donghae let out a hearty laugh before clapping a hand on Eunhyuk’s shoulder, “You’ll do brilliantly.” Then, his voice a fraction softer and just a fraction warmer, he added, “You always do.”
Sooyoung’s smile couldn’t have gotten brighter, but somehow, it did. She looked between the two, “Aw, look at you too, being all lovey-dovey after four years.”
Eunhyuk rolled his eyes as he turned towards the doors, “I believe we all agreed to keep this quiet in public settings. Or do I have to get Uncle out here to remind you?”
Sooyoung crossed her arms loosely, “You’re just jealous because you can’t come to lunch with us.”
Eunhyuk’s eyes narrowed as he opened one of the doors. As he entered the conference halls, both Sooyoung and Donghae heard him mutter, “I should just kick her out of the Royal House. I’m the King; I should just kick her out.”
“I have to head back to Eunhyuk’s office here to arrange things for the meeting after this conference, you’re welcome to join me, but it’s going to be a bunch of boring stuff like me talking on the phone and finding some files,” Donghae stated as he began to walk down the hall. As King, Eunhyuk had apartments in both the federal government’s buildings, as well as a smaller one in Seoul’s city hall.
“Ah, I’d rather not,” Sooyoung said as she threaded her arm with his, “Maybe I’ll go find Unni.”
Taeyeon, who was aiming to become a diplomat, was working in Seoul’s city hall under the Public Advocate in public relations. She had been working at city hall for the past two years and many say that, despite her tender age of twenty four, she was well on her way to becoming the next Public Advocate for Seoul.
“You might not want to go to her office right now,” Donghae said as they came to the main lobby of city hall and stopped their progress before the giant clock.
Sooyoung blinked, “Why not?”
Donghae laughed lightly, “Because Junsu has a break between classes everyday during this time for two hours… and the teacher’s college is a few blocks down.”
Sooyoung’s jaw dropped slightly, disengaging her arm from Donghae’s just so she could stand akimbo, “Are you kidding? Everyday?”
“Well, I do know that they are trying to get pregnant, but I’m not completely sure if it’s everyday,” Donghae conceded, “But it’s more than enough times that Eunhyuk specifically never even ventures towards the public relations area during this time.”
Bringing a hand over her mouth, she couldn’t conceal her growing smile, “Don’t tell me Oppa saw…?”
“I don’t know because he still won’t tell me. But there was about a month or so when he wouldn’t speak to Junsu,” Donghae threw her a lop-sided grin. He glanced past her before looking at her again, “Don’t be obvious, but there’s someone at the front desk who has been looking over here since we stopped.”
Sooyoung reached into her slacks’ pocket, pulling out a small, compact-mirror. She opened it under the pretence of checking her make-up when, in truth, she was trying to see this mystery person behind her. She closed the mirror and replaced it immediately, “I think… I think that’s Hankyung.”
Donghae blinked, “The movie star?”
Sooyoung nodded, “We’ve met once or twice.”
“You? Seeing someone a second time?” Donghae reached over, placing a palm on her forehead, “Hmm… no, feels about the right temperature.”
Sooyoung rolled her eyes, placing her hands on her hips again, “It wasn’t orchestrated or anything. The first time was when I met him and the second was completely coincidental. That was a week ago when I was out to dinner with Unni.” She linked her arm with Donghae’s, “Let’s go, I’ll come with you to Oppa’s office.”
As they began to walk, Hankyung approached them when they neared the front desk.
“Hi, Sooyoung,” Hankyung smiled, “I’m sorry I haven’t called you as your sister suggested.”
“Oh, hi Hankyung. What are you doing at city hall?” She inquired politely, keeping Donghae’s arm locked with her own, daring him to even try to escape.
“I have to update my working visa every year,” Hankyung explained,
“That’s actually in the building next door,” Donghae said,
“Ah, yes, the receptionist just told me,” Hankyung said, his eyes taking in everything of the other man, especially the intertwined arms; “And you are?”
“Well, it was good seeing you again,” Sooyoung interjected, “Oppa, let’s go; lots of work to do in the office.”
Hankyung said nothing as Sooyoung and the other man walked off. When he finally turned to go to the building next to city hall, he missed when Sooyoung looked over her shoulder to see him one more time.
It was a week later when Sooyoung was helped out of her car by Joon. She looked up at the big house before her, lit with warm light and the soft hum of laughter and music seeping into the dark, April night. Clad in a strapless dress that felt to just above her knees, the dark silver silk was fitted to her svelte form, the material swishing about her as she moved. She adjusted the material that wrapped around her upper arms, separate from the dress but made of the same material, which made it possible for her to enter the cool night without a jacket or shawl. Her long tresses were loosely pulled into a bun that was secured a few inches behind her left ear.
When she looked back at Joon, she caught the slight frown in his eyes. She gave him a bright smile, “I’ll be fine. A lot of the people here are clients and Jessica’s become a dear friend. If it makes you feel better, you can hang around the Royal House until I have to be picked up.”
Joon sighed, “If you say you’ll be fine… then I suppose you will be. I still think you should’ve worn some kind of jacket – it’s cold out.”
Sooyoung laughed softly, “Oh Joon, if you’re like this with me, I’d feel bad for your wife and daughter.”
“They listen to me,” Joon replied dryly as Sooyoung began heading towards the front door, “Take care, Sooyoung, or the King will kill me.”
Sooyoung raised her hand in a wave without looking back and then reached out to ring the doorbell. The middle-aged woman who appeared smiled at Sooyoung with familiarity. “How are you doing tonight?” Sooyoung asked amicably as she was let into the house,
“Fine as always, Your Highness. Although, I’m glad you came; Jessica’s up in her room and hasn’t come down yet,” the woman – Jessica’s aunt – replied and began leading Sooyoung to the second level of the large house,
“But, there are already people here,” Sooyoung blinked over her shoulder as she was led up the stairs,
“And not one of them has noticed their hostess is missing. I’m afraid Jessica’s a little… hysterical,” the aunt explained as they reached Jessica’s bedroom door. She knocked, “Jessi, Princess Sooyoung is here.”
Before she could even take a breath, the door opened, Sooyoung felt herself yanked into the room and the door shut after her. She found herself staring at Jessica who had her back pressed back against the door, dressed in a white, taffeta, baby-doll dress, a towel draped over her head and the singer’s eyes certainly shone with a kind of hysteria.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” She exclaimed, her eyes suddenly glassing over with tears. “I didn’t want to bother you today because you’re a guest and my friend today and not my stylist,” she said, her words rushed as she walked across her room to a vanity table, “So I went to a different stylist to do my hair for tonight and I don’t even know what she did to my hair! After she revealed it I was so distraught that I just left and locked myself in here since.”
“It can’t be that bad,” Sooyoung insisted as Jessica sat down at the vanity and she stood behind her. She lifted the towel and just barely suppressed the gasp that wanted to jump from her throat. What she saw was Jessica’s light brown hair teased, twisted, crimped and curled into some kind of monstrosity she believed to be some kind of messy bun.
Jessica’s eyes welled up with tears as she caught her reflection. Crossing her arms atop the vanity table, she lowered her head into the circle of her arms, “I tried taking it down at some point but that just made it worse and I think I ended up knotting it. Even Auntie doesn’t know what that hair stylist did; it’s almost as if she glued the damn bobby pins into my hair.”
Sooyoung slowly sought her way through Jessica’s hair with her slender fingers, “Umm… it looks more like wax.”
“WAX!?” Jessica cried,
“Don’t worry! Don’t worry!” Sooyoung said immediately as she grasped Jessica by her upper arms and pulled her up. She began guiding her to Jessica’s attached bathroom, “I’ll get it all out and fix your hair and you can forget about this experience.”
“I will never forget!” Jessica raised a fist in the air, “I will find that woman and KILL HER!”
“After seeing your hair, I’ll happily join you,” Sooyoung muttered as she brought Jessica to the bathtub and gestured for her to kneel on the ground. “We’ll have this all fixed in a quarter hour at most.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jessica sighed, wiping at her tears, “It’s not like anyone downstairs knows I’m up here.”
“They really don’t,” Sooyoung said bluntly as she walked over and grabbed towels from where she knew Jessica kept them. She brought it over and began running water through the tub’s faucet. “Why are you friends with all those people?”
“It’s the business,” Jessica sighed again, crossing her arms atop the edge of the tub, “Sometimes it’s better to have fake friends than none at all when you’re in the spotlight.”
Sooyoung gave her the brightest smile she could muster, “Don’t worry. When I’m done, they’ll all be fighting to be your best friend.”
Jessica looked up at her gratefully, “That spot’s already taken.”
True to her word, within fifteen minutes, Jessica was sitting before her vanity, staring at her reflection with awe. After drenching Jessica’s hair in hot water, Sooyoung made quick work of the bobby pins and the wax that had been in her hair. However, some of the wax couldn’t come out and Sooyoung had taken a pair of scissors to Jessica’s hair. Now, her hair was a little shorter and layered beautifully. Sooyoung had dried her light brown locks and loosely waved the ends.
Jessica immediately stood up, turned and wrapped her arms around Sooyoung, “Thank you so much!”
“Not a problem,” Sooyoung grinned as they began heading for the door, “Excited for your party?”
Jessica nodded, “And you should be excited too! Hankyung said he was coming.”
Sooyoung blinked, “So?”
Jessica’s jaw dropped, “It’s so obvious you like him.”
Again, the princess blinked, “I do?”
Jessica stared back at her, the door already open, “You don’t? But… you talked to him for more than a sentence.”
“Yes, I did… why does everyone find that so amazing?” Sooyoung asked earnestly as they headed towards the stairs, music and chattered getting louder as they neared the top,
“Because you never give a guy your attention for longer than that,” Jessica stated matter-of-factly, “Haven’t you noticed?”
Sooyoung shook her head, “I really haven’t. But that just means they’re not interesting enough.”
Jessica laughed melodically as they began their walk down the stairs, “Half of the guys falling at your feet are celebrities and you don’t think any of them are interesting?”
Sooyoung shrugged, “No one’s enticed me yet. Besides, when all they talk about is either themselves or how good I look, I get bored. Honestly, the only males I can tolerate are my father, my cousin, my brother, my sister’s husband and my cousin’s best friend.”
“That is a select group of males.” Sooyoung looked ahead, startled to find Hankyung just inside the front door, Jessica’s aunt walking away and disappearing towards the kitchen. When Jessica stepped down from the steps, the Chinese actor stepped forward and greeted her warmly, “Happy birthday, Jessica. How old are you now?”
“I’ll never tell!” Jessica laughed, “C’mon you two, let’s make this a good night, hmm?”
They watched as the hostess finally joined her guests, melting into the crowd with a bright smile, soft laugh and beautiful hair.
Sooyoung turned back to Hankyung. From her stance on the bottom step, she was practically eye level with the sexy – did she really think that again? – actor. “Shall we join the party?” Sooyoung threw him a smile.
“In a second,” Hankyung said as he suddenly closed the distance between them. Sooyoung blinked, startled by Hankyung’s sudden closeness. She was about to talk, but found the words lodged in her throat as he began talking again, his voice as smooth as velvet, “I think you’re missing someone from your list of tolerable males.”
“I… I am?” Sooyoung stammered, her eyes wide and wary as Hankyung didn’t hide the fact that his dark gaze swept over her and took in every minute detail of her appearance. For the first time in her life – well, as far back as she could remember – Sooyoung began to doubt of how she looked and her hand itched to check and make sure her hair was still secured in its loose bun.
“Yeah, your boyfriend,” Hankyung said, his voice low and – could she describe it as this? – husky. He raised a hand towards her face and Sooyoung felt the air rush out of her lungs as her heart beat a rapid tattoo in her chest.
“I… I don’t have one,” Sooyoung – oh God, was that really her voice? – somehow managed.
“Then who was that guy you were with at city hall?” Hankyung looked directly into her eyes, his hand frozen just an inch from her left temple,
“M-my cousin’s best friend,” Sooyoung replied, “He’s like a brother to me.”
“Oh… I’m sorry I just assumed then,” Hankyung replied simply and touched his hand to her head.
Suddenly his fingers were at her temple. She felt the soft, warm pressure of his finger tips. She felt a shiver begin at her temple and sweep throughout her body as she felt a small, gentle stroke in her hair at her temple. However, it was over as soon as it began. She blinked, startled and confused.
“Sorry. You had something in your hair,” Hankyung explained as he looked down at his hand, “Looks like shampoo.”
Sooyoung suppressed the urge to shake her head to organize her rattled wits as his words slammed her back into reality. Taking a subtle, steadying breath, she threw him a smile that she hoped conveyed nonchalance – she was used to smiling big or not at all – and stepped around him to the floor, “We’d better join the others. Wouldn’t want whispers about something when there’s nothing to whisper about.”
As she forced herself to move, forced herself to keep walking away from him, she couldn’t shake the memory of his touch, of his gaze on her, of the almost palpable warmth that infused itself into her body just from his closeness. Subtly shaking her head, she pasted a bright smile on her face as she joined the other party guests.
She had met many other handsome people before, but Jessica and her family were right, none had ever captivated her so completely. What set this Chinese actor, Hankyung, apart from the rest? He was good-looking, she would never deny that, but she had seen men who were more good-looking. Others had attempted more with her than just touching the hair by her temple and yet his innocent, small caress was the only one to penetrate her resolve and shake her very soul. All others had either made her feel nothing or made her feel nothing but repulsion. With Hankyung she felt… well, she wasn’t sure, but it was an uncomfortable feeling, she was sure. What she wasn’t sure of was if she truly didn’t like that uncomfortable feeling.
So, she forced herself to talk with others, to practically ignore the actor who seemed to either always be nearby or to always draw her attention when he wasn’t. She tried to force his presence from her mind, but she was failing and she was finding out fast that she didn’t feel it intrusive at all. Instead, that uncomfortable feeling was creating a warm, comfortable feeling within her and settling in a place deep in her chest.
It was a few days later when Sooyoung found herself at the studio where Jessica had just filmed her last music video. It was early morning and, after getting a call from Jessica just an hour ago, she decided she was too tired to get dressed completely formally. So, she arrived at the studio dressed in black, boot-cut slacks and a simple, white, short-sleeved t-shirt beneath a black, leather jacket. Her hair, she pulled into a loose, side pony-tail that was secured near her right ear, the tail draping over her shoulder.
When she entered Jessica’s dressing room, both ladies exchanged a look of mutual sleepiness and resentment towards the director who – on a sudden spur of inspiration – called everyone to the studio to film one last shot for the music video. Jessica sat in her chair before the vanity mirror, loosely pulling back her hair into a pony tail as the make-up artist began setting up her equipment. Sooyoung unceremoniously dropped onto the couch in the small dressing room.
“Why are we here at six in the morning?” Sooyoung yawned,
“Something about only having the studio until nine,” Jessica sighed.
Both ladies grew into a sleepy silence as the make-up artist worked on Jessica’s make-up. When she was done, Jessica thanked her and suggested she take on break; she’d find her if she needed her again. Sooyoung stood from the couch, stretching her arms to the ceiling. She took off her jacket, tossing it onto the couch as she came towards the vanity. She picked up the small bag which Joon had dropped off while the make-up artist was still working, and began unpacking her hair equipment onto the vanity table.
“I’m guessing the director wants you to have the same hair as the last filming?” Sooyoung muttered as she dropped the empty bag back onto the ground. Jessica nodded, causing Sooyoung to sigh, “That’s going to be difficult now that your hair is shorter and layered. It’s a good thing I’m a pro. That, and your hair is gorgeous – if I do say so myself.”
“You know, I heard that Hankyung likes girls with long, dark hair,” Jessica grinned at her in the mirror.
Sooyoung rolled her eyes. She reached for the scissors, grabbed her own pony-tail and snipped all of her hair just above the hair tie. Jessica cried out suddenly,
“What are you doing!?”
“Showing you how much I care about what Hankyung likes. You’re lucky I don’t suddenly bleach my hair while I’m at it,” Sooyoung said dryly as she walked over and tossed her long locks into the garbage bin.
“I know you’re tired when you’re so grumpy,” Jessica stated with a shake of her head, “Acting so rashly without so much as a smile.”
When she walked back, she genuinely smiled at the singer’s scandalized expression, “It’s not the first time I cut my hair like this. Besides, now I can tell my cousin how liberating it feels to suddenly slice off one’s hair. I should apologize to him for taking that opportunity away from him.”
Jessica blinked, “You mean from four years ago?”
Sooyoung nodded. She placed her hands on her hips and peered at Jessica’s hair, trying to think of how to accomplish the same hairstyle with different hair. As Sooyoung was contemplating this, Jessica watched Sooyoung. She did remember when the Princess had short hair, but she had known her with long hair for some years now, that she had completely forgotten how it looked on her. Now that her hair was shorter, it revealed more of the princess to the eye. What it also revealed made Jessica’s eyes widen,
“Is that a bruise on your arm!?”
Sooyoung froze. Stiffly she looked at her arm, completely forgetting to cover it up as she had been for the past two weeks. She had never been clumsy, so she never realized she bruised for such a long time. It was still quite large on her upper arm despite already shrinking in diameter and it was still a deep purple even though it no longer hurt to touch it nor did it throb like it once did. In all honesty, she had quite forgotten its presence after Jessica’s party.
“Is it still bruised!?”
Sooyoung wasn’t sure how she found the strength to keep standing when she heard Hankyung’s voice. She slowly turned her head just as Hankyung stormed into the dressing room and grabbing her arm so he could see the bruise closely,
“I knew something was wrong,” Hankyung stated, “I knew it. For the past two weeks I just… I just… just-”
“Knew it?” Sooyoung offered, her tone dry and a single eyebrow raised. She barely suppressed the innate urge to roll her eyes when he shot her a dark look.
“For the past two weeks? What happened!?” Jessica demanded, twisting in her chair to look at the pair,
“It was that jackass, wasn’t it? The one who wouldn’t let you go?” Hankyung questioned, his voice deep with a dangerous edge,
“It’s nothing,” Sooyoung insisted, easily taking her arm from his grasp,
“Bruising is not nothing!” Hankyung argued, eyes narrowed angrily and fists clenched at his sides. “That bastard must be here.” He turned to leave.
Sooyoung suddenly grabbed his wrist, stopping him, “Why are you getting so angry over this? Why do you care so much what happened to me? Because I’m a princess? Because the bruise suddenly makes me ugly?”
Hankyung’s eyes gained a frighteningly angry glint in their dark depths. When he spoke, it was practically a growl, “No, because no one deserves to be treated like that. Princess or not, beautiful or not, you do not deserve that kind of treatment from him or anyone.”
She wasn’t sure why, but his words disarmed her like nothing ever had. For some reason, his words seeped into her and touched a painful truth she had pushed away long ago and had kept hidden for years. For some reason, this stranger walked into her life two weeks ago and was able to reach deep into her heart when no one else, including her family, could.
Her fingers grew limp around his wrist and then slid away. When she said nothing, he turned away and promptly left. Jessica, however, suddenly jumped to her feet, “Don’t just let him go,” she stated, grabbing Sooyoung’s hand and pulling her out of the room, “We have to stop him from killing whoever this guy is; although, I’d like to take a swing at him, myself!”
They stopped in their tracks when Hankyung suddenly grabbed a guy by the collar and yanked him away from whatever he was doing. As if instinctively knowing something was happening, Joon appeared at Sooyoung’s side. Sooyoung paid him no attention, however, because Hankyung started dragging over the fussing and kicking, good-looking coffee guy over towards them.
Hand still twisted in the man’s collar, Hankyung’s tone was low and quiet but as frightening as any yell; “Apologize.”
“I didn’t do anything,” the coffee guy spat, throwing Sooyoung a hateful glare as all the staff around them began to stop and stare at the scene;
“That bruise on her arm says otherwise,” Hankyung stated, reaching and gripping the collar with his other hand as well.
Joon, who had been silent up until this point, looked down at his charge and saw the darkened skin. Sooyoung knew the instant Joon prepared to attack, the calm and comforting presence suddenly becoming tense with built-up energy and anger. Despite her appearance of flippancy towards having a bodyguard, she did appreciate Joon’s company and on more than one occasion he had pulled an over-amorous pursuer away from her. She knew what Joon could be like when his protective streak was tested. So, before he pounced on the quickly-wilting coffee man in Hankyung’s clutches, she laid her hand on his shoulder. He looked down at her and she offered him her biggest smile,
“It’s okay, Joon. I’m fine,” she insisted earnestly,
“But Princess,” Joon began to argue. Sooyoung hesitated in repeating herself. Joon had been with her for so long that they had dispensed with the formalities long ago. However, whenever he grew overly protective or he felt she was in danger, he reverted back to calling her by her royal station.
“That’s it, isn’t it?” The coffee guy suddenly exclaimed, “You think you’re too good to go out with a guy who just gets coffee for other people huh? That’s why you said no? There’s no other reason than that! I have hundreds of women falling at my feet, but no – you’re too good for me, right Princess?” He spat the last word and never before had something – be it physical or verbal – cut Sooyoung so deeply.
Before the coffee guy could continue, Hankyung had released one of his hands from the man’s collar and made fierce contact with the man’s jaw. When he released his other hand, the coffee guy crumbled to the ground clutching his face. Towering over the man, Hankyung still had his hands fisted at his side, his entire face still contorted with such anger and Sooyoung was afraid to approach him. However, she knew that if she didn’t, Hankyung might very well kill the man.
Slowly, she pulled away from Jessica’s hold on her hand and went to Hankyung. She covered one of his fists with her hand and only then did he seem to break out of his angry spell. He looked down at her, anger still evident in his sexy – she really had no other words – face. She gave him a small, tentative smile,
“That’s enough,” she said quietly.
“Okay people, break it up, go do your jobs!” The director suddenly pushed his way through the crowd. He looked down at the man and then at Hankyung and Sooyoung who stood over him. “Security! Come clean up this mess!” He moved over to Sooyoung, “Your Highness, I swear – if I had known-”
“But you didn’t,” Sooyoung interjected, her winning smile coming into place, “No one did. It’s no one’s fault but my own for not saying anything.”
“I’m pretty sure since this bastard’s responsible, he should have all the blame,” Hankyung grounded out.
He still seethed all over. When he had seen the bruise on Sooyoung’s arm, he saw nothing but red before his eyes. Then, when the man had accused Sooyoung of being a snob, he caught sight of a change in the light of her eyes. He didn’t realize how angry or how violent he could get until that moment. When he had knocked the coffee guy to the ground, he had wanted nothing more than to continue beating on the guy until he felt every pain that Sooyoung was probably feeling. Only when Sooyoung had placed her hand on his did he feel himself become pulled back to reality. Only then did his anger get broken through.
Even now as the director was talking to the security guards who had run over immediately upon being called, Hankyung wanted to pick up the coffee guy just so he could knock him down again. As if sensing this, Sooyoung tugged on Hankyung’s hand, trying to pull him away. He glared at her, silently telling her that he was right to keep hitting the guy. She raised a single eyebrow, her own silent challenge given. Seeing the steel slip back into her, he felt himself relax a fraction; she was already recovering from the verbal abuse. Swearing not-too-quietly in fluent mandarin, he allowed Sooyoung to pull him back a few steps from the injured man.
Before the security guards dragged the coffee guy away, Sooyoung stepped forward, “And to answer your question, I said ‘no’ because I’m a pretty good judge of character.” When the coffee guy snorted his disbelief, she added in a tone that was like velvet over sharpened steel, “And you just proved me right.”
She watched as the security guards took him away and then, just like before, her attention slipped away from his insignificance. It was then that she realized her hand felt damp. She raised her hand away from Hankyung and saw blood. Picking up his hand, she examined it and saw that some of his knuckles had been split open from the force of punching the coffee guy.
She turned to the director, “Do you think we can push back filming another hour? Hankyung has some injuries on his hand and I don’t want anyone touching Jessica’s hair but me,”
“And, I don’t want anyone touching my hair but her,” Jessica chimed in, throwing a bright smile to the director.
The director nodded, “Yes, yes. I’m sure I can convince the studio people to extend our time to ten o’clock.” He was about to leave when he paused, “Your Highness… about that coffee guy… what are you going to do? I mean, he’s fired that’s for sure, but you have every right to press assault charges. Princess or not, that’s your right as a Korean citizen.”
Sooyoung shook her head, “He’s not worth the time and effort of the courts and lawyers needed to go through that.”
Startled and surprised, Hankyung let Sooyoung pull him back towards Jessica’s dressing room. She gestured for him to sit on the couch as Jessica and Joon hovered by the door. Sooyoung turned to her loyal bodyguard, “Can you find me a first-aid kit, Joon?” He looked at her worriedly but, after looking at Hankyung, he nodded and silently left. Turning to the singer, Sooyoung gestured towards her chair and Jessica quickly hopped back on to the chair before the vanity.
Silently, Sooyoung began to work on Jessica’s hair once more. Hankyung sat back on the couch, hands folded over his abdomen, careful not to touch the cuts on his knuckled hand. Sooyoung glanced at him in the mirror, “Is something wrong? I’m sure Joon will be back soon with the first-aid kit.”
“It’s not that,” Hankyung replied, his eyes narrowed slightly in thought, “Why won’t you press charges? He deserves it after hurting you-”
“It’s just a bruise-”
“I’m not talking about the bruise,” Hankyung interjected immediately. “Why won’t you?”
Sooyoung looked at him in the mirror before returning her attention to Jessica’s hair, “Like I said earlier: he’s not worth the time and effort. Besides,” she continued flippantly, “it’s much easier and less time-consuming to have him blacklisted.”
“You won’t need to do that,” Jessica stated as Sooyoung pulled her hair that way and twisted her hair the other way; “All those witnesses out there; I give it an hour before it’s released to the news or posted on the internet somewhere.”
Joon arrived then and Sooyoung took the kit from him. He only left after she let him pat her on the head. She turned to tell Jessica it would only take a few minutes to care to Hankyung’s wounds, however, Jessica already slipped out of the dressing room, closing the door behind her. Sooyoung brought the kit over to the couch, sitting down and setting the kit between herself and the actor. She opened it and took Hankyung’s hand.
“Jessica’s not subtle,” Hankyung stated as Sooyoung began to dab at the blood that covered three of his knuckles.
“She’s been trying to throw you at me for the past two weeks,” Sooyoung admitted easily as she began to cleanse the small wounds; “She’s pretty persistent despite telling her over and over again that it’ll never happen.”
“Why not?” Hankyung asked, his tone light and easy; “What did I do wrong?”
Sooyoung’s hand stilled in its ministration, her other hand loosening its grip on Hankyung’s. She raised her gaze to the foreigner and could feel her heart clenching painfully as she lost the ability to breathe, let alone speak. It seemed that the more time she spent with Hankyung, the more exposed she felt; the more vulnerable she felt. Somehow he had the ability to strip away all of her defences, all of her facades and leave her feeling painfully raw and exposed; all the while with just his words.
Hankyung saw the mix of emotions in her big, bright eyes; could see her fighting some kind of internal battle. Because she had been attending to his knuckles, when she held his hand, their palms faced one another. Now, he wrapped his fingers around her hand, his thumb stroking softly against her knuckles.
“What did I do now?” Hankyung asked, “What did I say to hurt you?”
“You. You. You;” Sooyoung stated, her voice strained, “You’re always talking about yourself.”
Hankyung blinked, “What? I don’t talk-”
“Every time something happens between us, you’re always apologizing, saying how sorry you are,” Sooyoung interrupted.
“And that’s bad?” Hankyung asked, truly confused. He was doubly confused when he felt her slender hand begin to shake in his. He watched her as she shook her head furiously, chewing on her bottom lip.
When she spoke again, her voice was barely above a whisper and was trembling as much as her body was; “When you say hi, when you talk to me… You call me Sooyoung.”
“That’s your name,” Hankyung stated, his dark eyes sweeping over her face, trying to understand, trying to figure out why this young woman before him, someone he had quickly come to admire for her strength of character and confidence, was slowly crumbling, revealing someone who was very weak and wielded her confidence as a type of shield.
“You’ve never told me I was beautiful or gorgeous.”
“Did you want me to?”
“You’re the first to do that,” Sooyoung whispered, her bottom lip swollen and red from her biting it,
“Surely Jessica and your family-”
Sooyoung shook her head again, her jagged, short locks swishing furiously, “For as long as I can remember, whenever someone pursued me, whenever someone wanted to date me they were all arrogant or full of themselves. When they weren’t talking about themselves, they would talk only of my appearance, how I look…”
She gulped a breath of air before continuing, “T-t-they only… They would precede my name with ‘princess’ or… or call me ‘Your Highness’… I… I can’t explain it but I could tell w-who were trying to earn my cousin’s favour through me. W-when Eunhyuk was around… w-when any of my other relatives with greater sway were present; they’d immediately transfer t-their attention to them…
“When I said no, the tables would always t-turn… suddenly I became the bad one and they were the victim. Suddenly everything they praised about me, made me a-arrogant. With every ending, I-I-I was at fault…” Her eyes were pained with sorrowful expression, and her thin frame was visibly shaking. “I thought you would be like the others… thought you’d be typical like them… But with you… with you it’s…
“You don’t blame me… you don’t use my station against me… you have never… you have never called me ‘p-princess’,” Sooyoung stammered, pulling her hand from his grasp; “You don’t care about what I look like…” She tore her gaze away, trying to collect her thoughts as her chest grew heavier and constricted more painfully; “I… I couldn’t understand it. For so long, y-you made me feel so… I didn’t know why y-you were different from them… I… I always felt so… so vulnerable around y-you and I didn’t know…”
She hugged her arms against her stomach, her gaze focused on some spot on the wall, trying to stop her chest from hurting so much, trying to make her lungs breathe smoothly, trying to stop the defenceless feeling overwhelming her. Hankyung slid off the couch, coming to his knees before her when she grew silent and refused to look at him. He raised his hands to her heart-shaped face and forced her to look at him.
He stared directly into her eyes, “I have never called you beautiful or gorgeous because those aren’t the right words. I could use them if I were describing some small aspect of you, but I could never use them to describe all of you. I would call you blunt but witty, flippant but charming… But if you want to know what I think about your appearance, all I can say is that you take my breath away every time I see you.”
Sooyoung felt the air escape her lungs again and, this time, they refused to inflate once more.
“I call you ‘Sooyoung’ because that is your name. I call you that because we are supposed to be friends and that’s what friends do; you would never call me ‘Actor Hankyung’,” He stated, his thumbs brushing away the fat tears that began to trickle down her cheeks without her awareness; “I call you ‘Sooyoung’ because I cannot imagine you named something else. I call you ‘Sooyoung’ because I like when you reply with ‘Hankyung’.”
Her chest was constricting with an almost burning sensation. She felt as if her chest was being scorched and yet, it didn’t hurt. It was uncomfortable and painful, but in the way one feels when they’re excited, when they’re so tensed up from anticipation that their entire body aches for release.
With his eyes locked on hers, he simply stated, “I don’t blame you for anything, because you haven’t done anything. I don’t use your station against you because I didn’t know you were a princess until that meeting in the restaurant. I don’t care what your family does because they are not you. They’re not the ones I’m hoping to see everyday when I go out. They’re not the ones I want to get to know better. You are.” He cocked his head slightly, he offered her a small smile, “So, I’ll try this again: will you be my friend, Sooyoung?”
Hankyung was almost knocked over when she suddenly threw herself against him, her arms wrapping around his torso and trying to pull him closer as she buried her face into his chest. He sighed with relief as he carefully, but securely, wrapped his arms around her shoulders and just held her.
“By the way, Sooyoung… your hair is horribly uneven.”
She cried harder and he wanted to kiss her. He just held her.
Six years later.
Hankyung entered the crowded ballroom. The filming had lasted longer than scheduled so, he had driven from the set directly to the Royal House where a ball was being held for the King’s thirty-third birthday. He spotted her almost immediately amongst the hundreds of people crushed into the large ballroom. She wore a simple silk, strapless, ice-blue dress. It hugged her subtle curves, emphasizing their femininity as a high-waist was created by a string of pearls sewed just bellow the bust. Her dress screamed of elegant simplicity, the colour not rare in the ballroom. However, he spotted her nonetheless and it had nothing to do with the dress.
He made quick work through the crowd, quite positive that he had established himself as a rude, busy-body in the process. He appeared at her side, smiling immediately as she filled his vision. She looked up at him and smiled that winning smile that shone to him from even across the ballroom. He quickly made his greetings to the King, who – by the presence of the large-diamonded engagement ring on Sooyoung’s finger – would soon be his cousin-in law. Then, he turned to his fiancée, bending to brush a kiss on the apple of a cheek. He took one of her hands and raised it to his lips, his kiss lingering longer than proper. She looked at him brightly, but he knew the moment awareness filled those big, bright and beautiful eyes.
“If I stopped to change, I would’ve been even later,” He defended immediately, “Now what would you prefer: me being late and looking impeccably dressed, or me being slightly late and looking slightly less spectacular than usual?”
Sooyoung slipped her hand from his hand and removed her hand from her cousin’s arm just so she could stand with her arms akimbo, “Obviously the former.”
Hankyung stared at her, suppressing the urge to roll his eyes; he couldn’t love her all these years and not anticipate her response. He glanced to her cousin, hoping to find some sympathy but finding only teasing amusement from the other man. Looking back at Sooyoung, he attempted his best smile, “Your hair looks gorgeous.”
One of her hands rose from her hips and came to rest on his cheek. She looked at him with that small smile of hers, almost as if she were telling him a secret, showing him something no one else was allowed to see; “Look at you, trying to make me happy.” She glanced at her cousin, “May I go dance with my handsome fiancé?”
Eunhyuk rolled his eyes, “You hardly need my permission.”
Hankyung took her hand and led her through the crush of people to the more open area of the dance floor. He pulled her into his arms and immediately swept her into the waltz that was already in progress. With one hand clasping hers and the other firmly, possessively on her waist, he moved through the motions easily. He had practiced hard to learn the waltz just so he could dance with her at the Royals balls which had only waltzes. It became so automatic to him, that he allowed his gaze to wander and to land on her, lock on her eyes which had always been watching him.
“Considering your brother hasn’t attempted to kill me yet tonight, I’m guessing he approves of the ring? Hmm, my Sooyoung?” Hankyung asked with a smile.
He never called her ‘my sweetheart’; rarely called her ‘my darling’; and only occasionally called her ‘my love’. He always called her ‘my Sooyoung’ and that was worth more to her than all of the other endearments combined. To her, it epitomized all she loved about him and all he felt about her.
Sooyoung nodded, a brilliant smile on her face, “He was very happy to see the ring on my finger.”
“And did you tell them about our other news?” Hankyung inquired lightly as he smoothly led her through a turn. His eyes briefly glanced down towards her abdomen before looking back into her happily lit gaze,
“No, I haven’t,” Sooyoung replied, “But it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them, we’ve been together for five and a half years… we’ve been living together for four and a half years.”
“You say all that, and Joon still watches me like a hawk from across the room,” Hankyung stated dryly,
Sooyoung laughed up at him, “And I love you for allowing him to continue as my bodyguard after all these years.”
Hankyung rolled his eyes, “Like I could get rid of that bear if I wanted to. Besides, he can watch after you when I’m not around.” His gaze drifted briefly to her abdomen once more, “You’re two months along, you can’t wait too long to tell the others before you start showing,” Hankyung reminded lightly as they waltzed flawlessly amongst the dozens of other couples.
“Despite it not surprising them, it’ll still shock them. I am the youngest after all,” Sooyoung stated as the music came to an end but Hankyung’s hands remained where they were for a moment longer than necessary.
His hand dropped from her waist, but the other merely brought her hand to his lips, his eyes glinting mischievously. He brushed his lips against her knuckles before he leaned towards her until his breath tickled her ear.
“What will they say when we tell them that we’ve been married for four and a half years and that ring is actually just my birthday present for you this year?”
“We just have to follow our plan and tell them after the baby is born,” Sooyoung replied readily,
“I’m surprised Jessica and Heechul kept the secret this entire time,” Hankyung admitted softly.
Sooyoung gave him a winning smile, “That’s because I threatened them with their positions as maid of honour and best man.”
Hankyung laughed as he pulled her into his arms, disregarding the hundreds of people around them and all calls of public decorum. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head with its perfect hair before brushing his lips by her left temple and whispering,
“That’s why I love you, my Sooyoung.”