Thursday, December 31, 2009

With One Foot In: Part 1

Chapter 1

"Oppa," I whispered. I wanted to scream again, but I knew it would be futile after all, he was already at the other side of the metal detectors. Even though I didn't want to, I couldn't help but watch as his figure got smaller and smaller.

Oppa," I whimpered like a lost puppy. This wasn't some Hollywood movie where he'd turn around and fight through security so that he could hold me one more time. This wasn't a fantasy where he was going to suddenly decide that he couldn't live without me and forsake his mother. I knew that it wasn't a dream where he'd run back and beg my parents to let me go with him because at that moment, I looked down and saw my sister sobbing into my shirt. It was reality and in my reality, Park Ji Tae left me behind.

I wrapped my arms tighter around my sister. "Oppa," I whispered so softly that I could barely hear myself. Anyone looking at me would probably have thought I was a zombie because my eyes were transfixed on the spot I'd last seen him. The spot that would be forever etched into my memory.

"Hee Soo yah, let's go home," I heard my mother say. I looked up at her sweet face and it was only then that realized that the top of my chest was wet. Silly me. I hadn't even realized I was crying and I wondered how long the tears had been streaming from my eyes.

I nodded and smiled. "Okay, Umma." I disentangled from Mi Soo and followed her. I didn't want to wipe the tears from my face because I didn't really want to acknowledge them. I'd promised Ji Tae that I wasn't going to cry for him so in a way, wiping them off would make them real and I didn't want to break our promise. Because at that moment, that was the only thing of ours that I felt I could still hold on to.


"Unnie," my sister said as she barged into my room.

"Haven't you heard of knocking?" I said as I looked up from the magazine I was reading. The article was entitled: 10 Signs That Your Boyfriend Is A Loser and apparently, Ji Tae wasn't one but what else would explain the fact that he hadn't called me? Two days and no phone call. Surely that deserved to be number 1 on the list. "Mi Soo, what do you want?"

She rolled her eyes. "I think Mrs. Park is on the phone."

My ears perked up."What?"

"I think Mrs. Par--"

Without waiting for her to complete her sentence, I jumped off my bed and ran to the living room. My mother was sitting by the phone and smiling but the second she saw me, she smirked. You know, the kind of smirk that was filled with irritation. So naturally, I knew that my sister had guessed right. I stood and watched her.

"Yes, it's a good thing you have your family," my mother said into the phone. Then she laughed. "Yes, a mother is always a mother even when her daughter has kids." Then she looked up and frowned at me and I could tell that that frown had something to do with the 'daughter has kids' part of her sentence.

For the umpteenth time, I was about to reiterate that nothing happened on the night I'd spent with Ji Tae when she covered the mouthpiece with her hand and gestured for me to go to her.

"What?" I said as I moved closer.

"Why are you hovering?" she whispered.

Why do you think? "Is that Mrs. Park?"

She nodded. "And?"

I opened my mouth then shut it. Why did this woman love to torture me so? Even an unborn child could easily put two and two together and figure out why I was there. "Mom."

"Yes, I can imagine," she said into the phone before covering the mouthpiece again. "Look, Hee Soo, Ji Tae isn't with his mother so why don't you just go back to your room?"

Dejected, I bit my lip, hung my head and turned around. Why wasn't home? How come he was out there having fun without me? Was Philadelphia really that great?

A few minutes later, I was lying on my bed and feeling sorry for myself when I heard my door fling open.

I looked up to see my mother holding the phone out to me. "Take it," she said before turning around and walking out of my room.

I sat up and put the receiver to my ear. "Hello?"

"Hee Soo?"

I felt the tears well up in my eyes. "Oppa?

He chuckled. "Hey."

His voice sounded like hot caramel on vanilla ice cream. Or hot coffee on a wintry evening. Or a rain shower on a hot afternoon. Or… well, you get the point. I wiped a tear off my cheek. "Umma said you weren't home." I wanted to yell at him for not calling me for two days but I couldn't bring myself to. I was just so glad to hear his voice.

"Of course I'm home. We haven't slept since we got to my grandfather's house because we were waiting for you guys to wake up."

I laughed. "But it's already 11am!"

"We know. But we didn't want to wake you up too early."

I laughed harder. Like I'd been able to have a good night's sleep since he'd left. I'd already expected to spend the rest of my school break miserably but somehow, hearing his voice made me think that we could possibly make it work.

"Alright, Mr. Park Ji Tae, tell me everything that happened since you got on that plane."


I laid back in my bed and pulled my covers over me. "Yes. Everything."

He sighed. "Well, this is going to be a boring story because we haven't really done anything."

"I don't care. Just tell me."

"Ahhhh. Okay, if you insist. So we got on the plane and sat down. Then--"

"You didn't put your luggage in the overhead compartment?" I interrupted.

He groaned. "You want that much detail?"

"Yes." I wanted to experience everything with him.

He sighed. "So I got on the plane and put my luggage in the overhead compartment then sat down…."

I giggled. The dummy was really going to tell me every single thing that happened. I readjusted my head on the pillow and listened to him speak. Maybe he was right. Maybe, just maybe, our story wasn't over.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

With One Foot In: Chapters 2,3,4 and 5

Chapter 2
"Are you really not coming?" my mother asked from my bedroom doorway.

I shook my head and looked down at my new toe pinching shoes. My grandfather's company was celebrating a record year and I'd actually been looking forward to attending the party because I was finally going to meet Han Bi's new girlfriend. With my new life at a new school, it was always great to see a familiar face.

My mother moved closer and tugged at my shirt. "Come on, let's go. You can talk to him tomorrow." She'd recently learned that yelling and screaming didn't do much to me these days so I guess she'd decided to be more understanding.

I shook my head. I'd already not talked to him for about four days and I really wanted to speak to him but the time difference was really pissing me off. Since he was trying to juggle college and his new job and I was at school half the time, it was really hard to talk to him because he was asleep when I was awake and vice versa. Why the did he have to move to the other side of the world?

"Umma, go without me. I'll wait for his call."

My mother shook her head then sat next to me. "Hee Soo yah, I know how much you care about him but he's already moved to the US. Why can't you forget him? If we could, we would but we can't send you over to see him so you're probably never going to see him again."

I moped. I understood that perfectly. If I had to change schools so that they could afford the new baby, there was no way they could send me over there. Besides, I didn't want to move to some country where I'd have to live 14 hours in the past. So I knew that there was no way I was going to see him there. "Maybe he'll come back?"

My mother put her arm around me and pulled me to her. "He's not coming back. Do you know how expensive a ticket it?"

I couldn't pretend I didn't. Even if I started saving every penny I got my hands on, it would take me at least a few years to save over 3 million Won.

"So why don't you come with us? School can't be the only reason you leave the house and I really don't like seeing you mope around. Come out with us."

I shook my head. "In his email, he specifically said that I should wait for his call today. If I leave now, he might get mad that I didn't wait for him. Then when next will I hear from him?"

My mother sighed and got up. "I really shouldn't have let this happen," she said regrettably.


I jumped on the Westbound 'El' train and headed back to my apartment. Since we were trying to save money to move to our own place, it had been hard convincing my mother to let me live away from home. Luckily, my cousin had found someone looking for a roommate so the low rent and proximity to campus helped change her mind.

Even though it was quite a dump and for the first time in my life, I had to deal with living with mice, I did enjoy getting home and resting my head after a hard day of work. But lately, getting home hadn't been completely stress-free.

I did sometimes regret not breaking things off with Hee Soo when I was still in Seoul. Maybe things would have been different if I'd overcome my selfishness and not let things carry on even though I knew I'd be leaving. Or maybe I hadn't realized how much deeper our relationship had become with each passing day.

It certainly is a new day when you realize that the person you fell for and the one you're with aren't one and the same. I'd rarely seen a tear on her face for the few months we were together but now that we were apart, a week couldn't pass without hearing her choked up voice at the other end of the line. It wasn't that I wanted her to be aloof but not only did it make me feel helpless because I couldn't make her feel better, it also hurt to hear how much she was hurting. She always went on about how she was missing me and how much she hated her new school and even how her mother's pregnancy was changing things. Hearing that, I often wondered if she was clinging so hard to me because I was one of the few things she had left from her old life.

I was also getting tired of lying and telling her that everything would be fine because I knew it wouldn't. I couldn't foresee going back to Korea any time soon and she seemed determined to hold on to that fantasy. I often wondered what I'd honestly thought would happen with us once I left. Maybe I'd thought that things would fade and we'd just become friends. Had I really been that naïve?

Whenever she started crying and begging me to come back, I sometimes wanted to shake her and tell her to snap out of it. But how do you do that to someone who's hurting because they care so much about you?

About 30 minutes later, I logged on to my computer and clicked on the skype icon then dialed her number. I braced myself for what I was sure would ensue.

"Oppa?" she said the second she answered the call.

"Hi, Hee Soo. I'm sorry I'm calling late – my group meeting lasted longer than usual."

"You should have left early. Do you know how long I've been waiting for you? We won't even be able to talk for long because Umma will soon come into my room and scream at me. She's really pissed that I didn't go out with them."


"Some company party. Forget about it. She was just angry that I didn't go because I was waiting for your call and when they got back, you still hadn't called. So she's mad because I could have gone and it wouldn't have made a difference. But don't worry – she'll soon get over it."

I groaned. Why did she always have to put everything on hold for me?

"So have you thought about what I said about letting your Dad buy your ticket so you can come over next summer?"

"Hee Soo, I thought we were done with this."

"But I don't get why you won't. So because your parents are broken up, he no longer has any responsibilities to you?"

"That's not the point."

"Then what is it? Why don't you want to come and see him? You don't love him anymore? Maybe you should listen to his side of the story. Maybe he's not really a monster," she said, talking at rapid pace.

I didn't want to mention it but my father was already paying my tuition. "I never said he was a monster."

"Then why don't you want to come and visit him?" When I didn't say anything she said, "Is it about me? You're trying to avoid me? That's why you don't want to come back to Seoul."

"We both know that's absurd." But the truth was, it wasn't. If I came back, things would only get worse because I'd have to leave again. And would seeing her again turn me into some clingy person too? Our relationship was already unhealthy enough as it was.

"Look, Oppa. Just come and visit during your holidays. It's not like you'll be doing anything over there. Just say you'll come, okay? I really need something good to look forward to."

I sighed. "I'll try, Hee Soo."

"Don't try. Do it."

"Okay, I'll see what I can do."

Since she didn't say anything, I knew that she didn't believe me. But could I blame her? I was lying through my teeth.

"Hee Soo, I have to get ready for work and I know that it's really late over there so I'll hang up now. I'll talk to you later."

As I hung up the phone I hoped that someday she'd realize that we couldn't have kept going on like that and any decisions I made, regardless of how cruel they might have seemed, were for both our sakes.

Chapter 3

8 years later

"So how about this weekend?" a voice asked from the other end of the line.

It was one of those things. I was certainly not getting any younger and even though I didn't really want to admit it, I sometimes fantasized about meeting the love of my life and spending an afternoon in my overalls painting our picket fences with him. Since high school, I'd had my share of relationships and obviously, none had ended well otherwise, I'd have been staring at a huge rock on my finger instead of the far too long hairs scattered near my knuckles.

"Hee Soo ssi, are you still there?"

I laughed. "Of course I am. Where would I go?"

"So answer me. Can you fit me in?"

Sang Woo was one of those far too perfect men that you just knew had at least one severe issue. When I'd first met him on the plane, I was certain that he was gay because straight guys never came out so good-looking. It was like God created them just to piss women off. Almost like rubbing a carrot through manure then dangling it in front of a hungry rabbit. How in the world was that fair?

"Hmm…." I said. He'd been a little persistent about hanging out with me so I figured he wasn't gay unless I had an Adam's apple I wasn't aware of. "Maybe Saturday? I'd have to look in my--"

"Come on," he interrupted jovially, "you don't have to look anywhere. Just say yes now and I'll come and pick you up around 8."

I laughed. Harmless flirting never killed anyone, right? So what was the harm? Besides, his name was Sang Woo. How freaking awesome was that? I was about to say something that I hoped was cute when I noticed someone staring at me. I looked up and found myself looking into a pair of eyes. And not just any eyes, those eyes.


"Hey, something's come up so I'll call you back," I said right before I hung up the phone.

Unless I was dreaming or I was suddenly in need of contacts, I was staring right into the eyes of….

"Oppa?" I said as I moved closer to him. What the was I saying? That wasn't him, was it? Did Park Ji Tae even have enough testosterone to grow a moustache? Okay, what the hell was I saying? Like my high school memories didn't prove to me that he did. But what was with the body? The Park Ji Tae I knew didn't look like Kwon Sang Woo under his shirt. And what the hell was wrong with me? Why was I suddenly reverting to my teen years and thinking about Kwon Sang Woo again?

But no, it couldn't be him, could it? "Park Ji Tae?" I said with trepidation.

I half expected the guy standing there in loose jeans and a t-shirt to look at me like I was crazy but I knew I was in trouble when he smiled at me and called my name.


"Look!" Yun Ah yelled, pointing behind me.

She looked like she'd seen a ghost and frankly speaking, since it was already nighttime, I really didn't want to go to bed with such an image in my head but I turned around anyway and lo and behold, there he was, smiling back at us. She was right – he was a ghost. A ghost from my part. It was oh-so-corny and 100% true.

So what was the deal? I hadn't seen him in 8 years but somehow he thought he could just waltz back into my life? Was that the new trend in America? He couldn't return my calls for almost 8 years but somehow he felt that he could meet me in a mall and suddenly we'll be cool again? He'd been in the country for over a year and he hadn't even bothered to look me up but after a chance meeting, he thought he could just come back to me? He smiled at me and I immediately put my hand on my belly to keep it from bursting. What the was wrong with me?

He exchanged pleasantries with Yun Ah and her date then pulled a chair and sat down at our table. What was the bastard doing?

"Didn't your friends show?" I asked. During our chance meeting, he'd told me that he'd be meeting with his friends later on. And after we'd exchanged numbers and he'd left, I decided that it was just one of those things that meant nothing. It wasn't a big deal to meet someone from your childhood, even if he was your first love. First love, twelfth love, whatever. A guy was just a guy and it was no big deal, right? But why was he back? "I thought you were going to celebrate signing your contract," I accused.

He nodded and smiled. As in, looked at me piercingly and smiled.

Stop smiling at me, you fu.cker! I looked away from him. I was a mature career woman and mature career women didn't turn into mush because some ass.hole from their past batted their long-lashed eyes at them.

He glanced at Yun Ah then back at me. "They showed up but I rescheduled." He shrugged. "We can celebrate tomorrow. Tomorrow is a good a day as any, don't you think?" He reached across and picked up my menu. "What looks good?" he asked, skimming it.

Yun Ah gave me an inquisitive look and I explained about our chance meeting with him chipping in from time to time. When I was done with my explanation, she just looked at us and shook her head.

I placed my head on the table. What had possessed me to go to the mall?

Chapter 4

"Hey," Yun Ah said, pushing my door open. "What are you still doing up?" She stepped into my bedroom and shut the door behind her.

After my mother had begun to nag me about working too much and not having a boyfriend, I'd moved out of the house and into Yun Ah's spare bedroom. We'd been rooming together even before I went to Australia.

I shrugged. "I guess I can't sleep." And if I wanted to sleep, I'd have to clear away all the photographs that were strewn all over my bed.

She sat at the end of my bed and picked one of the photos up and smiled. I looked over to see which one it was. It was one I'd taken with Ji Tae at some restaurant shortly before he left for America. In it, I was laughing and pulling his cheeks while he rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out. I bet we'd thought we were being cute or something. How nauseating!

"You guys really looked good together," she commented. She looked up at me and sighed. "So what are you going to do now?"

"About what?" I asked, shrugging. I reached across and started picking the pictures up. "I don't even know why I held on to these for so long. I should have thrown them out a long time ago."

She put her hand on mine and held it in place. "Throwing them out isn't going to stop what's going on in your head."

I rolled my eyes. "Nothing's going on. I only remembered them because I saw him today. As you can see," I said pointing at the empty box, "I haven't touched it in a while. Can't you see how dusty it is?" I looked around my room. "I have so much junk. I need to start getting rid of stuff that's doing nothing but taking up space and I was just starting with these."

She hissed and from the expression on her face, I could tell that she didn't believe me. "I'm no expert but from the way he was looking at you at dinner, I think he really missed you. And he was acting so cute. I don't remember him talking so much."

Yes, he'd been nice but that didn't mean When you run into someone you haven't seen in a long time, you're usually extremely friendly. "Look, he must have been bored or lonely or something. He was probably just trying to get away from his boring friends. And he doesn't miss me. He dumped me, remember? And I don't care, anyway. It was so long ago!"

She rolled her eyes. "He didn't dump you. He just stopped calling. Maybe he lost your number."

I scowled. "Bi.tch, please."

She laughed. "But seriously, I know it's been a long time but I think you still feel something for him otherwise you wouldn't be looking at these pictures."

"And where did you get your Ph.D, Dr. Know Nothing? They are just memories. They don't mean"

"They do mean a lot because you never got closure. Don't forget I was there when it all fell apart so I know how it affected you."


She rubbed her hand on mine reassuringly. "I really think he might call you and if he does, don't be your usual self. Just talk to him and try to find out if you still have feelings for him. Then you can move on with your life."

I scoffed. "I've already moved on. And I don't feel anything for him – it's been such a long time. Wouldn't I be a complete loser to still think about him? And even if I did, it would be my 17 year old self thinking about his 18 year old self and not really me thinking about him. Besides, aren't you jumping the gun here? We just had dinner – it doesn't mean that he's interested in me."


"You may go in," the secretary said, leading me into the CEO's office. My firm had been hired to design a new state-of-the-art office building for one of the top companies in Seoul. I'd been assigned to a team of architects but shortly after the project commenced, our lead architect got scouted by one of your competitors and for some reason, I'd been appointed as the new head. It was both scary and exciting because I never really liked the direction we'd been taking the project but on the other hand, my career was now riding pretty heavily on what I did.

I walked into the office and shook the old man's hand. It was my very first one-on-one meeting with him and I was trying my best to shake the nerves off. He'd suddenly scheduled the meeting and because we were no longer going with my predecessor's ideas thus recreating the first drafts, I was a little nervous about showing them to him in the absence of the rest of our teams. We still had a week left on our deadline but because I was meeting with him, I'd spent the last two nights working on the rough schematics so that I could at least have something reasonable to present.

"Why don't you sit down, Miss Kim?" he requested.

"Thank you, sir. I hope all is well with you," I said as soon as I sat down.

He nodded and after the usual pleasantries, he said, "I called this meeting because I wanted you to know that I was the one that recommended that you lead this project."

I tried my best not to raise my brow and appear as straight faced as I could. Why would he do that?

"I spoke to some people at your Australian office," he continued, "and was told that you showed great promise. Also, some of my colleagues have been pleased with your contributions at the planning meetings."

"Thank you sir," I said. The corporate world was a funny one and I wondered if he was saying all this just to make sure I kissed his ass. If he was, I wished I could tell him not to bother because as the person with my career in his hands, I'd planned on kissing his ass anyway.

"I also had another reason for recommending you."

"I see." I braced myself and prayed that he wasn't going to compliment my looks. It's not that I would ever consider sleeping my way to the top but geriatrics were definitely out of the question.

"Do you know that I was close to your grandfather?" he said out of nowhere.

"Which one?" I blurted before realizing how unprofessional I sounded.

He smiled. "Both of them, actually. I played golf with your maternal grandfather and when he told me he was looking for a new supplier, I introduced him to your paternal grandfather who I'd attended university with." He leaned forward and in a conspiratory tone said, "This was when your grandfather's company was still expanding so I like to think I played an important role in the success of his company," he finished.

"Thank you, sir," was the only response I could come up with.

"I always regretted not getting involved when they fell out of terms with one another and my regret only deepened since their deaths. So if you don't mind, I'll like to make that up through you."

Through me? I wasn't sure that I wanted to know what he had in mind so I quickly said, "Thank you, but there's no need, sir. I am very excited about this project and any work I do will be up to my company's standards and reputation."

He nodded. "That goes without saying and I expect no less. But if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to ask. In fact, I insist that you do. What I am saying is that I am here for you. "


I looked at the photos I'd taken from the yet to be demolished building on the site of the new building. Then I looked at the sketches I'd made. Something just didn't feel right. I was already chewing on my nails when my cell phone rang.

Everyone with half a brain knew not to call me on my cell phone during work hours so when it rang, I knew it had to be important. So without looking at the caller-id, I answered it. "Hello?"

"Hee Soo?"

I took my eraser and rubbed off one of the walls on the diagram. "Who is this?"

"It's Ji Tae."

I slowly tore my eyes off my sketch and sat up. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't expected a call from him. "Hi."

"Hello," was all he said.

Wow. After all that time, that was all we could say to each other? I listened to him breathe and waited for his next words.

"It's been a long time since we've spoken on the phone, hasn't it?"


After some more silence he said, "You're not saying anything. I'm not sure that's what I expected."

"Expected? What are you talking about?"

"I don't know. Forget it."

"Dude, what the hell are you talking about?" We did a bit more of the whole silence thing and I was beginning to get frustrated. "Why did you call?"

"Hey, chill. I just wanted to catch up. We hadn't spoken for a while when we ran into one another. It only makes sense that we talk. So let's talk. How have you been?"

The conversation was obviously going nowhere. "Look, I don't have time for this. What's your email address? We can catch up that way. Tell me your email address and I can give you a summary of what I've been doing for the last 8 years." Then you can bake a cake and celebrate.

He burst out laughing. "You want to email me?" He laughed a bit more. "You actually want to email me? Wow, you really haven't changed."

I frowned. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. Let's meet up sometime. I don't have many friends here so it'll be great to see a familiar face. "

"You've been in town for over a year and you haven't made any friends?"

"I spent the entire time locked up in a room with two guys trying to get my company off the ground. So, yes."

And what about his old high school friends? Had he dropped them too? "I see," I said, looking at my watch. He really was taking up far too much of my time.

"So let's hang out and catch up. Maybe go out for a meal or something."

Why would I want to eat with him? "Sorry but that'll be impossible. I'm just so busy."

"I'm busy too but I'm sure we can squeeze out a few hours. There must be a reason we ran into each other, don't you think?"

Yes, the reason was that we were at the mall at the same time. What was so special about that?

"Maybe sometime during the weekend?" he suggested.

"Park Ji Tae, I work weekends too but I'm spending the few hours I have with this guy I'm seeing." Okay, so why did I feel the need to say that?

"You're seeing someone?"

His tone really pissed me off. Why did he say it like it was completely unexpected? There was no way I was that ugly. "Of course. Shouldn't I be?"

He chuckled. "Yes you should. But we should still catch up sometime."

"Sure." I gave him my email address. "It was great running into you. Write me when you're free."


I sat across Sang Woo and watched him eat his salmon. We were at a seafood restaurant and I was a little pissed that I'd ordered the Thai Bouillabaisse that sounded and looked so good on the menu but when I got it, I saw that it was just full of water and vegetables. What happened to the meat… or fish or whatever? Every spoonful made me feel like a goat. The restaurant was so damn lucky I wasn't going to be paying for my dinner otherwise they'd have had to take me out in handcuffs. What the Which kind of sea food restaurant was so stingy with the damn seafood?

"You don't like your food?" he said, looking at my barely touched dinner.

I shook my head. "Not really."

"And mine is so good. Why don't you order something else?"

I shrugged. "It's okay. I'm not that hungry anyway."

"Alright," he said before taking a sip of wine. "The food here is normally great. I'm surprised you don't like yours. Are you sure you don't want a taste of my salmon? The cilantro in the sauce really enhances the taste."

I nodded like I gave two farts about cilantro and salmon. One sign you were having a bad date was when your entire conversation surrounded the dinner you were having. Another was when your eyes kept darting at the door.

It wasn't that I was staring at the door because I wanted to leave. No. I mean, leaving wouldn't have been the worst option but that wasn't the main reason. It was that for some reason, I was expecting Ji Tae to walk through it.

Of course, it made no sense for him to show up at my restaurant but if we were characters in a soap opera, he definitely would have. It was just that I wanted him to walk in and after our eyes met from across the room, I'd smile lovingly at my date and he'd see that he had no right to think that he could just start calling me all willy-nilly eight years after dumping me.

But of course, he didn't and when the bill came and Sang Woo and I walked out of the restaurant, I was so upset at myself that I'd spent an entire date smiling at one man while thinking about another. What kind of woman was I?

Chapter 5

"Miss Kim speaking," I answered into my office phone.

"Hey, Hee Soo ssi," Michelle our receptionist said. "You have a visitor."

I was in the process of looking over my team's work and I really didn't want anything disrupting my flow. It was hard enough as it was ignoring my rumbling stomach just so I could keep at it.

"Who is it?" Because of the magnitude of the project, most of my usual client work was being taken care off by some of my colleagues.

"He didn't want to say. He says it's a surprise."

"Surprise?" What da…? "Michelle ssi, you know better." It would have been a different thing if we were working at a haunted house because even getting fired never came as a surprise at my firm.

"Yeah, I do. But I think it's personal," she said, lowering her voice. "He's kinda cute. He's not wearing a suit so I doubt he's a client and he's got two huge bags I suspect are filled with food." She paused. "So should I send him in?"

I thought about it. I'd only spoken to Sang Woo once since our last date so I doubted he'd try to surprise me or anything. So unless my father suddenly got bored at work, I knew it could only be one person and I really wasn't in the mood to see Park Ji Tae.

"Tell him I'm not in."

She laughed. "He can already see me talking to you."

I looked at my watch – it was shortly after noon. Wasn't it a little early for Why were people always trying to drive me to drink in the afternoons? "Okay, put him on the phone."

"I already suggested that but he refused."

I groaned. "I don't have time for this. Tell him that I'm really busy so if he doesn't tell you who he is, I can't make time for him."

"Okay," she said before putting me on hold. A few seconds later, she was back on the line. "He says his name is Yong Ki Won."

Huh? "Are you sure?" Ki Won's work dress code was business-casual so it could have been him but I wasn't quite convinced. "Describe him."

"Tall, cute, holding food."

I rolled my eyes. "How about something a bit more specific?"

"Like what?"

"Like does he have any facial hair?"

She was quiet for a few moments. "Hmm… not that I can see."

I chuckled. Ki Won was such an idiot. It had been a while since I'd seen that bugger but it wasn't the first time he'd dropped in unexpectedly on me. He worked at the other side of town but sometimes, when he was at my end, he dropped in to say hello.

"He's probably forgotten how to get to my office. Give him directions and send him in. Thanks, girl."


"Come in," I said, after hearing the knock at the door. I swiveled my chair around and faced the door.

"Hi," Ji Tae said, walking into my office.

The minute my eyes fell on his face, my smile faded. Instead of looking at the still handsome former Kingka, I was looking at him. "What the hell?"

"Nice to see you too," he said dryly.

"Wow, you must really think you're a comedian or something. Your name is Yong Ki Won?"

He laughed. "I thought it was a brilliant idea."

I shook my head in disgust. "What happened to your face?" I asked.

He patted his face, searching for the problem. "What's wrong with it?"

I ran my finger over my top lip. "What happened there?"

He smiled. "You noticed?" he asked, tapping his non-existent moustache.

I rolled my eyes. How wouldn't I notice a missing line from his face? He looked more like his old self which didn't sit quite well with me. "Grow it back."

He narrowed his eyes. "Huh?"

"What do you want?"

He shrugged. "Nothing," he said, walking over to my desk which was across from my worktable where I was sitting. "I was hungry and thought that you might be too so I brought lunch," he said, placing the bags on the table.

"I'm really busy."

He looked at me and nodded. "I figured. But you still need to eat."

I folded my arms across my chest. "You really should have called first."

"I thought about that but I didn't think you'd take it. Plus I already did as you requested and emailed you but you never replied except for that one forward I received about some monkey virus that had recently been detected in humans."

I hid a smile.

He tilted his head and looked at me pointedly. "I'm still trying to figure out why you sent that one."

"It's not a big deal – I sent it to everyone on my email list. I just thought it was an interesting story."

"I really don't believe that. Anyway, let's eat," he said, taking the containers of food out of the bags. "So I have noodles in here, and I also got some barbequed beef…." Then he proceeded to mention practically every single thing I liked to eat. He ended with an amused look on his face.

I glared at him in disgust. "You really are a bastard," I said, looking at the spread.

He chuckled. "So does that mean you'll eat something?"

I looked at all that food and tried my best not to lick my lips. So I could either give in and eat to my heart's content and let him win or not touch the food just like I wouldn't have if he hadn't managed to scam his way into my office. I decided that my dignity was worth more than a bowl of noodles.

I wiped all emotion off my face. "Ji Tae, I'm really not that hungry."

He laughed. "Okay. Since I've already brought everything out, would you mind if I ate here?"

I shrugged. "Do whatever you like," I said, turning back to my work. It would have been nice to say that I immediately got back to work but it's not easy to concentrate when a bastard is sitting not too far away, munching away like a Neanderthal.


Even though I was no longer living at home and Mi Soo was living in the dorms, we were required to make biweekly visits home. This quality time usually began with us sitting at the table for lunch and ended with us in the living room watching crap. The one great thing I loved about it was that I got to spend time with my little brother, Jin Soo. Because I was pretty much an adult by the time he was born, we'd never really grown up together. So I took the visits home and the occasional babysitting assignments as a way of bonding with him.

We were all sitting in the living room watching a really asinine game show and not for the first time in the last few years, I wondered what the hell I'd seen in Xman. Or had the show just gone down the drain? I was ignoring the television and sitting with Jin Soo and looking over his homework when I decided to just tell everyone that Ji Tae was back in town.

"I see," was all my father said.

I looked at my mother but just as I expected, she didn't really react. For a while, she was actually angrier at Ji Tae than I was. I guess she just didn't like to see me in pain.

Mi Soo watched my parents for a few seconds then turned to me. "Oppa is back?" she asked, frowning. "How come he didn't call me?

"Why are you asking me?" What kind of stupid question was that? "He didn't call me either. But you're now old enough to date him so why don't you look him up in the phonebook and call him up?"

She laughed. "Someone's getting testy," she teased. "What's with the anger? Don't worry, I won't call him up. It's not like I was really ever your competition."

I opened my mouth then shut it right back. What a It was too bad that she was now a grown woman so if I punched her in the face, there was a good chance that she'd punch me right back. I snarled at her. "You know what? Just shut up."

"I hope that his return doesn't change anything," my mother suddenly said.

"Change what?" I asked.

"Do you remember how you stopped eating? You lost so much weight," Mi Soo decided to volunteer. "You know what?" she said, looking me over, "you could stand to lose a few pounds. So maybe--"

"Shut up!" I yelled. How could someone be so evil? Plus I hadn't even gained a pound in the last few years. "Gosh, I hate you."

She laughed. "I hate you so much right now! AHHHH!" she sang. It was a line from a Kelis song.

I laughed. What a stupid child.

"Hee Soo yah," my mother started, "I'm just saying that you know how that boy affected you before. I don't want you to go through that again. Just stay away from him."

"Jeez, Umma. Don't start imagining things. Did I say anything about being with him? I just said he's back in town. Why is your wife always jumping into conclusions?" I asked my father jovially.

"See this child," my mother said, getting up from the couch and slapping me on my head.

"Ouch," I said, ducking from her next blow. "I'm going to call child services on you."

"Umma, don't beat Noona," my lovely Jin Soo said, jumping between us to protect me.

"Did you hear that, Umma?" I said, hugging him. "Don't hit Noona!"

She laughed then sat down in an exaggerated huff. "Because you're now making money, you think you can talk to me anyhow? Honey," she said, turning to my father, "you see what you caused? Because you let her move out, she's lost her home training. We should make you come back and learn how to respect your elders. Instead of trying to find a husband, you are talking back to me. Speaking of which, one of my clients was telling me about her son who's just opened his own medical practice. I saw his picture and he's really good looking. I told her that you'll meet him. When are you free?"

I groaned. Not again.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chapter 6

"Looking for me?" asked a voice I'd once forgotten.

I glanced over at Ji Tae then back at the huge padlock that was in my hand. "Were you supposed be in here?" I asked, pulling the key out and showing the padlock to him.

He looked like he was searching for some kind of comeback but couldn't so he stayed silent.

I almost laughed. Actually, I did laugh. I just hid my face and made sure the sound wasn't quite audible.

I was at the site of the proposed building to take a few more photographs. I unlocked the padlock, put it in my bag and when I started to unwrap the chains holding the gate shut, Ji Tae bent over and helped me.

"What are you doing here?" I asked him. It had been two days since I'd last seen him and against my better judgment, I'd been keeping one eye open expecting for him to turn up somewhere. The thing about hoping not to see someone is that you were always on the look out of them and that of course meant that they were constantly on your mind. And the more I tried to tell myself to get him out of my mind, the more I remembered him and thus the vicious cycle continued. So seeing him there, crouched over the gate and pulling the long chain out brought both relief and anger, neither of which I wanted to feel about him.

When we were done, he stood up, turned around and pointed at a building behind us. "I live over there."

I looked at it but didn't say anything.

"So what are you doing here?" It was his turn to inquire.

"Work." I kicked the chain out of my way and pulled the gate handle. I hoped that my obvious lack of interest in having a conversation with him would make him leave but he kept standing there. Still ignoring him, I opened the gate and stepped into what used to be the parking lot. When I turned around to shut the gate behind me, he quickly stepped in and stood next to me.

"What are you doing?" I asked, sending him daggers with my eyes. Why couldn't he just disappear?

He must have missed the message because instead of turning around, he furrowed his brows and said, "Is it safe for you to be in here alone?"

"Am I not safest alone? Or do you expect me to hurt myself?"

He frowned. "I mean that you don't know who might be in an abandoned building."

"It's empty but not abandoned." I hit the light switch. "The lights won't be working if it were abandoned." I tapped my foot impatiently. "I need to lock the gate."


"So could you leave?"

He shook his head. "No, I'm not leaving you alone here," he said firmly. "There's no way it could be safe for you to be here on your own. What kind of company do you work for? Shouldn't you work in teams? Even if it's not a person, what if something falls or… " He started going on and on about workplace hazards.

What the fcuk? He sounded like he'd swallowed twelve Public Service Announcement ads. Ignoring him, I locked the gate then walked towards the elevators.

He jogged to catch up with me. "Since the building is empty, why do you still have electricity and keep it locked?"

I hit the elevator button and it opened immediately. "If we turn the lights off and all that good stuff, we would get squatters and when it's time to demolish it, some human rights organization would get involved and complain about us displacing people from their homes and it'll become much messier than it needs to be. So it's best to just spend the extra money for electricity and security so that we don't have to deal with that."

"Cool," was all he said.

I couldn't blame him. I'd even bored myself with my little speech.


I was taking photos from the second floor when he said, "With you working so close to my office, we must have walked past each other a thousand times." When I didn't say anything, he continued, "I think it's cool, though. When this building is finished, I can look out of my window and say that I know the person who designed it."

"I doubt it," I said from behind my camera.


"Because from what I heard, the owner of your building is trying to sell it and it'll probably get demolished. They are really trying to revitalize the area so this place is going to look very different in a few years." I pointed out of the window. "As you can see, they've already started construction on two buildings here."

He nodded. "Yeah, the noise can really be annoying but the rent is cheap."

I nodded. I was mildly curious about the sales of his first game but I didn't want him to know that I even remembered it. Or that I cared. Not that I did care or anything. I moved around the room and took a few more photographs when he inquired about what I was doing.

I explained the importance of natural light and its effect on work productivity. "My first office was designed so badly so I had to keep my blinds drawn because the glare made it impossible to see anything on my computer screen. And if I'd chosen to turn my desk around so that I'd be facing the light, it would mean that my back would be to the door which is hardly ideal. I bet some monkeys designed that place."

He smiled. "You seem passionate about your work."

I shrugged. "It's work."

"But what made you pick architecture?"

I put my camera down. "I don't know. I knew I didn't want anything to do with too many words so I tried Technical Drawing. I did well in that class and that led me to another and here we are."

He chuckled. "And there I was thinking that my love for Graphic Design had somehow rubbed off on you."

A few minutes later, when he saw me struggling with my both my legal pad and camera, he offered to help. And since he was standing there doing nothing, I allowed him to be useful. I gave him the pad and told him to note down the room coordinates as I took photos so that I could keep track of them.

We were on the fifth floor when I asked him to hand me the writing pad so I could see where I was. I took one look at it and laughed. I'd actually forgotten how bad his handwriting got sometimes. "What the fcuk is this? I can barely read this!"

He took it from me. "It looks fine." He grinned and nodded. "Yep, makes sense to me."

I hit him. "What difference does that make? I'm the one who has to read it. It has to make sense to me."

He laughed. "Okay, I'll rewrite the ones that are a bit difficult to read."

"No. Rewrite everything in block letters, numbers whatever. Write like you're typing. I can't believe you messed this up!"

I took another look at his gibberish and laughed even harder. Dang, his handwriting was worse than Jin Soo's! I was about to mention that little tidbit when I realized that I was actually about to tease him. As in laugh and tease him like I used to. What the bloody blazes? I wiped all the humor off my face and cleared my throat. "You know what?" I said, reaching for my writing pad. "Don't worry about it – I'm sure I'll figure it out on my own."

He held on to it and started to crack a joke till he took one look at my face. "I'll fix it first then give it back to you."

I stretched my hand out. "Don't worry about it. Just give it to me."

"No. I know it's important to you so let me fix it."

I shrugged. "Suit yourself."

Instead of fixing the mess he'd made, he stood there and stared at me like he used to.

Dang. Memories suck.

I spun around and hoped that he hadn't noticed my cheeks redden.


"Who are you seeing?" Yun Ah asked, walking into the kitchen.

"What?" I looked up from my bowl of cereal. Since it was pretty late in the evening, cereal was the only thing I could have so close to my bedtime otherwise I'd spend the next three hours rolling around in bed pissed off that I couldn't sleep.

"Who are you seeing?" she repeated.

I blinked a couple of times then squinted. "I believe I am seeing you right now. Am I supposed to be seeing someone else? You're not some kind of shape-shifter are you?" I joked.

She rolled her eyes. "I'm serious. Your friend, Park Ji Tae, wanted to know."

Hearing that wiped the smile off my face. "I'm sorry? What did you say?"

She looked upwards and nodded her head like she was trying to remember. "He called me a few hours ago and asked me who you were seeing and how serious it was."

"Is this a joke?" I silently prayed that it was.

She raised three fingers up. "Scout's honor."

Why couldn't this guy just leave me alone? "What did you say?"

"Well…," she said, sitting next to me. "I was kinda put on the spot."

Her expression spelled trouble.

I put my hand on my chest to prepare myself for the inevitable. "What did you say?"

"I said that I didn't know if you were seeing anyone."

I hit the table in anger. "What the fcuk, Yun Ah? How can't you know? We're roommates so you're supposed to know."

She put her hands up in mock surrender. "Sorry, you should have warned me. If I knew you were supposedly seeing someone, I'd have known what to say."

What the hell? I put a spoonful of cereal in my mouth but the stupid thing was already soggy. I threw the spoon back in the bowl in frustration.

Instinctively, Yun Ah grabbed my bowl to protect it. "Don't break it. Do you know how much it cost?" She waited for a response but when she didn't get any, she continued. "And what's the big deal? If he's asking about you, then he wants to go out with you. Just go out with him. It's really not a big deal. You guys were happy once." She spat the words out all at once like she'd prepared it beforehand.

"You and Kyung Min were happy once," I retorted. "Why don't you go back to him?"

"Wow, you're so funny," she said sarcastically. Kyung Min had cheated on her and after the third time, she finally decided to get rid of him.

"But on that note," she said, "what would you think if I invited Kang Han Bi as my date to Ki Won's party?"

I arched my brow and sat up in my chair. "What?"

"You know Eun Hye is one of my kids…," she started.

Since Yun Ah still hadn't given up on acting, she'd picking teaching as her interim career because it allowed her time to work in local theatre. Even with all the vacation days that came with it, I'd been a little surprised that she'd chosen to teach elementary school since she'd never seemed particularly fond of kids. But she'd been at her school for over two years so it was either she'd grown to love them or perfected pretending to.

"… so," she continued, "we've been hanging out a bit and well, I think he's pretty cool."

I tried to think back to the few times I'd seen them together to try to remember if I'd ever noticed any sparks. Was I really that blind or was it something new? But then again, the visits he made to our place were usually short because he was only dropping Eun Hye with me on the days I was babysitting Jin Soo. Since his wife had died two years earlier, I tried to help out whenever I could.

"So what do you think?"

I shook my head in mild disgust. "What about Paul?"

"Who is Paul?"

"Your boyfriend. You know, the last guy you introduced me to." The reason I'd run into Ji Tae again. "Ring any bells?"

"Oh, you mean Phillip," she said, playing with her fingernails. "That's all past tense."

I sighed. It still wasn't right. "Isn't it unethical to date your student's father?"

She eyed me. "So does this mean you don't approve?"

"No. Just be careful with Han Bi Oppa. You know his situation so he's not one of those guys you can just play around with."

Her face became a mask of innocence. "Whatever do you mean?" She batted her non-existent eyelashes for effect.

"I'm dead serious, Yun Ah. If you mess things up and I have to choose sides, I'll pick his," I warned.

"Okay, Umma. Oh, and by the way, I invited Ji Tae to the party."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chapter 7

"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.

I groaned.

"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 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.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chapter 8

Even though it was only a little after 2pm, I was exhausted. I'd just returned to the office from a battle at SGH Industries, the company I was working with. It had ended up being quite productive, at least from my perspective, because Mr. Oh, the CEO, had sided with me on a lot of issues. It was nice that he was trying to work through his personal issues by helping me out but if he got any more obvious, I was sure that there'd soon be rumors about us.

"Nice flowers," I said, walking over to Michelle at the receptionist desk. There was a bouquet of lilies sitting on her desk begging to be sniffed. So I obliged them.

"I'm glad you like them because they're yours," she said without looking up from the computer.


"They are yours."

I picked the card up and read it.

For Kim Hee Soo. Let's Talk.

I read those six words a few more times over then put the card back on the bouquet. I knew that they'd be repercussions from my actions from the previous night but flowers? I hadn't quite expected that.

"Are they from Yong Ki Won?"

I hissed and shook my head. "That's not even his name."

She laughed. "I figured it wasn't especially when he was like, "So what name should I use?""

"Michelle!" I really couldn't believe her. "And you still let him in?"

She shrugged. "Hey, it's not like a lot of amusing things happen here. So I enjoy them when I can."

I tsked. "Anyway, I'll see you," I said as I walked away.

"Don't forget your flowers," she called.

"I don't want them. You can have them if you want."


I knew I couldn't waste any time so I dialed Ji Tae's number the second I got into my office. "I got your flowers," I said the second he picked up.

"Cool. Did you like them?"

I didn't have an answer. I knew I couldn't exactly act pissy and yell at him for sending them to me after all, I was entirely to blame for him getting the wrong idea. I'd actually succeeded in not thinking about it but now that he'd decided to do this, I knew I had to face it head on. "Ji Tae, you said that you wanted to talk."

He didn't answer immediately. "Yes. Can we talk?"

"I think we need to. Can we meet today?"

"Today?" He hesitated for a moment. "We can definitely meet. When will be best?"

I glanced at my watch. "How about 7? Can you come to my office? Let's go for some drinks."

We'd gone to a nearby bar and had been sitting at a table for a few minutes with barely any conversation when he put his drink down and turned to me. "Okay, it's cards on the table time," he said. He tried to appear calm and confident but I could tell that he was nervous.

I took a sip of my Amaretto Sour then swiveled the ice around my glass. "Go ahead."

"Well, I guess I just need to know what's going on in your head because I'm not quite sure," he said, moving his hands around for emphasis. "I know we haven't been together for a while but I still have feelings for you and I think you still have feelings for me." He paused and waited for a reaction but when he didn't get any, he continued. "So what I think is that we should try again." He placed his palms face down on the table and waited for a response.

I took another sip of my drink then dropped my glass on the table. "Is that all you wanted to say?"

He nodded. "Yes."

"Okay, well, I've had an interesting last couple of weeks but I'm really not interested in us... or you." I looked directly in his eyes and repeated the words in my mind and nodded. It did feel alright saying those words. My life made so much more sense before I ran into him and I was not ready to risk being hurt again even if I did sometimes feel like I missed him. Just like he'd returned to my life, he'd leave again and I'd go back to not remembering our times together and I'd finally be able to let go of my high school memories. Yes, it was the right thing to say.

I got up from my chair and smiled down at him. "So take care of yourself, Ji Tae. And I really mean that." Without waiting for a response, I turned around and walked out of the restaurant.

It was only when I was approaching my car and about to reach in for my keys that I realized that I'd left my purse at the restaurant.


A random guy walking towards his car gave me a weird look but I didn't care. Did I want to immediately go back to the restaurant and risk running into Ji Tae thus ruining my grand exit or did I want to wait a little and risk having my purse stolen by an opportunistic patron? I was still debating this when I heard Ji Tae call my name. I turned around to face him.

"The waitress called me back because you'd left your purse. Here it is," he said, handing it to me.

I thanked him then turned around and started walking towards my car.

"Hee Soo yah, hey, wait and hear me out."

I picked up my pace and kept walking till I reached my car. I'd already opened the door when he caught up with me and jerked me around. "Hee Soo."

I leaned against my car and folded my arms. "We've already said what we wanted to say. What more is there to say?"

"Look, I know you're mad about how things ended but I really regret that."

"Whatever," I said, shaking my head. "It's all water under the bridge." I was about to turn around when I decided to just ask him something I'd been curious about over the years. "Ji Tae, before you left for America, I wanted to break up with you and you refused. Did you just do that so that you could break things off first?"

"What?" he asked incredulously. "Of course not! How could you think that?" He walked a few feet away from me, put his palm on his forehead in frustration and started pacing around. Then he suddenly stopped and turned to me. "When I left, I honestly thought that we could make it work even though you kept saying we couldn't. But I really wanted to try. But then it got so hard. You were always upset and I felt so helpless that I couldn't do anything about it to make you feel better."

I shook my head and looked away. He sounded sincere but I really didn't give a

"And yes, I was wrong. I should have called you and told you everything straight up but I was afraid of your reaction because I knew that you'd be hurt and since I wouldn't want you to be hurt, I'd change my mind and not end things. But our relationship couldn't keep going the way it was. You have to have seen that, Hee Soo."

I kept shaking my head at the crap he was spewing. Yes, it was because he cared so much about me. Whatever.

"Ending it was the best thing for us at the time. It had to end because we were both so miserable."

"But in the end, I was the only one miserable. So you only cared about yourself. Stop trying to make it sound like you made some huge sacrifice for me."

His mouth hung open like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. He quickly walked over to me till he was standing directly in front of me. "Do you honestly think it was easy for me? It wasn't but I knew it had to end and I didn't want to change my mind after hearing your reaction."

I smirked. "Whatever, Ji Tae. You could have sent me an email or letter. Heck a freaking telegram would have been better. 'Hee Soo. Full Stop. It's Over. Full Stop.'" I paused to catch my breath. "Don't you understand that anything would have been better than not knowing? Do you know how long I wondered if something had happened to you? I made Umma call your mother just to make sure you were okay and will you believe what your mother said?"


"'Oh, he's doing well. He just called me about an hour ago.' Do you know how that made me feel? I think that was really when I started to give up on you. It took me a while but that was the turning point."

"Then what was the kiss about?" he snarled. "It's over and you've given up but you kiss me? What the was that about?"

I almost laughed when I heard the curse word. Ji Tae was cursing at me? But I was a little glad that he'd started to get angry because at least that meant that he could feel a little of what I felt.

"Hee Soo, why did you kiss me?" he asked, looking directly in my eyes like he'd suddenly turned on a lie detector.

"I don't know." I stepped away from him and put my hands up in surrender. I was tired of thinking about us. I was tired of the damn conversation. I was just tried. "Think of it as a goodbye kiss."

"Really? Why do you keep lying to yourself? It wasn't a goodbye kiss. But I'm sick of this. If this is how you want it," he said, turning around, "that's how it will be."

"Oh, and by the way, how's Sandra?"

He stopped in his tracks and turned around. "Sandra?"

"Yeah." I threw my purse in my car, shut the door then smirked at him. "You know how you have those birthday reminders on your email? So for some reason, I never deleted your birthday and you know what," I said, laughing without much humor, "I still haven't deleted it. Funny how some things are."

Since there really wasn't a joke to laugh about, he didn't.

"So anyway, I think maybe like 6 or so years ago, a day before your birthday, the reminder popped up. I mean, I obviously wasn't going to try to contact you or anything but I guess I was curious about what you were doing with your life. Or bored, I don't know. So I went online and googled you. At first nothing really came up till I decided to search for David Park then pop! Pop! Pop!"

I looked up at him but the only emotion on his face was curiosity so I continued. "There were a whole bunch of pointless links but I finally clicked on the University of Pennsylvania's Korean Students Association page. I scrolled down the page till I found you smiling at me with your arm slung around this smiling girl in a black spaghetti-strapped gown. It's funny but I remember thinking that she had like the best eyebrows I'd seen in a while – like the arch was perfect."

"Is there a point to this story?"

"Yes, I'm getting to it," I replied. "Be patient," I said, smiling sarcastically. "So I tried to read the caption but I wasn't quite getting it. Something about book, party, I didn't get it. Even after all those years of English class I still couldn't understand like 3 simple lines." I chuckled. "So I went to those online translators and of course it spat out gibberish but I got the general gist of it."

"Which was?"

" David Park and Sandra Choi, the Vice President of the school's chapter of the National Organization for Women. Interesting, isn't it?"

He looked at me in disbelief. "That was so long ago. Sandra and I haven't been together for such a long time. That can't be what's holding you back." He looked me over like I was crazy.

I rolled my eyes. "You're obviously not getting it. Every single girl that I know you've been interested in has been some kind of do-gooder activist. Before me and after me. If that's not a pattern, I don't know what that is."

"And what does this have to do with us?"

Did I have to explain everything to him? I pointed at myself. "I am just not your type. Don't you see that? So don't go around feeling that you have feelings for me and I have feelings for you blah blah blah. Oh and Hee Soo is being pigheaded blah blah blah. Feelings fade. We are not meant to be together so let's just get over high school and move on. So just go to the next rally you hear about and find yourself a girlfriend and I'll find myself a man who loves me. And the next time we run into each other, we can smile and talk and not have it mean anything. Okay?"

He nodded like he finally understood. "Alright then. So I guess that's it."

I nodded. "Yes, pretty much."

"Then take care of yourself," he said before turning around and leaving.

For the second time in my life, Ji Tae had turned around and walked away. As I watched his figure get smaller, I wondered why the weight I'd been carrying around for the last few weeks hadn't been lifted. I opened my car door and slipped into the driver's seat. It will be all okay in a matter of weeks, right? Because as they say, time heals all wounds.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chapter 9

Hey, Michelle," I called as I walked past the receptionist desk. "How are things?"

"Great, considering I am heading home in...," she said, looking at the clock, "in like 12 minutes."

"I'm so jealous," I replied. I'd just come back from inspecting the construction site and even though the building was coming along nicely, I still had some notes to go through.

"So what have you got planned for tonight?" she asked as she arranged her desk.

I shrugged. "Nothing really. I'll probably be working for another thirty minutes or so then I guess I'll go home and sleep," I joked.

She shook her head and tsked. "Someone your age should have plans on a Friday night. Go out and find a life, you know, have some fun," she said, moving her hands up and down enthusiastically.

She was right. I wasn't as busy as I'd been in the previous months and now that Yun Ah was getting more involved with Han Bi, I spent more and more of my free time alone. Maybe it was time to go searching for some semblance of a life.


I walked into the club and scanned it for Eun Jung Unnie. Years after Drama Club, she was still a social butterfly and she constantly sent me e-vites for parties she was either organizing or attending so earlier in the evening, when I went through my emails, I wasn't surprised to find details for a party being held at a club that night. I walked around the room searching for her and when my eyes finally found her, I waved vehemently to catch her attention. Less than a minute later, she waved back.

With a huge grin, she walked across the room and hugged me. The years since high school had been good to her and she was definitely looking great. She still wasn't skinny but she'd now acquired a slim physique. When she released me, she folded her arms and frowned at me.

"What?" I asked, smiling back at her with an arched brow.

"You've finally shown up to a party. It's about time."

I laughed then straightened my face and shrugged. "I had nothing better to do so you were the first person I thought of."

"Wow," she said, shaking her head. "That really makes me feel special." She pulled me into another hug. "It's so good to see you." She let go of me and suddenly started searching the room.

"What are you looking for?"

Instead of replying, she scanned the room further then suddenly grabbed my wrist. "Come, there's someone I want to you meet."

I pulled my hand away. "You want me to meet someone? I never asked for that."

"So what? I think you're perfect for each other." She took my hand again. "I just hope he didn't bring a date today," she said to herself.

"You're trying to fix me up with a guy with a girlfriend?"

"Of course not. He doesn't have a girlfriend – he just dates a lot. But that's because he hasn't met you yet."

"Aww, how sweet," I said sarcastically. Was she really trying to set me up with a serial dater? I grimaced at her and wondered where she'd found her free drugs. I pulled her fingers off my wrist but in a matter of seconds, her hand was grasping it again.

"Unnie, leave my hand alone!" I demanded, as I dug my heels into the floor so that she couldn't pull me along.

But apparently, my strength couldn't match hers because she still managed to drag me half-way across the room till she stopped right next to a guy nursing a bottle of beer in his hand.

"Kim Hee Soo, I'll like you to meet Shim Hyun Su. Oppa, this is the girl I've been telling you about. She's finally come out of her little hole."

I sent her an evil look then turned my attention back to the guy standing in front for me. He was tall. Okay, not quite tall but taller than me. Surely, that had to count for something? His hair wasn't cropped short but it wasn't long either – kind of spiky on top but lower on the sides. He had eyes, his nose was proportional to his face and his lips weren't too thin. The striking thing about his face was his very distinct jaw – like someone had taken some sandpaper and shaped it in place. Okay, so he was no Sang Woo – either of them – but he was cute enough and maybe just what the doctor had ordered.

"Nice to meet you," he said, stretching his hand out to me.

I put my hand in his and shook it. He had a firm grip, and I noticed that his hand was quite large. I took the opportunity to check the rest of him out. He looked like he'd just gotten off work and was wearing a nice shirt and slacks plus his shoes looked pretty expensive. All in all, Eun Jung could have done worse.

Eun Jung went on to volunteer our occupations and it turned out that he was an investment banker with one of the top firms in Seoul.

"Oh, and Oppa, Hee Soo is 25 years old."

My head snapped around so fast that it almost fell off my neck. "Unnie, what the hell? Why don't you grab a mic and announce my age to the entire room?"

"Oh, should I?" she teased.

Hyun Su laughed before I could respond to her. "25 is a nice age," he said.

I rolled my eyes. "I didn't say it was bad but there was no reason for her to tell you." I smiled at him. "You have an unfair advantage now. So how old are you?"


Not bad. A slightly older guy with a great job who didn't look too bad. I raised my brow. "I guess we're both old," I said.

He chuckled.

"Well, it looks like my job here is done," Eun Jung said. "I'll leave you two alone."

Hyun Su spotted an emptying table so we went over and sat down

"So how come I haven't seen you at one of these things?" he asked.

"Busy." I told him about the office building that I'd been working on.

"Cool. So I guess that explains why you're still single."

I chuckled at his segue. He certainly wasn't as smooth as he thought he was but I was okay with it. "Why I'm still single? I guess that could explain it. But I'm a little less busy now so I've decided to have a little bit of fun."

He nodded. "Yeah, it's important to find a good balance."

"Yeah, all work and no play…." Dang. Did I really just say that? He didn't react to my lameness so I continued. "Since you seem to have found the balance, why are you still single?"

"Well, I just got out of a relationship."

I had to stop myself from groaning. Eun Jung wanted to make me the rebound girl? What the hell? "But Eun Jung said that you don't have relationships and just date."

He shook his head in annoyance. "Gosh, her mouth is too big. I broke up with my girlfriend about 5 or 6 months ago and haven't had anything serious since."

"How long were you guys together?"

"7 years."

"7 years and you're already dating? Haven't you ever heard of a grieving period?"

"Well, I didn't see anyone for about 3 months, so I guess that was my grieving period."

I shook my head. "Haven't you heard that the grieving period should be half as long as the relationship? So in your case, that's three and a half years," I joked.

He bellowed with laughter. "So a couple that's been married for 32 years can't date other people till 16 years later?"

I chuckled. "Hey, I don't make the rules," I said innocently.

After about twenty minutes of casual conversation, he said, "We need to hang out sometime."

I broadened my smile. The annoying thing about flirting was that sometimes you felt that your cheek muscles were going to give way. "Is this your way of asking for my number?"


"Well," I said, looking at my watch, "I haven't even known you for 30 minutes so I need more time to make sure you're not a serial killer."

"Well, if I were a serial killer, I'm sure I wouldn't even need to get your number from you. I could easily google you and I bet I'd at least get your work number," he said matter-of-factly.

"What are you trying to say?"

"I'm saying that there's really no need to be so protective. Because with the way the internet is, you can pretty much get a lot of information on most people in a matter of minutes. If your landline isn't unlisted, I can probably get that from So that's both home and work numbers."

I nodded. "If your plan is to creep me out, it's definitely working."

He chuckled and narrowed his eyes. "In that case, mission accomplished?"

I stared at him from the corner of my eye and hoped that he was only teasing because the last thing I needed was some psycho on my tail. I got off my chair. "I need to get something to drink – I'll be right back."

"Did I scare you?" he asked seriously.

I laughed. "No. I just need another drink."

"Don't worry, I'll get it," he said, getting up.

"No, I'm fine – my legs are still working." I demonstrated it by tapping my laps.

"Oh, you're one of those feminist types?"

I burst out laughing. "So a woman needs to be a feminist to want to get herself a drink? Maybe I haven't yet decided what I want so I'm going to figure it out when I get to the bar. Did you think about that?"

He sat back down. "Okay, okay. Sorry. Can you get me another beer while you're there?"


"What looks good?" I asked the bartender. I leaned over the bar and looked at the numerous bottles of alcohol. "What do you recommend?"

He shrugged. "It depends on what you like," he said with an expression that showed that his mind was a million miles away.

"Okay, how about some Malibu and orange? And one Heineken. Thanks!"

After I got my drinks and was heading back to my seat, as bad luck would have it, I spotted someone that looked like Ji Tae leaning against a wall. I tried to look away but I couldn't help but take a closer look and lo and freaking behold, it was him. He was pretty much dressed identically to Hyun Su which was slightly surprising because he wasn't wearing his usual jeans. I smirked and was about to continue on my journey back to the lovely man waiting for me when a lady suddenly slinked to him and kissed him on the cheek. He smiled in response and took her hand.

When she turned her face, I could tell that she was actually pretty till she smiled and revealed her teeth. I mean, come on, what the hell? Her teeth were so big that I could almost count them from across the room.

As if she could tell what I was thinking, she suddenly frowned and moved closer to him and in response, he caressed her arm in a comforting fashion. The entire scene turned my stomach and I almost threw up in my drink.

But seriously, what was going on? Unless she was his long lost sister and she and Ji Tae had embarked on an incestuous relationship, Ms. Roger Rabbit was his new girlfriend. Three months after telling me he still had feelings for me, he had a new girlfriend? What the hell? Why couldn't guys just respect the goddamn grieving period?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Chapter 10

"Your phone just rang," Hyun Su said the second I returned to our table. We were on our oh-so-important fifth date and things were looking good considering we'd only known each other for about four weeks.

"Really?" I said, getting back in my seat. The second I reached into my purse to investigate, it rang again. I looked at the caller-id and saw that it was Ji Tae. "What the fu...?" I said under my breath. Why in the world was he calling me? And why hadn't I deleted his number from my phone? I turned my phone off and put it back in my bag.

"You're not going to answer it?" Hyun Su asked curiously.

I pulled my hair behind my ear and shook my head. Why would I? Nothing good could come out of talking to an ex while on a date with another man.

"Are you sure? It might be important."

"I'm quite certain it isn't." I had nothing to say to Park Ji Tae and even if I did, it wasn't anything I wanted to say in front of him. We were still in the very early stages where we both pretended to be much better people than we could ever dream of being and I didn't want to scare him off quite yet. "So have you decided on your dessert yet?" I asked, picking the menu up.

He looked at the menu that he already had open. "I'm thinking of the devil's food cake," he said, pointing at the picture.

I scanned the menu. Practically everything on it looked so sinfully good that I was sure I'd feel guilty for days. Besides, it wouldn't hurt to at least look like I was watching my weight. "I'll just have the fruit salad."


"I had a good time," Hyun Su said as we walked towards my building.

I turned around and smiled at him. "You were hanging out with me – of course you had a good time."

He laughed and nodded. "True. True."

I shyly looked away as we'd finally reached the potentially awkward part of our date. "So I guess I'll be seeing you soon, then," I said.

"Yes. The show starts at 9 so we should be there at least 30 minutes earlier."

Apparently, his favorite band was the best one I'd never heard of so he wanted to introduce them to me. The concert was assigned seating and he assured me that the crowd would be very mellow so I planned to carry some smelling salts along.

I moved closer to my apartment complex entrance and put my hand on the handle. "Good night then."

"Good night," he replied before titling his head and leaning into me.

I tilted my head in the other direction and waited for him to cover the rest of the distance between us.

He kissed me softly on my lips and when he teased my bottom lip, I parted my lips and let him in. Our first kiss had been a simple kiss that piqued my interest so I was looking forward to discovering what he could do with a real kiss.

The kiss was warm and not quite tingly but he smelled good and I was definitely into it so when we broke apart, I asked him if he wanted to come in for coffee. And by coffee, I meant coffee with just a sliver of making out. He accepted my offer so I walked into the lobby and led him to the elevators.

"Where the hell have you been?" Yun Ah yelled the second I walked through our apartment door. She looked agitated and Han Bi's daughter, Eun Hye, was fast asleep on the couch.

"Didn't I tell you I was going out with Hyun Su?" I asked, pointing at him so that she'd see that he was present and save her hysterics for later.

She glanced at him uncomfortably then said, "But why is your phone off?"

I shook my head. "Someone called and I didn't feel like answering. Why? What happened?"

"Ji Tae and Han Bi are out there looking for you!"

I frowned. "Why?"

"Why do you think? Are you crazy or something! Why bother having a cell phone if you're going to turn it off! What the fuc.king hell is your problem? I can't believe you sometimes," she ranted.

I watched in awe and tried my best to calmly wait for her to explain what the hell was going on but instead, she bent over and picked up her phone and dialed a number. "She's back so you can stop looking for her." She paused. "Yes, I'll bring Eun Hye over to your place and meet you there. See you." Then she looked at me and yelled, "Why are you still here? Go to the hospital!"

Hospital? My heart started beating at a million miles a millisecond. "Yun Ah, what are you talking about?"

"Are you deaf or something? Your mother's at the hospital!"


I ran in the direction the nurse had directed. From what I could gather, as usual, my mother was having issues with her car so she'd been using a rental for the past few days. As she was driving down the highway, the car stalled and that ended in a four car collision. My mother and another driver were in critical condition.

I stopped running when I saw my family gathered in a corner. Mi Soo ran towards me and hugged me. "What's going on? Where's Umma?" I asked breathlessly. She was holding on so tightly that I could barely breathe. "Mi Soo, what's going on?" I asked as she slowly let go of me.

"They're operating on her now," my father said, moving away from the wall he'd been leaning against and walking to me. "Where have you been?" His face was dark with anger.

"I was out…." I couldn't complete my sentence. I looked around the room and it was just a picture of distress. If their faces weren't covered with tears, they were covered with worry. And all this while, while they'd been panicked in hospital, while they'd needed me, I'd been leaning against my door asking someone in for coffee. couldn't even begin to describe how I felt. "I'm sorry I'm late, but how's Umma? How did this happen?"

"You're sorry? What were you doing? You weren't at work because I called there. We've all been worried because we didn't know where you were. Where were you?" my father yelled.

I glanced at Hyun Su who'd taken my hand to comfort me.

My father looked at him then back at me then shook his head in disgust. "Is this what you're doing with your time? Everyone's been going crazy looking for you wondering if something had happened and you were out having fun?"

Wasn't I allowed to have a life? And it wasn't like I'd been intentionally ignoring them! "Appa…"

"You've just shown that you can't be depended on. You were needed urgently and no one could find you. We found Mi Soo, we found your friends but where were you? Is this how a grown woman acts?"

I'd never seen my father's face so red and I could understand he was emotional but he was talking like I had something to do with the accident. Was it really fair to take it all out on me? "Appa…"

"You're the eldest child in this family! When will you grow up and take responsibility for your actions?"

What the…? Something snapped in me. "And what about you, Appa? When will you take responsibility for your actions? You know that Umma has problems with cars. She's had them for all my life so something like this was inevitable, right? Why haven't you ever thought of getting her a driver? I'm sure that if you bothered to look, you'd see that you can afford one or I could even chip in! What about that? So please don't talk to me about responsibilities! I'm so s--"

"Hee Soo, shut up! How dare you talk to your father like that?" Ji Tae interrupted.

It was only then that I really noticed that he was there. "AND WHO THE FU.CK CALLED YOU?" I turned to him. "Please, why are you even here? I don't understand this! Why is he here?" I walked around, asking the room.

I waited for an answer but nothing came.

"Is this like a hard question or something? Who called him here? He's not even family or am I missing something and he is my brother? What the hell is he doing here? How the hell is any of this his business? Mi Soo, did you call him?"

She shook her head and looked to my father.

"Appa, did you call him?" He didn't say a word so I took his silence as confirmation. "Why did you call him?"

"If you had answered your phone would I have had to call him? Yun Ah said you were out so I called him."

I hissed. "Why in the world would you think that I was out with him?"

He gave me a look. "We don't need to get into this right now."

"Appa, please tell me what is going on."

He sighed. "A few months ago, he came over to the house to apologize and ask for permission to start seeing you again."

"Wh—" I didn't even know what to say. I was just speechless.

"Even though you hadn't said anything about dating him, he was the only person I could think of. As we both know, you've never said anything about your young man," he said, looking at Hyun Su.

All I could do was shake my head.

"So why don't we all just calm down and wait for the doctor?" my father said, before sitting down next to Jin Soo.

I turned to Ji Tae. The sight of him was setting my blood ablaze. If he hadn't called me, I'd have been at the hospital a lot sooner. If he hadn't called me, I would have checked my missed calls and wouldn't have turned my phone off. If not for him, I'd have been there for my mother much earlier and not have to deal with my father's disappointment. I took a deep breath in. "Ji Tae ssi, thank you for coming but you can go home now."

"Hee Soo, just leave me alone," he murmured. "Go and bother someone else."

"This is a family matter so just go home now." Was it really so hard to leave where you weren't wanted? "This has nothing to do with you so you can leave. Thanks for coming but--"

"Unnie," Mi Soo pleaded.

"Am I saying something wrong? Isn't this a family matter?"

"Hee Soo," he said in an icy tone. He glanced at Hyun Su who was now holding me and shook his head. "Just ign—"

The sudden appearance of the doctor from the other side of the double doors cut his sentence short. We all gathered around him and wait for him to speak.

"The operation went as planned," he informed us.

"Does that mean my mother will be alright?" I asked hopefully. I put my palm on my chest in preparation for a sigh of relief.

"The next 48 hours are crucial so we'll be observing her closely." His face was covered in a thick layer of nothingness. If he had any additional information, he was definitely not sharing it with us.

"Can we see her?" my father asked.

The doctor shook his head. "Not yet but we'll let you know when you can. We don't anticipate any changes for the next few hours so you can all go home and rest."

When the doctor left, my father asked me to take my brother home.

"You're asking me to leave, Appa? I don't want to leave." Besides, I'd only just arrived at the hospital and hadn't even had a chance to catch a glimpse of my mother.

"No, as the doctor said, we can go home for a few hours. Go and stay with Jin Soo and get him ready for school. When you come tomorrow morning, I'll leave."

From his tone, I could tell that there was no use arguing so I walked over to my brother who'd been periodically nodding off and pulled him up. A few minutes later, we were on our way home.