She was uneasy throughout the whole meal. She had never imagined that the director would show up. The man surely knew that the relationship between her and him was a secret. They were in an indecent relationship that would hurt both of them if anyone found out. Just hiding their relationship wasn’t enough, yet he went and invited the director to this place.
Dayoon didn’t have the leisure to evaluate what the food tasted like. The butter-roasted scallops tasted like hard rubber.
“You look much prettier in person,” director Park Joongjin spoke.
Dayoon smiled as she put down the roasted garlic that she was about to eat. She felt her heart sink whenever Joongjin spoke. How was she supposed to answer if he jokingly asked what the relationship between the two was? She started sweating cold sweat. She was more nervous than when she made a mistake on a live show.
“This hyung-nim over here doesn’t really recommend people, but he told me that you were a reliable person, Miss Dayoon. If it was anyone else, I would have rejected it in a heartbeat, but this person’s eye for other people is really amazing. Hyung-nim, do you still remember the person you guaranteed for without a word?”
Joongjin spoke to the man. Dayoon sighed in a small voice. She had to consciously breathe while that director looked at her.
“Didn’t I tell you that you’ll ruin yourself if you stand up for him?”
“That you did.”
“But then that guy set up a factory, gained several talents, and successfully became a mid-sized company, and he’s now supporting your construction company, isn’t he?
That’s when I realized that he has a good eye for people.”
“Nah, it’s nothing that great. That man already had his own vision. He just lacked a little money.”
“No way, if it was up to me, I would never have taken that risk no matter what kind of vision he had. In that sense….”
Joongjin raised his wine glass. Dayoon smiled and grabbed her glass as well.
“Why don’t we toast? Since you recommended her, this movie will do great as well.”
“That will be great for me too.”
After toasting, she drank a sip. Her mouth still felt dry. A movie cast. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for her. She should thankfully accept it, but it was also very scary because the opportunity was given to her too easily. Just what did this director see in her that he decided to cast her as a leading support role? Why wasn’t he asking anything? Was he intentionally avoiding mentioning that subject because they were in a private place?
Questions after questions appeared in her mind. Ever since her self-confidence hit rock bottom after failing numerous entertainment shows, she was being driven into defeatism. She was aware of that, yet she couldn’t escape it. She always suspected when someone approached her with goodwill.
‘Get yourself together.’
Dayoon heaved a deep breath while drinking the water placed in front of her. She thought that she shouldn’t think about it deeply; that she should just accept this opportunity since it came out of their newfound love.
“Oh, yes. Hyung-nim. I heard that your daughter passed the Foreign Service Exams, right? Wow, looks like your daughter’s smarts really take after your wife.”
“Well, I guess that’s true.”
“But I’m surprised that you gave her permission. It must be hard for a woman to live away from home.”
“That’s up to her to take care of. It’s not like she listens to my words anyway. She told me that her dream is to become the first female ambassador to the US or something. Well, she’d have to experience the harshness of reality to realize that home is the best place. It hasn’t even been that long since she came back from the US, but she’s thinking about leaving again.”
“Yet there’s a bright grin on your face?”
The two men seemed extremely close. Dayoon clicked her tongue as she looked at the man. He showed one of his close acquaintances his affair girl? He was daring as heck. Things would get out of hand if he made a mistake and revealed the fact that he was having an affair.
Perhaps because she was in an uncomfortable spot, it felt like time was passing very slowly. All she was thinking about was that she wanted to escape this place as she sliced the lamb dish that the waiter brought.
“Then it looks like I must get going.”
Dayoon raised her head. The man wiped his mouth with a napkin and stood up. Just as she absent-mindedly looked at him wondering what to do, the man signalled her to stay seated.
“I have to. I have work to attend to. You two can have a talk with each other. About the movie, that is.”
Joongjin stood up from his seat. Dayoon followed suit as well.
“Then be careful on your way back, hyung-nim. Ah, tell your wife I said hi. Also, don’t forget to tell her to introduce me to a fair lady if there’s anyone she knows.”
The two shook hands before the man left. Joongjin was all smiles until the door shut and he sighed and sat down as soon as the door closed.
“Hyung-nim’s tastes haven’t changed at all.”
Dayoon felt her lips trembling. Her smile stiffened. She came to herself quickly and sat back down as though she had heard nothing.
“How long has it been since you knew him?”
She didn’t know what to reply. They met each other four years ago. Was it better to be honest here or was it better to deceive him?
“A little less than a year.”
“A year, huh.”
Joongjin smiled before grabbing the lamb steak in front of him with his bare hands. He picked it up by the bone and smelled it before taking a big bite out of it.
“You don’t need to lie to me. I already heard from him already. I’m not the stuck-up guy you think I am. Well, the term ‘office wife’ doesn’t exist for nothing. How can a person eat the same food every day? They should change things up and eat noodles, sushi, or steak from time to time.”
Those words sounded very suspicious. Dayoon immediately put both of her hands below the table. She didn’t want to show him that her hands were shaking.
“You look like the ideal girl that hyung-nim always talked about. Oh, let me give you some advice. Don’t get any surgery on your face. If you need him, then you should maintain your current face.”
“...I don’t get what you mean.”
“Miss Dayoon. We aren’t kids. Should I open up the textbook and read what’s on it? That sex is a pure and beautiful thing? Both of us know that it’s nothing like that. How is sex pure? It’s the epitome of desire itself.”
Joongjin licked the sauce that was on his hands. Dayoon became more scared of this man named Joongjin rather than this occasion as a whole. She finally understood why the man left the two of them here. They were close enough to share a secret that was supposed to be never revealed. This man knew everything.
She locked her hands on top of her thighs. When she glanced down, she saw blue veins pop up on the back of her hands.
“Hyung-nim probably loves you. He might look like a cold person, but he’s quite the romanticist. Moreover, he’s kind. I think he’s a little upset because he got into a fight with his wife, but he’s the type of man that would bring a present for her tonight as he goes home and whispers love into her ears. He’s very devoted to the people he loves. At the same time, he’s free. He loves other women just as much as he loves his wife. Of course, people might point fingers at him and tell him that he’s having an affair, but it’s fine as long as he doesn’t get found out, right?”
Joongjin then started eating the shrimp rosé pasta with his hand again. The way he ate food with his hands and not with cutlery surprisingly suited him.
What was she supposed to say here? It was too late for excuses. But telling the truth here would be kinda funny as well. She was very distant from the word ‘ethics’ but she was hesitating inside due to ‘ethics’ as well. No, it wasn’t just because of ethics. She was scared as well. She was afraid of the man in front of her.
“Oops, it looks like I made you even more nervous even though I did that to get you to calm down.”
Joongjin stuck out his tongue and rubbed his fingers on top of it before washing his fingers with the water in the cup. Dayoon just watched as Joongjin slowly stood up. He walked towards her, step by step. He stopped right next to her, and he looked extremely big. Even though he looked to be less than 170cm tall, he looked like an insurmountable mountain right now.
She couldn’t endure his gaze that looked at her. Just as she was about to turn her head away, Joongjin grabbed her by the chin. She twitched as though she fell into shock. Didn’t she have to flick away that hand? Yet, her body flinched back as though she was tied up with some rope.
“Hm, you would look pretty with some makeup.”
“Your neck looks good as well. No wonder hyung-nim loves you.”
His other hand descended upon her. It stroked her neck once before moving downwards. Dayoon was reminded of a snail. It felt like a disgusting snail dripping with mucus was crawling all over her body. She wanted to scream, but her reason suppressed her voice. Everything would be over if she screamed here.
The hand stopped just as it was about to approach her cleavage. The hand did not proceed. It just touched the necklace with a cross on it.
“Do you go to Church?”
“Jesus, he’s a good man. I heard that praying was enough for you to get salvation. He must be a generous man. In that sense, Buddha is also a thankful person. Don’t you think so?”
Joongjin put down the necklace and straightened out her one-piece dress that creased a little.
“You’re in good shape. Did you get treatment or something?”
“It must have been hard. I mean, it’s not easy for a girl to shape up, right? It involves exercise and balancing diets.”
Joongjin formed a rectangle with the thumb and index fingers from each hand and scanned her from three steps away as though he was taking a photo of her.
“You have a good body figure as well. Can you try smiling for me?”
She smiled like an obedient dog. From a faint smile to a bright happy smile. She did everything she was told to do.
“Have you ever watched a movie of mine?”
“Yes, in middle school.”
“When was that?”
“I think it was 10 years ago.”
“How was it?”
“I was touched.”
“Touched, huh. You flatter me.”
Joongjin sat down as he stretched his hands out. Dayoon pressed down on her knees with shaking hands. The more they talked, the deeper her fear became. This man she didn’t know the identity of pressured her too much.
“I’m going to shoot a commercial movie. I kept shooting independent, artistic-purpose movies, but that lowered people’s awareness of me too much. I’m planning to rake in some money with a commercial movie.”
“Actually, movies are quite strange. They’re like stocks in a sense. There are cases where even after casting all the super popular actors, you fail miserably, and there are cases where only less well-known B-grade actors are used, yet still become six million-view hits. It’s very hard to predict the success of a movie just like the stock market. That’s why I don’t trust filmography. I trust my intuition.”
“Yes, intuition. When hyung-nim said he wanted to introduce me to someone, I had that feeling. That hyung-nim has a good intuition as well. And when I saw you, I was sure that you were worth it to put inside my screen as the goddess of luck.”
Joongjin picked up his fork and knife. He no longer ate his food like a savage and started using cutlery like a gentleman.
“Have you ever tried acting?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Then I guess you will need to practice from now. If I chop the scenes where you have to act in accordance with another actor as much as possible, that will decrease the burden on you, so you don’t need to worry about that. Also, I’ve already finished casting the actors that are reliable, so I’m going to focus on them more. After all, for you, Miss Dayoon, it’s more important to get career experience as an actor, am I wrong?”
“Let’s be honest. Don’t tell me that your dream is to become an actress. You just need a point of breakthrough, don’t you?”
“A point of breakthrough….”
“This movie will do well. I am planning to use the elements that would make it popular. What you need to do, Miss Dayoon, is to stand on screen without looking awkward. That’s it. A mesmerizing act? I don’t even expect that from you. You just need to not break the flow. If you become the flower that’s pleasing to look at, the rest of us will take care of everything for you.”
“Are you really going to use me?”
“Yes. My intuition tells me to, so I am going to. Oh, and starting today, practice looking at your own expression as you talk in front of the mirror. I’ll give you a few movie CDs. Try copying the actresses that appear in those. We just need a short-term solution after all.”
“Will that be enough?”
Hearing that question, Joongjin smiled and put down his fork.
“Listen to me carefully. You don’t need the word ‘enough’. Didn’t I tell you that you should become the flower? I don’t mean a living flower. You can be an artificial flower. It will suffice as long as people think that it’s an act. Don’t try to do something. Miss Dayoon, you aren’t anyone great. Just do what you’re told. Do that and I’ll give you the title of the idol that successfully debuted into the movie industry.”
He seemed to have great confidence in himself. His words were smooth without any stops. Although it sounded absurd and nonsensical, it was somewhat acceptable as well. She had the feeling that things would turn out the way he said they would.
“Uhm, Miss Dayoon.”
Joongjin continued speaking as he looked at the steak.
“Can you sleep with me as well? I’m curious about your night skills.”
Dayoon flinched and looked at Joongjin. When she did, Joongjin immediately made a rectangle with his fingers and looked at her through the frame.
“That expression, that’s the one. Remember that feeling. The role you’re about to act has such a role.”
Dayoon couldn’t do anything other than just stare at the man. Only the sound of cutlery filled the room.
“Phew, thanks for the meal.”
Joongjin wiped his mouth and stood up after his meal.
“I’ll take my leave here since I have to see other people for some roles. I have to go and see some energetic high school students. Ah, it would be great if my intuition tells me something this time as well.”
Joongjin turned around with a smile.
“Miss Dayoon, good luck.”
Dayoon stared at his back for a while until the door closed. When the door closed, she curled up and frowned. A scream escaped her clenched teeth.
* * *
The man who introduced himself as director Park Joongjin took off the fedora he was wearing as he sat down. He seemed close with Choongho and the two had an energetic handshake when they met.
“Nice to meet you, everyone. You should have heard the general story from Choongho hyung-nim here. I need some young actors filled with spirit for the movie I’m shooting this time.”
Joongjin spoke with a smile.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Ayy, I think this new guy (director Joongjin) is the 'mad scientist' character. How about you?
I'm starting to feel bad for Dayoon. I mean getting told ur not great straight to the face...