Shine Page 1

Author: Jessica Jung

Series: Shine #1

Genres: Young Adult


Head up, legs crossed. Tummy tucked, shoulders back. Smile like the whole world is your best friend. I repeat the mantra in my head as the camera pans across my face. The corners of my lips turn up in a perfectly sweet “don’t you want to tell me all your secrets” pink-glossed smile.

But you probably shouldn’t. You know how they say three can keep a secret if two of them are dead? Well, that couldn’t be truer for my world, where everyone is always watching and your secrets can actually kill you. Or, at least, they can kill your chance to shine.


* * *


“You girls must be thrilled!” The interviewer is a middle-aged man with oily, slicked-back hair and fair skin. He might have been handsome if his garish hot-pink satin tie and red shirt combo weren’t so distracting. He leans forward eagerly, his eyes gleaming at the nine girls seated before him, a sea of perfectly tousled beach waves and unblemished faces glowing from years of skin-brightening face masks, choreographed down to the angle of our sleekly crossed legs and the descending order of our pastel rainbow-hued stilettos. “Hitting number one at all the music shows, and with your debut music video no less! You’re one chart away from an All-Kill! How do you feel?”

“We couldn’t be more excited.” Mina jumps in eagerly, flashing her perfect teeth in a beaming smile. My face muscles ache as I stretch to match her.

“It’s a dream come true,” Eunji agrees before loudly popping her gum and blowing a huge strawberry-scented bubble.

“We’re so grateful for the opportunity to do this together,” Lizzie chimes in, her eyes practically glowing under layers of silvery eye shadow.

The interviewer’s eyes light up, and he leans in conspiratorially. “So you all get along? I mean, nine incredibly beautiful girls in one group. That can’t always be easy.”

Sumin gives a soft, effortless laugh, pursing her flawlessly lined bright-red lips. “Nothing is ever ‘always easy,’ ” she says. “But we’re family. And family comes first.” She links arms with Lizzie sitting next to her. “We belong together.”

The interviewer flutters a hand over his heart. “Just precious. And what do you love about working together?” His eyes travel slowly over the group, finally landing on me. “Rachel?”

My eyes immediately shift to the huge camera sitting behind the interviewer. I can feel the lens zooming in on me. Head up, legs crossed Tummy tucked, shoulders back. I’ve been preparing for this moment for years. I smile wide, turning the interviewer into my best friend. And my mind goes completely blank.

Say something, Rachel. Say anything. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. My hands have gone clammy, and I can sense the other girls start to shift uncomfortably in their seats as my silence fills the room. The camera feels like a spotlight—hot and prickly on my skin—as my mouth dries up, making it almost impossible to speak.

Finally, the interviewer sighs and takes pity on me. “You’ve all been through so much together—training for six years before making it big! Has the experience been everything you hoped it would be?” He smiles, lobbing me an easy question.

“Yes,” I manage to croak out, a smile still plastered on my face.

He continues. “And tell me a little more about what life was like as a trainee before your big girl-group debut. What was your favorite part of living in the trainee house?”

My mind spins around for an answer as I discreetly wipe the sweat off my hands and onto the leather seat beneath me. An idea pops into my head. “What else?” I say, lifting a hand, awkwardly wiggling my perfectly manicured fingers, all white and lavender stripes, toward the camera. “Eight girls to do your nails for you. It’s like living in a 24/7 nail salon!”

Omg. What is wrong with me? Did I really just say my favorite part of training was having eight girls to give me free manicures?

Luckily, the interviewer’s laughter booms loudly throughout the room, and I feel relief coursing through my body. Okay, I can do this. I giggle along with him, and the other girls quickly join in. He flashes his greasy smile at me. Uh-oh. “Rachel, you’ve received high praise for your talent as the lead vocalist. Do you find your talent inspires the other girls to do better, work harder?”

At this, I blush, putting my hands on my face to cover up the color rising in my cheeks. My head starts buzzing again. I’ve practiced answering these questions a million times, but every time I get in front of that camera, I freeze. The lights, the interviewers, the knowledge that millions of people out there are watching me. It’s like my brain disconnects from my body, and no amount of practice or preparation can make the two come together again. My throat fills with a lump the size of a golf ball, and I notice the interviewer’s smile growing more and more frozen on his face. Crap How long has he been waiting for me to answer? Quickly, I blurt out, “I mean—I am talented.” Out of the side of my eye I notice Lizzie and Sumin glance at each other, eyebrows lifted. Shit. “Wait, but not the most talented. I mean, well, the group—all the girls. We all—”

“I think what Rachel means to say is we all love what we do, and we inspire each other every day,” Mina cuts in smoothly. “Speaking as lead dancer of the group, I know I learned a lot from my father about a strong work ethic—”

She’s cut off by the sharp ringing of the class bell over the speaker system. The cameras click off and the interviewer’s smile wilts off his face. He takes his time, slowly peeling off his suit jacket to reveal huge sweat stains darkening the satin under his arms as the nine of us—some of the top K-pop trainees at DB Entertainment—wait for our mock-interview media assessment. “I’d like to see a little bit more energy for next week—remember, the only difference between a trainee and a DB K-pop star is how much you want it! Eunji…” She looks at him, eyes wide and scared. “How many times do I have to tell you, no bubble gum during mock interviews! One more violation and I’m sending you straight back to newbie classes.” Eunji’s face turns pale, and she bows her head low. “Sumin! Lizzie!” Their heads snap up. “More personality from both of you! No one’s paying two hundred thousand won for a K-pop concert full of stars who use makeup to hide the fact that they have nothing interesting to say.” Lizzie looks like she’s about to cry, and Sumin’s bright-red lips match the blush blooming on her cheeks. Finally, he turns to me and in almost a bored voice says, “Rachel, we’ve been over this before. Your singing and dancing is some of the best we’ve ever seen, but that’s only part of the job. If you can’t even sell yourself to me during a training interview, how do you expect to perform in front of huge crowds every night? Or do real interviews with live audiences? We expect more from you.” He gives us a curt nod before walking out of the training room, shaking a cigarette from his front pocket.

I practically melt off the tiny stool I’ve been sitting on for the past hour, my smile fading away as I massage out the stiletto-induced cramp in my right leg. I’ve heard it all before. Do better, Rachel. Get comfortable in front of the camera, Rachel. K-pop stars must be lovable, eloquent, and perfect at all times, Rachel. I let out a grunt of pain as I twist around to pull on my Converses. Mina glares at me from her seat.