Chapter 27 – A Time for Hearts
"It's really nice to see you again, Ms. Cooper, but I'm sorry I can't go beyond business this time." Yi Jung said apologetically but with a knowing smile on his face.
"So, I'm Ms. Cooper now?" The woman in front of So Yi Jung raised a playful eyebrow questioningly.
"Well, I'm just trying not to mix business with pleasure." He replied smoothly.
So Yi Jung was having a dinner meeting with Ella Cooper, a New York-based artist and fashion photographer. The photographer was hoping she and Yi Jung could have business AND pleasure while she was in Seoul, but that hope was extinguished by the fact that So Yi Jung brought along his assistant to their dinner meeting, effectively ruining what she hoped would be a romantic rendezvous.
"Hmmm… I wonder why that is…" Ella Cooper's trained eyes shifted away from So Yi Jung and fell onto his assistant as a devious smile played innocently on her lips.
Ella Cooper was a world-renowned fashion photographer, but to her close friends, she was an artist and hobbyist, focusing mainly on portraits and emotive prints. Once upon a time, she and Yi Jung had been involved with each other, but it was a purely ephemeral physical relationship.
Professional-wise, they've been friends, often helping each other whenever it was needed.
"Let's just say, there were a couple of things that's changed." Yi Jung said cryptically.
"Fine." Alice Cooper readily agreed, brushing her long blond hair aside and leaning back on her seat to get a better view of So Yi Jung and his assistant. "But you owe me, So Yi Jung." She hated being pushy, but she knew that this was one moment she needed to push.
"I know that. Business-wise, I will do anything to help you. Just tell me what you need."
"I need a muse." Ella sighed and admitted openly, showing a side to her that was absent of the usual flair of confidence. "I feel like I'm going to burn out if I don't take a pause and find some inspiration somewhere…"
"What kind of muse are you looking for?" Yi Jung casually asked, secretly letting his hand trail beneath the table to hold his assistant's hand.
"I want to capture something that people deem elusive. I want to capture something that could make people believe again." Ella Cooper specifically knew what she wanted right at that very moment, and she was going to push hard to get it.
A puzzled expression painted itself on Yi Jung's face because he simply couldn't understand what Ella wanted to say.
"Capture what?" He asked. "You know, this would be easier if you didn't beat around the bush and just tell me what you want."
"Okay. I want you to model for me." Ella finally said. "In a private photoshoot." She added shortly. "With her." With 'her', she meant with the assistant who was sitting beside So Yi Jung, the very same assistant to whom he was secretly married.
"I can't do that." Yi Jung replied curtly.
"You owe me." Ella Cooper reminded.
"I do, but she doesn't."
"Why don't you ask her what she thinks." Ella challenged.
"She wouldn't agree to it." Yi Jung replied without sparing Ga Eul a glance.
"You haven't asked her."
"I don't need to."
"I think you should." Ella was openly challenging Yi Jung's decision and she knew it, but she didn't really care.
"You're being pushy." Yi Jung stated a fact.
"I know. Ask her."
Yi Jung sighed. "Fine. But don't expect anything." He quietly turned to Ga Eul and spoke to her in Korean. "You understood what she wanted, right?"
"Neh." Ga Eul finally spoke.
"She wants you and me to model for her in a private photoshoot. What do you think?"
Hesitant and all, Ga Eul returned the question back to Yi Jung, "What do you think?"
Another sigh escaped Yi Jung's lips. "Ella is a very talented photographer. It's not about the equipment she uses. It's the fact that she can capture emotions into her photos without saying anything."
"Is that a bad thing?" Ga Eul asked innocently. She didn't really know anything about Yi Jung's dealings with Ella Cooper. She just went with him to this dinner meeting because he asked her to.
"I don't know… If it's me alone, modeling for her would be no problem. As long as it's just modeling, I can do it. Anything beyond that, you know I can't and I won't. Bit this time, she wants you and me to be her models." Yi Jung helplessly explained.
Suddenly, as it getting out of the conversation made her antsy, Ella just had to butt in. "Look, I'm not going to ask for help if I'm not desperate." She explained. "All I need are a couple of photographs. Nothing high fashion, nothing big, purely for myself and purely personal. It won't be printed out in any magazine, just for my personal collection and to help me get my bearing back."
Yi Jung and Ga Eul both remained contemplative.
"Yi Jung, I know you understand how it feels to be on the verge of a burn out. T-that awful feeling of not being able to find a muse or any inspiration for your craft..." Ella pleaded, her earlier confidence now gone, and an air of vulnerability surrounded her. "I've literally been flying back and forth for work and I'm running low on inspiration and ideas… I need help."
"And you came to me." Yi Jung spoke. It was not a question. "Why?"
Ella took in a deep breath and looked at Yi Jung with a grim expression on her face. "Because you got through it. There was a time when you thought of giving up pottery as a craft, but you came back and with even more flair than before. I want you to show me how you did that."
Yi Jung turned to look at Ga Eul for a confirmation. She met his gaze with a small smile and gave him a nod. Personally, he didn't like the idea, particularly because he and Ga Eul were dealing with Ella Cooper, a woman with whom he shared a past. He and Ella had nothing serious, but it brought him discomfort to think of Ga Eul working with Ella.
"Okay… In exchange, I want you to do something for me." Yi Jung thought that it he was going to put his marriage in a bit of a pinch, he might as well get something for it. After all, business is business.
"What do you need?"
"A portfolio from you featuring Woosung Museum after the renovations and re-structuring are done."
"Okay." Ella readily agreed, smiling satisfied that she is to get what she wants.
"Plus, a feature on your website." Yi Jung was pushing his luck but he was willing to bet it.
The photoshoot was held in one of Ella Cooper's rest houses outside of Seoul. While Kim Young Ran, Yi Jung's mother, had been against the idea of mixing Ga Eul with Ella, she pretty much had no say in the arrangement.
The rest house was a bungalow which had a wide built-in photography studio as its main room. When Yi Jung and Ga Eul arrived, Ella was already setting up her own equipment along with two of her most trusted employees.
Ella was pretty low key that day. She didn't look like the same glamorous and sexy lady during the dinner meeting. Instead, she wore a simple nautical shirt paired with jeans. Her long blonde hair was kept in a messy bun and she wore thick rimmed glasses.
So Yi Jung was clothed in his usual choice of clothes – a white, long-sleeved button-up shirt, off-white vest and cream blazer. He looked as dashing as ever. Ga Eul, on the other hand, couldn't look any more in contrast with So Yi Jung as she wore her signature red coat over a simple dress.
"Perfect." Ella murmurred as soon as she saw Yi Jung and Ga Eul. "Okay, for today, here's what we're going to do", She turned to Ga Eul with a smile, "First, we're going to have a warm-up shoot. Then, you're going to get changed into the outfits I prepared, get your make-up done and we'll do an emotive shoot. Any questions?"
"Um, what's an emotive shoot?" Ga Eul asked, completely clueless and petrified of the thought of being a model for such a renowned photographer.
"Basically, an emotive shoot means we'll be having a dramatic central theme, then the poses you will do with Yi Jung will be based on such theme." Ella explained patiently.
"I see… So what's our theme for today?" Ga Eul naturally asked next.
Ella grinned. "You'll see later. For now, let's have your warm-up shoot." Without another word, Ella held Ga Eul's hand and led her towards the center platform in front of the camera.
Ga Eul had never looked more awkward in her entire life as she stood in front of Ella's camera. What exactly was she supposed to do, anyways?
"Relax…" Ella Cooper gently prodded with a soft smile. "Now, smile."
Ga Eul did as she was told, although awkwardly. So Yi Jung, on the other hand, looked living at his wife in the background. Even if Ga Eul looked all uncomfortable and awkward in front of the camera, in So Yi Jung's eyes, she could never do anything wrong.
"Now, Ga Eul, I want you to imagine the person you love smiling at you. And you smile back at him." Ella coaxed slowly.
Ga Eul threw a hopeful glance at So Yi Jung and he nodded in return, encouraging her. Letting her worries dissolve at the sight of her husband, Ga Eul smiled warmly – the kind that was all innocent and happy. All the while, Ella's camera clicked away as she watched Ga Eul through the camera's lens.
After Ga Eul's solo shots, came So Yi Jung's turn. Unlike Ga Eul, Yi Jung did not need any more prodding and coaxing. He was a natural charmer and he knew how to work in front of the camera. As Ga Eul watched by the sidelines, she felt in awe of her husband who looked like professional model.
"Now, I want you two to get in the picture together", Ella instructed. "Yi Jung, I want you to lead Ga Eul. This is just a trial run so there's no pressure, hmmkay? I'm just testing out how you two would look on the camera."
Yi Jung stood beside Ga Eul and they both smiled whole-heartedly at each other. "Yah…" Yi Jung nudged Ga Eul in a whisper. "We haven't had our wedding photos taken yet, right?"
"What are you planning to do?" Ga Eul asked back in a whisper.
"I could make a request from Ella…" Yi Jung suggested.
"Not a very good idea…" Ga Eul replied.
"Uh-huh, you want your ex-whatever to take our wedding photos?" Ga Eul deadpanned and made it very clear that this conversation about wedding photos was non-negotiable.
"Just saying…" Yi Jung shrugged.
"Okay!" It was Ella's voice who shushed their secretive whispers. "Now, I want you two to look at each other. Yi Jung, I want you to hold Ga Eul's hand." Ella commanded.
Yi Jung did as he was told. It didn't take a genius to know that holding Ga Eul's hand had been like second nature to Yi Jung. The way he held her hand in place while he looked completely at ease, the way they stood beside each other wearing small smiles as if they knew a secret that everybody else didn't – to Ella's trained eyes, they looked perfect for each other.
"Erm… You both look really good in the pictures! There's just one thing I want to happen…" She looked at So Yi Jung while raising an eyebrow. "Yi Jung, I want you to make Ga Eul show different expressions. Don't get me wrong. I love seeing her smile, but I also want variety."
"What do you want me to do?" Yi Jung asked scratching his head.
"Do something. Anything!"
Yi Jung paused for a second, deep in thought. Suddenly, a dangerously mischievous smile eased itself on Yi Jung's lips. He charmingly looked at Ga Eul with a devilish grin and whispered something into her ear.
"You remember what our signal when it's time for me to keep you for myself?" Yi Jung taunted. He meant the same signal he used when it was time for their private moments in bed. The signal where he suddenly scoops her into his arms and drags her to bed without pause or warning.
Instantly, Ga Eul's pleasant expression dropped and was replaced by panic. "You wouldn't!"
Wordlessly, So Yi Jung stooped low and picked up Ga Eul to carry her in his arms. All the while, he had this charmingly mischievous smile on his face as he looked at her panicky expression. At the same time, Ella clicked away on her camera with a satisfied expression on her face.
"Gotcha…" Yi Jung whispered with a grin as he looked at his wife.
"YAH!" Ga Eul playfully hit Yi Jung on the shoulder and grinned back. And as if completely forgetting that they were in front of Ella's lenses, Ga Eul placed both her arms around her husband's neck oh-so-lovingly.
Ha Jae Kyung woke up with that tingling sensation which started out from her forehead, down to her nose, trailing on both her cheeks, her jaw, down her neck and onto the base of her nape.
"Wake up, sleepyhead…"
Jae Kyung eventually crinkled her eyes open to the sight of F4's Don Juan, but she felt like she was still dreaming so she closed her eyes again.
"Go away…" Jae Kyung said as she tumbled in between sleeping and waking up. With her eyes closed, she snuggled closer to her personal blanket – Song Woo Bin himself.
"Yah. It's our second to the last day together and you just want to sleep late in bed?" Woo Bin chuckled as he tucked away stray strands of hair from Jae Kyung's face.
He would never get tired of looking at her up close. Even if she slept messily, even if she sometimes strangled him when she's asleep, and even if she whines like a brat, he would never get tired of her. But then again, Song Woo Bin realized he didn't know exactly how he was going to tell her this.
For the first time in his life, F4's Don Juan was helplessly whipped by a woman. And surprisingly, for something that he spent most of his life avoiding, Song Woo Bin stayed. It was probably because he knew that everything between Ha Jae Kyung and him were ending in two days' time. Maybe.
"Yah, Ha Jae Kyung, aren't you going to wake up yet?" Woo Bin poked Jae Kyung's cheek playfully.
Jae Kyung remained immobile and asleep, ignoring Song Woo Bin's all too-alluring morning greeting. Then again, Song Woo Bin was only more than happy to try all sorts of tricks to wake up the sleeping heiress. If his trail of small kisses earlier didn't work, then maybe a real kiss would.
And so, without much thought, Song Woo Bin slowly dipped his face low and captured the heiress' lips in a warm and chaste kiss.
Ha Jae Kyung was a nice woman. She was also a dear friend. It was one of their sacred rules not to mess with a nice woman, especially if she was a close friend. Jan Di and Ga Eul's wrath would surely be upon him if they knew that he was messing with Ha Jae Kyung. If everything comes down to that, Song Woo Bin was pretty sure that even his friends wouldn't be of much help.
Then again, how could someone he should never mess with, feel so perfect for him?
To Be Continued…
To the readers,
I would like to apologize for my earlier outburst. I know I sounded mean. I'm so sorry.
Also, you guys are such an inspiration to me. Thank you so much for the encouraging messages.
They really did uplift my spirit and gave me inspiration to write even if it's hard.
Thank you so, so much. I can never thank you guys enough.
YOU GUYS ROCK! =)