Chapter Five - After the Audition
I ADMIRED Jongin’s courage and the fact that he was sure of what he wanted to do. Although SM Entertainment turned him away, I’d never seen Jongin more determined about anything. The agency told him that if his dream was still the same next year, come back and audition again. For a sixth grader, they had been very impressed by Jongin and he took that as encouragement to train even harder.
I barely saw him during the day, as he was spending most of his time finishing his homework quickly so he could go to the Institute and practice. Of course, I’d stay right at his shoulder and help him when he got stuck so he could get out of the house quicker. When he was gone all evening, I had to find something to entertain myself so I spent my time online playing games, writing stories, and most importantly... talking to Do Hyun.
Since White Day last year, Do Hyun and I had been getting closer while Jongin was preparing for auditions. We talked almost every night and when I got my new cell phone, our strings of texts could last all day. I would try to ignore it when Jongin would get back from the Institute so I could spend some precious moments with him, but it was harder than I imagined it would be
Since both of us were often preoccupied, we promised each other that every Saturday would be completely dedicated to one another. If there was a dance recital or a school obligation that couldn’t be avoided, then Sunday would be the day. Jongin was determined to keep our friendship above the water and he was doing a damn fine job of doing it. Every Saturday at exactly 9am, Jongin would show up at my door with forty dollars in his pocket and readiness in his eyes. Often times, we’d be out all day and there was no possibility of us being home before 9pm. We had to spend every moment available together
This Saturday was no different.
My eyes shot open at 8am, an ungodly hour when it should be illegal to do something productive. I rolled over to check my phone for anything Do Hyun related. Finding nothing, I forced myself to eject myself from the warm cocoon of my bed and into the frozen cavern of my bedroom. It was only just spring, but Winter's cruel fingers still had a grasp on Seoul. There was still frost on my bedroom window in the mornings, though it thawed by evening.
I pulled on my favorite jeans, a dance t-shirt that Jongin gave me since it was too small for him, and a new sweater. After brushing my teeth and hair faster than light, I shuffled into the living room and asked Ae Kyung to braid my hair. I secretly thought she was the best at braiding hair because she could do a perfect French braid in under two minutes with almost no effort at all. Just as I expected, she did my hair and sent me to Ha Kyung who had breakfast ready.
I scarfed my breakfast down so fast that I wasn’t sure if it had a taste or not. Mom slipped me twenty bucks under the table as she ate and read at the same time. I smirked as I slipped the money into my pocket and glanced eagerly at the door. The clock ticked closer to 9pm and I was getting restless. I was something more than eager to get out of the apartment today. I wanted nothing more than to get out and forget about any and all problems I had while spending the day with my best friend.
Today, there was a movie that Jongin wanted to see so we would spend most of the day at the science museum across the street waiting for the movie to show. Once that was over, he would probably want to get lunch while deciding what to do next. At this point, I was down to do anything that didn’t involve heights. As long as I was with Jongin, it didn’t really matter what we did.
Just as I expected, at exactly 9 o’clock a knock sounded at the door and I hopped up with barely a goodbye to my mother and I threw it open. Jongin was leaning against the railing opposite the door and he waited patiently while I pulled on my shoes. He looked around, taking in the overly familiar surroundings and showing off his attractive face. Eun Kyung said that after puberty, whatever that was, he probably wouldn’t be as cute. Ha Kyung had disagreed calmly, telling me that there was no way a kid that pretty would come out on the other side of puberty looking ugly.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure who to believe.
Ha Kyung called after us to be safe, but her words were muffled by the slamming door. Jongin and I wasted no time in running to the bus stop so we could spill the dish about what we’d overheard from our sisters and from people at school. Jongin as disgusted with his sister's new boyfriend, but according to Eun Kyung he was the ‘hottest guy in school’. Both of us found it gross, but not grosser than Cha Hyun dating Oh Sun Hee. She was probably the iest girl in the school and there was absolutely no reason for her to take interest in Cha Hyun. Sure he was smart and athletic, but he wasn’t exactly Sun Hee’s type.
Gossip aside, Jongin was excited about the movie. It was an American movie that had finally come out with subtitles and Jongin had been itching to see it since it came out in America. He was all into the superhero thing, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that he was dragging me around to see a few of muscular men wearing tight pants. I knew I was judging the movie too soon, but I couldn’t help it. Jongin was overly excited about this movie and it was almost too easy to roll my eyes at his excitement. I wanted to be excited with Jongin, so I did my best.
I listened as my best friend gushed about the awesomeness of this super hero. He talked about the comics he’d read and the action figures he was saving up for. It was fun to listen to him ramble on about something he was passionate about and since he was on a roll since I was letting him talk he started talking about dancing. Even as we got off the bus and paid admission to the science center Jongin was talking about his new dance routine that he wanted to show the judges at SM Entertainment. He went on to talk about his next dance recital in a couple of weeks and how difficult it was to prepare for.
I loved listening talk about what he enjoyed. His eyes would light up like magic and his lips would curve into a gorgeous white smile. Even though there were gaps in his teeth where they had fallen out, his smile was beautiful and extremely pleasing to look at. Long ago, I’d decided that I never wanted to make him sad in the hopes that his perfect smile would never leave his face. Surprisingly, not a lot of effort had to be put in to get him to smile since he did it quite a lot on his own. Whenever he was with me, at least, he was almost always smiling.
“Jongin-ah, wait up!” I called after him as he popped off the bus and ran full speed towards the movie theater. Even though the movie wasn’t for a couple hours, he was always intent on getting movie tickets early.
“What if there’s a last minute rush for the movie?” was always his excuse, but something told me he just got a kick out of being early and getting his pick of the seats.
“Seo Kyung-ah, hurry up! Slow poke!” Jongin called back, a musical laugh flowing past his lips.
“Coming!” I called after him, picking up my pace.
I managed to get closer to him, but he still beat me to the movie theater. He bought our tickets, but when I tried to pay for mine he made me promise to pay for lunch. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, so once the tickets were in our hands we went across the street to the museum. The workers there recognized us immediately and let us in with a smile. Although Jongin and I knew this place like the back of our hands, we visited week after week always willing to see the place with new eyes. We came to the museum with fresh, excited eyes each week so we could find a new use for the exhibits in our imagination.
Last week, the enormous dinosaur skeleton in one of the main exhibits was a dragon and I, the dashing knight, had to save my prince from certain doom. The week before, the place under the skeleton where people could walk was our base as we tried to keep Japan’s forces at bay. Although we had nothing against Japan, we had just been learning about World War 2 with our parents and we decided it would be a great plot piece. I was excited to see what the dinosaur would be this week.
To my surprise, Jongin walked right past the dinosaur, up the stairs and into one of the other exhibits all about technology. He stood in front of one of the first phones in Korea, calmly reading the text next to it. I read it, too, but my attention wasn’t really on it at all. My eyes kept venturing towards the interactive section, where we could create electrical currents or light up a bulb with physical force. If we weren’t going to play with the dinosaur, couldn’t we at least do something with the electric car prototype?
“Jongin-ah, what are you-” I started to ask him, but he cut me off sharply.
“Seo Kyung-ah, I have a question for you.” he turned towards me, pulling me with him deeper into the exhibit.
“What if I were to try out for SM next year?” Jongin inquired casually and before a surprised shriek could escape my tightening throat he lifted one of his hands to cover my mouth.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” I asked against the saltiness of his hand, “Would they even take someone as young as you?”
“That’s what I’m going to figure out, I guess.” Jongin grinned, “Oh, Seo Kyung, I just feel so ready and I just want to get out there and into a company. I want to get started already.”
Jongin walked along, lost in his little fantasy of dancing. I wasn’t sure he noticed when he lifted himself up on his toes to move like a ballerina. Perhaps that was the start. Perhaps watching Jongin dance right there in the science center was the beginning of the end. My heart sank; I wasn’t in his future. I couldn’t see myself there at all. Entertainment wasn’t in my blood, but he was born for the stage and he was going to leave soon.
His first audition came within seven months, but they turned him away. At first, my selfish heart jumped at the thought that he might not go away. However, when he said that they told him to come back next year, I knew it was over. His life became about dancing and while I was still his best friend, his love became his movements and I was helpless against them.
I loved him, I thought, but I was certain that one day the love would go away.
“STUPID, STUPID, stupid, Seo Kyung.” I banged my head against the bathroom mirror with each word. I was stupid for thinking I was someone memorable. I was stupid for thinking that I was someone who made a lasting impression on him. Weren’t we supposed to be best friends? Wasn’t we supposed to be each other’s childhood first loves that you never forgot? Well, maybe he remembered other friends of his, just not his next door neighbor.
I couldn’t let it bother me, it would compromise the way I did my work. I couldn’t hide in the bathroom all night either, so I forced myself to leave the dark bathroom to go back to the darker karaoke room. A few of the boys drunkenly cheered when I reentered and the tall one with blond hair laid a sloppy kiss on my cheek. He claimed I was his best friend and he wanted to sing me a song. The others sighed about “Sehun being a sloppy drunk” and got him to sit down before he passed out.
Baekhyun pulled me back to his side while he sang a heartfelt ballad that so far only he had even come close to singing perfectly. He gripped my waist as he swayed and I let out a laugh when he placed tickling butterfly kissed along my jaw. He only let me go when I told him I was going to open a new beer. He was sober enough to recognize when I had completed my task and he pulled me back to him so we could sing the last line together and horribly off-tune.
The boys all laughed at Baekhyun’s foolishness and he pulled me to sit so Suho could have a go at a Big Bang song. We sat together on the couch and I was over-aware of the fact that Jongin was getting up to join Suho at the mic. Determined to ignore him, I took a long drink of my beer and entertained anything Baekhyun threw my way.
“How did a girl as beautiful as you end up in a place like this?” Baekhyun gestured around the room with his drink.
“Hey, a girl’s gotta have fun, right?” I smirked and Baekhyun’s eyes lit up at the initiation of flirting.
“Of course.” Baekhyun nuzzled closer but I pulled away to take another drink, “I’m sure you have a lot of fun here.” The cotton-candy haired boy continued firing banter at me and I gladly reciprocated. Anything to keep my mind off of my ex-best friend who was partying like there was no tomorrow.
I wasn’t surprised that Jongin had made it past the audition, he was spectacular, but I never would have expected him to be put in a group right away. It made me wonder what all had happened for him to be singing in front of me with his fellow bandmates. I knew when he had officially gone into the company, but by the time he was put in a group and was getting ready to debut, we had all but lost contact with each other. I had to wonder when they had debuted, but Baekhyun was too drunk to give me any sort of information like that.
A few more rounds of karaoke went by and a few more drinks went down. While I was still only on my second beer, most of the other were on their seventh or eighth. It wasn’t even half past midnight and Sehun was passed out drunk and Kyungsoo was trying to chide him awake. Baekhyun had stopped drinking, but for how long. Suho was pretty tipsy himself and he was shooting the with Chanyeol, belting out heartfelt ballads with the taller boy. Kai, on the other hand, looked sober. I wondered if that was still the same beer that he started the night with. The bottle was empty, but he hadn’t changed it out for another one.
The girls were getting more and more daring with their advances, grinding, neck kissing and taking pictures with the boys. I was no different. I drowned in alcohol just enough to get a steady buzz going and I let the alcohol do the work for me. My body swayed to the music, my lips followed the words and I might have kissed Baekhyun, but that memory faded as the night went on.
At some point, I noticed the door opening out of the corner of my eye and my head turned to observe the motion. Jongin slipped out of the karaoke room by himself, and my legs carried me to the door without my consent. I followed Jongin out of the dark, sweaty room and into the hallway and partially up the stairs before my mouth opened against my will.
“Yah, Jongin-ah. Where are you going?” I called, immediately regretting speaking.
The tall man paused in his tracks and looked back at me with wide, confused eyes. His face was twisted into something utterly confused mixed with utter disgust. When I saw his face I took a step back, suddenly too scared to speak to him. Kim Jongin looked right into my eyes but there wasn’t recognition in them, there was anger.
“And who are you to address me that way?” Jongin snapped, and something inside me squeezed my heart and I almost doubled over. He really didn’t know who I was.