"Guess who just walked in?" Yun Ah whispered to me.
I looked around and of course, there Ji Tae was. He was looking around the room and it was obvious that he was hoping to see a familiar face. I turned around to frown at Yun Ah but she'd already turned away and was saying something to Han Bi who was standing at the other side of her. I rolled my eyes and wondered why she'd bothered to invite Ji Tae to a party filled with people he barely knew if she wasn't going to play hostess.
I dropped the plate I was holding and walked towards him. If he had no one to talk to, I figured that I might as well speak to him and tell him what was on my mind. I saw his eyes widen slightly on seeing me which made sense because judging from our last few encounters, the last thing he'd expected to see was me walking to him.
I waved as I approached him just so that he could be sure that he was in fact my target.
"Hi," he said when I stopped by his side. "It looks like a nice party." He smiled. "I think I actually recognize some of these people. I didn't think I'd see so many people from high school."
"Well, you were right – most of these people didn't attend our school."
He looked around the room again. "Really?"
"Yes. You probably recognize them from television."
"I'm sorry?" He was completely confused.
I chuckled. "Ha Jin, Ki Won's girlfriend is an actress. She's usually on game shows and has bit parts in dramas but she just landed her first big role playing the conniving ex-girlfriend on a drama."
"Oh. That's interesting. So what--"
"Why are you asking people about me?" I asked, cutting to the chase. I hadn't exactly walked across the room to have small talk.
I sighed. "I am talking about Yun Ah. Why did you ask her about me?"
He made a face. "Oh, she told you, huh?"
"What did you expect?" I glared at him and waited for his answer. After a few seconds, I averted my eyes. Why did I still find this guy, this person who'd dumped me so mercilessly ages ago, attractive? What was wrong with me? I pinched myself to remember what pain felt like. "Loo—"
He inched closer to me. "Look Hee Soo, we need to talk," he whispered. His expression was both soft and serious.
I was about to tell him that we had nothing to talk about when I was interrupted by the sound of clinking glasses. Both of us turned towards the stage.
"Hello everyone and thanks for coming to celebrate our three year anniversary with us!" Ki Won announced.
The room erupted with applause.
"But we have a secret," he said, smiling at his girlfriend. She smiled back at him and nodded. "Honey, do you want to tell them what it is?" he asked her.
"We are getting married!" she screamed.
There were a few gasps in the room although it really didn't come as a surprise because everyone who knew them expected them to end up walking down the aisle.
"So everyone, raise your glasses and congratulate us!" Ki Won yelled.
I walked away from Ji Tae just as the room was once again filled with applause and cheers.
I went up to Ki Won and spread my arms apart. "Congratulations!"
He moved closer to me and hugged me. If the girls at school could see him now, they'd probably faint because being in love seemed to do wonders for his looks. I stood back and glared at him.
He laughed. "What's that look for?"
"I'm happy that you're getting married but couldn't you think of me first?"
"How can you be getting married before me? That's just not right," I joked.
He doubled over in laughter then called Ha Jin.
"What?" she asked, after excusing herself from the person she'd been speaking to. "What's wrong with him?" she asked me.
"All I did was ask your fiancé why he was getting married before me. Is it fair to make me feel so old?"
She was still giggling when I hugged her and congratulated her as well. By the time we were done, Ki Won had regained his sanity. He pulled his girlfriend and slung his arm around her shoulders. "Well, since I've found the person I want to be with, there's no need to wait," he said before planting a kiss on her cheek.
Couldn't they just get a room?
I was dancing with Eun Hye when Han Bi came to get her. "You've been monopolizing my daughter for too long," he said, taking her hand.
I frowned. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself? How could you bring her here? She's the only person under 20 in here."
"As I told you, I couldn't get a babysitter and my parents already had plans."
"Well, I haven't finished dancing with her," I said, swinging her arms to the music. "You still want to dance with Aunty, right?" I asked her.
She shook her head. "No. I want to go with Appa."
I frowned. Children of nowadays were so ungrateful. I let go of her and wondered what the next step would be.
The thing about getting past a certain age was that everyone just seemed to be coupled up. In high school and even college, you could easily go to a party and hang out with your single friends. But after a certain age, if you were single, you either found yourself hanging out with people in serious relationships or at the singles' corner with desperate guys who were looking for someone easy to take home.
I scanned the hall for a corner I could go to. Even though Ki Won and I were still friends, we weren't as close as we once were so I didn't know a lot of people at the party. Yun Ah was occupied with Han Bi and Eun Hye and just as I'd resigned myself to sitting at a singles' table, I heard someone call my name.
I turned around to see a face that was barely familiar. Since he knew my name, I smiled brightly at him, hoping I didn't look like I was racking my brain to remember him.
"Will you like to dance?" he asked.
So I had two choices: dancing with a vaguely familiar cute guy or sitting at a table filled with strange, single horny guys. The choice was obviously clear so I nodded.
We'd been dancing for a few minutes when he said, "I'm sorry Hee Soo, I have to leave now. My girlfriend is giving me the signal so I think it's time for us to go home," he said, looking behind me.
He stepped aside and of course as these things happen, Ji Tae was standing there.
"Dance?" he asked.
Did I want to dance with him? I decided not to think too much about it and just dance. After all, the vaguely familiar guy had already gotten me in the mood. Besides, it was a fast song so I didn't even have to face him and dance. I could just dance any which way I wanted but still not look like I was dancing by myself.
We'd danced in silence for two up-tempo songs when the DJ decided it was time for a slow song. I took that as my cue to get off the dance floor but Ji Tae grabbed my hand.
I looked at him. What to do? Walk away like some scared teenager or just dance with him like he wasn't important? What was the big deal? I'd danced with numerous guys I didn't know and regardless of if the song had been slow or fast, it hadn't meant anything. So why not?
Once he saw me nod, he pulled my body to his. I wrapped my arms around his neck and of course, it fit. Our teenage bodies fit together and apparently, so did our adult ones. I didn't know which was more upsetting - the fact that holding him so close felt so natural or that I'd noticed it.
It had been the closest I'd been to him in 8 years and apparently, he still smelled the same. Well, the same but different. His cologne was different but the essence was the same. I was glad that I wasn't wearing a backless dress because otherwise, I'd have felt his fingers on my skin and I wondered if it would have felt the same. I shook my head in self-disgust. I wanted to just end the dance so I'd stop my journey down memory lane but I didn't want to seem affected by something as pathetic as a dance. It was merely a dance for chrissakes! So why were all these thoughts running through my head?
About two minutes into it, he whispered something in my ear.
I frowned. Not because I even heard what he'd said but because of what he'd done. What was it with men and whispering random things in your ear? Who actually came up with the whole "whispering sweet nothings" bullshit? And why did some guys just run with it like it was the only thing they could do?
There was nothing more annoying than a man constantly saying, "damn, you're so hot," "wow, you're so beautiful," "you're amazing," and all that sh.it during sex. A few words here and there just so that you could be sure they still remembered your name were fine but an entire monologue? Like seriously! There I am, trying my best to find some enjoyment in this act and there you are yapping away like a preacher. If more men shut their traps during sex...
I don't know if it was because I was thinking about sex, but when I looked up at Ji Tae and he smiled at me, something went off in me. There was something about the look in his eyes and both the familiarity and newness about his lips and I don't know what compelled me but nonetheless, I leaned into him and kissed him.
He must have been in shock because he didn't move his lips at first, but when I looked directly into his eyes, asking him to kiss me back, he held me closer and did as I'd directed. It wasn't a kiss of passion like lovers who hadn't seen each other for years. It was more of a tentative kiss, with him holding back a bit and me kissing him out of god-knows-what. It was quite different from most of our previous kisses and it seemed like neither of us wanted to use our tongues but it was nice. Nice in a high school kind of way. We stopped when the kiss reached its natural end and shortly after, the music stopped.
I don't know what answer I'd been looking for when I kissed him and if I'd even gotten it but the time had come for our dance to end.
I unwrapped myself from him and stepped back and smiled. "Thanks for the dance, Ji Tae," I said before turning around and walking away.