I was working in my office when I heard someone barge in. I looked up to see Michelle walking over to me.
"Hee Soo ssi, I'm so sorry to hear about your mother," she said, dragging me off my chair and hugging me. "How are you holding up?"
"Are you sure?" she asked, still holding me. "I just came back from my vacation to hear such news. I wish I could have been here sooner. I'm so sorry," she said regretfully.
I shook my head. "It's okay."
She let go of me and peered into my face. "How's your family doing?"
I sent her a tight smile. "As well as can be expected."
"And the funeral?"
"It was fine – it went smoothly." I'd pretty much had that conversation with every colleague I'd run into since I returned to work so I was pretty much already tired of telling people how well the funeral had gone. "Everything went as planned."
"I'm glad," she said sadly. "If you need anything, you know where to find me."
"Of course, I do," I said before sitting back in my chair. I'd assumed that that was the end of our conversation but apparently, she still had something to say because she'd suddenly begun to glare at me. "What?
"Hee Soo ssi," she said, folding her arms, "what is this I'm hearing about you being at work last week?"
I sighed. The company provided every employee 5 bereavement days so everyone had been shocked to see me back so soon. I shrugged. "I had a lot of work to do."
Her frown deepened. "What kind of work couldn't wait? You should have taken all your days especially when you think about how many nights you stay late." She sighed. "You really work too much."
I shrugged. "It's work, right?" Besides, being at work was a welcome distraction in my life. If I was working, I didn't have time to think. And if I didn't think, I didn't have to feel and for once, it was nice to have a good reason for not feeling.
Later that day, I was going over an article a friendly client had sent to me when I heard another knock at my door. I looked up to see my boss, Mr. Chu walking into my office.
"Hi," I said without getting up from my chair. Even though our company was very professional and we had to wear suits to work everyday, our intra-office relationships were very informal.
He sat down in the guest chair and shook his head. "Kim Hee Soo, what are we going to do with you?"
My heart race picked up. "What do you mean?"
"From what I hear, you haven't been leaving till around 10pm?"
I groaned. Who knew that that kind-looking old security guard was really a blabbermouth? "I just have a lot of work to do."
"Like what, Hee Soo? The work with SHG should have subsided by now. Or do they keep making requests that you're not logging in?"
I shook my head. "No, I am just making up for lost time with my other clients."
"But why do you have to do that? Weren't those projects taken care off? Are you saying that your colleagues didn't do a good job in your absence? Is there a backlog of work that wasn't done?"
I shook my head. I wasn't quite satisfied with some of the work that had been done and therefore was making tweaks here and there but on the other hand, it would have been unfair to say that their work had been unsatisfactory least of all as claiming that would put their jobs in jeopardy. "Everything is fine."
"Then what's the problem, Hee Soo?"
I pursed my lips.
The conversation ended with him telling me that he was worried that I'd burn out at the job and him ordering me to take all my bereavement days and 3 weeks of the numerous vacation days I'd stored up since I joined the company. Basically, he didn't want to see my face for almost a month.
"Are you sure you don't want to come out?" Hyun Su asked as I walked him to the door.
I nodded. It was my second day of staying at home and after I'd received an email from my boss ordering to me to disconnect from our company's server, I literally had nothing to do. I tried to watch television but goodness gracious, how did housewives keep from tearing their hair out? It was just junk after junk after junk and browsing the internet hadn't been that much fun, either. I'd been about ready to log off when I had a light bulb moment and decided to search for a British sitcom I'd started watching while I'd worked in Australia and luckily, I was able to find whole streaming episodes. I was half-way through my fourth episode when Hyun Su showed up with two huge jugs of orange juice. It was his favorite non-alcoholic drink and since the only thing he could find in our fridge was water, he'd decided to bring some over. I would have welcomed the distraction if he hadn't walked in at the moment one of the show's characters was about to embarrass himself halfway to Buckingham Palace.
"Are you sure you won't change your mind?" he asked, giving me his puppy dog eyes.
I laughed. "I'm really not in the mood to slap on some make up and go out."
He looked me over. "You look fine the way you are now. Just come out and meet my friends – you haven't stepped out of your apartment all day."
He did have a point but if I walked out with him, instead of being gracious with his friends, I'd be spending my time thinking about how Jeff was going to get out of his boss's bedroom. "Maybe some other time? How long are they in town for?"
"Till next weekend."
I shrugged. "So no biggie. I'll see them another day, okay?" I said, stretching my arms out to hug him.
He sighed. "You will come out on Saturday, right?" he asked, giving me a quick hug back.
I laughed. "Definitely, but I can't guarantee there'd be any orange juice left the next time you're here."
He adopted a stern look. "Don't touch it," he warned, wagging his finger jokingly.
"Yes, sir. I won't touch it but I can't guarantee that Yun Ah will be as good."
And as if she'd heard her name, at that moment, Yun Ah walked in. "Hi," she greeted us.
Their exchange at the door had been a little awkward because even though she'd greeted him, in a weird way, it also seemed like she wasn't really acknowledging him, kind of the way you say hello to random neighbors on your way to work – you greet them without really seeing them. The worst part was that was how she acted every time she saw him.
Shortly after he left, I walked over to her room. "Yun Ah, do you have a problem with Hyun Su?"
"Why would I?" she asked, kicking her shoes off and jumping on her bed.
I frowned. "I don't know. Maybe it's because you always seem to have an attitude when you see him and you're never really friendly."
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
"No, Yun Ah, not whatever. Has he ever done anything to you?"
She sat up. "Look, it's just that I think you're wasting your time with him so why should I spend my time getting to know him? I don't get why you're dating someone you have no future with."
I smirked. "You're one to talk and who says I don't have a future with him?"
"Okay, I admit it, in the past I did date random guys but now I know the difference and I guess it upsets me to see you repeating my mistakes."
I shook my head. She knew the difference? Why was she beginning to sound like one of those annoying married women who just thought they knew everything when it came to relationships? And half the time, they were the very people getting beat up by their spouses behind closed doors.
"Hee Soo, I'm sorry that I'm not becoming chummy with him but I guess I just don't think it's going to last," she finished with a flair.
I wanted to punch the superior look off her face. "What the fu.ck is your problem?"
"What the fu.ck is yours?" she asked angrily.
"What are you talking about?" Had she suddenly lost her mind?
"I'm talking about you and Ji Tae. Hasn't he already proven that he cares about you? Hasn't he been there for your family? Isn't that enough to forgive him for something he did when you were both teenagers?"
Talk about randomness. "Why are you suddenly bringing this sh.it up? Not only is there nothing left between us, have you forgotten that he already has a girlfriend?"
"He has a girlfriend because you threw him at her!"
What da freakikity freak? I inhaled and decided that arguing with her was just not worth my energy. "Look, I don't have time for this. And I might as well tell you that I've decided to move out."
Her jaw dropped. "What?"
I'd toyed with the idea in the past few days. Since I was being completely unproductive at home, I figured I could probably be useful at my parents' house. Plus I could already see that it would be a good idea to get some space from Yun Ah... not that she didn't already give me plenty. After work, if she wasn't in acting class, she was hanging out with Han Bi so we didn't really get to see each other as much as we used to and if she was suddenly going to get high and mighty with me especially after ditching me for my friend, then fu.ck her. Who needed to be around all that bullsh.it?
I was lying on the couch trying to get some rest from all that moving when I heard the key turn in the lock. "Hey, Appa," I called, sitting up. But instead of seeing my father, I saw a tall, toned body. What the hell? I sprang off the couch.
Park Ji Tae? "What are you doing here?" I asked right before I saw Jin Soo walk in behind him in his school uniform. "Where's my father?"
He furrowed his brows. "He's at work. You didn't know?"
"That I now pick Jin Soo up from school."
WHAAAAAAAAAT?!?! I pinched myself. There was no way I wasn't dreaming. I was going to have to see him everyday? After the conversation I'd had with Yun Ah the day before, the last person I needed to see was him. I must have misheard what he said, right?"
"Ehm… did you just say that you were going to be bringing Jin Soo home everyday?"
He nodded. "Every school day. Yes."
I rubbed my left temple. "And you've been doing this since…?"
"Since last week." He narrowed his eyes and stared at me.
"And you normally drop him off then leave him all by himself?"
He looked at me like I was crazy. "Of course not. I usually work from here," he said, showing me his laptop, "and leave when your father returns."
"I see." I looked at the wall clock and calculated that he usually spent about two hours at my house. My heartbeat suddenly picked up pace. Did that mean that we were supposed to hang out for two hours? And what were we supposed to talk about in all that time? I shook my head. There was no way that was going work. I sent him a bright smile. "Ji Tae ssi, you don't have to do that anymore since I've moved back in."
"You've moved back in? You're now living here?" He looked surprised.
"No one mentioned it?"
"Jin Soo said something about you being at home but I didn't think he meant you'd moved back."
"Yeah," I said, nodding. "I'm back so you don't have to pick Jin Soo up anymore. I'm taking some time off from work so I'm completely free. So don't bother yourself anymore."
"It wasn't a bother but okay," he said looking a little bummed. "Are you sure you don't need my help anymore?"
I smiled brightly at him. "Yeah, we'll be fine so don't worry, okay?"
"Okay," he said reluctantly. "I guess I should be leaving." He handed me the keys. "Would you mind if I said a quick goodbye to Jin Soo?"
I shook my head. Of course I didn't. And boy was I pleased that that had been so much easier than I'd expected.
"Appa, how come you didn't tell me that Ji Tae was picking Jin Soo up from school?" I asked him the minute he got back from work.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I completely forgot," he said dismissively.
"But why did you ask him to do it when you could have asked me? Or even Mi Soo? Why must we keep involving him in our matters?"
My father sighed then plopped on the couch. He looked like he'd had a long day. "What exactly is the problem?"
"There's no problem but isn't it a little shameless to be relying on him? He has his own life to lead."
He sighed. "Look, he asked if there was anything he could do for us and told him there wasn't."
"Then he remembered that your mother used to pick you up from school and asked if he could do that for Jin Soo. I initially refused but he looked like he really wanted to do something so I let him. Do you have a problem with that?"
"It's not that I have a problem but it's unnecessary especially as you could have asked me."
He raised his brow."Really? I know you're very busy so I didn't want anything to affect that."
"But I'm not working now."
"What about last week?"
"Appa…," I started to say then sighed. "Appa, I am free now so there's no need for him to come anymore."
"I know you might not like it but it's not permanent. We all have our little issues to work through so let him do this for a while, okay? It'll only be for a while. Okay?"
I nodded. It didn't look like there'd ever be a good time to tell him that Ji Tae had already been relieved of his duties so I decided to just keep my mouth shut.