Music Hyperlink: Snow, by Moonbyul.
It should be illegal, this manipulation of media, twisting of small lies into bigger lies to suit your desires. And then forcing someone else to play along with the lie that you created? In Yena’s books, that was the very definition of evil. She carried her anger like a badge as she glanced around at the reporters madly jotting notes down and firing questions at her. The more they asked, the greater her fury grew until she nearly lashed out.
She couldn’t believe this was what news reporters did these days. There were better things to do, more important worldly matters to report on. Yet they were obsessed with this. Yena laughed bitterly.
“I hope you’ve got the answers you need,” she simpered, voice dripping sickly sweet venom as she smiled at them. She swished back around towards the building and strode through the crowd. They parted for her like the Red Sea. “Now, I’d like to meet my friend, thank you very much.”
She left the sound of cameras clicking behind her. The door of the music building shut out the voices and brought her no greater relief.
Juri sat at the head of the long table in one of the company’s private meeting rooms, fingers locked together loosely and resting on the table. Once in a while she would stretch out the cricks in her neck or examine her nails. She exuded great confidence, too at home in a place that she should have been no part of.
At the other end of the table was Yena’s CEO, flanked by both Yena and her manager on either side. While the CEO had a polite smile on her face as she flipped through the contract before her, Yena’s manager nervously kept his head down, refusing to make eye contact with anyone. Yena understood his mental state all too well. Though she tried her best to maintain a calm demeanour, under the table her fingers fidgeted and picked at dry skin. Her leg almost started to shake out of habit if not for the CEO gently stepping on her foot as an unspoken warning.
“This seems to be quite a detailed setup you’ve planned, Miss Takahashi.” The CEO nudged the contract away and leaned back in her chair. She steepled her fingers. Her eyes, piercing and fierce, glared over fingertips.
“Well,” Juri mirrored her pose and crossed her legs, “if one is to deter rumours, a plan should be properly thought out, isn’t that the case? Especially when it concerns someone as popular as Yena over here.”
“If that’s the case, then thank you for taking her position into consideration.” Yena’s head whipped towards her CEO, shocked that she could even say such a thing despite knowing full well that this was all part of Juri’s plan. But the look on the CEO’s face was tired and sincere, and Yena could not bring herself to say anything.
Instead, she just turned to face Juri and inclined her head. “Yeah. Thanks.”
Nodding, Juri plucked out a pen from within the depths of her bag and slid it over the table. It spun in neat circles from one end of the table to each other and came to a halt in front of the trio. The CEO glanced at it. The manager refused to look at it.
Yena stretched her hand out and picked it up, holding it carefully as if it were a bomb. Uncapping it, she placed its tip to the bottom left corner of the contract. Black ink bloomed on white paper. An irreversible stain.
A triumphant grin spread on Juri’s face. Standing up, she made her way to the door of the meeting room and swept the signed contract into her bag. She offered Yena her hand to shake and grasped Yena’s hand tightly, fingers pressing dark red circles onto Yena’s soft skin.
“I look forward to working with you, Choi Yena.” Even now as Yena raced down the corridors of the music building, Juri’s words still echoed loud and clear in her mind. She certainly wasn’t looking forward to working with Juri. Not when her heart ached at the thought of the woman, not when her mind was only screaming for her to run away when they were even in the vicinity of each other. But this was something Yena had to do; no, it was the only thing she could do for-
Her. Poised at the piano, gentle fingers resting on black and white keys. Her hair fluttered in the wind brought in through the open window. Yena peered in through the dusty window embedded in the door separating them. She wondered how much the pianist had heard from the commotion below. Pressing her ear to the door, she waited in silence, listening for a melody like the ones she had gotten used to hearing on her balcony.
But beyond the door there was only silence. Frowning, Yena slid the door open and stepped in. As she watched Yuri from just a few steps away she noticed the younger girl’s hands were trembling, unable to press down on the piano keys. In front of her, Yuri took in a deep breath, eyes closed, and forced herself to play a tune. She managed to eke out a few notes before slumping, her tremors becoming too great to bear. Sighing, she replaced the piano cover and stood up. With a sweep of her hands she covered the grand piano with a thin muslin sheet and turned to leave.
Yuri’s eyes widened. Her fingers fluttered to cover her mouth. “Yena. How did you get past the crowd?”
“You saw them, huh?”
Yuri nodded, her eyes downcast. “Campus security came in to warn me of suspicious people, but I didn’t suspect that there would be so many of them.”
“Damned paparazzi.” Yena spat the word out like it was poison.
“But you made it in here somehow. So it’s fine, because we’ve got each other. We can get through this. Together.” A smile on her face, Yuri reached her hand out towards Yena. Inviting. Comforting.
Oh, how Yena wanted to take that hand! Her breath hitching in her throat, she shook her head and looked away. “I’m sorry for all of this trouble, Yuri. I promise you won’t have to suffer like this again.”
“What do you mean? Yena, what do you mean by that?”
“I’m sorry.” Her voice was shaking. Yena could feel tears brimming behind her eyes as she slowly backed away until she collided with the door. Inching out of the room, she couldn’t bring herself to meet Yuri’s eyes. “I’m sorry.” Ignoring Yuri’s repeated calls, Yena willed herself to walk away. She swiped at her reddening nose and blinked back her tears. Now Yuri could live her life properly and deal with her grandmother’s passing in peace without the intrusion of nosey netizens.
Yena knew it was better this way.
Since that day, Yena lost track of all time. She couldn’t tell what date it was, nor what time. Her curtains were always drawn shut, blocking any form of sunlight from illuminating her darkened apartment. She was certain that paparazzi and tabloids had already released their hot take on her and Juri’s dating information now that she had ‘confessed’ to the public. She was sure that Juri had released some sort of statement from her side confirming it too. Not that Yena cared.
The only time she ever saw any form of light was when her manager dragged her out for work. Calls for her had dwindled greatly in number, as expected for someone who had just survived a rumour that could ruin them forever. She was surprised any brand even wanted her still. Her manager had barged into her apartment and forcibly hauled her out. “You can’t keep doing this!” he grumbled in a disapproving tone as he dragged her into the company car. “Your fans will be so disappointed!”
Fans? Yena wanted to laugh. What fans? Considering how many people she thought were her fans started spewing vicious comments online, she didn’t believe in such nonsense any more. When she told her manager that, though, all he did was stare at her, flabbergasted. Then he gestured to himself. “I’m your fan too, you know that?” Overwhelmed with gratitude, Yena hugged him tightly. He patted her head gently, like how her father would - and then, in true fatherly fashion, immediately put her in the car and drove her to work.
A few days passed like that until she received her first message from Juri. It was a simple text, short and direct. Yena was instructed to prepare for an awards show that Juri was invited to. She was given the name of the stylist that would provide her a dress and shoes, and the time Juri’s car would come to pick her up. Yena’s fingers curled up into a fist. She felt as if she was just some soldier, a worker taking instructions from a controlling boss, with no allowance for leeway or freedom or anything at all.
Another message came in a few minutes later.
Juri: See you then. <3
Yelling in anger, Yena hurled her phone away where it bounced off a pillow and landed on the floor. She, too, slid to the ground limply. She hung her head and closed her eyes, and she dreamed of Yuri living her life unhindered by the world’s problems.
It was better this way. It had to be.