They stop a couple of blocks away from the venue, Jak looks over at Jiyong and moans.
“That was such a bad idea.”
She flips his visor down to the mirror and shows him the smeared lipstick on his lips and all over hers.
He smiles and shrugs. “The time and moment were right, I wasn’t letting you slide away. Never a bad idea, never regret it, but we probably should have removed your lipstick first. You said you have make-up wipes?”
She passes him over one while she goes to work on her own face.
“It’s a good thing I carry my own foundation, hopefully it matches what that lady put on me today.”
After she makes her repairs she hands him her foundation. “You’re two different colors.”
She applies powder and lipstick, turning to him. “It’s as good as I can do, will I do?”
He leans in to kiss her, “Always”.
She throws a hand up in front of his lips, “Really? Did you not just learn? Now let’s get this over with before I freak out and decide you can go by yourself.”
He salutes her and drives forward to the venue, complete with red carpet, and reporters awaiting them.
At the flashing bulbs, Jak takes a deep breath and holds her stomach trying to talk herself out of a panic attack. ‘I can do this. It’s like any other job, pretend it’s a job. When he opens the door it’s simply like a runway shoot, no big deal. If I want him, I have to be able to do this for him.’
Jiyong has made his cursory waves as he rounds the car and holds his hand out to her. She shrugs out of his coat and places her hand in his, stepping directly onto the carpet with a dazzling smile. She knew they weren’t there to see her so she did her job of standing next to him, being his arm candy. She smiled when he turned her towards cameras and posed with him at requests. One reporter asked for a picture of him alone; as she moved to step away, he pulls her back.
“My campaign wouldn’t be successful without Jak in the pictures. This night is for both of us, no pictures without her by my side.”
Jak looks up at him in shock as he turns her into him, than looks down with a smile.
“This way please,” a photographer calls out to them. They turn at once with smiles, heads together.
As they walk inside he turns her to him, “You did great out there. Did you flip the ‘on’ switch?”
“Well, you sort of took care of the 'turn on' before we got here didn’t you? Was that your goal?”
He threw his head back and laughed, leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Yes and no, but we can discuss that later. I have a feeling if I don’t keep a tight hold on you, you’ll disappear on me.”
She looks at him aghast, with her hand on her chest. “Me? Whatever gives you that idea?”
He let go of her hand and wrapped is arm around her waist, flexing it. “The fact I have no more circulation in my hand might be a small clue. Come on, haven’t I proven I won’t let anyone bite you?”
“Anyone? Does that include everyone?”
“No, because I’m part of everyone and I don’t count.” He nudges her forward as he starts shaking hands and greeting his guests.
A couple of hours into the party Jak begins to fade. It was harder than people thought to be always “on” when you have social anxiety. She found a time to slip away when Jiyong was busy with an investor. She hides out on the balcony, trying to catch her breath when she's interrupted by a lone voice.
“Mind some company?”
She turns to see Daesung in the doorway and waves him over. “Sure, it’s a free balcony.”
He smiles and comes forward to lean on the railing, looking at the scenery instead of her. “You were looking a little pale in there. When Ji reached an arm out and you weren’t there, he also started looking pale.” He turns to look at her, “You have him in knots you know that? As a long time friend I have to say seeing that is a beautiful thing. But, seeing the fear isn’t as fun. You doing okay? Can I do anything for you?”
She smiles faintly, “I don’t do crowds or people. This is much harder than I thought it would be.”
“Aren’t you a model?”
She sniffs, “You’ve posed for pictures." She sweeps her arm at the party, "This is a totally different world. For me there is a photographer, his assistants and at the most 10 other people. There are well over 300 people in there, I just …. There’s too many, I just needed a short break.”
He hands her a drink but she waves it off, “Thanks but I don’t drink alcohol.”
He smiles and hands it back to her, “I know. It’s a Sprite. I’ll be right back, don’t go anywhere.”
Eyes closed, sipping on her Sprite, trying to feel the cool air, she senses someone step in front of her. Her heart skips a beat and her eyes fly open.
“Shit you scared me to death,” she cries, covering her eyes with her hand and lowering her head.
Jiyong pulls her close and kisses the top of her head. “You’re shaking. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had your eyes closed and I didn't think about the crowd and how long this would be. We can leave if you need to.”
“No. You need to be here, just let me hang out here, I’ll be okay.”
He rubs his hands up and down her arms, “It’s cold, you can’t stay out here. Come on.”
He takes her by the hand and leads her to the door of the ladies room sitting room. “Does this work? We won’t be much longer, I promise.”
“I’ll be fine,” she smiles and shooes him away. “Go be with your guests, I’ll find you in a little bit.”
Towards the last 30 minutes of the evening, Jak wanders back out to find Jiyong. As the host and subject of the party, he wasn’t hard to spot; only hard to get to as he was thronged by people. She stood on the edges of the party for a minute, trying to plan her path when a body disengaged from the wall and headed her direction.
She turned a warm smile, “Daesung. Were you assigned to Jak duty? I feel for you.”
He laughs and she thought his smile one of the most beautiful she’s ever seen.
“Self assigned I assure you but not really that painful.”
He winks and takes her arm, clearing a path towards Jiyong. He directs them at an angle that Jiyong can see at least him coming, while chatting. Jak sees him raise his hand a little and angle his head down, a minute later Jiyong is in front of her, taking her from Daesung.
“Thank you brother,” he comments as he gives him a one armed hug, the other arm securely wrapped around Jak again.
“A pleasure,” he smirks and Jiyong imitates striking him. They both laughed as Daesung disappears back into the crowd.
As they move back to the group he had just left he leans down for information.
“We can head out in about 30 minutes, that’s okay?” At her nod he continues, “By the way, I’m not taking you back to your apartment. Just thought I’d let you know.”