January 21st, 2003
It all started so long ago that I don't even know where it really began. Let's see, maybe I should start with something simple: dance; after all dance has always been my passion, ever since I was a little kid. When I discovered Shinwa in 3rd grade, they became my inspiration; and when I signed up for dance class a few days later, that girl became my determination…
I never really knew her name back then, but she was the only girl in my studio’s after school dance class, which made her stand out quite a bit. She used to come with another kid and they would only interact among themselves which was why I never would’ve really noticed her if it wasn’t for their combined dance skills; because when they danced together, they complemented each other perfectly. I remember watching her for hours as she gracefully moved to the music, losing herself in it as she danced. She would always smile brighter than the sun itself, her long hair trailing behind her, as she coordinated the moves perfectly with him. And even though I knew that I could never dance as good as that other guy, I always secretly wished I could take his place.
One day, though, she came alone, without an extra change of clothes, and with absolutely no intention to dance at all. That was the first time in my life when she met my eyes and didn’t smile.
“Hey, are you okay?” I asked her and her lifeless eyes blinked slowly as she acknowledged my existence.
“Anneyonghaseyo, I am looking for the instructor. Do you know if he is here?”
“Yeah, he’s in his office in the back. But you could go back and get your bag since we still have a few minutes before class starts.”
“Thank you for your kindness, but I just want to tell him that I will be quitting dance from today onwards,” she stated blankly and without blinking. I stared at her in surprise: how could this girl with so much potential and skill suddenly want to quit dance?!
In the meantime, she had already made her way around me and was heading over to the instructor’s office. I quickly shook my head, snapping myself out of my trance, grabbed her wrist, and pulled her out into the street, dragging her some blocks away from the studio to a place where nobody could hear us. Finally, I stopped.
“Are you crazy?! Why do you want to quit dance? Don’t you love to dance more than anything else? Weren’t you the one that was saying that you were going to become a huge idol when you grew up? What reason do you have for giving up the thing you love most in this life, your precious dreams for the future?”
The girl squirmed at my words and eventually tears cornered her eyes. Sure, I felt bad for making her cry, I really did; but the alternative of just standing there and letting this girl throw away everything she loved for no good reason felt even worst.
“He’s… not here anymore… He took my reason… with him… and…” she whispered.
With those few words I figured that she must’ve been referring to the guy she would always come with. Was he maybe… dead? No, that couldn’t be it… we were kids; kids just don’t die so easily now a days… right?
Anyways, I had to do something to make this girl start smiling again… anything.
That’s when my eyes caught something and an idea struck me.
“Then I’ll give you a reason!” I exclaimed determinately and pointed at the tall building in front of us. “See that over there? That’s the SM Entertainment building. A few years from now we’re both going to audition and become trainees there. With your skills, it shouldn’t be a problem at all! And then, after some time training there, we’re going to fulfill your dreams and become idols! Is that a good enough reason?” I finished, panting for breath. I knew this was reckless, but I just couldn’t get myself to leave this girl destroyed like this.
After a while, the girl nodded, wiping away the few tears that had managed to fall from her eyes. I gently grabbed her by the shoulders and looked directly into her eyes.
“Then promise me that you won’t stop dancing not matter what,” I added with a smile and a gentle voice.
“I promise, Jongin,” she replied, breaking free from my grip enough to extend out her pinky finger. I immediately linked it with mine and we shook on it.
“Hey, how come you know my name anyways?” I asked as I let go of her finger and started to walk back. She quickly followed, almost as if she was scared to get lost or something.
“I know everyone’s name. We’ve been in the same dance class for about a year now.”
“Well, I really don’t know yours…” I said with a trembling voice. Man, was that embarrassing! I hadn’t expected her to recognize me, let alone know my name or that we’ve been for the same class for so long. I looked at her shyly, almost apologetically, and was about to add some panicked rambling when she smiled warmly at me.
“That’s okay, because from today onwards my name is Exi. It’s nice to finally meet you, Jongin.”
“Same here, Exi…. same here.”
Yes, those were the only words that I managed to say because I was truthfully dazzled by her smile. Never in my live had I seen a smile so genuinely grateful towards someone else, let alone me. As I felt my heart start to race, I knew that my fate was already sealed; from that moment on, I was determined to be the one and only guy that was always going to be there for her, protecting her, no matter what… her ‘knight in shining armor’.
We went back to the studio and after the class had ended, I lent Exi my extra change of clothes that I always brought with me. She was a little reluctant to take them, but in the end she quietly accepted them with the promise to return them as soon as she could. I also offered to walk her home since it was late at night, but she said she was fine, so I let it go.
The next day, I went to class early, hoping to talk a bit more with Exi but she never came. She didn’t come the day after, or the next. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months and still there was no sign of Exi. Soon, our instructor and the whole class dismissed the whole issue and went back to normal, almost as if the girl had never existed. But to me, Exi’s promise made me believe that I would one day meet her again… I started working harder and harder to get my skills to match hers, so that when I did meet her again I would be able to match her level without pulling her down…
In a way, it was all I could do to keep our promise alive inside me.