From: Your Secret Santa
Title: If The Shoe Fits
Summary: Her life could have been the fairytale that every girl dreamt of, but Lee Taeyeon wasn’t quite like every other girl.
This submission was accidentally overlooked. Our apologies to both the Santa and the recipient!
18th June 2011 – 2:24 PM
It was exactly thirty days before the big birthday bash. However, Lee Taeyeon, the birthday girl-to-be, did not feel any ounce of excitement, despite her father’s promises of a party that other girls in the world could only dream of having. After all, how different could it be from the other seventeen birthdays she had ever had in her life? As per birthday tradition, in her family anyway, Taeyeon was on a trip to the biggest outlet of MVP Shoes. She had been going there for as long as she could remember, and every single shoe she owned was designed by the legend himself, Lee Jinki.
Taeyeon’s thoughts began to drift away; only to be pulled sharply back to earth as the car door on her side was opened, a hand extending to help her out of the vehicle.
“I can get out fine on my own, thank you,” she muttered as she hopped out.
“Taeyeon-ah,” her father chided, “how many times do I have to tell you – let the people do their job and help you out.”
Taeyeon stuck out her tongue, thankful that her horrid step-mother wasn’t there to pick on her.
“Welcome,” an unfamiliar voice greeted them – which Taeyeon found odd, because she knew almost all of the staff there – “I assume you are the Lee family?”
“Indeed,” Mr Lee spoke, “where is Jinki?”
The boy who spoke, Taeyeon concluded that he couldn’t be much older than her, smiled apologetically. “My boss is overseas, attending to an urgent family matter. He has asked me to take over.”
Mr Lee sighed. “Since he trusts you, I have no choice but to trust you as well. Kevin,” he motioned to the man standing a little further behind them, “I’m counting on you to make sure Taeyeon gets home by five for her piano lesson. I, too, have things to attend to.”
The man, Kevin, nodded, “Yes sir.”
Mr Lee patted the boy on the back. “I’ll be off then. What’s your name boy?”
A hearty laugh escaped the kind old man’s throat. “Take care of my daughter, Kibum.”
Kibum bowed slightly, “Of course, sir.”
Taeyeon waved to her father as he returned to the car and drove off. “Now,” Kibum spoke, “if you would follow me to your private room.”
“I know where it is,” Taeyeon replied, “I can get there myself.”
Kibum laughed, surprising Taeyeon just a little. “I’m sure you can. But I better take you there myself, just in case you get lost.”
Dazed, for she had never met anyone who dared to go against her, she followed Kibum through the store to her private room. Now, unlike most girls, Taeyeon did not have a fondness for heels. On the contrary, she rather preferred comfortable, flat-soled shoes that she could run around in. However, her father had insisted that since she was coming-of-age (whatever that meant), she ought to dress like the fine young woman she was. And so in lieu of her father’s words, the room was filled with every kind of heeled shoe Taeyeon could think of, and she was sure that had she been anyone else, she would have already passed out from the excitement of standing in a room filled with possibly a hundred of MVP original heels. However, since that was unlikely to happen anytime soon, Taeyeon simply sat herself down on the couch in the middle of the room, smoothing out her short white sundress.
“What kind of shoe are you looking for, Miss Lee?”
Taeyeon shrugged, “Something I can run in, or something comfortable at least. And it’s Taeyeon, by the way.”
The almost-eighteen-year-old girl watched as Kibum walked around the room, looking for a shoe to let her try on. She fiddled with a loose thread on the hem of her dress, uncomfortable with the silence in the room.
“So,” Taeyeon spoke, “how old are you? You look pretty young.”
“I’m turning twenty in a few months. I’m working here part-time to pay for my college fees.”
Taeyeon puffed her cheeks out at the lack of enthusiasm in his answer. “Well, you’re really lucky. Some people say that it’s easier to become a celebrity than get a job here.”
Kibum paused in his search for shoes to turn and look at Taeyeon. “Really?”
“You mean you didn’t go through the screening process and everything?”
Kibum shook his head. “My cousin, Jonghyun, is an old college friend of Jinki’s. He heard that I was looking for a job and next thing I knew, Jinki had hired me.”
“A lot of girls would want to be you,” Taeyeon said, lying down backwards on the couch, her shoulder-length hair fanning out beside her.
“I could say the same for you,” Kibum replied as he continued to search for shoes for Taeyeon.
Finally, he picked out a pair of cork-coloured wedges. “Since you’re new to heels, you should start with something that’s easy to balance in.”
Gently, he took off Taeyeon’s ballet flats, smiling as she wiggled her perfectly manicured toes. “You have pretty feet,” he commented, and wished he could take it back as soon as it left his mouth. That was an extremely odd thing to say, even for a person who sold shoes.
“Thank you,” Taeyeon smiled. Even if it was an unusual compliment, Kibum had seemed sincere, unlike most other people. She carefully slid her feet into the wedges, finding it an odd feeling; different from her usual footwear.
“Here,” Kibum offered his hand, “try walking around a little bit.”
Grateful, Taeyeon took his hand. The heels were more comfortable than she had thought they would be, and they did look awfully cute. But something inside Taeyeon told her to say no. And so for the next two hours, Taeyeon tried out nearly all of the shoes in the room, and yet rejected every single one of them. Just as she took off a pair of pastel pink pumps, Kevin tapped her on the shoulder.
“You have to get back for your piano lesson, Young Mistress.”
Taeyeon stared apologetically at the mass of shoes that lied in disarray in the room.
“It’s okay,” Kibum smiled, as if reading Taeyeon’s thoughts, “This is what I’m paid for.”
Taeyeon paused as she was about to walk out the door, her fingers drumming the doorway slightly. She could feel Kibum’s eyes staring at her back. Taking a deep breath, she turned around. “Will you be here tomorrow?”
Kibum laughed. “I’ll be here for as long as you need me, Miss Lee,” he winked.
A smile broke out on the young girl’s face as she nodded, “Okay.”
19th June 2011 – 4:13 PM
Taeyeon bounded into the shoe store that day, with only Kevin for company as her father was busy with work. She had finished all her classes earlier that day, and she was free to stay at the shoe store for as long as she wanted; even if it was past their opening time.
“Hi, Kibum,” she greeted shyly, her right foot playing with the corner of the rug that was at her feet.
Kibum said nothing, just smiling back as he motioned for her to follow him once again. As they arrived at her private room, Taeyeon turned to Kevin.
“Could you wait outside the room?” She paused, “Please?”
Kevin looked uncomfortable at the thought. “But Young Mistress…”
“I’ll be fine,” Taeyeon insisted.
Kevin looked at Taeyeon, then at Kibum who was waiting with his hand on the doorknob, before sighing and nodding. Smiling widely, Taeyeon wrapped her arm around her bodyguard’s neck before disappearing into the room with Kibum.
Just as Kibum was about to go shoe-hunting again, Taeyeon grabbed his arm.
“Can we, you know, just talk today?” Taeyeon asked softly, feeling slightly silly at her own request.
Kibum smiled, “Of course we can, Taeyeon. What would you like to talk about?”
“Tell me about yourself,” it was more of a demand than anything else, and Kibum laughed at the serious look on the younger girl’s face. He gestured for Taeyeon to take a seat, and she gladly did so, pulling Kibum down beside her.
“My name is Kim Kibum, and I am almost twenty years old. My hometown is Daegu. I am 178cm tall, and I like shopping. I have an older sister who calls me every Sunday and cries about how much she misses me,” – Taeyeon raised an eyebrow at that, but Kibum merely continued – “and, I’ve never dated. Now it’s your turn.”
“Fine. My name is Lee Taeyeon, and I am turning eighteen in twenty-nine days. I was born and raised right here, in Seoul. I am 172cm tall, and frankly, I hate shopping. My mother died when I was really young, so I don’t remember her much. I have a step-mother, Soojin, and two step-sisters, Hyeyoung and Hyeyeon, though.”
It was Kibum’s turn to raise an eyebrow, “A step-mother and two step-sisters?”
“Yeah. Is there anything wrong with that?”
Kibum started laughing at the look on Taeyeon’s face. “Who are you supposed to be – Cinderella?”
Taeyeon shoved Kibum playfully. “Oh shut up. My step-mother and step-sisters happen to be very nice to me, for your information.”
“O-Oh really?” Kibum was clutching his stomach in pain as his laughter refused to die down. “Are you sure she doesn’t have a cat named Lucifer?”
“We have a dog,” Taeyeon replied indignantly, “and his name is Zeus.”
But seeing as Kibum couldn’t stop laughing, Taeyeon began to laugh as well.
“Okay,” Taeyeon admitted between gasps of breath, “my step-mother and step-sisters are total skanks, but they don’t bother me much, so I don’t care.”
After a good five minutes of laughter, the pair calmed down considerably. Neither of them spoke, and Taeyeon could feel the awkwardness creep up on them once more.
“Let’s go shopping,” Taeyeon suggested out of the blue.
“I thought you said you hated shopping.”
“I do,” Taeyeon replied, “but for some reason I feel like going shopping today. So let’s go.”
“But Taeyeon, I’m working.”
“Yes, Kibum, you’re working for me. And I want you to take me shopping.”
“Fair enough,” Kibum paused. “Fine, I’ll take you out.”
Taeyeon opened the room door and peeped out. “Hey Kevin,” she addressed the man standing guard at the door, “Kibum and I are going shopping.”
Kevin looked troubled, and for a split-second, Taeyeon felt sorry that he had to take care of someone like her. But then that feeling was gone as soon as she received a nod from him. Excited, she grabbed Kibum’s hand and starting pulling him towards the exit. They waited for Kevin to bring the car over, and as soon as it stopped before the two of them, Taeyeon yanked the door open and pushed Kibum roughly inside.
“Act more like a lady, will you?”
“I’ll start acting like a lady,” Taeyeon retorted, “once you start acting like a man.”
Kibum pretended to be offended, before laughing and patting Taeyeon on the head. “You’re so cute; you’re like the little sister I never had.”
Taeyeon felt just a little crushed at that, although she had no idea why. “Mmm, I’ve never had a brother. Know any good places to shop?”
An unusual little smile appeared on the older boy’s face, “Do I know any good places to shop? Taeyeon, I’m afraid you’ve underestimated me.”
Taeyeon flipped her hair in his face, “Whatever. Hurry up and tell Kevin so we can go already!”
Four hours and several full shopping bags later, Kibum and Taeyeon were collapsed on the leather seats of her Mercedes. Taeyeon had somehow convinced Kibum to let her buy stuff for him (“Isn’t it usually the guy who buys gifts for the girl?”) and about a third of the bags that pressed against them belonged to Kibum.
“Where do you live? We’ll drop you off.”
“Ah, it’s fine.” Kibum waved his hands, “Just drop me off at the nearest bus stop and I’ll get home myself.”
Taeyeon made a grab for Kibum’s hand, shooting him a stern look. “I insist on taking you home. Now tell me where you live.”
“Geez, you do realise that you sound like a stalker, right? Just tell Kevin to drive, I’ll navigate.”
Kibum’s house was as close as he had said it was, for they arrived at the entrance of the apartments in less than fifteen minutes. Taeyeon followed Kibum out of the car all the way to the building entrance.
“You know, I’m the one who should be taking you home,” Kibum laughed slightly.
Taeyeon shrugged good-naturedly, “I’m not one for traditions, so.”
They stood in silence for a while, neither making the first move to leave.
“I’ll have the stuff sorted out when I get home, and then I’ll get Kevin to pass them to you.”
“Okay,” Kibum nodded, “You better be off then.”
Taeyeon paused. “We’re friends right?”
Chuckling, Kibum pushed Taeyeon in the direction of her car. “Yes, we’re friends. Now get going.”
Taeyeon waved at Kibum one last time before she ducked into the black car. Kibum stood at his spot until the car was out of sight before laughing to himself as he entered the building.
30th June – 3: 54 PM
“Kibum,” Taeyeon drawled lazily, drawing the boy’s name in the air as she laid on the couch.
“Hmmm?” Kibum replied from the corner of the room where he stood watching her.
Taeyeon sat up abruptly, causing the ribbon pin from her hair to fly out and skid across the floor, stopping just before Kibum’s feet. Chuckling to himself, Kibum picked up the pin and handed it to her.
“It’s been like, 2 weeks since I last saw you. And you told me we were friends!”
Taeyeon looked like she was about to cry, and Kibum felt sorry that he hadn’t been around. “I’m sorry, Taeyeon-ah,” he said as he sat down next to her, “I was just busy. Besides, Jinki hyung is back, so I figured I wasn’t needed.”
“You idiot!” Taeyeon shouted as tears started to roll down her face, “You don’t know anything!”
Kibum was surprised, but he kept quiet as Taeyeon hit his arm repeatedly. He waited until Taeyeon had calmed down, before he took her hand in his and apologized again.
“Daddy’s in the hospital,” she spoke softly.
Kibum was taken aback. How could he have missed this piece of big news? “But I never saw anything on the papers or on the news!”
Taeyeon’s body started to shake a little, but she held back her tears. “My step-mother wanted this to be a private affair,” Taeyeon choked back a sob, “Daddy had a heart attack last Wednesday.”
Kibum froze, his fingertips brushing against the ends of Taeyeon’s brown hair.
“I – I didn’t know,” Kibum said, shocked, “I’m really sorry. I should’ve been here with you.”
Taeyeon sniffed, putting her arms around Kibum. “Could you… hold me?”
Kibum hesitated, but slowly, he brought his arms around her shoulder. But it was as if he wasn’t worthy to touch her, because just as his skin brushed against hers, the girl’s phone rang. Kibum drew back immediately, pink tainting both their cheeks at the sudden awkward atmosphere in the room.
Smiling sheepishly in an attempt to ease the tension, Taeyeon picked up her phone and walked a few steps away from the couch. “Step-mother?”
Kibum remained quiet – he had a bad feeling about the phone call. And sure enough, he could see Taeyeon’s eyes fill with tears once more as he watched her hushed conversation with her step-mother over the phone. He heard her mutter a ‘bye’ as she hung up and turned to face him.
“Daddy’s dead,” she cried, bursting into tears once more.
“Oh Taeyeon,” Kibum breathed, walking up to where she stood and crushing her in his arms.
2nd July – 2:17 PM
Kibum stood at the far end, watching silently as Taeyeon’s relatives all went forward to offer their condolences. He still didn’t really know why he was at Mr Lee’s funeral. That morning as he checked in for work, Jinki had thrown him a black suit and asked him to change.
“But Jinki, what’s this for?”
Jinki had smiled a little. “I’m headed for the funeral service, and I want you to come with me.”
Kibum did not know what it was about the look on Jinki’s face, and the tone of his voice, but he found himself agreeing to accompany Jinki.
So there he stood, knowing no one but Jinki and Taeyeon. Jinki had gone off to offer his condolences as well, and he had asked Kibum to come along, but Kibum felt like he should not. Thinking about what happened at the shoe store two days ago, Kibum felt that it would be best if he stayed away from Taeyeon for a while.
“Jinki,” Kibum called when Jinki returned.
“I know,” Jinki answered, “let’s go.”
Kibum thanked Jinki quietly, for it seemed like the older boy always knew what was on Kibum’s mind. He dropped Kibum off at his apartment building with a ‘good luck’ before driving off. Kibum inhaled deeply.
He had a shoe to finish.
16th July – 4:35 PM
Kibum and Taeyeon did not meet for yet another two weeks, although Kibum had very much hoped that she would drop by the shoe store. He waited for her every day, from when the first rays of sunlight would peek through the windows in the store, all the way until the store had been swallowed by the darkness of the night. He even went on the days he didn’t have to work, just in case Taeyeon came – he didn’t want to miss her.
Kibum sat glumly in the room, laughing bitterly to himself as the shoe box he had near his feet collected dust, literally, for there was a thin layer of dust upon its lid. And right at that moment when Kibum finally began to give up, the door swung open, and there stood Taeyeon. Her previously radiating beauty was hidden a little by tired eyes, but she smiled at the sight of Kibum.
“I didn’t think you’d be here,” Taeyeon remarked.
“I wouldn’t want to make the same mistake twice,” Kibum replied simply, “I have a gift for you.”
Kibum dusted off the shoe box and handed it to Taeyeon. “Happy birthday in advance,” Kibum smiled softly, “I hope you like it.”
Curious piqued on the girl’s facial features as she sat down on the ground to open her present. Carefully, she lifted out a pair of white wedges, with a small pink bow at the toe area and a long string of ribbon on the ankle area of each shoe that was to be wrapped around her leg, like a ballerina’s flats.
“Kibum, this,” Taeyeon was lost for words, “this is perfect.”
There was a pause.
“Did you do this yourself?”
Kibum looked at Taeyeon sheepishly. “Jinki gave me a few pointers, so it’s not all me.”
“But you designed it on your own didn’t you?” – Kibum nodded –“This is wonderful, Kibum, really. But, why are you passing it to me now? It would have been a nicer surprise had you given it to me at midnight you know?”
“I –” Kibum’s face fell, “I’m not attending your party.”
“What?!” Taeyeon placed her hands on her hips, “and why are you not coming?”
“I just don’t…” Kibum drifted off.
Taeyeon sighed, “fine. But don’t disappear off the face of the Earth again okay? Because if you do, I will kill you when you get back.”
Kibum managed a small smile, “I promise.”
17th July – 11:53 PM
Ever since the guests had started to arrive for Taeyeon’s party, Soojin had her eyes on only one man – Choi Minho. He was the son of the director of Choi Medical Facility, and no way was Soojin going to allow that hard-headed step-daughter of hers to marry him. She had other plans for him in mind. Just then, her daughters appeared behind her.
“Mother we’re bored,” Hyeyoung drawled.
“You promised us there’d be cute guys here!” Hyeyeon added, “But I don’t see any.”
With her hands on her hips, Soojin turned to her two babies. “Hush, now. Hyeyoung, I already have a husband for you in mind.”
The older of the two girls brightened at her mother’s words. “Really, Mother? Who is it?”
But when Soojin turned around, she could no longer see Minho. “Darn,” she muttered, “I lost him.”
While her back was turned, Minho had left the main building of the mansion, stepping out to the garden. There, he spotted a young girl sitting on the swing set. It was hard to see in the dark, but Minho could tell that she was absolutely beautiful. At first look, Minho knew that she had already captured his heart. Cautiously, he approached the girl.
“What would a fine young lady like you be doing out here?”
The girl turned to him, surprised. “I didn’t see you coming,” she stated plainly.
Unperturbed, Minho sat down on the swing next to hers. “Mind telling me your name, miss?”
The girl was silent for a while, drawing lines on the ground with her toes as she swung back and forth. “Lee Taeyeon,” she answered eventually.
Minho was taken aback, “isn’t this your party then?”
“Why aren’t you in there, celebrating?”
“I don’t know,” Taeyeon stopped swinging, “Something just doesn’t feel right to me.”
“Would you like to elaborate? I’m afraid I don’t quite catch your drift.”
Clutching the chain at the side of her swing, Taeyeon turned to face Minho. “It’s like, there’s this feeling in my gut telling me that I have to be somewhere else, but I don’t know where.”
Minho nodded, slowly comprehending her words. They could hear the guests in the mansion starting to countdown to Taeyeon’s birthday.
Taeyeon sighed loudly, returning to drawing patterns on the ground with her shoes. Shoes. All of a sudden, Taeyeon knew where it was that she had to be, and it was definitely not her party.
“I’m not Cinderella,” Taeyeon muttered. Determined, Taeyeon took off her shoes and passed them to Minho just as the cheers in the building signified that it was midnight.
“I have to go somewhere, so give them to your future girlfriend for me.” She smiled, “They’re size seven and a half by the way.”
Leaving behind a thoroughly confused Minho, Taeyeon ran back to the mansion to put on a pair of flats before running out of her house gates. The streets were empty, and Taeyeon ran with all her might, with only one person in mind.
18th July – 12:25 AM
The security guard seemed surprised to see a breathless young girl standing before him past midnight in a dress that was fit for a princess, asking which apartment belonged to Kim Kibum.
“Fifth floor,” he told her, “second to your right.”
Smiling slightly, Taeyeon thanked him before she made her way up the stairs to the fifth floor. As she reached the door to Kibum’s apartment, she stopped the brush her hair down, and try and straighten out the wrinkles on her dress. Taking in a deep breath, she pressed the doorbell. She heard noises from the apartment before the door swung open and she saw Kibum in his pajamas, hair all over the place.
“Taeyeon? What are you doing here?” Kibum’s voice was husky with sleep.
Laughing happily, Taeyeon hugged Kibum. “I ran away from my own party.”
Kibum pulled her by the shoulders. “What? Why would you do that?”
Taeyeon smiled sweetly, grabbing Kibum’s hand. “I don’t want to be Cinderella,” she whispered firmly, “I don’t want to marry the prince.”
“I want to marry the shoemaker.”
At that point, Kibum finally got what Taeyeon was trying to hint. Overjoyed, he picked the girl up in his arms.
“You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for you to say that.”
Taeyeon smiled sneakily, “Tell me then.”
“Ever since I first laid eyes on you,” Kibum whispered as he pressed their lips together, sealing their love in a perfect first kiss.