You should have been surprised, yet aren’t when your Skype rings again the next night, and the night after that. You are still a part of the calls with his group, and the calls in the evening soon turn from professional questions to questions of a personal nature. Within the week you come to expect your laptop to ring at a certain time each night, finding yourself disappointed if he is even 10 minutes late. A friendship is developing and suddenly your nighttime ritual for falling asleep is filled with his actual voice and not the recording from your phone.
The fan meet and greet day for DeLish has arrived. It will be the first time that you’ve seen Tong in person, since that chance meeting at the Museum. Your evening Skype calls have left you nervous to see him. Would this budding friendship continue; if you are face to face and not on a computer? He is meeting everyone at the facility, if you’re smart you won’t fan girl or embarrass yourself as you did at the museum. If you are extremely lucky he won’t remember your overly noticeable clumsiness around him.
Two different cars drive the group. You sit silently in the back so that you can watch the group members interact – or not – with each other. It has been a full day for most of them. Two are in the car with you, two in the car following. One is tweeting and taking selfies; you can see his earphones and him mouthing the words of his music. That leaves the group leader Ae, sitting next to you, staring out the window.
It isn’t an uncomfortable silence, yet you still feel compelled to start a conversation and use this time for further research. As you turn to face him, the movement catches his eye and he turns with a smile. This group thankfully does not have large heads; however, they have every reason to. They have truly impressed you with how humble they are, even at almost 10 years together and with their worldwide success. You smile and start your inquisition.
“So Ae, are you excited about this meet and greet? How do your fans normally act at these events?”
You have been to other meet and greets but know that different groups interact with their fans in different ways.
He reaches down to his shoulder bag on the floor and sets it between you on the bench seat. He unzips the main compartment and begins pulling out small items: group pencil bags, desk calendars, fabric handkerchiefs.
“This meet and greet was supposed to be held last month. Something happened with the facility and we had to cancel. Many savories were disappointed after standing outside for hours. I bought these for as many as they last, for apologies; all are signed of course.”
You look through his bag, situated between you. He has written a small note of apology and signed each and every item. Wow, you knew American stars that didn’t even consider how a change of plans or venue impact the day for the fans. It seems as though the idols appreciate that they have fans, almost as if they were a rare commodity. Thinking about it you realize that with 20+ entertainment companies and each one having no less than 5 groups; the importance of fans takes on a new level. It is a daily fight to stay one step ahead of the next group, to make sure that you increase in fans instead of decrease when multiple groups comeback at the same time.
“Fighting”, you say and smile at the memory. A new understanding of the full meaning.
You look up at him, “Savories?”
You could confess that you have been a savory for their full 10 years but that information does not need to be shared.
A smirk with a small laugh accompanies his words.
“Savories is the name of our fandom. DARC’s fans are ninja’s since success seemed to sneak up on them. We are DeLish; something tasty, appetizing, and pleasing, we hope to all. Therefore our fans are savories; what helps us to keep flavor in our music, pushes us to spice it up at all times.” A playful wink accompanies his explanation and earns him a genuine laugh.
“You must love your fans to be gifting memorabilia. Does the company supply you with these gifts to sign and hand out?”
“No. I purchased these from our website myself. It is not the entertainment company’s job to keep our savories happy, it is ours.”
“You impress me. With things like this, it isn’t hard to see why your savories wait for hours to meet with you and have remained loyal. Do you know any of them personally?”
“Besides my family?” he laughs. “There are a few that I notice show up to each meet and greet, even the concerts. After seeing them multiple times a year they become familiar to me; there is no way I could remember names – that would be a nightmare.”
“Very true. So, when a group has their “comeback” the entertainment group does do fan gifts, isn’t that correct?”
“Yes, we've done blankets, water bottles, calendars… hmm, way too many to name. Why?”
“Just curious,” you reply. You assist him in putting all his savory treasures back into his shoulder bag.
“So are you the only one allowed to ask questions?”
He looks over at you with his eyebrows raised.
What a totally unexpected question; you don’t know why but it embarrasses you to think that one of these idols would be interested in your life details. However, your logical brain responds, it’s just human nature, everyone gets curious.
“I suppose not,” you respond as you glance up at him. “Although I doubt I’m nearly as interesting as you, ask away.”
“How long have you been an author? Or are you a reporter? That part wasn’t made clear to us.”
“I’m an author. I’ve been writing for about 12 years, 9 years getting paid and I have about 15 books published.”
His eyebrows rise, “What do you write, have we heard of you?”
You laugh at his expressive reaction.“I write romance, some paranormal – strange stuff. My publisher is talking about getting a few of my books published in German and French. I don’t think they’ve thought about Korea.”
“So you are an author, not a reporter.”
“I believe I know where the confusion came from. I contacted Mr. Kim about six months ago to see if he would let me come and so interviews, shadow all of you, and a few of the other groups in his company. In exchange I offered to write an article about his company and his groups – free publicity if you will.”
“Ah, yes I see now. We were told that someone was coming to follow us around, ask us questions and that we were to be open and honest. We were not told it was a woman close to our age,” his demeanor changes with the last words.
“Is that a bad thing? Do I make you uncomfortable?”
“Uncomfortable? No. Korea has not had the womens rights of your country for very long. Our women have always been valued, just slightly different.”
“So you approve or disapprove of that part of westernization?”
“I believe most are for this movement, there are some that will always stick to old ways; yet we are a new generation and would like to think we bring stronger values as we begin to take positions within the country.”
“I am glad you’re not a feminist,” you smile over at him.
“Feminist? I am not a woman, I thought that was obvious,” he frowns over at you.
Heat fills your cheeks, you forgot how words that have more than one meaning or gender in America, do not in Korea.
“I apologize, I meant chauvinist and I was teasing."
The heat in your face continues down your neck as you try to not embarrass yourself further.
“Yes, it is more than obvious that you are a man.”
His face breaks into a smile that hits his eyes and morphs his face into something magical.
“I wasn’t worried. I know I am a man, I just wondered if you needed glasses or proof?”
Your head lowers and eyes snap closed in humiliation. You don’t believe your skin can get any more red than it already is. Obviously you are wrong as your blush takes on a whole new deep scarlet color.
He laughs softly, looks over at his brother, then puts a finger under your chin to lift your face back to his.
“Your coloring has taken on a very interesting shade Noona.”
His thumb slides over your jaw, his eyes following the movement. Glancing back into your eyes he asks, “You are American, skinship is not awkward for you, right? I do not overstep?”
Part 8 was short because of the information in it. It needed to be singled out and shared by itself as it is an important part of the story. Gris