Jan Di’s POV
I was feeling much calmer when Ji Hoo left me at my door. He made me promise to call him if something happened, looking relieved when I agreed. As he drove away, I let myself into the house, then went straight to bed. My cheek was still aching, but the physical discomfort wasn’t nearly as bad as the pain in my heart. I kept checking my cellphone until I fell asleep, but I never got a text from Jun Pyo.
I had been right.
He was behaving exactly as he had in Macao. Whenever his mother was around, he was a different person, and I couldn’t bear to play that game with him anymore. I had to make a decision.
When I woke up the next morning, I searched for my moon and star necklace, the one Jun Pyo had given me. I put it into its box and shoved it into the furthest corner of my last drawer. I would let it remain there until I could see it again without feeling that annoying nostalgia.
He is engaged to Jae Kyung, Jan Di. It’s time to stop thinking about him; your relationship is over.
At breakfast I got a text:
Be sure not to miss classes. –Ji Hoo.
Of course not. I have a scholarship to maintain, you know. ~Jan Di
It was just his way of making sure I was alright, as always.
The school day was calm. The rumors had died down significantly, and I could relax a little. The school ‘queens’ didn’t want to be anywhere near me, something I appreciated a lot.
When the last class ended, I thankfully prepared to leave. I was just about to mount my bicycle when I heard the last thing I had wanted to hear the whole day; from just around the corner, girls’ voices squealing “The F4!” filled my ears.
And suddenly there they were, surrounded by girls who treated them like rock stars, as if seeing them up close was the highlight of their day. Woo Bin and Yi Jung cocked their heads at me in a sign of salutation as they passed, and Ji Hoo questioned me with his look. Is everything okay? he seemed to ask, and I gave him a slight nod. But when Jun Pyo saw me, he just turned his gaze away and kept walking, as if the spot where I was standing was just another vacant space.
I had known things were going to be different, but somehow I had held onto the silly notion that maybe we could maintain our friendship.
I was about to go on my way when my cellphone rang. It was my mom.
Ji Hoo’s POV
I was really surprised by Jun Pyo’s reaction to Jan Di. I wasn’t expecting him to ignore her so openly. Woo Bin and Yi Jung were also confused, but in the face of the thunderous look that Jun Pyo was sporting, they chose to hold their questions. I didn’t ask either, but I wasn’t about to stay there and do nothing. I lingered at the edge of the mob of admirers and turned around to catch up to Jan Di, only to find her on her cellphone, a worried expression on her face.
“Omma…what’s wrong?… Omma! Has there been an accident?”
It sounded as if the call had been cut off, and I started to worry as well. Could something have happened to her family again? I was about to go to her and offer a ride home when my own cellphone rang. Normally I would have ignored it, but I was waiting for very important news, and when I took it out of my pocket, I saw what I was expecting: secretary Park was calling.
“Young master, all is ready,” I heard him say.
“In the art gallery.”
“I’m on my way.”
When I hung up, I noticed that Jan Di had disappeared. I debated for a few seconds whether or not to call her, but she had promised me the night before that if something that she couldn’t handle happened, she would let me know. For the moment, I had to let my worry slide.
I rode my bike to the gallery and headed directly to the concert hall to meet Secretary Park.
Secretary Park Chae Yun had been with my family since before I was born. He had been my grandfather’s right hand and had loved my parents and me very much. When my grandfather left, he stayed by my side, taking care of all the legal stuff. I had asked him long ago to investigate if my grandfather was still alive, but about five years ago, after we had exhausted all possible leads, I had given up.
“Young master, welcome,” he greeted me.
“Secretary Park, have you found anything?”
“Yes, and I must ask for your forgiveness. I would never have imagined that president Yoon would be so close to us. If I had mounted a more exhaustive search, if I had just kept on investigating-“
“Stop, my friend. It’s not your fault. It was me who asked you to abandon the investigation.”
“But young master…” I knew he was going to keep castigating himself when there was no need to, so I interrupted him again.
“What did you find?”
“The president never left Korea. He stayed in a village near the frontier under a different name. Four years ago, he returned to the city and opened a small clinic with his savings. It is modest but is of great help to the local community in which it is established, because the people living there have scant resources. Everything I’ve gathered is in here.”
He gave me a bundle of papers and folders with the report and photos, both old and current.
“And also…” he mumbled.
“There is something I have never showed you because of all the things that happened to you. But I think that now could be the right moment. Young master, I’m sure the president must have had his reasons for not appearing until now-“
“He had no intentions to appear,” I cut him off abruptly. “It was a simple coincidence, and if I hadn’t gone into that clinic, I probably never would have seen him again. So what did you want to show me?”
“Here,” he said, handing me a remote. “Please, take your time. I will leave this on the desk so you can look it over in more detail later.”
He took the documents from my hands and, without another word, left the concert room. I turned toward the stage and noticed that the screen was down and the projector was on. I sat in one of the seats and pressed Play.
“Hello… Say hello, Ji Hoo!”
“That’s it… Where is papa, Ji Hoo?”
“There… He’s hiding!”
“Very good! Let’s catch him!”
“Oh, Ji Hoo! You found me! You’re such a clever boy!”
The tears escaped from my eyes, and I could do nothing to stop them.
My parents… my parents were in that video. How long had it been since I had heard their voices like this? During my nightmares, I only heard screams and saw their faces covered in blood… saw the fire, the disaster. But here they were, alive with me, happy, laughing, playing…
I could even remember that scene. I was three years old. Each time my parents got any free time, they spent it with me. They had asked a housemaid to film us so I could watch it when I felt lonely. There were more than ten videos stacked by the projector, and I just kept watching. I could remember something out of each and every one of them. It was amazing.
I wasn’t sure how many hours had passed when suddenly I was watching myself mounted on a man’s back while he crawled on the floor like a horse.
“Let’s go, grandpa! Faster, faster!”
“Aigoo, okay… faster!”
That day was as clear as water in my memory. I was spending two days with my grandfather because he had time off. I had asked him to take me fishing, and he was going to grant my wish. Secretary Park had someone drop me off at home so I could pick up my clothes and my parents could drive me back that afternoon. It was on that drive that I… that I had….
I stopped the video. I couldn’t watch anymore. I was exhausted both mentally and emotionally.
I better go home.
I turned off the projector and flicked the switch to retract the screen before gathering up the videos and sliding them into my bag. Though watching them was bittersweet, they were a precious treasure that I couldn’t bear to let go. I shut down the lights and made my way to the elevator, pressing the buttons for the ground floor. As I exited, I saw a cleaning girl washing the tall front windows. She caught my attention because from the back she looked like…
Can it be?
I approached her until I was just behind her, close enough to confirm my suspicions, but I said nothing. Soon enough, her eyes met mine in the reflection on the glass and she turned around, surprised.
“Sun-Sunbae! What are you doing here?”
I didn’t know how to explain myself, so I just pointed at the metal plate on the wall that read ‘Su-Am Art Centre. Concert Hall’
“Ah,” she said, understanding.
“And you? What are you doing here at this ungodly hour?” It was really late. She should have been home, sleeping.
“I… well, something came up,” she said sheepishly.
I looked at the windows.
“Are you going to do this all by yourself?” I was aghast at the size of the job before her. The whole front wall of the center was composed of windows.
“It’s okay. I’m on it, sunbae. There’s not much left to do.”
And with that, she turned around and continued cleaning.
Without thinking twice, I removed my watch, rolled up my sleeves, and took up a cloth and cleaning liquid. When Jan Di noticed what I was doing, she looked at me as if I had gone crazy.
“I told you I was good at cleaning,” I told her, and her look of astonishment was replaced by one of those beautiful smiles I loved so much.
“Thank you, sunbae.” I could detect her relief in the subtle way her shoulders relaxed.
We dedicated ourselves to the cleaning without another word. Sometimes I would laugh at her attempts to try and reach the same spots as me; it was clear that my height was a great advantage.
Before we realized it, we were done. I had never in my life picked up a cloth to clean the windows of my own house, but there I was, the heir of the Yoon Group, with red hands from the effort of scrubbing. I liked that feeling, and once again I discovered I had done something unexpected thanks to her.
We gathered our things and Jan Di thanked me for my help. She told me that although she couldn’t share her wages with me—as if I had thought about asking—she still wanted to pay me with a coffee and a ride. I didn’t understand the ride thing until minutes later when she arrived in a motorized cart that had mops attached on the front and the back. I had never ridden on something like that before. It was a blast! Jan Di stood in the middle of the hall as if she were the traffic police, pointing to the places I should go and scolding me when she thought I hadn’t polished well.
The time passed quickly until suddenly we realized that we had finished the whole floor. Thanks to Jan Di’s sense of fun, didn’t feel like work at all.
When she came back after putting away all the cleansing equipment, I saw that she was a little pale.
“I’m sure you haven’t slept. Go, change, and I’ll take you home.”
“It’s not necessary for you to…” I stared sternly at her and, surprisingly, she caved under my gaze. “Okay, sunbae. Thanks.”
Lately, I was having more and more success communicating with her. It wasn’t necessary to push her with words; one look told her everything I needed to say. The silence we shared had something telepathic about it sometimes.
Minutes ticked by and Jan Di didn’t come back. Finally, I left the couch I was sitting on and went to wait for her outside the bathroom door. She had spent fifteen minutes in there, and I was starting to get worried. I decided to call.
From outside I could hear her ringtone, but no one was answering. I went in knowing that no one else would be there. Maybe she fell asleep. I kept walking toward the sound and at the last turn I found her: she was passed out on the floor. My heart skipped a beat. I dropped to my knees beside her.
“Jan Di… Jan Di-ah! Wake up! Can you hear me? Jan Di!” I was frantic.
She moaned softly. “I… I’m fine… I’m okay…”
But she wasn’t. I touched her forehead and she was burning. How could I have missed that? I couldn’t take her home on my bike… What should I do? Then a thought came to mind.
I called Secretary Park and he picked up in seconds even at that late hour.
“Yes, young master?”
“I need you to send a car to the art gallery, immediately!”
“It’s not necessary; I’m close by. Did something happen?”
“Just come quickly, please!”
“I’ll be there in two minutes.”
I took Jan Di in my arms and went to the exit. I thanked the heavens to find the secretary already parked at the curb and coming quickly to meet me.
“Young master! What has happened?”
“She passed out. I don’t know what’s wrong with her apart from a fever. Call the doctor and tell him to come to the house as soon as possible.”
He opened the back door for me and I gently placed her on the seat. I arranged myself near the door so she could lay down with her head on my lap. Secretary Park was driving near the speed limit while talking on the hands-free with the doctor.
We arrived home quickly and I carried Jan Di to my room to lay her down on my bed.
“Young master, the doctor will be here shortly.”
“Thank you, Secretary Park. It was fortunate that you were so nearby. Don’t worry about this; you can go home.”
“Are you sure, young master?”
“Yes,” I assured him. At that exact moment, the doorbell rang. “You see? That must be the doctor. It will all be fine, and if I need anything, I’ll call you. Please, get some rest.”
“Thank you, young master. Then, good night.”
Chae Yun left, letting the doctor and his accompanying nurse in on his way out.
“What happened?” the physician asked me.
I explained the little I knew while he checked Jan Di’s pulse. After a while, he asked me to wait in the kitchen.
I paced nervously, trying to assure myself that it was nothing serious. Jan Di always seemed like such a strong girl, capable of anything. And she was, but the truth was that she also had a fragile side she rarely showed.
Although, she had shown it to me.
“Excuse me, sir?” It was the nurse.
“The doctor would like to know if you have any spare clothes for the lady. It’s not good that she rests in those damp ones.”
I offered her a pair of white cotton pajamas I had in the bathroom. Several more minutes passed before the doctor called me.
“Do not be alarmed; everything is fine. Her fever should respond to the medication I injected her with, and this serum will help her recover her strength.”
“Why did she pass out?” I asked. It can’t be just from the fever.
“Essentially, it was caused by a combination of malnutrition and exhaustion. Let her rest for a couple of days and she will be back to normal. It would be good to check her diet, too.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Oh, and one more thing. Has the lady suffered an impact injury of some kind? Perhaps from fall or a hard blow?”
“Not that I know of. Why?”
“It’s just that when the nurse changed her clothes, she raised the lady’s arms to take off the damp clothes and put on the dry ones. The girl showed signs of strong discomfort and, at one point, pain. I examined her and noticed the problem was in her left arm, specifically in her shoulder, but I couldn’t find any hematoma or muscle relaxation. Nevertheless, it would be wise to ask her when she wakes up.”
“Of course, doctor. Thank you very much.”
“We’ll take our leave. Good night.”
I was a complete idiot. All night long I had watched her clean, raising her arms to reach the windows, and I hadn’t noticed her pain or the damage she was causing to her shoulder. When I took her to the clinic before to check her shoulder, the doctor had said that she would have no problem with ‘daily life tasks’ as long as she did her rehabilitation exercises. Of course, I wasn’t sure if she had been doing them. That was something I was going to have to take care of.
I went to her and sat by her side. She was still sweating a bit, so I took my handkerchief and wiped her forehead. I couldn’t help but stare at her features and wonder, once again, how I had missed recognizing my feelings for her. It seemed so absurd…
I decided to tuck her in so she could rest. I would take the couch. When I took her left hand in mine, I was careful. I didn’t want her to hurt again. But before I could put it under the sheets, I noticed her ring finger had a wound. It looked like a burst blister. A sense of irony hit me when I remembered the way she had tended to me when I hurt that exact same finger playing the violin.
In that moment I had thought she was annoying. How wrong I was.
Now that I was looking more carefully, I saw that her whole hand was rather rough and calloused; she had burn scars here and there, and her nails where not well-kept. This hand was so different from all the others I knew, soft hands that smelled like expensive lotions and recently applied nail polish. And still, the hand I was holding seemed far more beautiful that all the rest.
I couldn’t help but lean in and kiss that hand. It was small compared to mine, but more determined and full of warmth. Thanks to that hand, I had discovered so many things, and I hoped I could keep discovering more.
Thank you, Jan Di… Thank you for being you.
Years later, I would find out that this one small gesture was, in great part, responsible for my current happiness.
Jan Di’s POV
Rays of light fell upon my closed eyelids, disturbing my sleep. I rolled over to avoid them but felt something painful in my arm. I opened my eyes bleary eyes to see a needle coming out of my skin.
“Jan Di! What happened?”
Ji Hoo ran into the bedroom. His bedroom.
Wait a second… where am I?
“Um… I… this… What?”
“Easy there. You’re in my house. You fainted yesterday at the gallery,” he explained.
I thought back. I remembered nothing after going into the restroom. Ji Hoo sat on the edge of the bed and explained everything that had happened and what the doctor said after examining me.
“So tell me, Jan Di, have you been doing the exercise routine the doctor gave you for your rehabilitation?”
“I… well, I haven’t had the time…” I said sheepishly, knowing that he’d be angry.
“Geum Jan Di,” he said, and there it was. I got a bit scared because Ji Hoo rarely used my full name. “You know that you won’t be able to swim professionally anymore, but your daily life will be severely affected if you keep going like this, doing nothing to recover.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. I promise to do my part to heal.”
His hand gently covered mine and his expression softened.
“I don’t want this to happen again. Please, Jan Di.”
“Yes, sunbae,” I said dutifully. How do you say no to a face like that?
“Okay.” He smiled. “I think you should get up and eat something.”
He carefully removed the needle from my arm and took care of the serum bag. When I moved, I realized I was dressed in unfamiliar white pajamas. Blushing, I turned around to ask him about it, but he answered me before the question left my mouth.
“Don’t worry. The nurse was the one who changed your clothes. You’ll find yours in the bathroom, already laundered.”
I thanked him and went to the bathroom to wash and change. As I started to undress, I had a strange feeling that I was forgetting something…
“Sunbae!” I sprinted out to the kitchen.
“What is it now?”
“The school… my parents! There are classes today, and I didn’t arrive home yesterday!”
“Jan Di… who do you think you are with right now?”
“Uh, Ji Hoo sunbae.”
“Yes, and that means…”
“You have already called my parents, haven’t you?”
“Correct again. I explained the situation to them and there was no problem. They were going to call the school to excuse your absence.”
I sighed, relieved.
“Thanks again, sunbae.”
“You’re welcome. Now, I think you should finish getting dressed. You’ll catch a cold if you walk around like that, you know?”
I gazed down and saw with horror that, though I had taken off the pajama pants, I hadn’t put anything back on! In mid scream I went to the bathroom again to scramble into my jeans. In truth, the pajama top was so big it hung halfway down my thighs, but still! I was so ashamed to have come out like that in front of Ji Hoo! My face flushed in agitation, and I wished that I could disappear.
When I came out, the table was already laid with breakfast. It looked delicious, but my embarrassment smothered my appetite.
“Sunbae… uh, about a while ago…”
“A while ago? Did something happen? I don’t remember. You know, sometimes my memory fails me,” he said.
I smiled while blushing at the memory of that morning in Macao and his comforting post-it. I felt a little bit more relieved and we began enjoying breakfast together.
“After this I’ll take you home. You must rest.”
“But I feel fine already!”
“Jan Di, the doctor said you should rest two days, and that’s what you’ll do,” he said firmly. I was taken aback by the uncharacteristic stubbornness in his voice.
“Sunbae, please, let me go to school. Today we’re going to have a class to review all the material that will be on the next test!”
“I promise I’ll go only to that class and then straight home…please, please…”
What is wrong with me? I thought.
Usually if anyone told me not to do something that I wanted to do, I would do it in the end. But there I was, asking Ji Hoo to let me go to school. For some reason, if he was the one telling me not to, I felt the need to convince him of why I should. I was practically asking for permission.
He seemed to be thinking about it, so I decided to pull out a trick I read in one of Ga Eul’s magazines. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to work, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.
I put my elbows on the table, rested my face on my hands, and gave him my most innocent expression, adding a little pout for emphasis.
“That… That’s not fair!” he protested.
I didn’t move an inch.
He looked at me for a couple more seconds and groaned, “Fine! But just the one class…”
“You rock, sunbae!”
“Yeah, yeah… come on, I’ll take you. Ah, but I don’t have my bike! I left it at the gallery yesterday, and I don’t have a chauffeur right now. We’ll take a cab.”
“That won’t be necessary, young master.”
We both turned around to look at the man who had just arrived. He was an older man, dressed in a black suit and tie, but with a face that seemed kind.
“Secretary Park?” Ji Hoo stood up.
“I’m very sorry to have interrupted like this, young master. I wasn’t sure if you would be awake this early. I just wanted to come leave your bike keys and to tell you that I had it sent for this morning. At least, that was what I was going to write in a note.” He looked a little bit flustered.
“It’s fine, and thank you.” Ji Hoo said.
“Please forgive my rudeness, miss. My name is Park Chae Yun. I’m the secretary of the Yoon family.”
“Oh, my name is Geum Jan Di. Thank you very much for all you did for me last night. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
“No inconvenience at all, miss.”
A slight smile graced his face, making him look several years younger.
“Secretary Park, in the course of the morning I will need your help to make some purchases.” Ji Hoo said.
“Yes, young master. Please, do not let me keep you; the staff will take care of this in a few moments.”
“Thank you. Jan Di, let’s go.”
“Okay.” I promptly stood up.
I said goodbye to Secretary Park and walked with Ji Hoo to his garage. We mounted the bike and drove off toward my home.
Ji Hoo’s POV
I left Jan Di on her doorstep, just as I had so many times before. I was a little bit calmer now. During breakfast she had filled me in on her parents’ situation, and I couldn’t help but laugh. She was most definitely like her dad… The man had almost no money for himself, but he had given the little he did have to a friend in need.
When I arrived home again, I noticed everything was in order: the bed was made, the dishes were cleaned and put away, and even the pajamas Jan Di had used were already washed. I couldn’t deny the efficiency of my cleaning staff.
I found Secretary Park in the study.
“I’m back,” I announced.
“Welcome home, young master. I hope Miss Geum is feeling much better.”
“At least better than yesterday. Either way, I need your help.”
“What can I assist you in, young master?”
“I need to go shopping.”
I explained to him my concern about Jan Di’s diet. I wanted to buy some food for her. He understood and drove us both to the supermarket while I sat in the passenger seat and thought about what would be best for her.
Try as I might to focus on the shopping list, I was distracted by the memory of Jan Di as she had stood that morning in the kitchen, with disheveled hair, flushed cheeks, and dressed only in the top part of my white pajamas. It was a vision I hadn’t conjured even in my dreams. She had looked so beautiful and alluring, I had needed all of my self-control to fight back a blush and to keep my focus on her face, although I was able to drink in the sight of her when she gazed down at her attire and left running, and I couldn’t stop my eyes from roaming freely over her retreating form.
Another thing that had surprised me was her little pout. That face was definitely against the rules.
If she ever learns how that look disarms me, I will be in a whole lot of trouble.
It was interesting to shop for groceries. Usually someone did that for me, and now I was doing it for her.
“Secretary Park, Jan Di will be out of her house at 1pm for her last class of the day. Please take advantage of that and deliver all of this there while she is gone.”
“Are you sure, young master?”
“Yes. If I did it when she was there, she would reject it. Just make sure her parents get it. You can say it’s some kind of prize; that explanation will suffice.”
“As you say.”
I felt better knowing that now she would have everything she needed to quickly improve her health. I decided not to go to school that day. Classes were about to finish, anyway, and I preferred to go home and examine the documents Secretary Park had given me the day before.
Jan Di’s POV
The review was over quickly, and the professor left us the last hour for free study, allowing me to catch up with some English notes and correct some mistakes. My head still hurt, but I couldn’t allow myself to miss class or fail the exams.
While I was checking the verbs in my notebook, a red spot appeared on the page and spread out in a widening circle. I put my hand to my nose and discovered that it was bleeding.
I can’t believe this.
I tried to contain it with some paper, but it kept flowing so I went to the restroom. On the way, while passing in front of the stairs, I saw Jun Pyo. Our gazes crossed for two seconds before he looked away and kept going as if he hadn’t seen anyone. I wasn’t expecting us to talk like old friends overnight, but to see the person you love treating you that way, ignoring you… it hurt.
I closed my eyes and reminded myself of my decision from that morning: to forget him. It would take time, but I knew I could do it.
I felt my hand filling up with blood, so I ran on to the restroom.
When I arrived home after school, the mood was different in every way from the air of mourning that had permeated the previous day. My parents and my brother were dancing and singing stupidly around several market bags.
“What happened here?” I asked.
“Oh, Jan Di! Not everything can be bad in this life!” My mother told me while sweeping me into a hug.
“Noona, today a man came saying he was one of those radio representatives, the ones mom used to call all the time to win something. He said our family won a prize a long time ago but they forgot to award it, and that’s why they rewarded us with all this food! Isn’t it great?”
“Ehhh, yeah… but this… all of these products are expensive, high quality foods. Do they give this out at local radio stations?”
“It’s the least they could do after making us wait for so long! To have forgotten we won… ha!” My mother kept saying.
“Which radio station were they from, appa?”
“I don’t know, exactly. It all happened so fast, and, besides, as soon as your mother saw all this food, she started screaming and no one could hear anything.”
After that, I couldn’t get another word in because they started singing again. I started putting away the food in the cupboards, and among the bags I found a box of instant pancakes. I couldn’t help but laugh, remembering Ji Hoo.
I spent the afternoon doing my homework and studying for the next English test. When night fell, I took a relaxing bath so I could rest well and be ready for the next day. When I came out of the bathroom, Kang San approached me.
“Noona, someone called to say they’re waiting for you in the park.”
“Who was it?
“I don’t know, but they called when you were in the bath. It was a woman.”
Ga Eul? It could be. I knew her head lately was full of thoughts of Yi Jung; maybe something had happened.
“Kang San, tell umma I’m going out for a moment. I’ll be right back.”
I ran to the park as soon as I dried my hair. I searched for Ga Eul frantically and got a huge scare when I felt someone hugging me from behind. I was about to react, but I could tell that whoever this was, they didn’t want to hurt me. Still, I was surprised when I turned around and found Jae Kyung on the brink of tears.
“What… what’s going on?” I asked.
“Jun Pyo…Goo Jun Pyo,” she said, sobbing.
“Something bad happened to Jun Pyo!?”
She shook her head.
“He… he asked me to officially date him!” she cried, throwing herself at me in a fierce hug. That’s when it hit me that these were happy tears.
“I was so happy, I thought I would go crazy, so I ran all the way over here to tell you! You’re going to congratulate me, right?”
“Congratulations,” I managed. It felt robotic.
“To fall in love with your fiancée… isn’t that too romantic?” she sighed as she let me go.
“Yeah…” I smiled weakly.
Hugging me again, Jae Kyung thanked me for being her friend and listening to her. She was so happy. I couldn’t do more than hug her back and try to contain my tears. Little by little, day by day, Jun Pyo and I grew further apart, but at the same time, I knew he was finding his happiness. He would never have asked a girl out if he wasn’t serious.
“Unnie…congratulations,” I said again, and this time I meant it.
Ji Hoo’s POV
That afternoon, Secretary Park confirmed to me that our purchases had reached Jan Di’s home. He said between laughs that he had never seen anyone so excited about grocery bags.
Now I was calmer, but I still had to prepare myself for an event that night. It was the release of the new cellphones models from a renowned brand. Unfortunately, I had to go.
When I arrived at the gala, I found Woo Bin and Yi Jung immediately. We stood around comparing the cellphones we had received as promotional gifts and commenting on the new features. The one person who was missing was Jun Pyo.
“You think he’ll come?” Woo Bin asked.
“He has to. Have you seen who’s sitting at that table?” pointed Yi Jung.
We all saw Jun Pyo’s mother and Jae Kyung’s parents sitting down at one of the few tables available for the most distinguished guests at the event.
A wave of murmuring swept across the crowd, and we turned to see that Jun Pyo had arrived as predicted. It surprised me to see Jae Kyung on his arm, but I was even more surprised to see how seemingly comfortable he was with her. They approached us when they saw us. Jun Pyo and Jae Kyung greeted us, and I realized that neither Woo Bin nor Yi Jung knew what to say.
“Look, Jun Pyo gave me a matching cellphone. You know, couple phones!”
Jae Kyung was on cloud nine, anyone could tell. What I couldn’t discern was what Jun Pyo was thinking. I didn’t have time to examine him more though, because soon he swept her away to greet the rest of the party.
“What was that about?” asked Woo Bin.
“Did Jun Pyo crack under his mother’s pressure?” mused Yi Jung.
“Whatever, bro. What I’m wondering is what’s going to happen to Jan Di?” countered Woo Bin.
And that was the only question on my mind, too.
Jan Di’s POV
It was a new school day, and the night before, against all my expectations, I had managed to sleep. What Jae Kyung told me left me feeling sad, but deep down I knew my resolution wasn’t going to change. I would forget Jun Pyo. Besides, he was trying to find his happiness, and I had to do the same. At this moment, that meant studying for the university entrance exams. My growing dream of being a doctor someday made me determined to push myself.
The English test had been a piece of cake thanks to the review of the day before. As always, they gave us the next hour free, so I decided to study in the one place on campus where I always felt calmed: the emergency stairwell. This was the place I met Ji Hoo sunbae and also the place where we toasted the birth of my new dream. While I was there, I wouldn’t have to think about Jun Pyo. It was our place, mine and sunbae’s.
As if he had heard his name in my head, Ji Hoo appeared.
“Weren’t you supposed to be resting today as well?” he asked.
“Sunbae, I’m fine…”
He smiled at me as if he was surrendering and leaned against the wall to check out my books.
“How are the studies coming along?”
“Just okay. If I make it to medical school it will be a bit of a wonder,” I answered him.
“But wonders are your thing.”
“Don’t you remember? Geum Jan Di, Wonder Woman.”
We both laughed at that.
“Well, even if I don’t get in, I can still volunteer at grandpa’s clinic…” Suddenly, I snapped my mouth shut. I had forgotten for a moment about the tension between Ji Hoo and his grandfather.
I turned to look at his face and noticed how his expression had changed. Pushing my books aside, I got up and stood next to him.
“Sunbae… don’t you think you should fix things with your grandfather?”
“We never fought,” he said. “It was he who decided to stay away from me.”
“It’s not like that,” I protested, and he looked at me, bewildered. “Your grandfather is also suffering very much. Besides…”
“He thinks about you…a lot.”
“What?” I asked this time.
“It’s just that… I feel that you understand people so much better than I do. First it was that person and now grandfather.”
He was referring to Seo Hyun.
Should I tell him?
“It’s just that… the only thing I can’t bear is to see you sad, sunbae.”
Ji Hoo looked at me and I looked back at him. He was about to tell me something when his eyes shifted to something behind me. Suddenly, I heard a voice and knew exactly who was there. Turning, I saw them through the open door, standing a couple of yards down the deserted hallway beyond: Jae Kyung and Jun Pyo. They didn’t seem to be aware of our presence.
She was complaining about him not treating her well, that she was always the one begging him for a date. Jun Pyo simply told her that if she was tired of it, she could stop following him. She then said that she felt insecure and he had to do something to show her his sincerity…. so she asked for a kiss.
Those words warned me of what was about to happen, but even if I had wanted to remove my gaze or close my eyes, I couldn’t. I was frozen in place, fixated on them. Just as I saw Jun Pyo moving towards her to kiss her, two strong arms grasped me and turned me around, pulling me into a hug.
Ji Hoo kept one hand on my back and another on my head, hiding my eyes from the scene developing in the corridor behind me. His action surprised me, but I knew he did it because he realized that I was unable to turn away on my own. Once again, I was depending on him. It was unfair, but in that moment I needed him.
I leaned into his arms and buried my face in his chest, that place where I had already shed so many tears. Here I was, doing it again.
When he was sure Jun Pyo and Jae Kyung had left, Ji Hoo released me gently. Fresh tears were still running down my cheeks, and Ji Hoo raised his hand to dry them.
“Me too,” he said. “The only thing I definitely cannot bear is to see you sad, Jan Di.”
I saw the truth in his eyes and thanked him with a silent look of gratitude. Just then, the bell rang to announce the next hour of classes. I knew I should go, but I didn’t feel like it at all.
“Sunbae… could you take me somewhere?”
Ji Hoo’s POV
Her request floored me. It wasn’t typical of Jan Di to miss school, but this situation definitely justified it. I asked her to wait for me in the parking lot while I went to her classroom to pick up her stuff. I didn’t want to enter and cause an uproar, so I asked the professor to retrieve them, excusing Jan Di with a fake illness. He gave me her backpack without further questions.
We took off on my bike, but I wasn’t sure where to take her, so I simply rode aimlessly until I heard her shouting something.
“Sunbae! Turn right here and go down that street!”
I didn’t know what was there, but I did as she asked. I soon saw a large river surrounded by plants and trees… I had ridden through those streets for years but had never known there was a river there.
We both stood in front of it quietly for what seemed like a long time, just being next to each other and looking at the water.
Suddenly, a thought made me laugh.
“You must have been an otter in your past life,” I told her.
“You’re both so alike. Hard workers, clumsy, and cute. Besides, you can’t live without water.” The fact that Jan Di could calm down in a place full of water confirmed to me once again how much it had hurt her to lose her dream of becoming a professional swimmer. But my comment had made her laugh and I basked in that. She wasn’t as sad as she had been earlier.
“Couldn’t you say I was like a mermaid or something like that?”
“You can’t be a mermaid. It’s too sad to turn to foam for an unrequited love.”
I will never let that happen to you, Jan Di-ah. In fact, if it were up to me, I would…
A loud growl came from Jan Di’s stomach and shook me out of my thoughts.
“The otter must be hungry,” she laughed again.
“Let’s go. I’ll buy dinner!”
I smiled and nodded. In few minutes, we were riding to one of her favorite ramen places. To our surprise, we found Jun Pyo and Jae Kyung entering the restaurant just ahead of us.
Jae Kyung was really excited to find Jan Di and insisted that we all sit together. Jan Di didn’t refuse like I thought she would, and I worried. I didn’t want to see her crying after this encounter.
While we were eating kimbap, Jan Di was staring intently at a poster that offered fifty free meal coupons to anyone who could finish a gigantic bowl of ramen in twenty minutes. Jae Kyung noticed as well and declared that she would win it for Jan Di. Jun Pyo didn’t believe her, and in the end Jae Kyung said that if she made it, we would all three have to grant her one wish. I was really curious, so I caved.
“Alright, we accept,” I said for Jan Di and me. She looked at me and I smiled silently to ask if that was okay. She nodded and returned my smile.
“It’s two against one, Jun, so you’ll have to do it too. All right, I’m ready for the challenge!”
When I saw the bowl they put in front of Jae Kyung, I was sure she wouldn’t finish. It was simply too much! But the minutes ticked by and Jae Kyung was relentless. Bit by bit the ramen steadily disappeared.
“5…4…3…2…1!” The shop attendant counted down.
“I won!” Exclaimed Jae Kyung, setting down the bowl and wiping her mouth on a napkin.
The whole store clapped, as did we, but our faces were sporting an incredulous look.
That was amazing. This girl has a black hole in her stomach, no doubt about that.
After giving Jan Di the fifty free-meal coupons, she told us her wish.
“Let us all go on a trip! Jan Di, Ji Hoo, Jun Pyo and I—a couples trip! Like a double date!”
It was clear that for some reason Jae Kyung thought Jan Di and I were a couple.
Jun Pyo flatly refused, saying he hated the “double date” thing, and took off. Jae Kyung stayed to beg us both to go with her to one of her hotels.
“You promised, Ji Hoo; you said you would grant one wish of mine,” she pouted, although I was happy to find that it didn’t have any effect on me. Contrary to Jan Di’s pout.
“Alright. First I’ll check with Jan Di’s parents. She needs to ask for permission.”
“Perfect! Here’s my cellphone number.” We exchanged numbers. “Call me as soon as you have an answer. We can go tomorrow! I have to catch up to Jun. Bye, Jan Di! I hope to see you soon!”
Jan Di’s POV
On the ride back home I couldn’t believe the afternoon I had lived, or the night before! To see Jun Pyo with Jae Kyung on a date was something I wasn’t expecting, but thanks to the fact that Ji Hoo was beside me, it was bearable. But now I was supposed to go with them on a trip? How would I get through it?
What am I going to do?
“Are you sure about this?” Ji Hoo asked me when I finally told him I would go. “I can tell her your parents didn’t let you go.”
“It’s alright, sunbae. I can’t always be hiding from them. Jun Pyo and Jae Kyung are a couple, and Jun Pyo is the one who asked her to officially date him. I don’t see him doing that on a whim. Unnie gave me something really good, and I’m planning on using these coupons well. And besides…”
“You’ll be there, right?” I asked, a little unsure.
“Of course, I’ll be there.”
“Then I’ll feel more than safe, sunbae.”
It was the honest truth. The only times I didn’t think about Jun Pyo were when I was studying medicine and when I was close to Ji Hoo. Sometimes I felt bad taking advantage of his kindness like that.
“Then, I’ll pick you up early tomorrow,” he said.
“Yes, good night.”
I got up and told my mom the news. I just had to tell her I was going with the heiress of the JK group and she herself went to pack me a bag.
“Jan Di, Jan Di! Where do you keep your swimsuits? In a hotel like that there must be pools!” It felt like a hurricane was passing through my room.
“Mom, you know I can’t swim anymore…”
“It’s not as if you’re going to compete, child! The thing is for you to show yourself! Although there’s not much to show…”
“Thank you, mother. They are in the last drawer. I wasn’t planning on using them again.”
The next day, Ji Hoo came to pick me up, not in his usual bike, but in a van driven by Secretary Park. It was good to see him again.
We finally arrived at the hotel and found Jae Kyung and Jun Pyo already checking in. Jun Pyo had a face that screamed, ‘don’t come near me.’ I decided to heed the warning and started looking around at the hotel instead. It was huge, even bigger than the one to which I had followed Ga Eul and Yi Jung.
Minutes later Jae Kyung was giving us our room keys and special passes for full access to every area in the hotel.
“Alright then, the boys will take care of the dinner tonight!” She said
“Why should I do something like that?” complained Jun Pyo.
“Oh, I see. Jun Pyo is incapable of cooking,” she teased him.
“Who said I was incapable? I just said I didn’t want to.”
“The one who doesn’t want to do something is probably hiding the fact that he can’t.”
“What weird logic is that!? Ji Hoo, come on…”
I saw how my sunbae trailed after Jun Pyo with a resigned but funny expression. I knew dinner would be a disaster.
Jae Kyung took me to my room so I could change, then dragged me to a small alcove in the lobby telling me she had something important to show me.
They were rings, one for her and one for Jun Pyo.
“I used to think this was something corny, but people can change. Now all I want is for the whole world to know he’s mine.” She smiled.
I noticed that inside the ring the letters “J&J” were engraved. I couldn’t help but think of my necklace. I asked her about them.
“This is for Jun Pyo and Jae Kyung. ‘J&J’. I felt a little silly when I asked for it, but truth is, I think Jun Pyo is my soul mate.”
“They are gorgeous unnie. I’m sure he will like them. Although you should find the right moment to tell him about them… You know how he can be.”
“Jan Di is right! What would I do without you?” She hugged me and I just hugged her back, without knowing what to reply. “Come on! Let’s see what the guys made for dinner.”
I followed her with great sorrow in my heart after knowing she was going to gift him with something he had already given me. However, it wasn’t as painful as when I found out about their engagement the first time. Besides, I decided, ‘J&J’ belonged to them now.
Be strong Jan Di, you’re doing fine…
Jun Pyo’s POV
We had done a great job on the food. It had been a while since I had so much fun doing something with Ji Hoo.
“Are you done?” Jae Kyung said as she arrived with Jan Di.
“Yes,” I told her.
“Let’s taste it!” She popped a piece of mushroom into her mouth and gagged. “What is this?”
“What’s wrong with you? It tastes great!”
“You think? Jan Di, go on, try some.” She pushed Jan Di forward.
“Actually, I would rather not…”
But before Jae Kyung or I could reply, Ji Hoo picked up a morsel of food with the chopsticks and offered it to Jan Di.
“Try some,” was all he said, and he placed a hand under her chin while she opened her mouth obediently to take a bite. The action lasted less than a second, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. Not after what I had seen in his house.
“Sunbae… this tastes… awful!” She was scrunching up her nose at the flavor, and Ji Hoo openly laughed.
Jae Kyung was already on her cellphone with the kitchen staff, ordering up a barbeque. Ji Hoo took Jan Di’s elbow and they both left the table, chatting in a friendly way.
“Did it really taste that bad?” he asked, kidding with her.
“How can you have such bad taste buds, sunbae?” she laughed at him and shoved him playfully.
I couldn’t stand to see Jan Di so close to Ji Hoo. I couldn’t stand to see Jan Di so close to any other man, but there was nothing I could do. I had already decided to go forward with my mother’s plan. What other choice did I have?
“Jun… should we go?” Jae Kyung took my arm and led me to the table. She, Ji Hoo, and Jan Di talked amiably until our dishes arrived, and I truly didn’t understand what was happening here. Didn’t Jan Di love me? Hadn’t she gone to Macao to look for me because she was worried about me? How was it that now she didn’t seem to care about me prancing around with another woman?
The food was exquisite. The chefs had really outdone themselves. Jan Di was staring at her plate with a weird expression and eating in really small bites, not knowing where to cut her meat; she had probably never eaten anything like that before. I was about to taunt her when…
“Ah, you shouldn’t have bothered, sunbae. Gomawo.”
Ji Hoo hadn’t been eating at all from his plate and I found that strange. But now it was all clear: he had cut everything on his plate and passed it to Jan Di. Was he crazy or what? The worst part was that she was now quickly eating with that trademark smile of hers, the one she wore when she tasted something really delicious. I couldn’t resent that; I had always loved to watch her eating, but not from a plate given to her by a man that wasn’t me! I looked at Ji Hoo and saw that he was cool as always, as if nothing had happened, eating off of Jan Di’s plate as it if had been his own.
I drank my whole glass of wine in one go. Jae Kyung wanted me to toast with her but I excused myself, saying I had nothing left. She turned then to Ji Hoo and Jan Di and the three of them clinked their glasses.
“You know, there’s a hot spring near here. Would you like to go?” Jae Kyung asked.
“I would.” Ji Hoo loved hot springs. Since we were kids, they were one of his favorite places.
“What do you say, Jan Di?”
“Yes, of course, but first I want to rest for a bit. I’ll join you later.”
“Jun, you coming?”
“I’ll go later.” Without saying another word I left. Maybe if I waited long enough, I could see Jan Di alone when she went down.
Jan Di’s POV
The food had been too much… I doubted I could go swimming without getting a cramp. Ji Hoo escorted me to my room and, once inside, I began looking for my swimsuit. While searching, I found among my clothes a little box… the box in which I had put the necklace Jun Pyo gave me. Could I really be this unlucky?
This means nothing.
I put it aside and found what I was looking for. The only problem was that my mother, in her great wisdom, hadn’t noticed that there was more than one swimsuit in my drawer and had packed one that didn’t fit anymore. I had no choice but to don a black short and a yellow t-shirt. If I couldn’t submerge in the hot water, I’d at least wet my feet.
Before going out of the room, my eyes strayed to the box again.
My head was telling me not to, but I still went and opened it, admiring again the beautiful necklace inside. I felt grief, but to a lesser degree compared to previous days. Without knowing why, I took the necklace, put it in my pocket, and went out.
I found the thermal waters on the first floor.
I had seen what thermal waters usually looked like on TV, and this was not it. These were waterfalls—literally waterfalls—flowing from the ceiling into different pools of water on the ground. Some were really deep, while others were less so. After staring openmouthed around me, I sat down on the edge of one pool and lost myself in thought.
After a while I searched in my pocket and found the necklace. It was really pretty, unique in the whole world, just like Jun Pyo.
…or Ji Hoo.
I shook my head and inspected the necklace again; behind the star, the letters ‘J&J’ were engraved, just as on Jae Kyung’s rings.
I gazed at it for a long while and felt… like a complete idiot. What did I gain by looking at a necklace I would never put on again? What did I gain by wondering why Jun Pyo changed his temper as the sky changes its colors just because he didn’t get what he wanted? I was really doing senseless things.
I better go look for my sunbae… or unnie.
I pocketed the necklace, quickly stood up and went for the exit… or at least I tried to.
My foot slipped on a wet stone at one edge of the pool and I lost my balance. Before I knew what was happening, I fell heavily into a deep pool.
Pain gripped me as I tried to resurface, my leg cramping up. I couldn’t use it to propel myself upward, so I started using my arms instead. It was working! I was going up toward the precious light and air, but then a stab of pain in my left shoulder rendered me unable to continue.
I’m drowning! I panicked. I can’t move! Sunbae! Ji Hoo sunbae! Darkness closed over me.
When I came back to myself, I was coughing through a throat that felt like sandpaper and someone was yelling my name.
“Jan Di… Jan Di! Are you alright!?”
“Jun Pyo? But… how? You can’t swim…”
“I can now.”
“I learned,” he scoffed.
“I…” he started after a few uncomfortable seconds of silence. “I realized I’d rather die than to have to watch another guy save you. So I learned how to swim.”
His words floored me completely. It was incredible that he had overcome his phobia for me… and the thought warmed me.
“Thank you for saving me.” I felt the muscles in my leg relax as the cramp that had seized me passed.
“Yeah, you’re welcome. Let’s go. I’ll take you to your room.” He made an attempt to carry me, but I refused.
“I can walk fine, really.”
“No, I’ll take you,” he insisted, grabbing my left arm and pulling it around his neck, which almost made me scream out in pain. Instead I let out a groan.
“Jun Pyo, thank you. Really, thank you, but I can walk.”
He finally gave up and helped me get up so I could start walking.
Ji Hoo’s POV
I was gathering the clothes I had packed for the weekend when someone knocked at my door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me, Jae Kyung.”
I opened the door.
“Good evening,” I greeted her.
“Hey. I wanted to ask if Jun is with you.”
“No, he hasn’t come looking for me,” I told her.
“That man! He escaped again.”
“He must have gone ahead to the thermal waters. He possibly-” I paused midthought. I had been about to say that he possibly had not wanted to disturb her after dinner, but before I could, I felt a strange sensation in my chest.
“He possibly what?”
I couldn’t be sure, but it was as if someone was calling me, as if someone had mentioned my name and that person needed me… immediately.
“Jan Di,” I finally muttered.
“You’re saying he’s possibly with Jan Di?” Jae Kyung asked me, confused.
“No, I’m saying that something has happened to Jan Di.”
“What!? How do you know?”
“Jae Kyung, where exactly are the thermal waters?”
I went running to the first floor with her tailing me. She kept asking me if I was sure that something had happened to Jan Di, but I couldn’t answer her with certainty. It was just a hunch…I felt like she needed me.
When I reached the hallway leading to the pools, found Jan Di, slowly walking along with Jun Pyo behind her. Both of them were drenched.
“Jan Di! What happened? Are you alright?” Jae Kyung went to her at once.
“I’m fine… I slipped and fell into one of the deep pools. I had a cramp so I couldn’t get out. Jun Pyo saved me.”
“What a relief!”
That information surprised me. When had Jun Pyo learned to swim? Even if I could guess his motives, at the moment I was focused completely on Jan Di. She was hugging herself.
Our eyes locked, and I saw her making a gesture toward her left shoulder. That was all I needed to know.
“Don’t worry Jun Pyo. I’ll take care of her,” I told him, but he didn’t look very happy.
As I moved into place beside her and put my arm around her to escort her back to her room, I noticed she was shaking. We advanced a little way down the corridor and then I asked her in a low voice, “How much does it hurt?”
“My leg is fine, just a little bruised from the impact of the fall, but… my shoulder…”
Without waiting for the rest of her explanation, I swept her up into my arms to carry her the rest of the way to the room.
“No!” she exclaimed. “I’m fine; I can walk! I’ll get your clothes wet, sunbae. I-“
Once again I said nothing, just looked at her pointedly. I was not going to relent on this. She was in no shape to walk the rest of the way, and she needed rest. It seemed as if she understood, because she relaxed and remained still, putting her right arm around my neck to steady herself.
We reached her room and I sat her on a loveseat near her bed before crouching down beside her.
“Do you want me to call for a doctor?”
“I don’t think it’s necessary. I just strained my arm trying to compensate for the cramp in my leg and overdid it. It will get better with time.”
“I’m already your firefighter; do I have to be your lifeguard too?” I joked, making her laugh. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there, Jan Di.”
“It’s not as if you are Superman and can hear my cries of help, sunbae.”
“You called me?”
“Um…” I watched her as she blushed “…actually, it was more than a cry for help. I thought about you. I was remembering New Caledonia, you know, that time I also almost drowned because of a cramp.”
Was it possible? Was I really reacting to this ‘alarm’ Jan Di claimed I had?
“I’ll leave you to change. Meet me in the lobby when you’re done.”
I stood up, turned around to go to the door, and then felt her tugging at my shirt.
“Thank… Thank you, sunbae.” She looked at me from behind her eyelashes, still with that blush on her cheeks.
I ruffled her hair and smiled. She smiled back, and my heart gave a leap. I left the room coolly, but as soon as I was back in the hallway, I sprinted back to my own room and darted inside. Closing the door behind me, I leaned against it and sighed deeply.
I knew perfectly well that Jan Di was still in love with Jun Pyo, but there were occasions, like the one that had just passed, when certain gestures made my heart beat like mad and put my self-control to the test. I really didn’t know what to do about this stubborn hope that lived in my chest… the more it grew, the more dangerous it would be. Because when they took it away from me, I wouldn’t know what to do to keep moving forward.
Jan Di’s POV
“What’s wrong with me?”
I had finished bathing and changing, but I was still trembling. I couldn’t accept—I didn’t want to accept—that I had been afraid. Water had always been a source of peace and comfort to me, and now, just because of a fall, I was scared of it?
I closed my hotel room door firmly behind me and locked it, taking a deep breath. In the lobby, I found Ji Hoo sitting comfortably on a low lounge, waiting for me.
“How are you?” he asked me.
“Much better. My leg and shoulder don’t hurt as badly anymore.”
“I’m still taking you to a doctor so he can force you to do your physical therapy if necessary.”
“Alright.” I smiled.
Suddenly I realized that there was more noise than usual in the air around us. The lobby had filled up with people as nighttime approached. Many of those people were girls, and just like at Shinhwa, they were flocking to Ji Hoo like bees to honey. Apparently none of them had yet gathered the courage to talk to him directly.
“Let’s go somewhere else; it’s too crowded in here.”
I acquiesced immediately before the looks of animosity bristling from his ‘fans’.
Ji Hoo took me to a smaller lobby on the same floor. Fortunately, this one was empty, and on a center table in front of a comfortable looking couch, a cup of hot chocolate already waited.
So he actually planned this. The thought made me smile.
“Drink it. It’ll do you good.”
I did. It was delicious.
We were just sitting there next to each other in silence, but it wasn’t uncomfortable; on the contrary, it was rather comforting. However, even after the whole cup of cocoa was gone, my hands wouldn’t stop shaking.
“I feel so stupid. This shouldn’t be happening,” I told him.
The next thing I knew, Ji Hoo’s hand was taking mine, lacing our fingers together.
“Don’t be silly. It’s normal that you’re still shaken up. It will pass soon. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
His hand was warm, and I couldn’t deny I felt cared for and safe. I was also a little embarrassed. Part of it was because it was the first time I was holding hands like that with someone, and part was because that someone was Ji Hoo. After all, he had been my first love. Besides, what girl wouldn’t blush at holding hands with one of the most handsome guys in Korea?
After a few minutes I felt the shaking ceasing, and he must have felt it too, because he tried to move his hand. I think it was out of reflex that, instead of letting him free, I squeezed harder.
“I’ll play something for you so you can relax. But for that, I need both hands,” he told me with a playful smirk.
“It’s fine like this, sunbae… Besides, what would become of me if I fell asleep here?”
“I would carry you to your room.”
“You know what I would like to hear?” I asked in an attempt to distract myself from the idea of him carrying me again. “That song you played in Macao when I lost my wallet. I kind of remember the tune, but not so much the lyrics, and I know it’s beautiful. Who’s the singer?”
“Um…” Ji Hoo said nothing and didn’t look at me either. Could it be…?
“You wrote it?”
“It’s sort of a hobby,” he said sheepishly.
“I didn’t know you wrote songs. I thought you just played them. Would you sing it again?”
“Without the guitar?”
“Without the guitar,” I insisted. I didn’t yet feel ready to let go of his hand.
He sighed, but did as I ask, and before long, I was floating along on his voice.
While I waited for you, I was thinking inside
you were so hurt after you left me
that you’re crying while coming back to me.
When I look at you I suddenly think
one day, when the sky is clear
you’ll come back to me, just like when you left me…
You’re in front of me
Can I see you again?
I can’t see myself in your eyes
Memories of comfortable greetings and smiles
even though they are hardly there, they make me cry
You’ll come back to me again…
If your heart calls for me,
Don’t doubt to come back to my arms
I’ll hug you like the old times.
I’m not sure when I fell asleep, but I know I did it quietly, lulled by Ji Hoo’s beautiful song.
Ji Hoo’s POV
Once again I was surprised by Jan Di’s actions… and my own. I wouldn’t have taken her hand like that if I hadn’t seen her trembling so bad, but then it was she who didn’t want to let go. Was it because she saw me only as a friend and assumed I wouldn’t try to get closer? I still wasn’t sure, but in that moment, it was enough. Even as her friend I could be this close to her. I was sure that this kind of warm silence existed only between the two of us.
When she asked me to sing the Macao song for her I felt embarrassed, because that song was inspired by her. She had left my side crying, but I was more than willing to take her back with open arms if she ever wanted me again.
Finally I relented and sang her song, one of the many I have written for her—because of her. I had a collection of them at home.
Less than four sentences into it, I felt her head fall onto my shoulder in sleep. For a moment I allowed myself to fantasize about taking her hand more firmly in mine and pulling her closer so that I could rest my head on hers.
The vibration of a text message burst the bubble of my daydream.
‘I’m leaving first. Jun Pyo’
It was all I needed.
Inhaling her scent, I leaned in next to Jan Di, let my eyes close, and allowed myself to really dream.