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Worlds Apart

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“Just get it done”

Mr Kim had had enough today. He shoved some papers into his brown leather briefcase, flipped the clasps and rolled the numbers on the lock. His royal blue Gucci suit jacket was snatched off the back of his chair and as the heavy black leather office chair spun around from the force, he shrugged the jacket onto his shoulders and marched across the room to the frosted glass door, which he promptly swung open and walked through, leaving his PA trotting behind him.

There were some days where he could happily accept that he shouldn’t have left his penthouse apartment and entertained the day… this was one of those. The elevator was hot and stuffy (he made a mental note to ensure the air conditioning was turned up), full of people that smiled and nodded, they all said ‘hello’ because the rumours were that he would fire them if they didn’t. He didn't have time for rumours and he is a believer in 'actions speak louder than words' so he let people believe what they wanted to. His sigh was one of disdain, his eye roll was because people bored him, even his friends were so wrapped up in their careers that no one had fun anymore.

Mr Kim was the CEO of the largest advertising company in at least four states, Seoul and Europe. He was worth more dead than alive or that is what everyone told him and he always felt indifferent to it when someone said it. He worked 16 hour days, lived alone and ate takeaway food whilst working at the desk in his home office when he was actually at home. He made time for his friends when they were free and for the functions and events that required him to attend. There was a time when he cleared his schedule to take a few days break but as of late, that hadn't been possible due to his workload. He didn’t have time for anything else but the money in his bank account, his luxurious penthouse, the red ferrari, the ridiculously expensive suits and holidays cruising on his private yacht (when he had time) made it all worthwhile. He could pay a high class escort to accompany him whenever he needed a plus one and then not have to worry about seeing them again after that. His life was convenient and he had complete control over all of it… or so he thought.

Today he’d left his car at home because one of the new advertising campaigns the company was working on was about a journey. A new drama was due to air and it was about a homeless man and a prince who swap places for a month and it got him thinking. He rarely did anything ‘normal’ that the average person did every day of their lives, he’d never bought a hotdog from a street vendor, never needed to run for a bus or hail a cab. The life he’d lived was one of privilege so it became a personal challenge to tick things off of a bucket list that money couldn't buy… getting the subway was the first thing on said list.

This morning he cheated, asking his PA to pick him up and as he’d climbed into the bog standard Ford, he almost conceded this as part of the challenge. The soap and sanitizer were used several times once he was in his office, then he checked his suit over, just as often, it was a natural reaction and one he didn't really give much thought, even when his PA gave him a look because he guessed what he was doing. He liked his PA, didn’t want the hassle of interviews if his PA decided to resign but he rarely saw his actions as wrong, even if he could probably agree that he was a snob at times, his friends were snobs too and he was surrounded by highbrow people. The people around him and the circles he mixed in meant his actions were normal... to him and his world. Being born with a silver spoon in your mouth was great but in the last year or so he’d started to realise that perhaps his life was a little too sheltered. The icing on the cake was watching the new drama and seeing the complete contrast between the prince and the pauper. Challenges were part of his everyday life, he’d challenged himself to buy up every large advertising firm within a certain radius and he achieved that. The challenge to trend for 48 hours solid on Twitter was also achieved faster than expected, along with everything he set his sights on. Mr Kim Taehyung always aimed high, it was drummed into him from a young age when second place was always considered as failure and winning was always the only option. He was a cut throat business man who earned every ounce of his reputation and deserved the riches he possessed. There were elements of his reputation that were not deserved, he treated his staff well and his heart was always in the right place, even if sometimes it wasn't logical or easy to understand, so any rumours that contradicted this were undeserved.

He was questioning his decision right now though, as he walked down the steps into the subway, shifting his upper body sharply in order to avoid touching members of the public. His repugnance was evident when he had to operate the ticket machine, pulling a small bottle of sanitizer out of his pocket as soon as he had his ticket in his hand. It was humid and sticky underground, the air smelt of something abhorrent and there were far too many people for his liking, wishing very much that he was in his ferrari or in the back of an air conditioned limousine.

Once he found the platform he needed, he removed his suit jacket and slung it over his arm, holding it close to his body because it was worth a small fortune. There were so many different kinds of people rushing about, many in very little clothing due to the heat. The trains that he was pull into the station were crammed with bodies, people pushing and shoving, sweating and breathing on each other and it filled him with dread. He looked inquisitively around him as he tried to work out where the singing was coming from, a sweet angelic voice drifting through the suffocating atmosphere. He strained to listen but there was too much noise and he couldn’t quite get the sense of direction but the hairs prickled on the back of his neck as he tried to drown out the background noise.

Mr Kim took a few steps in the direction of where he thought the singing was coming from and in the distance could just make out a young man sitting against the wall, moving his head from side to side as he sang the melody. He didn’t recognise the song but was intrigued by the man’s voice, wondering why someone with such talent was sitting on the floor of a dirty subway station. He didn’t have time to think though because there was a rush of wind and his train approached, drowning out any other sound around him. He looked quickly towards the train which had a couple of carriages that appeared to be emptier than some he'd seen previously, head darting back to the busker, he couldn't take the risk of waiting for another train and desperately needed to get home so walked quickly, making it just in time as the doors closed.

**

He woke the next morning slumped over his desk, his mouth crusty from the drool that dried at some point in the few hours he'd been asleep. After showering, covering his body in lotion, applying a very minute amount of cologne to his pulse points and opting for the grey Versace three piece suit with matching tie, he was nearly ready to take on the day. He brushed his hair, noting that he was probably due a trim because he wasn't so keen when the dark chocolate coloured tips reached beyond the middle of his ear, he liked it shorter than that, with his fringe covering his eyebrows. He often straightened it because his friends commented that it looked unkempt when it was wavy and when one of your friends is a supermodel and another is a stylist to the stars, you undoubtedly listen to them.

Every one of his close friends attended the same junior, middle and high school, were from equally high class families and they were one elitist gang. Seokjin (known to his friends as Jin) is a Supermodel who travelled the world, was paid unbelievable sums of money just to walk the runway in a city like Milan whilst being told he had to abstain from large food portions to enable him to squeeze into the ridiculously overpriced outfit they wanted him to wear. Jin was a hotel snob along with clothing and champagne, if it wasn't the best then you'd better not offer it to him. He could be quite cutting with his opinions but he always stood by the notion that 'honesty is the best policy' no matter what it is.

Namjoon (aka Joon) is an interior designer with such an eye for detail that many celebrities hired him when renovating their luxurious homes. He had a love for art and all things made of natural wood, seeking out the best carpenters and tradesmen to make his vision a reality. He could make any space fit for royalty at the right price, his snobbery rearing its head when checking for a label on upholstery and judging accordingly. His memory wasn't great, he often appeared to be quite clumsy outside of his work but he didn't have time to be reckless when he was dealing with someone's home or the set of a movie.

The stylist and complete Queen of the group is Jimin (affectionately known as Mochi by his friends and Mini by his partner), he was the over dramatic one who would cause a scene if your shoes didn't match your bag. He is the fashion King (and Queen, rolled into one), he knew everything there was to know about designers, hair and make up. He was in high demand on awards nights and the celebrity that hired him for Oscar night paid nothing short of a small fortune. He put the 'S' in snob and was the first to admit it. Jimin also had a big heart for anyone who he deemed worthy of seeing that side of him and you knew it if you weren't seen as worthy.

Yoongi, the world famous rapper ‘Honsool’, named himself because he went through a very dark phase in his life and buried his head in a bottle of extortionately priced whiskey, drinking alone every day. After going off the rails, some extremely expensive therapy, he poured everything into his music, had a hit album and confessed his love for his lifelong friend, Jimin which got him to where he was today. His grounded and robust nature made him a complete contrast to his theatrical stylist boyfriend but they worked. Yoongi (aka Yoon) was less of a snob than his friends but the scotch whiskey had to be aged to perfection and his jewelry had to weigh a ton.

The happiest member of their elite group is Hoseok (known as Hobi or Seok by most), he masked his snobbery with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. He owned the biggest dance school in the state, the company name was renowned and even had its own clothing line. ‘EGO’ was printed on leotards, leggings, t-shirts and accessories too and was responsible for scouting many of the celebrities that graced Broadway and Hollywood. It cost a fortune to attend but recently he started a scholarship programme which was heavily sought after. Hobi was an all round snob but you never knew whether he was being serious because he always said it with a laugh.

They were a formidable bunch and their reputations preceded them with most venues in the area bending over backwards for them when they booked a table. There were literally a few venues that were good enough for them, Jimin always complained about the staff uniform, Namjoon wasn’t keen on the decor and Tae wasn’t happy if he wasn’t responsible for their advertising. It all made life a little difficult but it could be a task to get them all together at certain times of the year due to Jin usually being half way across the world on a catwalk somewhere.

**

Taehyung instantly regretted his decision to use the subway when he was three steps from the bottom and the grotesquely warm air hit him. He hated being hot, he hated sweating, he was born in a well air conditioned, spotlessly clean, sterile hospital suite and that was how he lived his life. The dirty arid atmosphere of the underground station made one side of his top lip curl and he could confidently say he despised it.

One of his qualities was the fact that he could learn from a situation and improve on it, he was the perfect student who only made a mistake once, if he made one at all. Taehyung was a complete perfectionist and would always get to the level of perfection he desired until such a time when the bar was raised and he needed to readjust and improve further. Yesterday’s lesson was regarding the ticket machine and today he pulled a disposable glove from his pocket, slid his hand inside then once he had his ticket he could remove the glove, turn it inside out and wait to find a bin. Lesson learned, clean hands and the use of sanitizer was purely to make him feel that bit better instead of being a necessity as it had been yesterday.

Whilst walking along the platform he listened out for that angelic voice he’d heard yesterday, the main reason he was back today. He considered the possibility that the young man might only appear in the late afternoons and evenings to catch the rush hour for commuters and later on, those that are heading out for the night. There was no sign of him this morning, just an empty spot where he’d been sitting yesterday which was annoying because it meant he was definitely going to have to catch the train home today too, a thought he didn't relish.

His work day was full and he knew he wouldn’t be getting away early and depending on how long the final meeting dragged on for, he might just have to ask the company driver to take him home. He felt quite disgusting as he walked from the subway to his building, he didn’t much like walking either.

“Good morning Sir, Mr Kim.” the security guard said as the doors slid open and Taehyung walked into the crisp air of the lobby. He nodded at the security guard, he didn’t really speak to the staff very often, let alone on days when he felt gross after catching a train.

It seemed to take forever for the elevator to arrive, stepping inside and hearing the usual greetings from a variety of staff whom he didn’t know. Once he’d chosen an employee at interview and instructed his PA to send the email offering them the job, he didn’t see them again, leaving the training to those managers responsible for that. He only met with the department managers once a month so didn’t really know them either, unless he’d had to fire one and get a replacement. Taehyung didn’t mix business with pleasure, he paid these people to do a job and to assist him in making his company what it was. He had absolutely zero desire to socialise with these people or make idle chit chat because he quite simply didn’t give a shit, even though he always made sure that as employees, they were well looked after. There were a couple of exceptions though, like when one of the managers graduated after taking on a degree whilst never once letting his workload suffer and when the lady on reception became pregnant after years of fertility treatment. He liked to offer congratulations to those staff on such occasions because he appreciated how hard they had worked and the fact that they’d never given up, was something he admired. Life wasn’t easy for some, that he understood but some people had fight inside them and he was appreciative of those kind of traits. Just last week one of the security guards was given the all clear of a medical condition and Taehyung thought the man was very brave to have endured the treatment he’d had. There was a small amount of humanity inside him but it wasn’t always obvious and he didn’t make a big deal out of it because he preferred for his employees to have an element of fear, being their friend would just muddy the waters. Instead he gave the man an overnight stay in a luxury hotel for him and his partner, all expenses paid at a spa resort because he considered that the man probably hadn't relaxed throughout the course of his treatment and awaiting results. The employee was surprised but incredibly thankful for the gesture having not expected anything at all and being grateful purely because his boss had kept him in a job throughout his ordeal so financially he'd needed never to worry.

Once in his office, his air conditioned space, he washed up in the ensuite bathroom that housed a shower cubicle, sink and toilet. There wasn’t time for a shower but a quick splash of water and a wipe over with some refreshing wipes would have to do for now. It didn’t prevent him from feeling disgusting but it was an improvement on an hour ago when he felt positively grotesque.

There was a tap on the frosted glass door and he shouted “Enter” as he placed his suit jacket on a hook on the wall and took a seat in his big leather chair.

“Good morning Sir, Mr Kim.” his PA was cute.

“Stefan, please call me one or the other.”

Taehyung liked his PA, he had impressed him greatly at the interview and in the year since he’d employed him, he hadn’t let him down. Stefan was 21, looked fresh out of nappies and had a hunger to succeed. The plan hadn’t been to take someone on who was so young but his previous PA was leaving on good terms so offered to stick around and show him the ropes. Stefan was fresh out of business school so learned fast and was grateful for the opportunity.

“Yes, sorry, Mr Kim.”

Stefan sat down in the chair on the other side of the desk and started tapping away on the tablet screen that he held in his lap. He was very attractive and Taehyung would have been lying if he said it wasn’t a positive to having him around.

“Is there anything I need to know?”

“No, Mr Kim. You have your schedule for today and there hasn’t been any adjustments to that. There is an issue with the conference call with Germany on Friday but until that is resolved, I don’t think you need to know as I will need to amend your schedule is necessary.”

“What’s the issue?”

“Moonchild have been hesitating because they want the job to be done for less money.”

“Do they now? I am positive that a friend of mine is due to appear at their show in Paris in a couple of weeks. I will contact him and find out because I’m sure they wouldn’t be so happy if he suddenly withdrew his attendance.”

“Is there anything you would like me to do today?”

“I may need a car this evening so if you could contact the driver and make sure he is aware that would be useful. Also, the director of that drama is coming in this afternoon but I have that meeting in the boardroom so if you could have someone meet him, please.”

“Is the director coming in to look at the slides for the advert?”

“Yes.”

“I will arrange that as soon as I finish here. Would you like me to bring you lunch today?”

“Have lunch delivered at 2pm. I should have 10 minutes to eat it, providing the meeting before that doesn’t go over time.”

Stefan nodded and confirmed his order of kimbap, then left the office to make tea, leaving Taehyung to phone Jin.

“What are you after?” were the first words uttered by Jin.

“How offensive, can’t a guy phone his friend without an ulterior motive?” Tae had 10 minutes before his meeting so didn’t have time to mess about.

“What do you want, Tae?”

“Are you due to appear at that Moonchild show in Paris?”

“Yes, why? Are they causing you trouble?”

“They want to opt for lower quality advertising to get a cheaper deal.”

“That’s probably because all of their money is caught up in this show. The label needs this new line to flourish or the word is that they will go under.”

“How will lowering the quality of advertising achieve that? That is ludicrous. I know we can’t be beaten on price for what we are offering though so taking a gamble on a deal that will be cheaper won’t be positive for them.”

“I’ll throw a supermodel tantrum, it will be fine. If they choose a bad advertising agency to save money, I will be featured so it could affect my reputation too. I’ll just tell them that unless the advertising is top notch, I’m out.”

“Supermodel tantrum, huh?”

“I can flounce with the best of them and I only have to phone Jimin for a tutorial if needed.”

Tae scoffed at his friend, he knew what he was saying was correct “Look, I’ve got to go but let me know when you are back in town.”

“Yeah, yeah. Should be next month depending on whether I go to Paris or not.”

“Great. Thanks, Jin.”

He hung up the phone, pressing the speaker button to end the call. He always forgot which button was the one that ended the call and was convinced that one day he would say something he shouldn’t and the call would still be active. He preferred using his mobile phone because the contraption in the office was complicated and he didn’t use half the buttons. Thankfully it wasn’t important enough to warrant too much thought and he kept the instructions in his drawer just in case.

Before heading off to the meeting, a few rooms away from his office, he checked his emails and saw one from Jin that said ‘incoming’. He didn’t have time to reply and ask what on earth he was talking about but as he passed Stefan’s desk on his way along the corridor, only to be told that the conference call on Friday was going ahead as planned, it all made sense and he smiled to himself.

**

The day was a successful one and with the previous meeting finishing on time, Taehyung decided to take the train home. It was a similar time to yesterday so his theory was that the busker should be there and his plan was to actually stand and listen properly this time instead of taking the first empty train that arrived. His love for music began when his Mother would sing to him as a baby, her voice was classically trained and the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard, so hearing the tone of the man’s voice yesterday certainly caught his attention.

He was incredibly grateful that he’d purchased a return ticket this morning because even with a glove, he didn’t really like touching the ticket machine or standing in the queue of people who were usually sweating and heavy breathing far too close to him. The barriers allowed him past and he was pleasantly surprised by the lack of passengers because he saw the young busker before he heard him this time but as he started the next song, that same angelic tone he heard yesterday danced through the unclean air. He walked closer so he could hear properly, without the sounds of the underground tarring the hypnotising vocals. The man was sitting cross legged on the floor, a bucket hat concealed the top half of his face as he moved his head from side to side and clicked his fingers to give himself a beat.

Taehyung looked down at him, noticing the feeble number of coins dusting the interior of the plastic container placed in front of him. He removed some notes from his wallet and rolled them up, tying the cylinder of money with an elastic band and dropped it into the tub. The man didn’t seem to notice as he started another song and Tae wondered if he had his eyes closed, lost in the melody. A third train pulled into the station and Taehyung decided he should go, he could feel the droplets of perspiration on his neck and back which made him feel revolting. He didn’t want to disturb the young man but was intrigued as to why he was busking and not performing on a stage somewhere. He turned to leave, chastising himself because he knew he would probably have to come back, he wasn’t overly keen on unanswered questions, becoming a bit like a dog with a bone until he was satisfied. Mysteries were not something he was a fan of because he likened it to mental torture if he couldn’t solve it or at least find an explanation that he could live with…. Therefore he knew he would be back, unfortunately.

“Sir!”

Taehyung was startled when a hand grabbed his arm and a short, sharp voice shouted ‘Sir’ at him. He stopped and turned back towards the busker who was standing now, he couldn’t see his eyes properly because of the hat and looked down at the hand gripping his arm with a look of utter contempt.

“Do you mind?” he couldn’t quite believe the audacity of the man.

“Sorry, but you dropped this” the man held out the bundle of neatly rolled notes, letting go of Taehyung’s arm.

“I know I did, that’s usually what people do isn’t it? Drop money into your container?”

The man laughed “Well, yes, but not that much they don’t.”

By now the train was gone and another was approaching “Not everyone has that much to dispose of.”

Taehyung was desperate for a shower and the humidity was stifling. He wondered how anyone could be dressed in black and wearing a hat whilst actually being able to breathe, let alone sing as the young man had been. As the train stopped at the platform he walked away and through its doors, choosing to stand because he dreaded to think how dirty the seats were. The train doors closed and he watched the man put the money in his pocket and for the first time he got a glimpse of the face that would invade his dreams as the busker removed his hat and ran a hand through his hair.