Tong’s eyes round at the blatant disrespect not only to him and Ae but to you. He notices a movement from the corner of his eye and turns to see Mr. Kim. You put your hand out to pause him and confront Reef yourself.
“I apologize if earlier the teasing went to far and you took it to heart; it wasn’t meant as such. I can see that the part of being a true idol hasn’t taken hold with you yet. You should really work on that. As for me? The past two weeks have not allowed you to know me well enough to judge me; not for my past or my present actions. I did not intend to let anyone know who I was, it was never my intent to come back and rehash “glory days”. All I see is that you are clearly a scared little boy, who expresses cowardice at your fear that you aren’t good enough. I admit, I underestimated this group; I used to be one of your biggest fans.” You glance around at all the members before turning back to Reef. “If you EVER disrespect an elder again, me or otherwise, I will see you punished for it. You all disappoint me, I had thought there were men in here. I hope you ALL mature enough one day, to not only NOT disrespect each other but to stop any others that are trying to do so.”
You walk over and grab your laptop off the floor. As you near the door, you give a slight bow,
"Appa. Please excuse me,” as you walk out the door.
At your actions, everyone turns to the door; Reef going pale to see Mr. Kim standing there. Mr. Kim glances around at the members of one of his most successful groups, with disappointment in his eyes.
“I believe she stated all that quite well. I am in total agreement. There is only one maknae in this room and he shouldn’t have been allowed to say even half of what he just did.”
His gaze falls on Tong, his arms cross over his chest.
“You disappoint me most of all. I came down here to remind you of what we talked about the other night, to re-emphasize how important it was. Instead I walk in on exactly what I feared, would you care to explain how your members found out?”
Tong bows to his mentor, “My apologies Oppa. I selfishly wanted to see one of her exercise sessions as you explained the other night. I knew I could not go by myself, so I asked the other members to join me. I only told them about the dancing, nothing else; however, by us showing up, I think she believed that we all knew. A Squall song came on and she sang and danced for us." His head drops in embarrassment as he adds, "I pulled up her old video for the members so they could see that it was her and not an impersonator. I failed you Oppa, I broke your trust.”
Mr. Kim lets out a deep sigh, “Yes, you broke my trust, but more importantly you broke hers in you and in me. I told her she would be safe here, that the past would not come back to haunt her as no one would know who she was.”
He drops his head thinking, then looks up, his gaze zeroing in on Reef.
“You. Explain yourself.”
Reef glances around to find that none of his brothers will look at him. Fine, he doesn’t need them.
“Unlike everyone else, I didn't know who she was until after the exercise session. I looked her up instead of going to breakfast. I can’t believe you let someone like that around the trainees. She’s a horrible example of what you want for this company. I guess that’s what you get when hiring an American.” He sneers the last word and tries to turn away from all of them; he didn’t even see Mr. Kim move.
In less than a minute, Mr. Kim had Reef pinned against the wall by his shirt.
“How DARE you speak to me with such insolence! You speak on matters that you know nothing of!”
“What? I was there. We all were at the meet and greet, we saw how you greeted her and then how you took her away so that she could sign an autograph for a fan – at OUR meet and greet! Are you under her spell too? I knew Ae was starting in with her and she’s been all Tong can talk about since I joined the group.”
Mr. Kim’s hand moves from Reef’s shirt to his neck and he raises him right off the floor. “Your search has left you grossly uninformed. I will not have someone disrespect me or my guests. You have now, not only disrespected me, but my wife and family! If you had done a thorough search you would have found that the accusations were all from an angry fan of the idol Fire protected at an event. That fan contacted the media, got anti-fans involved, and the rags printed everything she told them. Had you continued to look, you would have also seen that this company won our libel lawsuit against not only the fan, but the rag that printed all her lies and the anti-fans. Money, I might add that still sits in a bank account from ten years ago that Laurie refuses to touch.”
“If she's that innocent why did she leave? She had it all; fame, friends, fans, and fortune.”
Mr. Kim lets Reef slide back to the floor and steps away from him.
“Because some people don’t do this for fame and fortune. Some do it because they are that talented and it would be a waste to hide it from the world. They embrace it, they work hard at it and it's never deserved when that dedicated love is thrown back in their face.”
He scrubs his hand down his face and pushes his hair back.
“I knew she was innocent because we were all there and saw what happened. Why did she leave? Because of the damage she felt the fans actions were having on my company. She left so that the rest of her sisters in the group could have successful careers untarnished from being in association with her. We proved she was innocent by affidavits given by every male idol associated in the liable suit and by a doctors verification that when she left Korea; she was still a virgin."
The guys all look up at that statement.
"Yes, the lawyers made her take a physical exam to prove her innocence. Can you imagine the humiliation? No one deserves that, especially not her."
He narrows his eyes at Reef, "I suggest you get out of my sight and start coming up with an apology before I throw you to the street,” he states calmly. The calm is far more frightening than his previous red face and angry words. Reef grabs his jacket off the floor and makes a hasty retreat.
Ae turns to stare at Tong, “You knew who she was before this morning?”
He nods. “I had similar, yet more politely expressed, questions after the meet and greet. I didn’t know what think. She and I have been conversing daily while I've been gone. I arrive back to find Mr. Kim and you, both, touching her.”
“There is nothing to our skinship. The ride over was the first time I ever touched her. I embarrassed her and was trying to fix it. I asked her permission, is that not her right to give it?”
“Yes, it absolutely is," Mr. Kim interjects, "and should not be seen as anything other than the spirit it was given in, friendship.” He glances around at all of them again, “I suggest you gentlemen try to fix this if you really want to keep that friendship and as a friend of the past 15 years; I can tell you it isn’t something you want to just throw away.”
He turns and heads to the door, “I will go see what I can do; see if I can stop her from leaving again.”
Those left in the room aren’t exactly sure what to say to each other, feelings are currently too raw. Things within their group have to be mended first, they leave as one to go in search of Reef.
Your phone beeps with a text message as you are throwing items in your suitcase. Tears stream down your face and you can't seem to wipe them away fast enough. You pick up the phone to see a message from Mr. Kim, he wants to see you in his office as soon as possible. You curl up in a ball on the floor, throwing the phone away from you; unanswered. When your tears have dried up enough, you sit up numbly and continue packing.
Knocking on the door comes and goes in 15 minute intervals. It doesn't matter who is there; you were stupid to come back. You knew it would blow up in your face.. but you'd hoped...
Mr. Kim had sent Jessica down to see if she could get you to open the door. His text had gone unanswered and dread had started to fill him. When Jessica returns after trying for the last hour, he does the only thing left he knows he can. He picks up his phone and calls in his wife.
The knocking this time sounds different. You still continue to ignore it and wonder how long you can stay hidden in your room before the halls are clear enough to make your escape. You've called your sister, she is expecting you at her house whenever you can get there. She offered to come get you herself; but you don't want her anywhere near this fiasco again.
The knocking stops, the door handle turns but nothing happens as you have locked yourself in. A soft voice comes through the door, lifting your head in recognition.
"Laurie? Laurie dear it’s Eun. Are you alright? Namil called me. Please can you open the door?”
You lower your head in shame, Mr. Kim’s unanswered text resulted in him calling in his wife. The only person who could and did support you through your past. You walk over to the door; tears starting again as you open it to the woman who has only ever treated you as a beloved daughter.
Eun takes one look at you, steps forward and pulls you into her embrace. She shifts slightly and closes the door, then walks you over to the couch. She simply holds you while you cry. She knows that words would be meaningless and really, what is there to say that wasn’t said 10 years ago.