He reads the message once, then twice, trying to figure out what hidden meaning it has. Nothing’s ever simple when it comes to her. Honestly, it’s a bit tiring.
Yeah. He sends, then regrets it because he probably made a mistake again. Cringing, he adds, Did you want something?
It takes her longer to reply – not that he’s counting – and it’s obvious that she’s mad.
Do they still give out umbrellas at that desk?
Oh, he thinks, so that was it. He smiles, despite himself, and shakes his head. Still the same old Cindy.
When he shows up, she’s looking at him with a mixture of exasperation and something he’s not really sure about. Hopeful, maybe?
“You took so long, I’m freezing over here!” She says and he doesn’t add that it’s actually getting warmer and summer’s nearly here, “Why is it so cold?”
He drops the umbrella and takes off his jacket, upon which she gapes.
“Seriously?” She’s hiding her face with her hands, “Keep the damn jacket.” It must really be cold, because her ears are getting redder by the minute.
He drapes it over her shoulders carefully, noting that she’s wearing a sleeveless shirt. When his hand brushes against her skin both of them freeze for a moment. She looks embarrassed and he’s just a bit surprised.
She’s blushing, he realizes, she’s blushing and it’s not because of the cold. Suddenly he feels a bit suffocated and thanks god he took off that jacket. She takes the jacket and wears it, still not daring to look at him. Slightly anxiously, she holds out her hand. He’s about to ask if he still hasn’t apologized for turning her into ‘Cindy The Bum’ and if this is part of the apology and wow, isn’t it getting warmer here but she cuts him off.
“Umbrella.” She says, “Aren’t you giving it?”
“Ah…” He picks it up slowly and fumbles with the handle, unsure and surprised, “You… will you return it to the desk?” She gives him an incredulous look like she’s saying ‘I’m Cindy for heaven’s sake’ but sighs and nods in his direction.
“Seriously?” He hides the umbrella behind his back, “Promise?”
“Yes, now give it!” She’s pouting, he notices, and looks like she’s holding back laughter. He’s smiling too. The only thing missing is some plum tea and crushed hopes and they’ll be back in time. But the thing about growing up is that you have leave the past. He laughs because they’ve grown up too much and it doesn’t feel like it.
She holds her phone in front of him, “I have your number. You have mine. Now give it!”
He pokes her forehead out of impulse, “You didn’t return it last time.” They’re quiet now as they remember ‘last time’, and he thinks that Cindy probably doesn’t want to remember Byun Entertainment.
“I thought you were trying to hit on me back then.” She’s glancing at him shyly, “But all you wanted was a stupid umbrella.”
He chooses his words carefully, trying to forget her words that are already ringing in his mind, “So you don’t want it?”
She yells a bit and they bicker, the umbrella left forgotten on the ground.
They’re waiting for her manager, reaching a temporary truce and sharing the umbrella. She’s staying as far from him as she can, but the umbrella isn’t exactly large and besides, it’s not like she hates it. He’s stiff as usual and holds the umbrella slightly to the side so she doesn’t get wet.
“Your shoulder’s soaking wet.”
“I like the rain.” He says, and they go back into silence. It’s not entirely unwelcome, though.
“You know,” She says, eyes staring at something distant, “My parents loved playing in the rain.” He’s not sure how to respond to this – she’s opening up to him and it’s strange to see her look so vulnerable.
He’s thinking of a good answer when she smiles and says, “Well, I don’t exactly hate it. My hair gets frizzy, I have to wait for oppa to come, I get a bit upset. But it’s nice, because for one day I can kick and shout as much as I want.”
Seung Chan leans in to hear her and their shoulders brush against each other. But for once, Cindy does not blush and stammer. She leans on him and he freezes.
Good, she thinks, it’s your turn to be embarrassed. Honestly, her face is heating up too, but every encounter with this dense idiot is a battle for her. And she’s not losing, not this time.
And this is how the manager finds them, standing in the rain under a small umbrella. She’s wearing his jacket and half his shirt is soaked and she’s leaning on him with a peaceful expression and he – well, he doesn’t look upset.
One of the most frustrating things about him, Cindy decides, is how dense he is.
“He’s stingy too.” She adds out loud, which earns a weird look from her manager. For once, she likes that he keeps making comments and neither of them have to think about looks and just focus on her. That’s just how she likes it, money issues or not.
“Cindy, I’m going to get some rice balls, okay?”
The car’s empty and quiet and before she knows it she’s texting him, How was your day?
She waits, and waits, and waits some more and finally gives up. Producer or not, he definitely doesn’t know how to use a phone. She contemplates calling Ra Joon Mo just to ask about that Rookie PD, but stops. He’s not a rookie anymore, she thinks, he’s much more mature now.
But still not mature enough to understand your hints, comes the reply from the voice in her head.
She gasps when the phone starts ringing and quickly fixes her hair – wait, he can’t see her – before answering the call with a cheery ‘Hello!’.
“Wow, you sure are beaming today. Everything good?” Tak Ye Jin’s voice comes from the other end and she’s biting back a curse. What did she expect, that he’d call her right away? She might as well expect him to sit on one knee and propose. Not that she hopes for it, definitely not.
“Ah,” she stammers, “Hello. How are you?”
“I’m good,” Ye Jin sighs, “But Joon Bal is getting on my nerves.” The affectionate nickname doesn’t miss her. So that’s what Seung Chan deals with. It’s both sad and amusing in a twisted way.
“How’s the rookie?” She can almost hear the snicker from the producer. Tak Ye Jin considers herself an expert in love, which explains her countless (failed) attempts to set her up with Seung Chan. IT’s the thought that counts.
Ye Jin giggles softly, “He’s never looked so tired. Joon Bal’s hungover and taking it out on him. Just now, he walked up to me and said, ‘Tae Ho, you’re so pretty’. It’s adorable.”
She hums in agreement, already used to the producer’s crazy moments. It’s better when he’s drunk, because at least he can recognize people. He was caught giving her a box of plums with an affectionate ‘Ahjumma’ last week.
Still, she frowns and says, “He’s not used to working yet, how long can it take? Ah, I’ve got to go soon. What do you want to ask?”
“Please feed the poor boy, Cindy, he’s near death.”
“Aren’t you in the same company? You could feed him.”
There’s silence and she can hear the producer’s thoughts: ‘I need to get them together’.
“Fine,” she sighs, “I’ll consider it.”
As soon as Ye Jin hangs up she dials her manager’s number.
“Oppa, can you get some soup and some raymun? A coffee too.” Before he can protest she hangs up, leaning back in her seat.
The way to a man’s heart had better be through his damn stomach. His poor, empty stomach.
“What,” she says in a thin voice, “the hell is this, Producer.”
He gives her a confused look like she’s talking in French. Which she might as well be, considering how he’s not understanding a word she says.
She repeats with a voice that would put Tak Ye Jin’s shouts to shame, “Producer? What is this?” It’s not like he’s deaf, and it’s not like she didn’t understand his instructions. It’s just – they’re so ridiculous she can only scoff. “You want me to dress up as a village lady?”
“For the promo,” He adds, like that makes it any better.
“For the promo, you want me to dress up in rags. Am I correct so far?” She’s measuring how much damage some hand lotion can do when he nods like an innocent child. With wide eyes, to top it off.
It’s ridiculous, and silly, and God, why does he have to be so cute at times like this. “I’ll be mocked by the media, heck, by everyone!”
“Really?” He says, looking a bit intimidated. Go easy on him, she thinks. “But I think you’d look cute, Cindy.” There it is: that straightforward answer that always catches her off guard and he probably doesn’t know what effect his words have on her.
“I’ll look weird wearing sandals and the like.” She protests weakly, already turning red.
“But your height is nice, it makes you look cute.” He’s called her cute twice today, and looks like he’s discussing the weather: ‘Ah, yes, it will rain today. And it will be sunny tomorrow – oh, are you okay? Do you have a fever? You’re all red.’
He leans over and his face comes a bit too close to her. Cindy shrinks in her chair, gaping at him. What? Echoes in her mind and suddenly their eyes are locked. She’s looking at him with a faint blush on her cheeks and her feelings in full display on a silver platter. He’s looking at her with something she can’t quite describe – he’s embarrassed but also a bit content – and for a split second he glances at her lips.
Oh my god.
He’s back to making eye contact which is only slightly better. He opens his mouth to say something, but no noise comes out. Cindy swears his cheeks look pink and finally, he looks away.
“…Your height.” He explains slowly, “It’s cute.”
She can only nod in response and fails to hear that he’s called her cute again. All Cindy sees is him covering his face with his hand and trying hard to not look at her.
She still convincing herself that she’s in the dressing room and should, as such, act professional. She’s also convincing herself that’s it’s a trick of the light, his cheeks just looked red.
“I… have to go.” He says and bolts out the door.
“Damn that height,” she says to herself. He’s too tall, too broad-shouldered and generally too much. He’s like this huge giant she has to drag around with her, silly and not at all scary and a bit too nice for his own good.
And when he leans down towards her, she can’t help but be grateful for her height because she imagines what it would be like in his arms, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him.
But that’s silly, because this is Baek Seung Chan they’re talking about.
Never get drunk again. Comes the message a few days later.
He shakes his head, still fighting back a hangover. From across him, Ra Joon Mo looks ready to kill while Tak Ye Jin just sighs over and over, muttering about how she ‘ended up with the worst drinkers in all of Korea’. He’d reply that it’s the pot calling the kettle black but his head feels ready to burst.
“Sunbae,” he says and both look at him with a mixture of irritation and exasperation. “Um… was I with Cindy last night?”
Joon Mo rubs his forehead and turns to Ye Jin, “Tell me, are we his parents? Why do we always have to take care of this? God, I’m gonna need another drink. Ye Bal, why?” She pats his back comfortingly and they look like disappointed parents with a delinquent son.
And he’s sure he’s not a delinquent. Kinda.
“Joon Bal,” she says soothingly, “just get it over with.”
“Right,” he shouts, slamming his fist on the desk and pointing at Seung Chan, “you rookie, you were with Cindy and… And…” He shoots Ye Jin a pathetic look before burying his face in his hands.
She shakes her head, “You… Baek Seung Chan, you… um…”
“He kissed her!” Joon Mo yells and finishes his water bottle in one gulp. He’s quiet, staring at them for a bit too long with this incredulous look.
He means on the cheek, right? The friendly kiss they do in France or wherever with friends, right? Right?
“Look at him,” he moans, “he’s already brain dead. Ye Bal, I’m jumping into the Han River.”
“We agreed to do it later this evening.”
“Oh my god, Ye Bal.”
But he drowns them out, and slowly brushes his fingers on his lips, shooting Ye Jin a pleading look as he draws nearer to a meltdown. She motions to her lips and nods pityingly.
So that was it.
He kissed Cindy.
“Oh my god,” Joon Mo moans again when his phone beeps. It’s a message. From her. After dropping his phone once, forgetting his password twice, and earning a few more ‘oh my god’s from Ra Joon Mo, he opens the message:
You suck at kissing.
“Oh my god,” he whispers just as Joon Mo groans again. Ye Jin sighs and orders them some food. “You need beer” But he just touches his lips again.
“Oh my god.”