Disclaimer: I don't own SNSD, f(x) or the rights to Vienna Teng's music.
"The concert’s ending stage passes in yet another blur, though Jessica keeps up her pretences.
Waxen smile remains immaculate, laughter effortless. No one is any the wiser."
“It’s so beautiful, I mean, I don’t usually get so sentimental but…”
The words fade to nothing, lost in amongst the eddy of thoughts and worries that are pounding against the wall of Jessica’s skull. Her vision is blurry, unable to focus on anything physical. The screaming crowd - divided tribally into seas blue, oceans of red, swells of pink – are all but relevant now, silenced by the rush of mental activity. Even the eager purr of her label mates and friends goes unnoticed.
“This moment now… I never expected it to be like this."
The excited voice endlessly trilling on about how amazing this all is, how incredible, groundbreaking, beautiful it is, is precisely why Jessica can’t concentrate.
It’s her first SM Town concert, of course she can’t keep still and her excitement is being expelled as verbal diarrhoea, trying frantically to orate her elation lest she lose sight of it. Endless talking when she’s excited is one of her more grating habits, but Jessica is happy to hear, if not listen, because she isn’t really paying the least bit of attention.
Her mind is plagued, instead, by a curious sensation of guilt mingled with a bizarre blend of melancholy and reminiscence.
The day Krystal, or rather Soojung as she was still known then, auditioned for SM Entertainment flashes into recollection, scenes fleeting and torn. She can’t quite remember the words, but Jessica sees her sister’s face starkly vivid in the middle of the swirling haze. The expression of foreboding transformed her youthful image into one far beyond it’s years, a sad air of maturity seeping from her every movement. Jessica remembers how she watched her pace, biting her lip to restrain herself.
All she had wanted was to scream at her and tell her to go home.
All she had wanted was to make her think.
All she had wanted was anything but this.
Maybe she would have, if she’d have been able to articulate the message she wanted to express. There had been naught in her head but the fact that there was a reason she didn’t want this. There was a reason, of course there was. There were so many but none would form entirely in her mind.
She just didn’t want Soojung to…
Memory fails her once more as her thought processes from that day slip away into the archive of her brain. The last clear shred of remembrance is the soft flannel shirt Soojung had worn, hanging loose from her child’s body.
Jessica grimaces as the flash back ends and the round face is transformed, shrinking into a sharp v-line. Flannel shifts into shimmering satin and the memory is no more.
The concert’s ending stage passes in yet another blur, though Jessica keeps up her pretences.
Waxen smile remains immaculate, laughter effortless. No one is any the wiser.
“This time tomorrow…” Donghae laughs in disbelief. It’s pretentious and false though Jessica doesn’t comment. “We’ll probably already be on stage by now.”
Jessica blinks to show she’s listening, but she’s been through this before and so has Donghae. It’s idle chit-chat, forced to lessen the nerves and pass the time. She feels that it’s probably for Krystal’s benefit but the weight against her shoulder, dead yet gentle, tells her his effort is wasted.
A sheepish smile crosses his face when a soft snore slips through Krystal’s parted lips and finds it’s end somewhere in the back of her nose.
Jessica laughs, tensed so she doesn’t wake her sister.
“Thanks for trying.” She smiles, raising her eyebrows as her lips pull back from her teeth. The feeling is oddly fluid. Genuine.
“What can I say?” Donghae’s face is graced by the most playful of smirks, broad shoulders elevated in an exaggerate shrug. Their eyes meet, a fraction of a fraction of a second, Jessica’s cheeks flush and the moment is lost to the suddenly suffocating air.
She coughs, choking almost, when Heechul interjects with an obnoxious comment she refuses to hear.
Some kind of miracle keeps Krystal encased in slumber as Donghae and Heechul continue to laugh and jest. Heechul’s teasing is relentless yet nonchalant and the younger’s arguments are energetic albeit lacking in the same wit displayed by his close friend.
“I swear down, I’ll hurt you if you don’t shut-“ His childlike threat dies in his throat, curling round his adam’s apple before dissolving to nothing. The muffled tannoy system sings overhead, drawing silence from the whirring masses.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, this is the final boarding call for flight two-oh-three to Shenyang. Please note, you must present your valid ticket at Gate B and doors will close in two minutes.”
It isn’t their flight; they’re destined for Osaka instead so the repeated warning washes over deaf ears when the sound reaches them once more.
Jessica’s not sure why Donghae is here, he must have pulled a string or two… It’s not surprising; ever since they mutually parted ways, he’s been lingering like the earthy scent of rain after a flash flood. She doesn’t mind, not really.
Above her there’s an LED message, agitating and bright, it’s message no different to the one screeched by the tannoy just seconds ago.
There’s movement, a subtle shift in weight. Krystal inhales and exhales heavily, body growing and shrinking in the blink of an eye; Jessica’s attention is dragged back to her, away from the glowing words overhead.
Something, though there isn’t really a word for it, strikes the eldest of the siblings, rendering her still. A pure beauty flows from the girl with her weight against her – dark blankets of straight hair have fallen gracefully into her face, the plump pillows of her lips parted slightly for passage of breath. Beneath her cheek, Jessica sees the faint beginnings of a print, corduroy grooves embossed on white skin. It makes her smile but renders her still.
She doesn’t know why, but she’s afraid to move.
Maybe it’s because she’s afraid of awakening her…
Maybe it’s because she wants to hold onto the innocence that’s so assuring to her…
Maybe it’s because she knows that this Krystal is slowly slipping away from her…
Then again, maybe not.
“He was so creepy; I took the gift anyway though. Kinda have no choice do we?” Krystal laughs as if it’s nothing, and really, it’s not. It’s nothing at all; just another anecdote shared over a cup of coffee. Jessica, however, listens closely, hanging to every word with an invisible concern. The words, the casual manner, the familiarity… Everything about it was wrong. It meant nothing and yet it said everything.
Little by little, Soojung was disappearing.
“To be fair, it was really sweet.” She adds as an afterthought, eyes glazing over as memory wraps around her. Relieved, even though it’s only slightly, Jessica hears the old tone, the sweet little girl that had been lost too soon to maturity, in her little sister’s voice. Every now and again it reappeared, sincere and fleeting, thrown into the midst of an offhand comment… And then it was gone.
It’s this, however, that reminds Jessica that it’s natural - that change is inevitable. Even if she doesn’t like it, it’s still the same little sister, the same little girl that used to wear her hair in pigtails and sing into her hairbrush; that used to depend on her big sister and tell her everything.
Deep down, Jessica knows she has to accept it. There is no choice, there is no other way.
“Right, next drinks are on me.” Jessica grins (and bares it) leaping up with purse in hand. She checks everyone’s orders, pausing when she noted Yuri’s (Americano, iced).
“Willow blend…” The elder begins, looking down at Krystal’s pointed face for confirmation. When she receives it, she continues. “Two sugars?”
There’s no need to ask, Krystal takes everything with two sugars. It’s because she’s so bitter about Jessica’s career, their parents used to joke.
She shakes her head, rolling her eyes as if the answer was obvious.
“Nope, no sugar for me. I’m sweet enough.” She winks, though her expression quickly sours as Sulli’s elbow collides with her rib.
Jessica nods, suddenly silenced. She completes the order, delivers the beverage to the correct recipient and excuses herself. The coffee smell is overwhelming, she says. I just need a little air, she says.
The moment she’s outside, the cold air hits her eyes – burning.
Part of her feels sick, the other half destroyed.
She doesn’t know why she’s reacting so badly but there’s nothing she can do but cry, carefully padding at her lashline, to hide all traces of sorrow. She needs to pull herself together, she tells herself, though the task is easier said than done.
Thoughts suddenly plagued, as if by a swarm of locusts, by images of photoshopped beauty, vapid stares, too much skin for someone so young. That, Jessica reminds herself, is not her sister. It’s just a stranger wearing the image of a loved one like a standard or symbol.
A person stolen from her, a sibling destroyed not only by the corruption of the industry Jessica had been so adamantly opposed to but also by the stumbling passage of years. Time could not be controlled, doors would be closed and there was nothing Jessica could do about it, that anyone could do about it. It was an inevitable truth that had come to pass as it was always fated to and that terrified Jessica. There was nothing she could do to hold onto the transient past.
“Sis?” A voice calls, quiet and cautious. Painfully familiar. “What are you thinking about?”
Her words are natural and simplistically beautiful, gentle like rainfall on a summer’s day. It’s refreshing, another moment of recognition that rings out like a sweet bell.
“Nothing really,” Jessica lies flawlessly, instantly contained and breathing regular. “Just cooling down a li-“
The words are stolen from her throat by the sudden pressure of a smaller frame suddenly pressed against hers. Weightless.
A million words are exchanged through the touch and silence.
I’m scared for you.
Let me spread my wings.
I’ll be here for you.
I love you.
Jessica sighs as Krystal peels herself away, head tilted back gently to look her in the eye. Sulli and Taemin are waiting somewhere further down the road - she hears the young boy ask about them in impatience.
Krystal speaks, though Jessica nods only in reply, the words not quite processed despite their banality. As she walks away, it’s slow and casual, no second glance over her shoulder, soft breeze running her dark curtain of hair through the gentle spring sunlight.
It’s in slow motion, and the turn away takes an eternity. Even Sulli’s thoughtless wave hangs on the atmosphere for what feels like forever.
By the time Jessica hears her sister’s parting words, she’s already long gone but they rang in her ears regardless.
“So anyway,” She said. “I’ll see you around.”