I woke up to find a pair of long-lashed piercing eyes staring at me. I smiled. If I could wake up to those eyes everyday, I wouldn't even need to drink my usual pot of coffee to get me through the day. I was about to stretch my hand out to him when I realized that I was completely bare except for the comforter that was lying on the lower half of my chest. What da heck? I quickly pulled it up to cover myself then looked back at the now amused eyes.
Argh. Why did I have to be naked so early in the morning? I could already feel my cheeks reddening and my skin tightening into goose bumps as I remembered what had gone on the previous night. I'd gotten back in the saddle and apparently, I didn't want to get off. I frowned at the still smiling face about a foot away from mine. "Why are you staring at me?"
He shrugged. "Just because." He'd obviously woken up quite a few minutes earlier because he looked like he'd showered and was already in his t-shirt and jeans.
I looked around the room. "Where are my clothes?"
He pointed at a neat stack of folded clothes on his computer chair.
I scratched my thigh and as I moved, I felt the stickiness on my body. I knew that I definitely needed to take a shower before leaving his place. "Do you have a towel I can borrow?"
He reached behind him and picked up another stack of clothes. "I have a clean towel, a t-shirt and shorts for you to wear," he said, putting them on the space on the bed between us.
I thanked him and with one hand still on the comforter, I reached across and pulled them closer to me. "I hope you're not giving me your ex's clothes," I joked.
"I don't date men or can't you see they are men's clothes?"
"Chill. It was just a joke." I looked at him then down at my body. "Alright," I said waving my hand around, "turn around." I unfolded the towel and waited for him to do as he was told but he didn't move an inch. "Did you hear me? Turn around."
"Why?" he asked incredulously.
"Why do you think? Come on, turn around – I want to put this towel on."
He laughed. "You don't have to be embarrassed- you're beautiful."
My frown deepened. "Did I ask for compliments?" I twirled my finger around, gesturing for him to look the other way.
He laughed some more. "You do realize that I saw everything last night," he said matter-of-factly.
So what? There was a huge difference between what I looked like in a dimly lit room versus daylight. In fact, on some days, seeing my reflection in my poorly lit bathroom sometimes made me want to volunteer to be a nude model for art classes till I saw it the next morning and regained my senses.
I repeated my request for him to turn around but when he wouldn't, I hurled my pillow at him and covered his face.
Even though he was finding it so funny, he left the pillow in place. I took the opportunity to quickly wrap the towel around my body then I walked over to his door and opened it.
"Oh shi.t," I exclaimed, shutting the door. I ran back to the bed and sat at the edge of it. Oh, crap.
"What now?" Ji Tae said, with his voice still muffled by the pillow.
I reached across and took the pillow off his face. "Min Gi ssi's there."
"So he's going to know that I slept over."
"So what?" He readjusted his body so that he was sitting against the headboard.
"So what? He's going to know that I slept over and that we… you know…." I really needed to stop blushing whenever I thought about us together.
He laughed. "I'm sure he already knows you slept over – I think he must have heard you."
What the fu.ck? "I am NOT a screamer!"
"Really?" He made a big show of cleaning his ears out with his forefinger. "Yeah, my eardrums say that you are."
"Stop it!" There was no way I was a screamer. I was the epitome of femininity when it came to these matters. I playfully slapped his leg.
He caught me and started pulling me to him. "Come here," he said in a suddenly husky voice.
Was this idiot kidding me? Horny toad. I moved back and pulled my hand away. I hissed in frustration. "I really need to take a shower – I feel nasty. Go out and make Min Gi ssi go to his room or kitchen or to the store or wherever! Just get him to move so that I can scoot into the bathroom without him seeing me."
He sighed. "Gosh. What's the big deal? You're going to come out eventually. And he'll see you then."
Numskull, don't you get it? "When I'm dressed, I can pretend I came over early this morning and we can pretend we're going the park or something. I'll just change into last night's clothes and voila!"
He raised his brow. "So you're wearing a suit on a Saturday?"
Dang. I'd forgotten about that. There was no way I could get away with my plan wearing a dress shirt and dark tailored pants.
"Hee Soo yah?"
I looked up and saw uncertainty in his eyes. "What?"
"This won't be your last time staying over, would it?"
I shook my head. "Of course not." It was just that we hadn't progressed in the normal way of going on a few dates to the first kiss, to a few more months of getting to know each other before spending our first night together. Maybe if that had happened, I'd have been less shy about letting Min Gi see me. I bit my nail and thought about it. "Do you think we need a first date?"
"A fir...." He scooted down the bed till he was sitting next to me. He placed his hand on mine and looked at me curiously. "What's bothering you?"
I took my hand from under his and tightened the towel around my chest. "I don't know. I just think that maybe things happened too quickly for us."
He groaned. "Are you kidding me?"
I laughed. "I'm serious. One second we're not talking, the next, we are having sex. Something feels off about that."
His expression turned serious. "I see. Are you saying that you want us to slow down?"
"Uhm, no." I didn't even need to take a second to think about that. I didn't feel that off. I'd only begun to know him that way and I wanted to stay on that path.
He put his hand on my hair. "So what are you saying?"
I looked away from him. "I don't know."
He tapped my head. "Stop over thinking it." Then his hand slid down and he moved my face so that I was looking at him. "Let's just be. Okay? Let's see what happens and try to be happy."
I nodded. He was right. I didn't even know why my head was going in a million different directions. He cared about me and I cared about him so all we had to do was care about each other together.
I noticed that his eyes had lowered and he was gazing at my towel with that look. Nope, I don't think so. I punched his shoulder. "Oppa, get up! Go and get Min Gi ssi out of the living room. I need to take a shower!"
We'd barely been together for two weeks but we were already going on a trip together. No one seemed to really care that we'd gotten together – as in really. There was no parade, no fireworks, no letter from the president - no big deal. Everyone did seem happy for us so they smiled and hugged us but a few minutes later, they were back to whatever topic they'd been talking about before hearing the news. Seeing that made me realize that we really were just two people on a huge planet and our personal pains and triumphs really weren't that important in the grand scheme of things.
My father initially opposed Ji Tae's accompanying me to my mother's grave but when I reminded him that Country Halmoni would be there as well, he reluctantly agreed. It was obvious that the poor man wanted to protect his daughter's honor so I promised myself that I'd be good.
"Halmoni!" I yelled as soon as I walked into her study. The maid had let us in about a minute later and told us that she'd be there.
"You kids have arrived?" she asked as she got up from her chair. She walked up to me and gave me a big hug.
"Halmoni, how are you doing?"
"I'm fine," she said as she released me. "I was just reading my emails." She took off her reading glasses then turned to Ji Tae. "Young man, how are you?"
He bowed to her.
"Come and give me a hug," she said to him, which he promptly did. When she was done, she folded her arms and looked at us. "So you are a couple now, not just friends?"
She nodded with contentment. "Good. I always thought that you'd fit well. Your mother thought so too."
I glanced at Ji Tae. "Thank you," I said with a small smile. I always knew that she approved of him so I'd not been the least bit nervous about bringing him over. But then again, she'd have approved of any man I introduced her to – that was just the kind of grandmother she was.
A few minutes later, she called one of her maids into the room. "Hee Soo, you can sleep in your usual room and Nara, show him to the Chosun guestroom."
I scrunched my nose. "Halmoni, isn't that one of the rooms downstairs?" The house was so huge that it was probably a three minute walk from my room.
She nodded. "Yes. Have you got a problem with that?" she asked, daring me to say yes.
I chuckled. Oh, I see. "No. It's fine."
The first thing we did was run to the early morning market to buy some fresh flowers and fruit for my mother. About an hour into our journey, we were walking onto her family's plot. After dropping some flowers by my grandfather's grave, Ji Tae stood back as I walked over to my mother's and bowed. Then I spread a cloth on the ground, knelt down and arranged the flowers, grapes and other fruits in a way I hope that she would like, then bowed low to the ground a few times. Then I uncorked her favorite wine, drank a cup then poured some for her. When I was done with the ceremony, it was time to speak.
I told her everything that had been going on in my life including work and how Jin Soo was dealing with her death. I was very happy to tell her that ever since he'd begun to talk to his school counselor, he seemed to have better a understanding of what was going on and thus was handling it better.
After I was done with getting her up to speed with all the gossip from Ji Tae's father's remarriage to one of our neighbor's daughter's unplanned pregnancy, I cleared my throat.
"Umma," I began, "I know that in the past, you were very upset with Ji Tae oppa but I hope you can forgive him." I glanced at him and saw that he was looking back at me solemnly. "Umma, I know how much you loved him and how disappointed you were in him but will you please forgive him and give us your blessing?" I could feel my chest tightening but I fought back the emotion.
"I tried to take your advice and I am sorry I couldn't even do such a simple thing. I tried to stay away from him but a long time ago, in so many ways, he became a part of our family and when we needed him, he was there for us. Appa loves him, Jin Soo loves him, I'm sure that even Mi Soo loves him so do you think you can love him too? He loves you very much, I think almost as much as he loves his own mother so something has to be said about that, right?" I paused for a few moments. "Plus, I think I love him."
I blinked and shook my head. "Actually, that's not true – I'm sure I love him. I don't think I ever really stopped loving him," I said with certainty, "and we are going to do our best to live well so please give us your blessing and love us together today as much as you loved us nine years ago." I bowed to her again.
A few minutes later, I got up and it was Ji Tae's turn to bow to her. After a few minutes, he said, "Umonim, as you realize by now, I love your daughter very much and I promise to treat her well for as long as I can so I hope you give us your blessing. In fact, I am sure that you already have because you've always loved us." He bowed to her again. "Umonim, thank you."
I frowned. How come he was so succinct with his words?
About a minute later, he got off his knees, sat down on the cloth then told me to sit next to him. For the next hour or two, the two of us sat and drank wine as we talked to my mother. Ji Tae talked about his company and where he hoped to take it and I talked about about my project with SGH and what I hoped to do after it. By the end of our breakfast, we felt a little guilty because Umma only got to keep about a third of the fruit we'd brought her. But hopefully, she didn't mind because she got to spend some time with us.