Goodbye, Hello by dimsumofallthings

After A Moment's Choice was completed, I had vowed that never again would I write a story based on my dissatisfaction about a drama's ending. Though I had loved writing AMC, the experience itself had been stressful. It was the first time I ever dabbled in fan fiction, 
Goodbye, Hello
Goodbye, Hello by dimsumofallthings

and though I was satisfied at how the story had come to life, I was grateful when I was able to stop writing, if only for a little while. It was trauma from an ending which prompted me to begin writing, and when I finished, just as with anything that is cathartic, I was exhausted. As in bone tired. As in I would be happy to never write anything ever again tired.

Somewhat surprisingly I picked up my laptop again not even six months after that project to begin again. This time, for somewhat an original story. I say somewhat because it's a story that was derived from an original character in AMC, which, as everyone was well aware had been a work of fan fiction. So, although the world belonged in a fanfic, the characters in A Leap of Faith, did not. In some ways it was as if I was once again starting from scratch, making the world I once resided in even more real and rich with unique characters and another love story.

When news of a new Reply franchise began to circulate, I was hesitant at first to even weigh in. The memory of Chilbong's ending and the pain that came with it was still fresh in my mind and to be perfectly honest, I was gun shy. I admit it: I was afraid of falling in love with yet another character whose ending will break my heart.

I think that it wasn't until the 6th episode aired that I even started watching, comforted, in part by reassurances from other drama watchers that the focus of Reply 1988 was on family and not as much the husband hunt. I had stayed abreast of the castings, relieved that though I recognized some of the names, I was not a fan of any of the stars, somehow believing that this will shield me from any real pain. And so, just as with Reply 1994 I forged ahead, blissfully unaware of what was to come.

The beginning had seemed promising. I found Deok Sun's character extremely appealing and very relatable. She was not only the middle child, but not a very smart one at that. She was pretty, in a girl next door type of way, an everyday girl. What she lacked in intellect she made up for in kindness and loyalty. She was open and forthright, my favorite kind of female character. She fit perfectly in the Reply franchise, where the story almost begins from childhood to their teenage years, brimming with youthful enthusiasm and excitement.

From the beginning I rooted for her, even before I knew that she married one of her childhood friends.

I liked the families, as well as the friendships. I thought that it was very plausible that these families would all live in the same neighbourhood and that their children would all grow up together. The writer/PD’s insistence that this drama would truly be about family seemed supported by the earlier episodes. I was very, very optimistic.

I'm not sure when it was exactly that I fell in love with Kim Jung Hwan but it wasn't a voluntary type of love. It was more a kicking screaming type of affection. I noted his smirk at the end of one earlier episode, watching as Deok Sun marched in the Olympics, and thought, here's a candidate for the hunt. Though I'm still to this day unsure exactly when, but somewhere between his dancing to Sobangcha then hiding hard on in the alley and his not so subtle attempts at letting Deok Sun know how much he liked her, I fell totally, and deeply, in love.

His is a character that never fails to make me melt. The silent, broody type of hero who has more going on than he lets on. The grumpy boy who loves completely, though not always willingly and always almost begrudgingly. The noble type of strong male character whose integrity is more than anyone would even imagine.

Jung Hwan wasn't broken though he had his share of hardships. Growing up in a once poor family who came into riches almost overnight, the brother of one whose lives could be cut short at any time, gave him a depth of maturity and understanding that one rarely sees in someone so young.

It affected everything he did, from the way he dealt with his family to the way he approached his friends. Just like Deok Sun his loyalty came in spades and as a viewer, you always got the feeling that Jung Hwan will always 1) put others before himself and 2) will always go above and beyond what is expected of him.

When the love triangle finally revealed itself I can honestly say that I didn’t think it was much of a love triangle. Taek, though innocent and sweet, seemed more a liability than competition. He was childlike and innocent, someone who I could never picture challenging Deok Sun to become the best person she could possibly be.

Anyone who knows me and has ever shared a conversation with me about love knows that this is my barometer in determining who should end up with whom. Not just in Korean drama, but in real life as well. Many people live their lives spending it in comfortable, mediocre relationships, always afraid of the unknown, choosing always to choose security and assurance as opposed to going with the road not taken.

I thought for sure that this time around, the creators of the Reply franchise will deliver again on what they promised, something, in my honest personal opinion, they had not done since Reply 1997. That I will get out of this story what I had been sold. And boy, was I ever wrong.

The trajectory of their story telling, the development of the plot, had all pointed to a character moment for Deok Sun, as well as a final lay it all out there, painful but necessary confession for Jung Hwan. Though the show had meandered for a few episodes, there had been no indication that this would be derailed. It was therefore to my chagrin and surprise that Deok Sun "chose" Taek over Jung Hwan.

I say chose in parentheses because while the character supposedly did this, I believe that the final call had been the writer's. Sadly there had been no development on Deok Sun's character at all, to the very end. That pivotal moment for her character, when she becomes truly honest with herself, when she stops identifying her emotions with how anyone else felt about her, didn't happen. And that, I felt was the biggest injustice of them all.

As a woman in my mid-thirties I can appreciate now that while everyone had come into my life for a reason and though I fell in love with different people for a host of reasons in my past, there were also reasons that, if I were to be honest with myself, would prevent me from ever having relationships with those same people.

In the natural course of a lifetime, people, not only women, are allowed to change. They are supposed to change. None of us can stay stuck in one part of our lives forever. And yet that was the case Reply 1988's canon put forth, and one I didn't buy.

Until Taek loved her, Deok Sun was unsure about who she was, unsure of what we wanted, but at one point seemed conflicted about this. She had shown a willingness to explore this, to figure out why, and yet this was ignored for the sake of the husband hunt. Taek was someone who, though brilliant, had almost minimal to no social skills, someone who had to be taken care of, and almost as if by magic, once he started dating, grew up in a nanosecond into a functional adult and miraculously transformed into Jung Hwan, ironically enough.

This, perhaps, was the biggest grudge I had with this particular drama's ending. That more than the shaft that Jung Hwan was handed, it also ended up undermining Deok Sun and for a drama which focused so much on family and friendship, made Taek appear and be remembered as someone who was given Deok Sun's love, as opposed to someone who earned it, aka Jung Hwan, an opinion shared by many of their domestic and international viewers. Because while I and a fair number of viewers mourned and grieved for Chilbong precisely because we were never given a chance to know him, an even larger number of us were broken hearted because we knew Jung Hwan. We were there for every step in his journey, falling in love with Deok Sun through his eyes, experiencing his pain of having to choose between love and friendship.

Goodbye, Hello was written initially as a way to give Jung Hwan a resolution he deserved, one snippet that at least showed that he hadn't been alone in the end, that he still had people, his people, who loved and cared for him, who was as invested in his well-being as the viewers were. Alas, I am a sucker for happy endings, and soon thereafter, I decided to give Deok Sun hers too, one that was fitting for a character I loved for most of the drama, and one I felt was grievously treated.

As of the completion of this story, there are no talks of another Reply franchise. Its stars are already moving on to do other projects. If nothing else I am happy that Ryu Jeon Yeol, the actor who played Jung Hwan, is receiving a lot of support and love, and I am pleased to realize that he differs very little from Jung Hwan. It makes me hope that though Jung Hwan didn't get his happy ending on screen, that, at least, Ryu Jeon Yeol might in real life. Nice guys deserve to finish first and hard work and sacrifice needs to be rewarded.

I would like to thank a few people for the support that they have given me throughout the writing of Goodbye, Hello.

First is my very, very good friend Elena (my twin from another mother living in another continent), who always gave constructive and objective advice. To this day I have never met one I could speak to about anything and everything. It is a credit to how real some of our friendships are when I feel closer to you though we have never ever met. Thank you for agreeing to write the Foreword. I love and treasure you.

I would like to give my sincere gratitude to the ladies I chat with on LINE throughout the duration Reply 1988. I really think that without your shared grief, I might have gone crazy all on my own. You are a group of intelligent, funny, articulate women and I hope that you never ever lose your sass (and snark.)

To my lovely dongsaeng Misa, for always humoring this Unnie with my constant requests for technological help. I am still hopeless, and you are still a saint. My book cover and soundtrack cover would probably look horrendous had it not been for you.

This story was written for those who, like me, believe that Jung Hwan and Deok Sun should have ended up together. I hope it brings some measure of comfort that in this world, though only written and will never make our screens, they did. And that, like in the very best fairy tales, they lived happily ever after, albeit with the occasional quibble now and again.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I always wished that I would gain more friends; however, it well and truly sucks (because there is just no other way to put it) that it had to be yet another heartbreak that brings me closer to more like-minded people once more. I have come to accept, however, that sometimes, things work out the way they are supposed to… as long as Writer Lee is not the one writing the ending (Sorry… I just couldn’t help myself LOL.)


Raleigh, NC, USA

14th February 2016


abonim :: Father, formal to appa

aegyo :: cute display of affection often expressed through a cute/baby voice, facial expressions, and gesture; literally means having a “coquettish” manner

ahjumma :: A middle-aged woman. Can be used for a close friend of the family, or a stranger.

ahjussi :: A middle-aged man, the counterpart to ahjumma

appa :: Dad, Daddy, informal to abonim

baduk :: an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent; literally means “the encircling game”

dongsaeng :: Meaning “younger sibling,” can refer to a true blood sibling, or a close friend whom you treat as a younger sibling. While dongsaeng applies to both genders, its opposites are gender-specific (see hyung, oppa, and unni).

galbi :: refers to a variety of gui or grilled dishes in Korean cuisine that are made with marinated beef (or pork) short ribs in a ganjang-based sauce (Korean soy sauce)

hyung :: “Older brother,” used between males only. Can be used between blood brothers, or close friends.

jagiya :: honey, sweetie, love, darling. Used between couples in a relationship to address each other. Normally used by younger couples (old generation does not use this phrase), and can be between unmarried or married couples. It can be addressed to both men and women. In Korea, the word literally means "Self" - so you are literally calling the other person as yourself. So that implies the other person is your self/your other half.

noona :: “Older sister” used by a male to a female. Again, can be used between blood siblings or merely people who are close friends.

omma :: Mom, Mommy, informal to omonim

omonim :: Mother, formal to omma

pojangmacha :: small tented spot that can be on wheels or a street stall in Korea that sell a variety of popular street foods and dishes accompanied with drinking. In the evening, many of these establishments serve alcoholic beverages such as soju. Literally means "covered wagon" in Korean

soju :: Korean liquor known for being strong and cheap. Comes in green bottles. Tastes like vodka. Usually around 40 proof (20% alcohol).

udon :: type of thick wheat flour noodle in Japanese cuisine

unnie :: “Older sister,” used between females only. (In recent years, some men have taken to calling women “unni,” which is a slang appropriation of the term.)

Credit Source: Dramabeans, Urban Dictionary, Wikipedia


When you first meet someone in Korea, you add -ssi (씨) after their name. Example, Deok Sun-ssi. Even if you’re older than the person you meet, you should do this in the beginning because it’s the polite way (jondaemal). When you get more familiar, you can replace the -ssi ending with ah/ya (아/야). This also works if you’re the same age. This is the casual way of speaking (banmal.)

Something else of note: While the formal way of speaking is considered respectful and courteous, it can also suggest distance when formerly one was using banmal to the other and then they switch to jondaemal. Conversely, if one had only ever used jondaemal with a person, and they switch to banmal, it could be a sign of disrespect.


October 1994

Jung Hwan

"I like you." My eyes traveled over Deok Sun's face, taking in the surprise that jumped into her eyes. Did she really not know? When she said nothing I continued. "I'm saying I like you."

It was as if Sun Woo and Dong Ryong disappeared as words tumbled out of my mouth. Carelessly, thoughtlessly, I finally allowed all that I had been keeping inside pass through my lips. Even as I knew that there was no going back.

I told her about waiting for her to come out when we were school kids so I can have a precious few minutes with her to myself. I told her about being happy sitting with her on the bus so many years ago even though she didn't know. I even told her about the shirt... the silly pink shirt that to this day I could not bear to get rid of, still hanging in my wardrobe in Sacheon, a reminder of all my past failures. Much like my ring was doing now, its surface glinting at me from the table.

The confession was as liberating as it was painful. Though the knowledge that I was finally saying what I should have said years ago made me feel lighter, the burden that I had carried and no longer had to was now replaced by something else. Something more permanent.

Was this the heartbreak that plagued all those who have experienced unrequited love?

Throughout my confession her expression didn't change. I didn't expect it to. As soon as I had seen her eyes dart over to the door every time the bell jingled, I knew.

She was waiting for him. The boy I loved almost as much as I loved my own brother. The boy she perhaps loved more than I did.

I paused, allowing myself to look upon her face one last time; at least as Kim Jung Hwan, the boy who once loved her and the man who still did.

"I love you."

The air was marked by shocked silence, shadows and outlines of my two friends taking shape in my periphery. Deok Sun's face blurred in front of me, tears threatening to spill from my eyes.

"Are you happy now?" I asked Dong Ryong, the pressure in my chest almost too much to bear. Needing something... anything to make it go away, to pretend somehow that I didn't just lay my heart on the table.

I glanced over at Dong Ryong and he stared at me incredulously. I could almost feel the relief emanating from all of them and I reminded myself that this was for the best.

"What?" He asked, almost in a whisper.

My mouth curled into an unamused grin. "You said it was your wish."

He may have said something, but I didn't hear it. I could feel Sun Woo's eyes on me as I went back to being the Jung Hwan that I knew best. The one that pretended that everything was okay.

The next few minutes passed in a blur; I felt like I was outside of myself watching the events unfold. The detachment I had always used in the past didn't do me any favors this time. I felt like I had been ripped from the inside out.

I dared not look at Deok Sun, afraid that if she turned her eyes to me that she would see that I had been lying. Or worse yet, that she would not care.

It was better this way, I told myself. It was better this way.

When they all stood up, so did I.

I didn't pick up my ring. Neither did she.

Part I

Ssangmundong, Seoul

October 1994

Jung Hwan

I laid on my bed, my arm resting on my forehead. Despite our friends' urging to have a second drink, I refused and made an excuse about needing to go to sleep. Sun Woo appeared as if he wanted to talk to me, but I was all talked out.

There was nothing else left to say.

I heard a knock on my door and though I gave no response, I heard it open anyway. I knew before I heard his voice that it was my brother, his hesitation giving him away. I didn't turn my head when I heard him pull the chair out from my desk nor as he sat.

Knowing that he would worry if I continued like this, I took a deep breath and pasted a smile on my face before lowering my arm and addressing him.

"Jung Hwan-ah," he said and I lifted my eyes to meet his. The wall that I had built up almost cracked as I looked at my older brother, the kindest person I knew, someone I admired and wanted to protect almost in equal measure, looking at me as if he wanted to protect me, too.

I sat up on the bed, my back resting against the headboard. Almost immediately I was reminded of the night Deok Sun slept here, her head resting just inches from mine. The memory was so real I had to close my eyes to banish it away.

When I opened them again Hyung was looking at me, his eyes missing nothing.

"You know..." he started before he cleared his throat, "you know that I'm very, very proud of you, right?"

I gave him a wry grin. "Yeah, I know," I answered. "You've said it enough times."

"And you know that you're my best friend, right?" He asked. "I tell you everything." I nodded, a bit curious as to where he was going with this. Before I could ask him he gave me a sympathetic smile. "You know you can tell me everything, right?"

I looked away. "There's nothing to tell, Hyung."

He raised an eyebrow. "Is there not?" I shook my head no. "Then I must have been making it all up in my head that you liked Deok Sun so many years ago. And that you still like her, even now."

My head whipped around to look at my brother, his eyes poring over me knowingly. "How?" The one word came out of my mouth and he shrugged his shoulders before responding.

"You know I'm not a good student. I get easily distracted and honestly, it never interested me enough to hold my attention. There's a lot of things that I have failed at, but if there is one thing I'm really good at, it's being your brother." He stood up from the chair and repositioned himself on the bed, right next to me. "Surely you didn't think I wouldn't know."

I looked at my hands, unable to meet his eyes. "I didn't think anyone would know."

"Yeah," he said. "I thought so." He nudged me with his shoulder. "Yah... if it's any consolation I think Deok Sun likes you too." I didn't respond and he kept speaking. "And why wouldn't she? My brother is handsome and nice. He has the best heart of anyone I know. He's smart and..."

"No," I said, interrupting him. "She doesn't."

He blinked at me. "How do you know?" I looked away as his question went unanswered. "Did you ask?"

I nodded. "I confessed tonight."


I shook my head and swallowed the emotion that came up from somewhere in the pit of my belly, rising up until I felt it lodge in my throat. "Nothing," I said, the word coming out hoarse. "I was too late."

As always, I wanted to add. I hesitated too many times. What I always took as care and thought merely amounted to indecision upon reflection. I wasn't even sure who I had been trying to protect. Taek? Deok Sun? Myself?

Whatever. It didn't matter now.

Hyung looked like he didn't know what to say. I could feel him looking at me, much like Sun Woo did, as if trying to read my mind.

"I'm okay," I said, more to my benefit than his. "I'm okay."

And why wouldn't I be? Nothing had changed. Life will move on, just as it always has. Except mine will move forward without her.

The thought brought on a fresh surge of pain.

As if sensing this, my brother placed an arm around me in reassurance. "This may not be what you want to hear," he began carefully, as if watching his words, "but you did your best. You told her how you felt. Whatever happens now is out of your control. Sometimes life is like that."

I focused on his words as if they were my truth, wanting to hold onto them as if they would save me from this moment. I wanted to believe him more than anything, afraid that if I didn't, that I would have nothing left.

"Better put it out on the open than regret it forever. You've done all you can do," he continued, his normally lighthearted voice suddenly ringing with conviction. "You've done your best, just as you always had. And if that's not good enough for her, then she's not good enough for you."

The belief in his voice rang through me and I felt the tears fall out of my eyes. I wiped them off in frustration, wishing for so many things, not the least of which was to do it all over again. To go back to 1988 and do it right, this time.

Hyung said nothing else as he kept his arm resolutely around me. I continued to cry as if I would never stop, the first and last time I will allow myself to mourn.

Deok Sun

I laid on my side, unable to sleep. For once I wish Unnie was here, her back against mine, her presence reassuring. So many times her existence alone grated on me; I considered her the constant thorn on my side, someone around just to make my life difficult. In recent years that had changed.

Now I found comfort in her constancy... there was something about her ability to stick to what she believes in, her unwillingness to bend, that resonated with me. Always having been one who was always easily influenced, I sometimes envied her courage to never compromise or sacrifice. Always having been someone who never knew what I wanted, I wish I had my sister's determination to be whoever and whatever she wanted to be.

I could still hear my parents and No Eul bickering a wall away from me, no doubt about the fact that my brother now had to give up his (formerly mine and Unnie's) room for the night. I sat up and looked around; the room had not changed since I was last here.

The room looked as it did back when I was in high school and it made me feel as if I was back to that time, as well. The restlessness I was feeling made me feel as if I truly was.

Wearily I stood up and walked towards the table, turning the lamp on as soon as I sat down. I fiddled with the pens that were in a cup, straightened papers that didn't need tidying in an effort to calm my mind.

None worked.

I opened the drawer slowly, wondering if my diary was still in it, the one I wrote in back in high school. It had been my companion whenever I felt confused, and one I left at home when I started working.

I thought that in leaving it behind, I would leave who I was too. I had been intent on becoming a better version of Sung Deok Sun. Someone who was wiser. Someone who actually became someone without anyone else's help.

I opened the first page and touched the words, almost laughed at what I had written. When was this? I thought as I continued to read, my girlish handwriting almost too juvenile now.

There were a whole lot of inane details about the things that made up my life: my never-ending complaints about my sister, my frustration at myself for not knowing what to do, and my friends. Taek, Dong Ryong, Sun Woo. I had written things in detail about each and every single one of them. Until the last few years there had not been a day when we all didn't see one another. My memories were as much theirs as they were mine.

Except I had a secret. Several, actually. First: I had liked Taek, a long time ago. Second: I thought I liked Sun Woo too, before I realized it was not me he liked.

And the third... I hesitated before I flipped a page. The third. Maybe the most important.

My heart paused as I ran a finger over the characters of the name that came into view.

Kim Jung Hwan.

I felt a wave of emotion pass through me so quickly I had no time to guard myself against it. His words came to me in echoes, memories of our past coming back slowly, then all at once as it melted into the present.

He confessed, then took it back. Was any of it real? Why did the idea that none of it had been make me feel as if I'd been punched in the stomach?

I thought I was over the feelings I once had for him, chalked it up to an adolescent crush. The same thing I once felt for Taek. The same thing I once felt for Sun Woo.

So why did my heart feel as if there was a vice around it now? Why did it sound as if he had been saying goodbye? Why did it matter so much?

I tried to laugh it off like he did except it didn't ring true. I barely had time to digest what he said before he had taken it all back and tried to pass it off like a joke.

It wasn't fair to even say those things out loud if he was only kidding. Jung Hwan can be so cruel at times.

I shook my head as if flinging the thoughts away, tried to tell myself it didn't matter at all. And then I remembered something.

I reached my hand behind me and pulled out a box from the pocket of my coat. I felt its weight in my hands before I shakily put it on the table. I opened the lid and fingered the heavy ring, wondered what made me fabricate an excuse about needing to use the restroom just so I could get it.

I told myself it had looked lonely on the table, that I was only taking it so I can give it back to him. That it's what a friend would do.

Except that wasn't quite right, either, was it?

Not for the first time tonight I wished I was more like my sister. She would not have hesitated to say what was on her mind many years ago. She would have asked Jung Hwan directly if he really was kidding.

She would have told him how she felt.

I sighed before I closed the lid, wrapped my arms around myself. Jung Hwan had sounded so convincing when he told Dong Ryong matter of factly that he had been merely granting his wish. But then again, why did everything he said before then sound true, too?

I remembered the times before school, the morning on the school bus. The pink shirt. I remember them, too. I treasured those moments, too.

I don’t really understand why he had to bring up all those things, especially that pink shirt. Besides, if it had made him so happy why did he give it to his brother? It had been so characteristic of the Jung Hwan I always knew it shouldn't have surprised me, but it still hurt.

That had marked the day I began to consciously disentangle my feelings from him. Except it didn't quite work.

Still, life moved forward. Weeks turned into months and then months into years. I began to date while pushing memories of Jung Hwan to the back of my mind. I learned to forget that once upon a time I had been a girl who only wanted him to acknowledge me.

I was almost there, except now here we all were. Back to where it all began, as if no time had passed at all. As if I was back to the indecisive Deok Sun I once was. As if I was back to the Deok Sun who only wanted Kim Jung Hwan to love me.

Well... I'm not her anymore, I thought, trying to adopt a bit more of my sister into myself. I need to know the truth. I needed to know if Jung Hwan really meant what he said.

And this time, I'm not leaving without any answers.

I turned the lamp off and laid back down, feeling proud for having made a decision on my own. Growing up had some perks, after all. I fell asleep feeling a little more optimistic than I did just minutes before, finally feeling as if I am taking control of my destiny rather than letting it take control of me.

The next morning...

"Deok Sun-ah, breakfast!" Appa was mid-sentence when I opened the door to his face. He looked me up and down before narrowing his brows. "Are you leaving already?"

I shook my head and smiled brightly, trying to muster up some courage. "I'll eat breakfast when I get back. It will only take me a few minutes."

"What will only take you a few minutes?"

I walked past him and straight out of the basement room, only hearing him call out as I put on a coat and my shoes. I balanced a cap on my head haphazardly, my fingers slipping into the pink angora gloves that Jung Hwan gave me years ago.

Courage, Sung Deok Sun, I kept chanting to myself. Courage.

I continued to tell myself this as I climbed up the stairs, the sight of Jung Bong Oppa almost taking me by surprise. He had a newspaper under his arm, and he looked just as surprised to see me as I was him. He still had slippers on; his just wakened expression reminded me so much of Jung Hwan's I almost lost my breath.

He paused mid stride up the stairs and faced me. His mouth appeared as if it was about to break into a smile before he suddenly stopped, his face taking on a more guarded look. All of a sudden I felt self-conscious, as if he knew something about me even I myself didn't know.

He bowed stiffly. "Deok Sun-ssi."

His formal use of my name took me aback. As did the fact that he turned around and began walking up the steps without saying anything else.

I frowned. "Oppa." When he made no move to once again address me, I repeated myself. "Jung Bong Oppa."

He stopped but didn't turn around. His behavior confounded me... I thought he and I had a special kind of kinship because he dated my friend Man Ok. There was once a time when I was part of his close circle, when he brought me into his confidence, so why was he was treating me now like a stranger?

He seemed pretty heartbroken after Man Ok left but that was years ago. Maybe something else happened… but that can’t be right because as far as I knew Man Ok was not back. Either way… What happened between them had not been my fault.

If that's what this was all about, I should be mad, too. I lost her, too. Suddenly angry, I was about to ask him what the matter was when he finally turned around.

"Deok Sun-ssi," he said, his eyes serious, as if considering what he was going to say next. It made me bite my tongue, unused to seeing him this somber. "My brother refused to give me his shirt."

I looked at him in confusion. O-kay? Why was he telling me about a shirt now? They were brothers... I'm sure there had been a whole lot of pieces of clothing passed back and forth between the two of them, much like how it had been with me and Bora Unnie. I really don't know what this had to do with...

"I'm just telling you because I think you ought to know," he continued. "Jung Hwan refused to give me the shirt you gave him for his birthday. Even after I asked many times." He gave me a rueful grin. "And you know my brother gives me everything."

What? The words he was saying were not registering and I found myself gaping at him in confusion. Jung Hwan kept the shirt? He kept the shirt? But I saw Jung Bong Oppa wearing it. But I thought....

"Man Ok and I promised each other we wouldn't say anything about it since I didn't want you to know that I asked her for the same gift you gave Jung Hwan," he continued, seemingly unaware of my confusion. "And I probably wouldn't ever have said anything about it. Except..." he paused for a few seconds, bit his lip, "except I can't stand the idea that I may have done something that you may have misunderstood. My brother loved… that shirt."

His mouth said ‘shirt’ but it sounded as if he was speaking of something else. For my part, it felt as if I had been doused with cold water, his admission not taking hold. It was just like Jung Hwan to not say a word. It was just like him to not clarify.

I stopped myself from going further. I needed to stop assuming things about Jung Hwan. It seemed that he had secrets of his own.

"Where is he?" I asked before I could even think about what I was saying, the panic in my voice audible. What if I had been wrong about him all this time? What if he had been telling the truth? Embarrassingly tears sprang to my eyes. It seemed just as it was years ago when it didn't take a lot to make me cry. Except this.... felt like a lot. Like a lot more than it seemed. Like a lot more than I realized. "Can you..." My voice sounded small even to my ears and I took a deep breath, "can you have him come out so I can talk to him?"

Jung Bong Oppa shook his head. "No."

"But..." I said, my voice breaking a little. "I just wanted to talk to him! Just please let me talk to him!"

"I would if I could," he answered, his voice softening. "But you just missed him. He already left for Sacheon."

"When..." I cleared my throat, tried to blink the tears away. "When is he coming back?"

"You know the answer to that as well as I do, Deok Sun-ah," he said quietly. "You know my brother."

Did I? I thought I did. I really thought I did. But the Jung Hwan from last night and the Jung Hwan that he was now talking about seemed a different person than the one in my childhood.

Or was it that it was I who saw him differently?

After two decades of having these friends in my life I once thought I knew all of them better than anyone else. Especially Jung Hwan. It was another thing I had taken comfort in... That despite his stoic nature, his often surly humor, that I knew him. And understood him.

Until now. Until today.

Now I had the sinking feeling that I didn't know him at all.

December 1995

Deok Sun

I sat at a table in the pojangmacha near our parents' house, waiting for my sister. I wondered almost as soon as she had called me asking to meet up for a drink what the reason was. Why did I need to call her as soon as I landed back in Seoul? And why did I have to meet her here?

She could have asked to meet me anywhere, so why did it have to be the place I had tried to avoid for the last couple of months?

I rubbed my hands together as the ahjumma dropped off a bottle of soju and a small dish of dried fish and some peppers. I had just taken a bite of a green pepper and was just about to pick up the bottle when I saw my sister enter the tent, her eyes looking around. She gave me a small smile as our eyes met and I waved, motioning for her to come.

She sat down across from me, signaling the ahjumma for a glass. She ordered two bowls of udon without asking and when it was delivered, grabbed the soju and poured me a drink before doing the same for herself. We touched our glasses together and downed our shots, our faces grimacing.

She cocked her head and regarded me once she put her glass down, her expression indiscernable. "You look good," she remarked. "When did you get back?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Just a few hours ago," I answered. "I would have called you sooner than today, but I've been working non stop."

She nodded. "That's what No Eul said."

All conversation stopped when our food came, and for a while I distracted myself with eating. For her part, Unnie didn't seem to be in a rush to speak, either, taking only bites of her food, while trying to be subtle about sneaking glances my way.

"Unnie." "Deon Sun-ah."

We spoke simultaneously and I gave her smile. "You go first," I said and she shook her head.

"No, you," she insisted.

"I was just going to ask you why you asked me to meet up especially since we were all coming home for Christmas anyway."

"Am I not allowed to ask to see my sister now?" She sounded so defensive, much like the Sung Bora I grew up with and it made me chuckle wistfully. "What?"

"Nothing," I answered. "It's just... it's just nice to know that no matter what else changes you stay the same. No matter what."

"Everyone changes, Deok Sun-ah. Some not so obviously, but they do," she replied, studying her glass closely. "I wanted to tell you something."

My older sister looked nervous, apprehensive. I could practically feel the tension coming off her in waves and I narrowed my brows in concern. Was something wrong with our parents? No Eul? Was something wrong with her?

Before I could ask her to elaborate I saw her take a deep breath, as if working up the courage to say whatever it was that she wanted to say.

"I'm dating Sun Woo."

Her admission made me widen my eyes, not from surprise but the fact that it had taken her this long to tell me something I already had an inkling about.


Her expression shocked, she looked at me before speaking again. "Did you just hear me?" She asked. "I just told you I was dating Sun Woo."

"I heard you," I said, carefully wrapping some noodles with my chopsticks and taking a bite. "You said you were dating Sun Woo."

"Your friend."

I grinned at her. "I know who Sun Woo is, Unnie. And yes he's my friend."

"Are you..." she began and I could hear the hesitation in her voice. "I mean... you're okay with it?"

"Are you happy?" I asked her, not bothering to answer her question first. I looked into her eyes and marveled that for the first time in my life, my sister didn't look as confident as she had always been. As if she really cared about what I would think.

She looked away, pushed the noodles around her bowl. "Yes," she answered. "I am very happy."

"Then I'm happy too," I said. "As long as you're happy then I'm okay with it."


I nodded. "Unnie... you didn't need my blessing," I said. "You never needed it before."

"No, but it means a lot to me to have it anyway. My family means a lot to me."

"Says the girl who refused to stop protesting even after Omma begged her."

The reminder made her smile before her expression sobered. "I didn't care what other people thought," she said. "I still don't. But you're my sister and he's your friend. I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

"Why?" I asked. "Will you stop dating him if I was?"

"No," she said firmly, taking another shot and wiping her mouth with a napkin. "I'll just have to do everything I can to win your approval."

What she said, how she said it, made me look at my sister in admiration. How wonderful it must be to know yourself that well, to have that conviction about everything.

"Unnie," I said, sticking my thumbs up. "It's okay. You didn't ask me for permission the first time you two dated, so I don't need to be giving it to you now."

"Yah... how did you know about the first time?"

I gave her a sly look. "We live in a small neighborhood and our brother is nosy," I said smartly. "You guys weren't exactly being inconspicuous."

She shook her head, then laughed. "I can't believe you knew and didn't tell me."

"I figured if and when you want me to know you'll tell me yourself. And then it seemed like you guys broke up, so I didn't think to bring it up in case you beat me." I motioned for the ahjumma to bring another bottle. "I'm really amazed at Sun Woo though... I can't believe he got you back after all this time."

The ahjumma came with the bottle and my sister waited until she was gone before she cleared her throat and spoke. "He didn't try to get me back," she said, surprising me for the second time. "I asked him for another chance."

"No way," I said, taking a drink. "My sister sticks with the decisions she makes. She doesn't question her choices. She always knows what she wants."

"Is that how you see me?"

I nodded. "I can't imagine you asking anyone for another chance. Just like with your other old boyfriends... they're the ones always begging for you to come back. And once you make up your mind that it's over," I made a gesture like a sword to my neck, "it's over."

She gave me a faint smile, her fingers drawing circles over the rim of her glass. "That's true," she said softly. "But when you find the person you love, you make an exception, no? Sun Woo was worth putting my pride down for, and it seemed a small loss to what I might gain."

"Unnie," I teased. "You're scaring me right now. Who are you and what have you done with my sister?"

She laughed and threw a piece of fish at me. "What about you?" She asked. "I heard from Sun Woo that you were constantly on dates."

I didn't respond.

That may have been the case the last time we all saw each other, but not anymore. I haven't been on a date since I last came home.

"Unnie," I started. "How did you know that you liked Sun Woo?" When she merely raised her eyebrows, I clarified myself. "How did you know he was the one you wanted?"

"Well... I thought about him a lot," she answered thoughtfully, "and the idea that he would no longer be in my life... it hurt me." She put a hand on her chest. "Right here. I felt it. Like someone was choking me. I couldn't stand it."

I nodded, knowing exactly how she felt, automatically thinking of Jung Hwan. I tried to keep my expression neutral as I asked my next question. "But how did you know that what you felt was more than friendship?"

"You know," she said. "Let me ask you a question... think of someone you are friends with." I thought of Taek, Sun Woo and Dong Ryong. "Do you think of touching them or kissing them?"

"Eww, Unnie, no." I made a face and she smiled. "They're my friends."

"Exactly." She poured me another glass of soju, was silent for a few beats. Then she said a name I didn't expect. "Is it Taek?"

"Is what Taek?"

She tsked. "Are you not paying attention? Is Taek the friend you might like as more than a friend?"

"What makes you think it's Taek?" Did I tell her anything before? Why would she think it's Taek?

"I found your diary and read some pages," she said. I flushed. Did she read the part about Sun Woo too?

"No, Unnie... I hadn't liked Taek since we were really young. And I don't even think that was anything serious. More like a crush."

"Ah... well, I stopped after a few pages," she said, as if explaining. "You were complaining a lot about me." She looked at me directly before pursing her lips. "So... it's Jung Hwan, then."

I blinked at her, wondered if my sister knew me better than I gave her credit for. "Jung Hwan?"

She nodded, gave me a knowing smile.

"No," I said lamely. "The question wasn't specific. It was just hypo..."

"As if," she teased. "That you're flushed bright red tells me I'm right."

"It could just be the soju," I mumbled, putting my hands to my face in embarrassment.

"We hadn't drank that much," she argued. "Have you told him?"

"No," I said softly. "I didn't think I still did like him."

For years I tried to forget him, cringed whenever I thought about the lengths I went to to get closer to him. Until a few months ago I almost convinced myself that I felt nothing. And then he confessed and I was back to square one.

"What's the point?" I asked. "I don't think he likes me anymore." The admission brought on an ache in my chest. I swallowed and tried to keep it at bay. "Maybe he did. But he doesn't anymore."

"So?" My sister was looking at me as if I was making no sense at all.

"What do you mean 'so'?"

"I mean that doesn't really matter if you still like him."

"Why would I go around declaring my feelings if I don't know how he feels about me?"

"You think I knew how Sun Woo felt about me when I asked him for another chance?" I could only shrug my shoulders. "Just like you dont like someone because they like you, you don't tell someone you love them because you want them to love you back. You like who you like. You tell them because they should know." I was silent, unsure of what to say. Unsure even of what I feel. As if sensing the tumult in my mind, Unnie reached across the table and took my hand. "Jung Hwan is a good guy. I mean I know you're his friend and you know that, but he really is one of the good ones."

I studied her face, wondered why she looked like she knew something I didn’t. "What do you mean?"

“Nothing,” she said quickly. “Just something I heard from Sun Woo.”

“What?” I asked. I was supposed to be the one who knew everything about my friends. Me! “Unnie…”

"Just…” she started begrudgingly, “just… Some jerk in high school used to pick on Sun Woo all the time… bullying him and that. He used to make fun of him for always wearing his necklace, the one that his father gave him before he died. Anyway, Jung Hwan would get annoyed at how stubborn Sun Woo was, too, and told him to just take it off and put it back on later, but of course, Sun Woo said no. Well, after a few days, that asshole decided that if Sun Woo was not going to take his necklace off willingly, then he would have to do it without his consent. And you know what happened?” Unnie met my eyes and I shook my head silently. “Before that jerk could even touch Sun Woo, Jung Hwan punched him. Punched him so hard he fell to the floor.”

I took in what she was saying quietly, unable to remember hearing this story before. Wondering why it seemed both so familiar and strange that the Jung Hwan I grew up with would do these kinds of things without ever speaking of it, wondering how many more of his stories I knew nothing about.

The thought left me feeling deflated. I want to know all of Jung Hwan’s stories. I want to be the first person he runs to when he has something to say. At this point I would settle for him just even coming home again.

I bit my lip.

"And you know Jung Bong Oppa was the one who wanted to be the fighter pilot,” my sister continued, her tone light. “Oppa told me himself that was his dream, but because no one really knew if he was going to live long enough to do it, and even if he did no one really knew if he would ever get the chance to, Jung Hwan decided on his own to do it for both of them.”

I knew how much Jung Hwan loved his brother, how much he worried about him. Of course he would live and succeed for the both of them. That’s what he does. That’s what he does for the people he loves. I hoped that one day he would be that way with me.

“Yes, he's a bit grumpy,” Bora Unnie finished, “but he has a good heart."

"How come..." I finally said, when I could actually feel as if I could muster up something to say, "How come I have never heard of this?"

"I don't know," Unnie replied. "But you know him better than I do."

All at once I remembered Jung Hwan waiting for me as I came out of the study room with an umbrella. The way he would stand behind me in the bus. How quickly he came when I asked him to meet me and my friends at McDonald's.

All of the things that he did. Without question or expectation. Without asking for anything in return.

I had been so blind. Why would I hope for him to treat me in the future in the same way he does the people he really loves when he’d already been doing it all along?

I swear, if I could throttle myself I would.

"So... what are you going to do?" My sister's question took me aback. I didn't know how to respond, just staring at her as if I didn’t understand her question and as if picking up on this, she continued without waiting for a response. "You know what I always admired about you?"

I shook my head no. What was there to admire?

"You,” my sister began, her eyes almost soft as she looked at me, “always took everything head on without hesitation or shame. You always went with how you feel and showed it. It didn’t matter if it was it was anger or affection... You always wore your heart on your sleeve. It made people comfortable with you, made them feel like they could trust you.”

"That's nothing," I dismissed. I just now admitted to myself that the man I love has loved me all this time and I had been too blind and too silly not to see it. There was nothing redeeming about that. "That was because I was young and didn't know better."

"No," she said. "There's courage in that, as well. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there, regardless of the consequences."

I kept my eyes on her as I took another drink, wondering why in the middle of me scolding myself (secretly) she was trying to make me feel better, like she wanted me to do something. "What are you saying, Unnie?"

She flashed me another one of her knowing smiles. "Don't you think you owe it to yourself to discover whether what you feel for Jung Hwan is just a passing thing or something that could last a long time? Forever, even. I'm not saying tell him tonight or even tomorrow," she said. "But give yourself another chance to think it through. Give yourself time to figure out how you feel, and as soon as you do, tell him."

"I can't exactly do that easily when he's living in Sacheon," I grumbled. "Who knows when I'll see him again?"

"The last time I checked Sacheon was still part of Korea," she said, laughing.

"What do you mean?"

"Deok Sun-ah..." she said, regarding me with more affection than I can ever recall seeing before, "It's nice to see you haven't changed much, either." She chuckled for a few minutes before stopping, shaking her head at me. "You mean to tell me you can fly all over the world, but you can't figure out a way to get to Gyeongsangdo?"

Sacheon, South Korea

February 1995

Jung Hwan

I slipped off my jacket before lying down on the ground next to Dong Ryong, his breathing ragged and heavy. He threw the soccer ball in the air and caught it as I kept my eyes on the clear blue sky, another winter almost finished in Sacheon.

"Yah..." I said, nudging his shoulder. "What's up with the unexpected visit?"

He turned and looked at me, a small smile on his face. "What else was I supposed to do after you didn't come back for Christmas and New Year's, either?" He asked. "You should be grateful, you bastard... I'm missing out on a whole lot of tips tonight. Everyone knows Valentine's Day is not complete without a meal out."

I chuckled in response. "You didn't have to come down."

He regarded me with annoyance. "And leave you here at the base by yourself doing God knows what while others are all loved up?"

"Not everyone is all loved up."

"Yeah," he said, sarcastic. "Some of them are married."

His own remark made Dong Ryong laugh and I smiled, relaxed against the ground. Cold wind blew over my face and I closed my eyes, the smell of winter in my nostrils, the scent of Sacheon still unfamiliar to me after all these years.

How I wished I could be back in Ssangmundong, bringing home the chestnuts that my Omma loved, seeing the snow fall with Hyung, watching endless amounts of television with Appa.

I missed my family, even though it's only been four months. It still pains me when I remember the look on Omma's face when she caught me sneaking out of the house the morning I left, and then again her reaction when she asked when I would be back and I could not respond. Something in my chest squeezed and I had to swallow.

I'll make it up to her... I swear I will. Maybe when it doesn't hurt so much to think about what had happened with Deok Sun anymore. Maybe when I stop thinking that had I done things a bit differently, things would not be as they are.

The guilt and regret came back to me now, as if they had always been there, waiting to catch me off guard. It seems that even with myself I could only hide things for so long. I lifted my arm and placed it over my eyes, its weight reassuring, the motion itself enough to calm my tumultuous thoughts.

"Yah..." I heard Dong Ryong say, his voice even. "Are we ever going to talk about what you said that night?"

I feigned ignorance. "What night?"

"Oh," he said. "Is that the game we're playing now?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I really thought that you were just kidding," he continued, ignoring what I said, " until I got home and thought about it some more. And I've come to the conclusion that it couldn't have been a joke."

"Of course it was."

"Jokes don't usually involve memories that don't include the rest of the people you're telling the joke to," he said. "Or else how will we get the punchline?" I didn't respond. "And jokes are not usually made when there's a ring on the table."

The memory of that night, pushed aside once I finally cried myself out, reared its ugly head.

"This is me, Dong Ryong" he said. "I'm one of your oldest friends. And," he said laughingly, almost wistfully, "I'm not as dumb as I look. They didn't call me professor in high school for nothing."

Part of me wanted to spill everything, to empty my chest of everything I'd been feeling. I wanted to tell him how long I had liked Deok Sun, how much I really thought that if I waited long enough, that I would be rewarded with her love. I wanted to laugh with him about having to pretend that I needed to tie my shoelaces over and over again just so I could be at the gate when she left for school, to tell him how difficult it had been to balance how I felt for her with how much I cared for Taek and didn't want to hurt him. I wanted to share all of these things.

But I didn't.

It was all over now. I had already said goodbye to that chapter in my life. What was the use to giving him privy to those things when it didn't matter to the one who did matter?

"Let it go." My voice sounded gravelly, raspy.

"No." I turned my head towards him to see him regarding me with a mixture of affection and disappointment. "I'm your friend and you can talk to me. You need to talk to someone rather than keeping yourself isolated from all of us. Sun Woo said you wouldn't even answer his calls. If he didn't need to be at the hospital tonight he would have been here with me. You know that."

"He would have been with Bora Noona," I retorted, forcing my voice to sound light. "Are they actually back together now?"

"I didn't even know they were together in the first place," Dong Ryong said. "Just another secret you people hid from me. I swear... with the amount of secrets around, one would wonder if we were all friends to begin with."

"My brother is dating Deok Sun's friend," I said, wanting to make him feel better. "No one but me knows yet."

"That's great for Jung Bong Hyung, but don't change the topic." His answer made me chuckle out loud, amazed that he always had the ability to look through all of us. "Is it about Taek?"

"Is what about Taek?"

He huffed in irritation. "What did I just tell you? I'm not dense. Let me put it in a way that you can't talk out of: is it because of Taek that you didn't pursue Deok Sun years ago?"

I said nothing.

Dong Ryong turned his whole body towards me and rested his head on an upturned palm. "You know... it's honorable that you respected the guy code by not making moves on a woman Taek already said he liked, but..."


"But it doesn't really matter who said what first, or who liked who first. Deok Sun is not a piece of land that someone can lay claim to. She gets to decide who she wants to be with."

"Deok Sun likes whoever she thinks likes her. And I... missed my chance."

"Don't undermine our Deok Sunnie," he reprimanded. "Maybe in high school she was a bit confused, but high school was a long time ago. None of that counts anyway... what matters is now."

"Taek still likes her," I said.

"Again, that means nothing if she doesn't like him back. Listen," he said. "I love Taek as much as you do, but his feelings for her are not more important than yours. What you want, what you think, how you feel... those things matter too."

I took in his words silently, unsure about how to respond. It seemed a moot point now anyway... it was all done and over with. There was no going back. I knew that as soon as I made the decision to confess. And perhaps that had been the reason why I did. I didn't want to go back.

Loving her for all those years without her knowing had been enough. And I was unwilling to go any longer.

"What if Deok Sun likes you?" His question took me off guard.

"She can't like me." I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. It wasn't even something I considered. I saw the way she looked for Taek that night at the cafe, after all. If she felt anything at all for me, my six years of silence had guaranteed that she no longer felt the same way.

"How would you know?" He asked. "You didn't even give her a chance to process what you said before you took it back. That's hardly fair. How do you expect her to make the right decision without giving her all that she needs to know?"

That's the thing, I wanted to say, why did it matter? I liked her all these years without expecting anything back, without knowing if she felt the same way. I want her to do the same. To like someone without using their feelings as a basis. Because isn't love like that? Is it not just taking a chance on a person knowing that you can fail?

Deok Sun was always smarter than she gave herself credit for. Too often she didn't trust herself and her ability to go after what she wanted, to be whoever she wanted, afraid that she would fail.

But still... I wanted her to take that chance on me.

"I've made my decision," I said, sounding unconvincing even to my ears. "It's better this way."

"I wasn't asking you to do anything, per se. I just... I guess, I just wanted to think about this whole situation from a different perspective. You have what you think you know, which is all well and good, but that's only your perception. You won't ever know the whole picture unless you consider the other person in the equation," he said gently. "In any case, Taek is our friend. So is Deok Sun. Not just yours, but all of ours. He's not just your responsibility to protect. And we want her to be happy, too." Dong Ryong took a deep breath. "But you are also our friend. We don't want to lose you over this."

"You didn't lose anyone," I said carefully.

"Oh yeah?" Dong Ryong answered. "Is that why I had to ride a bus for almost six hours just to see your face?" He smirked. "Don't avoid us and come home once in a while, huh?"

"Yeah," I replied, finally relenting.

"Good." Dong Ryong sat up, dusting his lap and putting the ball to the side before standing up. He put his hand out and I took it gratefully. Once we were both standing he placed an arm around me.

Having him here brought a piece of home to me, and I was reminded again of how lucky I am to have had friends since childhood. It also reminded me why when faced with the choice of pursuing the woman I love and protecting that friendship, I chose the latter.

I pushed the thoughts away and we began to walk in silence. I relished it: I was thankful that he did not speak of Deok Sun again. I thought of her enough on my own without anyone's encouragement. Already I was exhausted just from this conversation.

Feelings and emotions definitely weren't my strong suit.

"Yah... is there anywhere we can get a drink around here?" Dong Ryong asked.

I thought about it, then against it. It was a bad idea. Going to work with a hangover may be an unpleasant but doable option for most, but not for someone who has to fly a plane. "I can't drink tonight." I gave him an apologetic look. "I'm working tomorrow."

Dong Ryong grinned fully. "It wasn't for you, dummy, but me," he said. He frowned before glowering at me. "Has anyone ever told you that getting you to talk about feelings is worse than having haemorrhoids?"

I looked at him incredulously and then I began to laugh.

Incheon international Airport

March 1995

Deok Sun

"Any plans tonight?" Ji Hye, a flight attendant I frequently flew with, asked as we were walking out of customs into the arrival gate.

I loosened the bow around my neck and secured my hold on my luggage. After just finishing a nonstop flight from London to Seoul just a day after flying to London (for the same amount of hours,) I was dead on my feet. Even now I shifted my toes in my heels, eager to take my stockings off and get into my pajamas. And it wasn’t even 4 p.m. yet.

I realized that Ji Hye was still waiting for an answer and I shook my head. "No... I finally have a day off tomorrow so I am going to rest."

"On White Day?"

Was it already White Day? I tried to remember what day it was (the days and nights are blending in together with my hectic schedule,) and realized that it must be. I lifted my shoulders in a shrug.

"I don't have a boyfriend so why would I have any plans today?"

Ji Hye peered at me curiously as we walked through the door that would lead to the airport's exit. "It's the first time you don't have a boyfriend or someone close to being a boyfriend since you started working."

Actually, I wanted to correct her, I haven't had a boyfriend in about five months.

For the first time in my life I was doing two things. One: l was taking my sister's advice and giving myself time. Two: I was trying to figure out what I wanted, or more specifically, who I wanted, rather than just saying yes to the first seemingly acceptable guy who asks.

Apparently, upon closer inspection, I was picky as hell. Or maybe it was because there was already a person against whom I am comparing every single guy I meet.

The last few months I have been going home at certain important times, like Christmas and New Year's, fully aware that they were also military holidays, therefore increasing the chances that Jung Hwan might be coming home too. No such luck. So then I started coming home at random times (every opportunity I could, actually, if I was being totally honest,) thinking that if I just did it often enough, surely I would catch him when he's not expecting it and he would be forced to deal with me.

That hadn’t worked either. I was a fool to believe that my persistence could trump Jung Hwan's stubbornness. A small part of me now feared that his quasi-confession had not been the point of what he said that night, but the message behind it, which sounded a hell of a lot like goodbye.

The thought brought on a nervous fluttering in my belly. And not the good kind, either. I touched the chain hanging from my neck through my blouse, my fingers tracing its length until they reached the heavy ring resting across my chest. Close to where my heart is. Close to where he is.

Five months later and I am more convinced than ever that I never did get over Jung Hwan. And that at this rate I might never be.

As a teen I was always given to daydreaming, and it seems I had not lost that whim. Whenever I am drifting to sleep or starting to wake, whenever I am sitting in the plane on another flight away from home, my thoughts always find their way to him.

I imagine waiting to catch him at the bus stop, much like I once did, except this time I take his hand. I imagine that he was the one listening to music, and I was the one who grabbed the earphone from his ear, getting dangerously close, and then putting it in my ear. I imagined us trapped against the alley walls like we were the night of the retreat, except in my daydream we would be looking in each other's eyes, and he would lean down and...

Ji Hye cleared her throat and I looked at her, my face flushing. If either of my hands had been free, I might have fanned myself. What the hell was wrong with me? I wasn't sixteen years old anymore. And even then I had more sense than this.

"Deok Sun-ah," she said, searching the crowd in front of us. "I'll see you..." Her voice trailed off as her eyes locked on somebody, and I followed her gaze.

There, in the middle of the crowd, right in the center, was a face I knew. A face that I have seen more often in the last months than I have in the last few years. My friend.

"Is that Choi..."

"Taek?" I finished for her before nodding, a smile curving on my lips. "Yep, that's him."

Affection coursed through me as I beheld my old friend's handsome face, as innocent now as the day we first met. The feeling of familiarity brought on a surge of warmth and unmistakable joy from seeing someone who reminded me of home. And of him, the one I no longer saw.

Taek waved at me and whatever pleasure I had been feeling dissipated and was replaced by something else. Something I didn't want to name.


Taek was standing there, smiling like he always did. He had a bouquet of roses in his hands.

I shifted on my seat, looking around me in curiosity, wondering why Taek came to get me at the airport. And why we were now sitting in a fancy hotel restaurant, the silverware gleaming so brightly it made me uncomfortable.

Taek smiled at me as the server delivered some water, then handed us both menus. I tried to read what was in front of me, grateful for the fact that my profession required that I learn English. No more playing charades with my sentences these days.

"Do you like the flowers?" Taek asked and I lifted my eyes to see him looking at me with an expression on his face unlike anything I'd ever seen before. "My coach told me that girls, no matter the age, love flowers."

I tried to muster up a smile, feared it came out as a grimace, instead. I kept my eyes on what I was reading in front of me, but Taek was making me nervous. Him, and this place and these roses, I thought, wishing I could pluck the bouquet now sitting on the table and hide them somewhere.

"Have you decided what you wanted to order?" He asked, meeting my eyes over his menu.

"I'm not really hungry," I said. "Maybe just a salad?"

"You're always hungry," he teased.

I grinned, bashful. "Yeah, but this," I whispered, "Is not really my style. If you wanted to eat out we could have just met at a cafe or something. That's what we always did before."

"I didn't want to do what we always did before today," he said quietly.

I blinked at him, waited for him to explain, but the server came and took our orders. When he made no move to resume our conversation, I pried. "How did you know what time I was coming back?"

"No Eul told me," he answered. "I wanted to catch you before you came home." He took a sip of his water. "I never would have been able to speak to you otherwise."

His last sentence was delivered so softly I wondered if he meant for me to hear it at all. I kept my eyes fixed on the empty plate before me, then to the bread basket in the middle of the table. My apprehension about what this whole thing was about and why Taek was acting this way suddenly made me ravenous and I grabbed a roll, clumsily buttering it before shoving it into my mouth.

Taek watched me wordlessly, looking almost amused. When our meal came, he picked up his utensils and began to eat. The classical music playing in the restaurant, I'm sure meant to merely be a minor distraction, began to grate on me as the silence lengthened.

I had just helped myself to another forkful of salad when Taek spoke.

"Deok Sun-ah," he said, the tone in his voice sounding strangely reminiscent of Jung Hwan's voice the night he jokingly confessed. I realized that Taek was about to do the same and it gave me pause, made the butterflies in my belly run amok. Would he be joking too? Would this matter? Before I could examine this further, he carried on. "I like you."

I discovered with a jolt that unlike how I had felt when Jung Hwan said those same words, a kind of nervous, excited fluttering; now I felt something akin to dread.

"I'm saying I like you," he said.

His face was eager, clearly waiting for an answer. I could not give him one.

There was once a time when I longed to hear those words. Not necessarily from Taek, but from anyone, my affections seemingly as fickle as the wind. I went with whatever option seemed to guarantee reciprocity, always afraid of taking the first step myself.

I liked Sun Woo because I thought he liked me. I tried to treat Jung Hwan the same way, banishing him from my heart when I thought he did not feel the same. I wondered if Taek realized that about me, too... whether he thought if he told me he liked me, that I would be hard pressed not to like him back. Because that's always been my pattern. That's what I used to do.

Taek was a good person. Kind and giving, almost oblivious to his good traits. Taek was my friend. He might have been a perfectly acceptable option, an even above average option for me, had I still been the girl that I used to be.

Taek was someone I loved, but not the person I was in love with.

Love? I thought, my hands clamming up. Was I in love with Jung Hwan?

"I'm sorry," I blurted, my mind racing. I'm in love with Jung Hwan? No. I blinked and saw Jung Hwan's face that night, the sadness in his eyes almost palpable, seeping through my veins. It knocked the wind out of me and I felt my face pale. "I'm sorry."

I could only utter those words as I burst into tears, perhaps only realizing just now how much I needed to hear those words again from someone else, what I would give to hear those words again from Jung Hwan. I tried to stop crying, except I had a feeling I was now beginning to understand why Jung Hwan didn't trust me with his heart and it made me cry even harder.

Taek could only look at me, his eyes filled with worry. "What's wrong, Deok Sun-ah?"

I covered my face with my napkin... there was no easy way to do this. And Taek... was someone who always needed things spelled out for him. I cannot have him misunderstand. "I... don't want to hurt you," I said haltingly, my voice sounding heavy. "But I don't want to lie to you either, so I'll just tell it like it is," I said, unable to look at him. "You're my friend and I care a lot about you, but I don't feel the same way." I swallowed as tears started falling again. "Don't hate me. Please don't hate me."

Taek looked at me in confusion, as if unsure what to say. I didn't want to see him hurt, would do anything to prevent that from happening, but I can't help not feeling for him what he feels for me.

"Deok Sun-ah," he said gently. "I could never hate you." He took a deep breath. "But just because you don't feel the same way about me now doesn't mean you never will. If you give me a chance, maybe you'll see me as more than a friend. If you give me a chance, we could be happy."

I was already shaking my head before he even finished speaking. "No," I said. "There would be no going back for us. There'd be no undoing it." Even as I spoke, I knew that I meant something else, too. This was not just about our friendship. This was about something bigger than this... one that would have consequences. One that could change the direction of my life. I knew, deep in my heart that saying yes to Taek, even for the time being, even if it was just to protect him, would mean losing Jung Hwan forever.

Just the thought alone was enough to steal the air from my body.

Taek continued watching me, his gaze veiled. And I knew. I knew that my honesty had caused him pain, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was vaguely aware that things may never be the same between us again. He looked down at his plate, appearing to be lost in his own thoughts.

"Taek-ah," I said. "I'm sorry."

He looked up at me, a small sad smile on his face. "I know."

Part II

May 1995

Gangnam, Seoul

Jung Hwan

I felt a nudge on my side and turned my head, surprised to find one of my friends from the Air Force Academy darting his head at me. He mouthed something and I shook my head, unable to understand.

"Pay attention!" His words came out through gritted teeth, his smile resembling a grimace.

I nodded sheepishly, looked around. There were many people here today, groups of people and couples everywhere. The restaurant looked no different than it did when it first opened, many years ago.

The first McDonald's in Seoul. In Gangnam of all places. I tried so hard to not come here that day, fully aware of the crowd and the traffic. And yet one call and I came running.

I fixed my gaze on the table, an unwitting smile on my face. Deok Sun had looked so surprised, her eyes bulging out of her face when she realized I was there.

I thought she was alone. Had I known that her two friends were going to be there, I might have said no.

Oh... who was I kidding? I would have shown up anyway just because she asked me to come. It had been worth it to see her look happy that I came through for her, whatever the reason might have been that she called me.

I had liked her so much. I bit my lower lip, focused on the grain of the wood in front of me, trying to distract myself from the predictable tightening in my chest.

It was safe to say that I missed her. More than she will ever know. More than I was even willing to admit.

I heard someone clear their throat and I looked up to see three pairs of eyes looking at me. My friend was scowling, and then apologetically looking across the table, where his girlfriend and his girlfriend's friend sat.

I forced myself to smile at her, surprised when she smiled back shyly. Her hair was smoothed back with a headband, her light brown eyes looking directly at me. She self-consciously smoothed a non-existent stray hair behind an ear and licked her lips.

Her skin was lighter than Deok Sun's. Her hair longer.

I pushed the thought away, tried to convince myself that it had been just a passing thing, though I of all people knew that was a lie. I thought of her constantly, worried about what time she was going home, if she was eating well, sleeping well. It was only natural, I reasoned. Until recently, Deok Sun had been a constant part of my life; of course it made sense that I would compare every woman to her.

I tried to tell myself this as I played with my french fries, picking one up and dipping it into the ketchup before putting it in my mouth.

I realized that in the last few months I really have taken this whole talking to myself very seriously.

"So," Ji Min, my friend's girlfriend said to me, "Yo Han tells me that you were very smart in high school. Yoo Mi here," she continued, "graduated top of her class."

Yoo Mi blushed, averted her gaze. She wrapped and unwrapped her cheeseburger, stealing glances my way.

"Is that right?" I asked, and she, as if amazed that I was speaking to her, nodded enthusiastically. I instantly felt bad once I realized that those were the first words I said to her since I arrived.

My mother would hit me upside the head for treating a woman so disrepectfully. I really should make more of an effort.

When Yo Han asked me if I wanted to go on a double date, I didn't exactly refuse. Bored out of my mind in Sacheon and unwilling to go home to Ssangmundong, I had agreed, not realizing that it would involve a trip to Seoul anyway.

"Where are you studying?" I asked quietly and she quickly chewed what was in her mouth, holding a hand up to me as if to tell me to wait.

"Yah," Yo Han chided. "Were you not listening? They both go to Seoul National University. Yoo Mi-ssi is in her last year studying Economics."

I nodded my head, attempted to look impressed.

"Do you like it?" I asked Yoo Mi, before taking a sip of my drink.

She thought about my question before she responded. "I do," she replied with a small smile. "I've always liked numbers and that and world economy always interested me so..."

I was still figuring out what next to ask when I felt a vibration in my pocket and pulled my pager out. Not recognizing the number but recognizing the area code that was paged to me, I stood up. I am always in fear that something would happen to Hyung or my parents while I was so far away.

"Excuse me for one minute," I said to the people at my table. "I'll be right back."

I weaved through the tables to the nearest payphone. I put the coins in and dialed the number flashing on my pager screen, looking behind me to see Yo Han and the women at the table, talking animatedly, Yoo Mi occasionally looking to where I was and me turning back around quickly.

She was a nice girl. A nice, perfectly acceptable girl. A nice, pretty, perfectly acceptable girl. A nice, smart, pretty, perfectly acceptable girl.

"Hello?" Sun Woo's voice interrupted my reverie.

"Sun Woo-yah," I responded. "It's Jung Hwan. What's up?"

"It's a rare night away from the hospital for me," he said. "So I'm out. Where are you?"

"You know where I am," I answered, the lie falling naturally out of my mouth.

"No, I didn't, that's why I asked, bastard," Sun Woo said, laughing. "I thought I saw your Jeep parked by the McDonald's in Gangnam."

"Why would I be there?" I asked.

"I don't know," Sun Woo said. "That's why I asked."

"Why are you in Gangnam anyway?" I wanted to change the topic, wondering why, of all places, he had to be here.

"Dong Ryong didn't tell you?" He asked. "Deok Sun scored some tickets from her job to a restaurant so we all went."

"Deok Sun did?" I was almost ashamed at how interested I sounded, embarrassed that even now, even after everything, I still did a pretty shitty job of hiding how I felt for her. Not that she ever noticed anyway.

My heart tightened at the memory of her easy, almost relieved willingness to believe that my confession had been a joke.

Even the best liar couldn't have made a lie like that. And I was never a good liar.

"Damn," Sun Woo continued, "I hoped you would be in Seoul." I heard him take a deep breath and when he came back on the phone, his voice was lowered. "When are you coming back?"

"I don't know," I said sincerely. "I don't know when I'll be back." If I'll be back, I wanted to add, but didn't say out loud.

"Yah..." I heard him make a frustrated sound. "You know you can talk to me, right? I know you're tough and you're not exactly the talkative type but I'm here if you need me."

For a second I was tempted. Sun Woo and I have been close since childhood. Maybe even closer than me and Dong Ryong were. Once we told each other everything. I thought it would be that way forever.

Until Taek became his brother and everything changed.

If there was one thing I knew to be true and believed myself, it was that family was everything. Blood, even one only connected by marriage, still runs thicker than water.

Just like Jung Bong Hyung would always take my side whether or not I was right, by default he would have to support Taek. It was just the way it was. I had learned to accept this a long time ago.

"Thanks, Sun Woo-yah," I said lightly, trying to make myself sound brighter, more carefree. "But I'm fine. It's just been really busy here in Sacheon and it's a pain in the ass to go home."

He didn't speak for a few moments and then resignedly, I heard him say 'Okay.'

"I'll call you soon," I said, stopping myself from asking about Deok Sun, even under the guise of friendship.

"Yeah, okay," he replied. "Call me once in a while, will you?"

I made a noncommittal sound and hung up the phone, my mind trying to convince my heart that this was necessary, that this was the only way. I wasn't perfect but I knew that there was one thing I was proud of: that I always did right by my friends... no matter the sacrifice that was asked of me. I may be shit at everything else, but at least, I was consistent in my loyalty.

I shook my head, tried to get my bearings. I had just taken a step out of the phone booth when I looked outside the glass paneled walls of the restaurant.

It was raining.

Deok Sun

I watched as Sun Woo ran towards the phone booth only a couple of minutes since he paged Jung Hwan. I tried to look nonchalant as I drank a sip of beer and wiped my mouth, told myself that I wasn't jealous that Jung Hwan would answer Sun Woo's page and not mine.

Except I hadn't quite gotten around to paging him yet. I wasn't quite sure what to say, even now. I'm still trying to get my head together so that if and when we meet again I would be able to stand in front of him as a calm, rational, adult human being and not as the emotional mess I was sure he remembered me as.

Why is Sun Woo speaking so quietly? I tried to lean closer towards the payphone to catch what he was saying but he turned around and spoke even more softly, if that was possible.

I picked up a piece of chicken from the basket in front of me and took a big bite. Dong Ryong, who was munching on a drumstick in front of me, raised his brows but said nothing. I kept on eating, trying to ignore the fact that Dong Ryong seemed intent on studying me, much like he did that night.

"Why isn't there anyone?" I asked miserably. "I guess I'm a woman who has no right to be loved."

Dong Ryong and I sat on the steps, the night after I found out that Jung Hwan had given my birthday gift to his brother. I thought he liked me, was convinced of it, in fact, so why did he do that?

"Deok Sun-ah," Dong Ryong said.


"Do you like boiled sweet potatoes or baked sweet potatoes?"

I didn't have to think about my answer. "Boiled sweet potatoes."

"Do you like Lee Moon Sae or Park Nam Jung?"

Again I answered without hesitation. "Lee Moon Sae."

"Me or Taek?"

This was a no brainer. "Taekkie."

He sighed audibly. "How annoying. You hate me?"

I shook my head. "No, but I still like Taek more."

His tone became more careful. "If that's the case, do you like Jung Hwan or Sun Woo?"

What was he getting at? I looked away. "Don't ask questions like that."

After a brief moment of silence, he spoke again. "Deok Sun-ah. How do you feel?" I didn't quite know how to respond. "Instead of people liking you, what is it that you like? You're so clear about the way you like to eat sweet potatoes. Don't you know the type of person that you like? You can like someone without them liking you, right?"

I hadn't known how to answer any of his questions. Maybe because I didn’t know the answer, or maybe because I didn’t like the answer. I knew I liked Jung Hwan, though. I don’t know why I didn’t admit to it.

I regret it now. Not saying it when I felt it. Not telling him when I should have.

I looked up when Sun Woo slid back into his seat. "Nope," he said, shaking his head. "He's in Sacheon."

"Of course he is," I said, hating that I sounded so forlorn about a known fact. He’s been in Sacheon all this time. "There are many people who drive Jeeps in Seoul."

"I think he may have been out on a date or something," Sun Woo said, grabbing the pitcher of beer and pouring himself some. "He definitely wasn't alone."

I dropped the chicken I was holding loudly onto my plate and blinked at him. He lifted his shoulders and looked at me, as if asking 'what?'

"I think it's great if he's dating," Dong Ryong said, his tone pointed. "I mean he can't be alone forever, right?" Sun Woo nodded his assent. "Our Jung Hwan is smart and funny and if he stopped scowling long enough, he would even be handsome. He has a great job and you know he'll be successful at whatever he does because, well... because he's Jung Hwan."

"That's right." Sun Woo's barely indecipherable words were spoken through a mouthful of chicken and I snatched the drumstick he was holding and slammed it onto his plate in a fit of temper.

"He's not dating," I said. How could he be dating already? I wasn't even dating. He can't be dating. Wasn't it just a few months ago that he was telling me that it's always been me? I thought it went without saying that it would always be me (except, I had to remind myself, he had been joking.) "He can't be dating."

I didn't even realize I had spoken the words out loud until I saw Dong Ryong and Sun Woo looking at me, their chopsticks suspended mid-air.

"Of course he can," Sun Woo said carefully. "He's single, so why not?"

"He can't be dating," I repeated, a lump forming in my throat.

"It's not as if he has anyone waiting for him here so I don't see why he wouldn't be open to it," Dong Ryong commented. "Or does he?"

I said nothing and took such a long gulp of beer that by the time I was done the glass was empty. I stared miserably at my glass and was reaching for the pitcher when Sun Woo's arm shot up and stopped me.

"Deok Sun-ah," he said worriedly. "You know you can't drink. Your sister made me promise her I wouldn't let you go home drunk."

"I need a drink."

Sun Woo and Dong Ryong looked at each other then back at me.

"What's wrong, Deok Sun-ah?" Dong Ryong asked.

I shook my head, as if in doing so I would banish the images of Jung Hwan with another woman, smiling at her like he used to smile at me. Wondering if he would confess the same way. If he'd tell her 'don't go' if she tested him.

He'd probably kiss her, I thought spitefully. We're all grown-ups now and he would definitely kiss her.

"What's wrong, Deok Sun-ah?" I heard someone repeat the question and I took a deep breath. Hesitated. Then thought what the hell... they'll soon find out anyway.

"I like Jung Hwan," I said, then corrected myself. "I love Jung Hwan." I lifted my chin in feigned defiance, as if daring either of them to challenge me.

"What?" They both asked, a little too exaggeratedly, in my opinion, as if they weren't surprised at all. "Since when?" The last question came from Sun Woo, who at least tried to sound a bit more taken aback.

"I liked him since 1989," I admitted. "I loved him I'm sure since then, too, but I didn't realize until a couple of months ago."

They exchanged another glance. "What happened two months ago?" They sounded so funny asking the same exact question at the same time that I probably would have laughed any other time.

But not tonight.

"Taek told me he liked me," I said. Neither of them looked surprised, as if this was something they knew all along.

"And you said no," Sun Woo said.

I nodded slowly. "Yeah."

"Because you liked Jung Hwan more?" Dong Ryong asked, his tone somewhat impassive.

"No," I said. "Because I liked Jung Hwan, period. There is no 'more.' I love Taek... we all do, but how I feel for Jung Hwan and how I feel for Taek are completely different things. They're not even related."

There was a tense silence for a few minutes before Dong Ryong started clapping, much to Sun Woo's amusement. "Wow, Deok Sun-ah," Dong Ryong said. "You finally figured out what you wanted."

"You know I'm slow," I mumbled. "And now it's too late."

"No way," Sun Woo said. "You've already done the hard part... the figuring out part. The rest is easy."

"Says the guy dating his first love." I looked him straight in the eyes. "Not everyone has it as easy as you."

"Yah," he responded in all seriousness. "You really think I have it easy? Have you forgotten who I'm dating?" I didn't answer and he continued. "I don't think that it will be as bad as you think it will be, though. Jung Hwan's bound to come home."

"Is he?" I asked and they both nodded. "When? Give me a date."

Neither of them responded to my demand, choosing, instead, to stare at everything else but me.

Two hours later...

Jung Hwan

I stood under the awning, trying to figure out a way to leave without making it look like I was trying to leave. Yo Han and his girlfriend were talking quietly and Yoo Mi stood idly by, looking as awkward as I felt.

"Do you guys want to have a drink?" Ji Min asked. "I know a place not too far from..."

"I can't," I interrupted before she even finished her sentence, earning a glowered from Yo Han. "My mother wants me to go home," I said, by way of explanation, "so I'll be heading out."

"Your mother told you that?" Yo Han asked, his voice skeptical. "When?"

I coughed and cleared my throat. "Just a little while ago. She paged me."

Yo Han frowned at me, as if trying to suss out if I was telling the truth, but didn't say anything else.

"I had a great time," Yoo Mi said, holding out her hand. I reached mine out and shook it gingerly, trying to at least be a gentleman. "I hope I see you again soon."

Her sentiment surprised me... I didn't think I was that good a company. I spoke when I was spoken to, made the appropriate comments to show that I was paying attention. But still... I didn't think I had done enough. I certainly didn't expect that she would actually want to see me again.

I struggled with how to respond until a little voice in my head nagged at me. You have to move on, it said, you have to try.

Surprisingly I found myself nodding. "Sure," I responded. "I'd like that." I turned to Yo Han. "Will you be okay getting back to Sacheon?"

He nodded. "Yeah... I'll crash at a friend's house tonight and take the bus first thing tomorrow."

"Shall we, then?" Ji Min said brightly, taking Yo Han's arm. Both Yoo Mi and he nodded and they took off in the opposite direction. I stayed in the same place, watching them walk away. When they were almost at the end of the block, Yoo Mi turned around and waved.

I lifted my hand and waved back.

Once they were out of sight, my shoulders sagged, my head bowed low. I was so tired all of a sudden. The rain was still falling steadily on the pavement, making the black on the ground look almost translucent.

I looked up and saw that the clouds still looked heavy, as if the rain won't be stopping anytime soon.

I hope Deok Sun has an umbrella. She never knew when to bring the things that actually mattered.

The thought, though not entirely unexpected, still filled me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I hated that my every memory was connected to her, resented that though she felt nothing but friendship for me, my feelings for her had not changed at all.

Those feelings have become so ingrained in me that it seemed I couldn't get rid of them even if I wanted to. Dear God, though, I wanted to.

Perhaps the only thing I despised more than these feelings was my inability to brush them off, as I have been able to do everything else.

I'm going to keep trying. I have to keep trying.

With that thought in mind, I pushed the memories of Deok Sun aside. I ran out from under the awning and made my way towards my car, ready to make the six hour drive back to Sacheon.

Deok Sun

We walked out of the restaurant, the three of us, and were greeted by torrential rain. Sun Woo and Dong Ryong scrambled towards the bus stop, and I stopped to pull my umbrella out of my bag.

And then... a flash of memory. Jung Hwan standing in front of me, an umbrella over my head. I closed my eyes.

Over the last few months I have tried to banish the memories away, convinced that if I did so, the thought of missing him wouldn't quite hurt so much. I tried it so many times but never broke through. I thought it was because I was weak, until I realized it wasn't that at all.

I couldn't erase the memories because I didn't want to. I wanted to savor them, hold them close to me, as close as they could possibly be. I want to imprint them on my skin, evidence of what we could have had. What we could have been. I wanted to keep them with me as long as I possibly could, in a way that I couldn't do with him.

In my mind's eye I saw him as he always looked, all derision and scorn. A sense of humor so dry it was a wonder it could be considered that at all. But also... something else. Kindness and loyalty. Friendship and integrity. All in one person. The one that I love.

I opened my eyes, found myself reaching out a hand, palm upturned towards the rain. I wondered if it was raining where he was. Wondered if the rain made him think of me. Wishing that it did.

I have never wanted anyone to show up with an umbrella in all my life.

October 1995

Jung Hwan

My house telephone number flashed across my pager screen and I put it down, tempted for one second to ignore it. After a long day of physical training and classes, I had no plans for the rest of the day except to take a shower, eat and then sleep.

I looked at the number again and reconsidered, remembering how upset my brother was the last time he called me and I didn't respond. This could very well be him. With a sigh and a shake of my head, I picked up the phone in my room and began to dial.

I could never resist my brother, and he knew it, too.

The voice that answered was definitively not Hyung's, though, but someone else.

"Jung Hwan-ah," I heard Omma say, her voice filled with affection.

"Omma," I said, glancing at my watch. "Is everything okay?"

She didn't usually call me at this time, and certainly not on a Friday, when her afternoons to evenings were spent gossiping with the neighborhood ahjummas then drinking the night away.

She and Appa have been doing the same thing for years. At least, ever since all of us went to university.

"Oh yeah," she said breezily. "I just wanted to hear your voice. Are you eating enough?"

I bit back a laugh. Omma never wanted to know anything except if I was eating. Even now she still hasn't forgotten what it had been like when we were poor and had to scrap all our money just for a decent meal.

I softened. "Yeah, Omma. I'm getting plenty to eat."

"And rest, too?" She asked. "They're not working you too hard, are they?"

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "And mess with Ra Mi Ran?"

I heard her laugh, low and rich, and found myself smiling as well. I adored my mother. I always have since I was a kid. She was an amazing woman. An amazing person.

"Jung Hwan-ah," she said, the laughter disappearing from her voice. "Are you coming home soon?"

I shook my head. I should have expected this question. She never fails to ask the same thing every time we speak. And every single time, I couldn't give her an answer.

"I don't know, Omma," I replied. "Things are crazy around here right now and..."

"Taek's birthday is in a few days," she interrupted. "You guys always celebrate his birthday together." I stopped talking. She wasn't telling me something I didn't already know. "I think you should come home. Things haven't been the same around here, even with your friends."

"How would you know, Omma?" I teased. "Sun Woo is busy in med school and Dong Ryong is busy being Dong Ryong. Taek is playing baduk everywhere, and Deok Sun," I cleared my throat. "Deok Sun is barely home."

"You'd be surprised," she said. "They have all been coming back a lot more often. Bora, too, which you know pleases Il Hwa to no end." My mother's voice faded, as if she was speaking to someone else, but then came back so quickly I couldn't make out what she just said. "But I am telling you... something must have happened among your friends. Deok Sun, especially."

What? I thought, trying to remember if Sun Woo had mentioned anything the last time we spoke. With his residency schedule as hectic as it was, the closest we had gotten to getting together is talking on the phone. And Dong Ryong... didn't mention anything either.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Oh... you know, just this and that," Omma replied, sounding as vague as one person could possibly be. "Sun Woo's Omma said that Taek rejected Deok Sun so they haven't been talking all that much. Deok Sun's Omma said that things were... dicey."

"WHAT?" My voice came out louder than I had intended and I stood up, unable to believe her words. Taek rejected Deok Sun? Taek... rejected Deok Sun?

"Yes... can you believe that?" Omma continued, oblivious to my surprise. "And Deok Sun, that poor girl," she tsked, "had been sooooo miserable that every time she has a day off she comes home. And you know what she does?"

"No," I said, reminded that I have not had a conversation with Deok Sun since my botched confession.

"She comes over here and hangs out with your Appa," Omma said, clucking her tongue. "As if he needed more encouragement."

I was still stuck on Taek rejecting Deok Sun. Why the hell would he do that?

"And Taek," my mother said, her voice full of censure, "is already dating someone else! Who would have thought that a nice boy like Taek would treat her so badly? And on White Day nonetheless."

I found myself running my fingers through my hair, concern and anger washing over me.

How dare he? How dare he treat Deok Sun like that after I kept my mouth shut? Did he not even realize how much it took out of me to let her go? He was supposed to treat her well. He was supposed to make her happy.

Not make her sad. Dammit!

I knew Taek was a little slow at times, but he's not mean. Had he been I would not have been as conflicted about what to do about my burgeoning feelings for Deok Sun. If I thought he was not a worthy person, I might never have taken a step back.

Dammit, Taek.

I found myself pulling a shirt out of my closet and putting it over my white T-shirt. I grabbed my keys from the side table and was about to walk out the door when I realized I was still holding on to the phone. "Omma, I have to go," I said, my voice distracted. "I'll talk to you later."

"Oh?" She asked. "Okay, then. I guess I'll talk to you so..."

I hung up the call before she could finish. In less than an hour, I was on a plane.

Deok Sun

"I swear," Jung Hwan's Omma complained, hanging up the cordless phone, "the things I do for you people." She glowered at all of us: Taek standing next to her, and Sun Woo, Dong Ryong and myself sitting on the wooden platform outside the gate. "Just so you know, I wouldn't normally lie to my own child, but since it was for the greater good, I suppose I'll let this pass."

She scrutinized each of us before disappearing behind the gate, already calling for my mother. She had been in the middle of setting up some drinks and side dishes when Sun Woo dragged her out.

"I really don't think this is going to work," I moaned, ripping the packaging off the popsicle I picked up on my way home from the bus station.

Sun Woo released a breath. "It was worth a shot anyway. Never thought I'd say this, but I miss that punk's face."

"Me, too," Taek said quietly. "How long has it been since we were all last together like this?"

"One year," I said. I gave Taek a small smile, relieved when he smiled back at me, an image of the old Taek I know and love.

"Yeah," he said, nodding. "It's already been a year."

After his confession and my response, things did get a bit awkward for both of us. I wasn't that surprised... I had expected it to. I probably would have been more baffled had they not. But within a couple of months, it was as if nothing had happened.

We didn't speak of it again, not necessarily because we were avoiding the topic, but because there was nothing else to say. My feelings weren't going to change.

The problem with having been friends for so long with people is that you know them so well. My honesty may have seemed cruel at the time Taek was telling me how he felt (God only knows my delivery could have used some help,) but there was no way around it. I was not going to let him misunderstand. That I just happened to have realized how I really felt for Jung Hwan at that moment was beside the point.

I loved Taek, like I loved all my friends. I was protective of him, and I worried about him. A friendship may be based on those two things, but a relationship based on those two things alone wouldn't survive.

Taek needed a woman who will challenge him and not want to coddle him, and I… wanted Jung Hwan.

I pouted and took a huge bite of my popsicle, wishing that the ground would swallow me whole. I wasn't sure which was worse: that I've resorted to lying just to get Jung Hwan home, or that I now trust these bozos to fix up my love life.

Although, why they would even think that telling Jung Hwan that Taek rejected me would do the trick is beyond me. Jung Hwan may have been confessing (in a joke way that hadn't been funny at all- I don't even know how I could have smiled after it), but didn't he already give me up?

"I don't think this is a good idea," I said, feeling suddenly nauseous. I glared at the iced sweet I held in my hands and gingerly put it to the side, my appetite gone. "I don't even know why I agreed to this."

"You know why you agreed," Dong Ryong chided, frowning at me, "You've been miserable for months and I can’t stand it anymore."

I looked away, mortified. For the last few months I have really tried to nurture my feelings on my own, wanting to be truly ready when he sees me again. I wanted to be in control, a more impressive woman. I wanted to be as magnanimous as he was. I wanted to be able to say "see, I could like you on my own. And I could even wait!"

I thought I was doing a great job staying positive. Apparently I was not a very good actress.

And now it has come to this. A half assed plan concocted by Dong Ryong (when he was drunk I was sure,) of how to get Jung Hwan to come back home. And I admit it, the idea that there was even a minute chance that he would take the bait made me too weak to say no.

But this... is just crazy. I'm still jetlagged from my last flight. I'm not exactly emotionally stable right now.

To them it was to see their old friend. For me it was a bit more self-serving; I wanted to see him. I wanted to talk to him.

I wanted him here. I wanted him with me.

My thoughts ran the gamut from very mature to elementary, all in the space of one moment. Jung Hwan has always reduced me to this.

"What makes you so sure that it's even going to work?" Sun Woo asked Dong Ryong, his eyes wandering now and again to the pager on his hip. Now that he was dating my sister openly, he was also a lot more open about his frustration at having to wait for her all the time. He was now lying down on the platform, right behind me, the picture of someone who didn't worry at all.

"Jung Hwan is much too smart for this," Taek remarked, looking unimpressed.

"You'll see," Dong Ryong said confidently. "Someone is buying me pizza if he shows up tomorrow, two if he shows up tonight."

"Is my love life only worth a pizza?" I asked, fighting the urge to smack him. "If he doesn't, you're buying me a drink."

"He'll show." Dong Ryong sounded certain. "Man... do you guys not know Jungpal at all?" Sun Woo, Taek and I looked at one another, wondering what he was about to say next. "Do you know why I came up with this strategy?" We all shook our heads no. "Because... There is only one thing that will trump our friend's misguided sense of right and wrong and his inexplicable need to be a martyr."

"What's that?" Sun Woo asked.

Dong Ryong suddenly sat up and gave us a beatific smile. "His instinct to protect."

By the time the night fell, it was just me and Taek outside on the same platform. He sat next to me, as quiet as he always was, his expression calm as he perused the night sky.

"Taek-ah," I said softly.

He turned his head around and looked at me. "Hmm?"

"Thank you for being my friend." I smiled. "Especially after that time."

"What time?" He asked, smiling back, before looking away. “You were one of the first people who made me feel like it's okay to be myself. I think with you, and Jung Hwan and Sun Woo and Dong Ryong... if it wasn't for all you, I still would be alone. I was your friend before I liked you... I was still going to be your friend even if you didn't like me back." He nudged my shoulder with his side. "Just don't be saying stuff to me like, 'you're going to find a good woman. It's not you, it's me.""

I wrinkled my nose. "Who has been telling you this stuff?"

He cocked his head towards his house. "Sun Woo." He chuckled. "He says those are the worst things a man can ever hear from the woman he likes, short of 'let's break up.' He wants to go on double dates with me."

I nodded, impressed. I suppose I always knew that Sun Woo was the best big brother, having seen the way he treated Jin Joo, but seeing that he was the same exact way with Taek only reinforced that thought. "He wants you to learn about dating from him and Unnie?"

Taek began to laugh. "Yeah... He says I'm terrible at this whole dating thing, and that I need to learn to walk before I could run, whatever that means. Though I'm not really sure what I would learn between him and Noona. She likes to order him around."

"He shouldn't take it too personally... Unnie likes to boss everyone around."

"Maybe I need someone like that," he joked. "Someone who will fight with me and stuff."

I raised my eyebrows. "You think so?"

"Yeah," he said with a bashful smile. To this day it still amazes me that Taek looked like an angel, and marveled that though I loved him so much, that it never went beyond friendship. "You always treated me like a baby."

What he said shut me up for a minute, realizing that he was right. "Taek-ah..."

Jung Hwan

I flagged the first cab I saw out of Gimpo International Airport and entered it in a hurry. I gave breathless instructions to the driver to get me directly to our neighborhood in Ssangmundong. When he pulled off the curb, I was beset with a sensation of having done this before.

Not exactly all of this, with the mad dash to the airport, to the hour plane ride to the now fifteen minute cab ride just to check up on Deok Sun. But something like this.

I don't even know what I was thinking when I hopped on that flight... Omma didn't even say that Deok Sun was even home. What, exactly, was my plan if she was not there? For all I knew she was flying out this weekend.

Christ... I ran my fingers through my hair. I once thought myself the most careful of people, but it seems there was still a bit of fight in me left.

I leaned back against the backseat of the cab and watched as the cab driver passed one green stop light after another. The sense of deja vu came back, as if I was back in 1994, right before I confessed. Except a year ago, all the lights had been red. I was caught at every stop, seemingly almost destined not to get to where I needed to be when I needed to be there. At the time I had blamed fate and timing, only to realize that it hadn't been that, but my own hesitations and fears, that had kept me back all this time.

It was so much easier to blame Taek. It was much simpler to say it was because of him.

Except it wasn't the whole truth. Not then, and not now.

My only sin was caring a little too much about my friends, but where was the fault in that? I hesitated all the time because I learned from growing up with my brother that life takes away just as it gives, and that we have to protect ourselves from the inevitability of failure, death and loss. How many times did I think that I would lose Hyung?

Maybe that had been my mistake... that inasmuch as I allowed myself to fully care, I never let those around me do the same for me. And I had paid the price for it. Deok Sun was forever out of my reach.

For the past year I had allowed myself to stew in regret and guilt, and I was tired of it.

If there was something that I realized while I sat on that plane, restless and nervous, wondering how Deok Sun would be when I see her, it was that though I had done a fine job of convincing myself that I was past all this, I, in fact, wasn't. And more importantly, even after a year, I still wasn't ready to let her go. Maybe I will never be able to let her go.

But I could be in her life. In whatever capacity she will allow me to be in it. In whatever role she wanted me to play.

I just needed to know that she was okay.

I just needed to see, with my own eyes, that she was doing fine.

The cab screeched to a stop and I handed the driver a wadful of cash, not even bothering to count it out. With a hasty 'keep the change,' I practically jumped out and made my way towards my parents' and Deok Sun's parents' houses, unsure of who I would find and what I would say. From this distance I could see that someone just closed the door to Sun Woo's Omma's house, but I could see nothing else or no one else.

It wasn't until I was almost in front of the gate that I saw someone standing by the wooden platform, her eyes barely hiding her shock and I slowed down my pace. Her hair, always short in my adolescence, was even longer now than it was even a year ago. Almond shaped dark brown irises blinked under a line of bangs, a delicate hand coming up to touch her neck.

Deok Sun

"Taek-ah..." I was just about to apologize when he interrupted me.

"You shouldn't worry so much about what Jung Hwan will say when he gets here," he reassured me. "I am sure it will be fine. You've liked him for a long time, right?"

I looked down at my feet, covered in slippers, and took hold of the ring under my sweater. I nodded slowly.

"Thank you for not making this between me and him," he said softly. "Though I think I might have had a role in that, though he never called me out on it." He paused and looked at anywhere but me. "He liked you too, you know."


"Right around the time you liked him," he answered. "I knew it then but chose to ignore it. I thought that as long as he didn't say the words out loud, then it wasn't real. As long as he didn't ask me to give you up, then I wasn't hurting him." He breathed a heavy sigh. "I made some mistakes, too. I guess this was my way of making it up to him."

I shook my head in disbelief. "By pissing him off?"

"By getting him home.'

The sound of a fast approaching car had us both turning around, and before I knew it, the sound of a car door slamming followed. Taek stood up, his face brightening, before he wrapped an arm around me and engulfed me in an embrace before I could ask what was going on.

"Deok Sun-ah," he said, his voice rich with laughter and relief. "We owe Dong Ryong two pizzas."

Before I knew it, Taek had disappeared around the gate that would lead to his and Sun Woo's house, and I was left standing on my own. I turned around, not quite getting what he had been talking about, until I lifted my gaze and a pair of brown eyes caught mine. I felt the tears form behind my lids and I closed them, wondering if this was just a dream. If I had dreamt him back into my life. If he really wasn't standing in front of me. I grabbed hold of the heavy ring that anchored my necklace, the weight bringing me back to the present and to what was real.

Afraid to find out that I was once again only daydreaming, I opened my eyes slowly, only to see Jung Hwan walking towards me, his hair standing on all ends, as if all he's been running his fingers through it many times. And then something that made me even more confused... this supposedly real version of Jung Hwan was wearing a pink shirt, one that looked remarkably like the shirt I had given him almost six years ago. Except it was wrinkled. As if he wore it all the time. As if it was the first thing he had grabbed.

But how is he here? I thought. He was in Sacheon.

Unless Dong Ryong was right. If I hadn't been in such shock I might have laughed. Maybe Dong Ryong really was a genius.

Almost afraid to break the moment, I stayed silent, just letting myself watch Jung Hwan as he came slowly towards me, his normally even expression fraught with concern. His eyebrows narrowed, his pretty eyes zeroed in on my face once he was almost close enough for me to touch. I had to put my hands in my pockets just to keep them from reaching for him, reducing me back to my teenage years when I thought up of every excuse to touch him, and before he could even utter one word. I studied his face once he was standing over me, his eyes searching mine. A perfectly sized nose sat in between high cheekbones, his strong jaw tense. His upper teeth latched onto a generous lower lip, as if he was unsure of what to say.

"Deok Sun-ah." My name fell out of his lips slowly, almost reverently. Was this always how he said my name? How could I not have known?

"Mmm?" I answered, trying to muster up a smile.

"Are you okay?" he asked hesitantly, his eyes never leaving mine. "I'm sorry I haven't been around much. I didn't even come for your birthday this year, but..." He cleared his throat. "You are, right?"

"I'm what?" I could barely ask. All I wanted to do was fling myself into his arms and ask him to speak later.

"Okay?" It seemed as if the answer really mattered and I nodded.

"Yeah, Jung Hwan-ah," I said. "I'm good."

He nodded too, almost sheepishly, as if just now realizing that after all the time he had stayed away, he came back for some reason that apparently didn't pass muster to himself, and looking less put together than the Jung Hwan I always knew.

"Okay," he said quietly and walked towards the gate that housed both of our parents' homes. "Are you coming in?"

It was so reminiscent of how Jung Hwan used to always be... always retreating, always walking away. Almost instantly, the sight of his back made me angrier than I have been all year. It was almost as if all my tears and all the waiting and all the frustration melded together and all I could think about was hell, no. He is not going to do this again.

"Wait," I called out. "Was that it?"

I crossed my arms over my chest defensively and stood in place until he turned around. As if just now realizing that I must still be talking to him, he turned back around and looked at me, a question in his eyes.

"Was that what?" he asked. He was back to sounding like the Jung Hwan that I always knew and I gasped, incredulous.

"You..." I started, trying to lower my voice, aware that all of our families and friends lived on this one block. "You stay away for a whole year, and that's all you have to say? One year without me, and that's really all you've got. Wow, Jung Hwan-ah. I didn't expect much and maybe I still expected too much."

I didn't really mean what I was saying. I knew this even as the words flew out of my lips, just like they always used to do whenever I argued with my older sister. It's almost as if once a switch has been turned on, it would take almost an act of God to shut me up before I start saying things I knew I would regret.

He remained stone faced, almost expressionless, the way he had always been, and it did nothing but make me even more upset. I would have thought him completely unaffected and indifferent, had I not seen the clenching and unclenching of his jaw, an angry tic starting on one of his cheekbones.

"Where did you get that shirt?" I asked, and he didn't respond. Not that his silence surprised me much. Since it didn't seem as if he would actually reply, I decided to just keep asking questions. Surely he would feel compelled to answer at least one. "Did you even miss me? Or any of us?"

Again, nothing.

I took a deep breath and he remained impassive, his eyes firmly on me. Had I been sixteen years old I might have tried to figure out the expression behind them, but frankly, I was tired of this shit. I wanted to just get everything out in the open, so that if what I need to do was move on, then that's what I'll be able to do, knowing I've done my best.

"What have you been doing in Sacheon?" I asked. By this point, I wasn't even expecting him to respond at all anymore. "Did you date? Were you happy?" I began to pace in front of him, filled with a nervous energy I couldn't quite control. I stopped, addressed him. "Were you really joking when you told me you liked me?"

I was about to release a gasp of frustration when he finally answered. "Does it even matter now?"

I glowered at him. "It does to me."

"Why?" he asked. "It never did before."

"Oh no," I retorted, shaking my head. "You don't get to throw that back at me. You don't get to play the role of someone that's been wronged. You didn't even give me a chance to respond. You can't just drop a bombshell like that and then be upset that I didn't quite know the right thing to say. And then... You didn't even give me a chance to process my thoughts before you were like... ‘just kidding!’ You can't go around confessing and then taking it back. It was cruel, and mean, and you know what? It was not funny. And you know what's even more unfunny? The fact that you left before I could even talk to you. Like we weren't friends at all."

He blinked at me, a sort of admiration in his gaze? My anger must be making me delusional. Bolstered by the fact that he was finally standing in front of me, I just kept on rambling on.

"For your information," I said, "I liked you too! In high school, I liked you so much I made myself sick. You think I just happened to be in the same empty bus with you at like half past five in the morning? Jung Hwan-ah... you're smart. Why the hell would anyone be with anyone on a bus before the sun is even out? In case you need it spelled out, I woke up early to be with you. And you know what? I WANTED you to come to that concert. I wanted it so badly I dreamt that you actually said you'd go. You know how happy it made me to see you smile? It was sickening how happy what one of your smiles did to me. I would have done just about anything to keep you smiling and laughing. So no... you don't get to play the role of the boy with the unrequited love, okay?!? Your love was requited. It was reciprocated." I took a deep breath. "Do you still have nothing to say?" I waited for him to have any kind of response, and resisted the urge to strangle him when he did not. "You are so frustrating!"

He was looking at me like what I had just told him shocked him, as if he really didn't realize that I felt the same way. Seeing that as my chance to close the gap between us, maybe take him by surprise even, I took a step towards him and he took a step back, his eyes wary, as if he was afraid I was lying, or worse yet, that I couldn't possibly mean it.

"You're...joking, right?" He asked, his eyes shuttered now, as if he was blocking them back away from me. "This is a joke. Your pride was hurt when I joked about it a year ago. This is my payback, right?"

Jung Hwan

She had to be kidding. It can’t possibly be the truth.

In high school she liked Sun Woo, and then she liked Taek. It was never me. It still wasn't.

Wasn't it just a year ago that she eagerly anticipated Taek's arrival? Was it not just a little while ago that she was heartbroken from his rejection?

"You're... joking, right?" I asked, almost ashamed of how vulnerable I sounded. I tried to keep my expression flat as I looked at her. "This… is a joke. Your pride was hurt when I joked about it a year ago. This is my payback, right?"

She shook her head, and her hair, loose behind her, flew every which way. "No," she said. "How can this be payback when my pride wasn't hurt? This," she said, bringing a hand up to the left side of her chest, "this hurt. It hurt a lot." A whisper of a smile, a sad one, formed on her lips. "And I'm not joking. Once upon a time we were friends. You know that I only tell the truth. I... am not like you. I don't, and I can't joke about things like that. I don't know how to hide how I feel. I'm not like my sister, who can compartmentalize. Right now I wish I was... or else I wouldn't be making a fool of myself in front of you."

I shook my head. "No," I said, more to myself than to her. "You're perfect just the way you are."

"You're not allowed to say those things to me," she said, her eyes burning. "You can't say things Iike that and then give me nothing else." She looked away. "Anyway, arguing about this is futile. Really, as much as I would like to know, it doesn't really make that much of a difference whether you like me or not. I have already made my choice."

Nothing, I guess, can ever really prepare anyone for the woman they love confessing about loving someone else. Maybe it would not have been so bad had I been faultless, but this moment felt like a rehash of what happened last year, except now I don't get to be the one to bow out of the situation, pretending that I was barely unscathed. As soon as the words come out of her mouth, they will be the truth. They will be real. They will take shape and take hold, bear a life unto themselves. Once she tells me once and for all who it is that she loves, it really will be over for me. Whether or not I liked it. Whether or not it was fair.

I didn't know which hurt more... the idea that maybe once, she did like me like that and I didn't realize, or the fact that even though Taek did not like her, she was still willing to take that chance on him.

"I..." she said, her voice breaking. "I choose you."

I blinked at her, unable to believe what I was hearing. I almost found it laughable had it not been so painful, that I might get this chance, even though I was only her second choice. Even worse yet was that I might have found a way to be okay with that.

"It's because Taek rejected you, right?" I asked and if looks could kill, I would have been slaughtered. Right here on this spot.

"Why do you keep bringing Taek's name up?" She asked. "You're the one who keeps talking about him. And you're supposed to be a smart guy. No."

"The only way you'd choose me over Taek is if he didn't feel the same wa..."

"You still don't get it," Deok Sun said, resignation coming over her face. "I didn't choose you over Taek, you idiot. I choose you over.... everyone."

I could only stare at her as her words finally took hold, my heart latching on to what she said. Was it true? I wanted to believe it.

"It probably might have been easier if it had been Taek," she continued, almost wistfully. "It probably would have been more comfortable. I'm a simple girl." She stopped and licked her lips, her hand touching her neck, much like they did when I first walked up to her, as if holding on to something there for reassurance. Or for courage. "I could probably have spent my life being with Taek, knowing exactly what to expect. There would be familiarity, and friendship. I would have been content, and safe." She shrugged her shoulders then looked at me directly. "But what can I do? I... love you."

She released a breath, as if she didn't just say something that changed my world completely. "I really wanted to wait it out, you know. To make us even. I wanted to be able to say that I held it in just as long as you did, so that maybe, you would take me seriously. I would ask you how you feel about me, except I realized that it didn't even really matter. I could go on loving you on my own even if you don't love me back. But I'll continue hoping, because I think you're worth that chance. And if you never do, then maybe, I'll get over it eventually. Just like you did." She gave me another sad smile. "You know what the difference is, though?"

"What?" I almost had to force the word out, the idea of her getting over me just as I was finding out that she loved me in the first place bringing on an ache in my chest.

"You'll get to live your life knowing that I did love you. That I do love you. I don't even get to have that." She brushed a careless hand over her cheek and I realized that she was crying. "When you look back on this, Jung Hwan-ah, remember this. You're the one who didn't believe in me. You're the one who didn't give me a chance."

Maybe it was the sight of her tears, or maybe it was the resignation in her voice... but something finally broke through. It felt as if my eyes had finally been opened, and the first thing I saw was Deok Sun, her heart laid out in the open, without pride or shame.

I realized two things, all in one moment. The first was that the woman I loved was much more courageous than I was, that she always had been. And the second was that this was the moment. The one that would seal my fate, though I could argue that it had been decided the moment I fell in love with her.

"So," she said softly, "I'm going to ask you again. And this time will be the last time. Whatever answer you give me, I will take as the truth.” She took a long, deep breath. “Do you love me?"

Deok Sun

"So," I said, feeling raw and spent, exhausted now, my heart in my throat. "I'm going to ask you again. And this time I'll take your answer as the truth.” I paused, took one last reassuring breath. “Do you love me?"

I felt vulnerable standing in front of him, with nowhere to hide. I've said everything I wanted to say. Everything I needed to say. The rest is up to him, now.

I looked at his handsome face and could almost see the wheels turning, that brilliant mind of his weighing his choices, considering the possibilities. My careful Jung Hwan. My logical, sensible, cool-headed friend. The man my heart beats for. It seemed only fitting that it would be him that I would love, the perfect opposite to my impulse and carelessness. No matter what happens now, there will never be another like him. Not for me. Not ever.

"Deok Sun-ah," he said, his voice almost a whisper.

"Hmm?" He appeared as if he was being careful what to say next. His silence made me impatient. "I swear to God, Kim Jung Hwan. If you're just working up the courage to tell me another lie, I'm going to ex..."

"I've always loved you." He said the words quickly, as if he couldn't get them out fast enough. "I still love you. I never stopped."

Finally, I thought. Finally.

Joy bloomed in my chest, making me almost giddy, and he... looked as if he couldn't believe what he was saying himself. I almost laughed. His mouth broke out in a wary smile, a weary smile, and I felt my heart squeeze, wondering how hard it must have been for him all these years, when I only had a year and it was torture.

I took a step towards him and he watched me wordlessly, the intensity in his eyes something I don't think I would ever get used to.

"Did you hear me?" He asked.

"Of course I did," I said, when I was finally in front of him. "You just said you loved me."


I cocked my head to one side. "I already said I loved you, so I guess, that's... good news?" I took another step towards him until we were only inches apart and looked up at his face. I threw my arms around his neck and he stiffened in surprise before taking a step backwards.

"What are you doing?" He asked.

"What we should have done a long time ago." I tsked at him before puckering my lips for a kiss.

"But we're right in the middle of the street."

"So?" I asked. "Dong Ryong was the one who came up with the plan to get you here. I can pretty much bet that everyone's been listening anyway. And besides," I added, "everyone already knows I like you. But if it'll make you feel better I can go to my house and tell my parents and then your house to tell your parents, and then everyone's houses..."

I was still speaking when he leaned down and pressed his lips to mine, a strong arm sweeping behind my back. My arms tightened around him as he pulled away, his eyes closed. I watched as they opened and looked at me, love practically pouring from his gaze. It made my throat tighten, and I found myself tracing his jaw with a finger, amazed that this strong, kind, wonderful man loved me back.

"I love you," he whispered and I smiled.

"Me, too." I pulled his head down until our noses were touching. "This is my first real kiss and I want to enjoy it."

He frowned. "Your first real kiss?" He sounded strangely disturbed by this and I wondered if I'd said too much. "So you've been having a lot of not real kisses?"

"What?" I asked, feigning innocence. "Have you?"


"I don't believe that," I said, pulling him down. "But that doesn't matter now anyway, what matters is..."

"Who have you been kissing?"

"Really, Jung Hwan-ah?" He scowled at me and I softened, my heart filling with such love I didn't know what to do with myself. His eyes locked on something on my neck and I held a breath as a tentative finger traced my chain, lifting it off my skin until his ring came into view.

"Is this..."

"Yeah," I said, watching as his eyes melted into pools of warm chocolate. "You said it was mine so I went back for it. You can't have it back."

"I don't want it back," he said. "This ring represented everything I worked hard for, you know. My past. My future."

I ran a tender hand over his forehead, and down over his cheeks. "So what do you think?" I asked, "does your future look good on me?"

He smiled. "It looks perfect."

Mi Ran

"Mi Ran-ah," Il Hwa said as she opened another bottle of soju, "do you think we should close the windows?"

The sounds of Deok Sun and Jung Hwan's voices were still drifting into the house, as it has the whole time I realized that my son had come home.

I shook my head and picked up a seafood pancake with my chopsticks, dunking it into the gochujang before putting it in my mouth. "No," I said, chewing. "Leave it open. It doesn't sound like they care if anyone hears them anyway. Well, at least Deok Sun doesn't sound like she cares all that much." I chewed on a piece of dried squid. "I've always liked that girl. It took her a while to find her footing, but man... she's got balls."

"As if you'd say you didn't like her with her Omma here and her being the person your son loves and all." Seon Young's eyes were laughing as she took the shot that Il Hwa poured and downed it in one go. "Did you know Deok Sun liked Jung Hwan?"

The question was directed at Il Hwa, and she nodded. "You know my younger daughter... she doesn't really know how to hide her feelings. If she's happy, the world knows it, and if she's sad... well, the world knows that, too."

"And you," Seon Yeong continued, "Did you know?"

"Absolutely." The bald faced lie rolled off my tongue. My son was impossible to read most days, even more so when he's actively trying to hide something.

"Young love, huh?" Il Hwa remarked. "I feel like I've been through a roller coaster listening to them."

I nodded. "When you're young everything feels so extreme and so urgent. You remember how that felt, right?"

"That's right," Sun Young answered.

"But, Mi Ran-ah," Deok Sun's mother said, her voice careful. "Are you sure they will be okay? They can't seem to stop fighting and arguing."

"Let me tell you something, Deok Sun's Omma, silence is my son's default mode," I said. "Getting two words out of him is so difficult sometimes. Deok Sun is perfect for him. She'll keep him arguing and bickering. She'll keep him talking. He needs that. Left to his own devices, he would just stay quiet all the time. She'll keep him on his toes and not take his shit."

"That's true," Sun Woo's Omma agreed. "Everyone needs someone who's a little different from them. Life would be boring otherwise."

"So," Il Hwa said, "I guess that's one more thing the psychic was wrong about. Jung Hwan won't be on his own."

"No, Il Hwa-yah," Sun Young said. "I think she said he'll do fine on his own. Not that he would be on his own."

"I'm sure he would have been okay on his own," I said. "I never worried much about Jung Hwan. But why should he be? My son deserves love. And now he has it."

Il Hwa shushed us, as if listening, before releasing a sigh of relief. "I think they're finally done fighting. They're quiet now."

"Maybe they've killed each other," I deadpanned and both women started giggling. "Or maybe," I lifted one shoulder delicately, "they're just doing what young people do when they're in love."

Both women nodded and I poured another round of shots.

"Should we make a toast?" Seon Young asked as she lifted her glass. "To family?"

Il Hwa and I shared a smile as we lifted our own glasses. "To family," we both said.

"And friendship," Il Hwa added and I gave her a silent nod.

"And love," Sun Young piped up.

"Okay, okay," I finally said, touching my glass to theirs one more time and drinking the soju. "Enough. If we toast to everything we'll be drinking all night."

"Isn't that what we always do anyway?" Il Hwa asked.

"You're right," I answered, wrapping my arms around both women. "You're right."

Part III

October 1995

Deok Sun

Jung Hwan and I sat on the platform, barely inches apart. Giddily I touched my fingers to my lips, still disbelieving that we had finally kissed. I stole a glance at him and he had a small smile on his face, his eyes downturned.

For once I was speechless.

Has it really been a year since I saw him last?

"So," he said, his voice a little awkward. He cleared his throat, still avoiding my eyes. "Have you been well?"

"Hmm." I fixed my eyes on his face, silently urging him to look up. He turned his head and looked at me, his eyes intent.

There had been times when I had taken Jung Hwan's presence for granted, when I had almost forgotten how it felt to have his gaze fully directed at me with his inscrutable expression. Or, at least, I always thought it had been inscrutable.

But now...

His eyes were warm, brimming with tenderness and something inside me melted. How obtuse I had been to never notice. How lucky I was that he only looked at me this way.

The lone light from the street lamp kissed his hair, making it glisten a dark onyx. My eyes traveled over the slope of his forehead, the angle of his cheekbones, and then down to his hard jaw. His eyes were framed by soft lashes, his lips almost curled in amusement when he seemed to realize I was staring.

I felt the flush cover my cheeks and fought the urge to fan myself.

How was it that I had known this boy all my life and only recently realized how much I loved him?

I certainly took slow learning to the nth degree.

He was still looking at me wordlessly, his eyes boring into mine. I could feel the air between us thicken with tension and awareness. It was as if a single breath would jolt us both into what we were and what we used to be. It scared me.

I didn't want to go back. I hoped he didn't either.

"Jung Hwan-ah," I started, all of a sudden desperate to know when his feelings changed, to convince myself that this was no passing thing. He raised his eyebrows questioningly. "When did you fall in love with me?"

A shadow of a smile played on the corner of his lips. He took a deep breath and cleared his throat, his tone rueful as he replied. "When was I not?"

My eyes widened when I realized what he said, and I found myself inching closer to him. much like I did that night.

I had been asked to go on a blind date in high school. Though I liked Jung Hwan he had not been as forthright about liking me. My friends had advised me to ask him if I should go so that I could find out how he felt. I did.

"Hajima." Don't go.

Two words. It only took two words to make the happiest girl alive. But then... nothing. He said nothing else and I stopped asking.

I blinked, shook my head, and when I opened my eyes, it was Jung Hwan again in front of me, many many years since that night. Earlier I was caught up in the maelstrom of happiness, and now I felt the old nagging doubt overtake me once more. One declaration, even a great one, apparently, was not enough. All of a sudden I was unsure of what to say, caught by surprise by how much it still hurts that he didn't hold on to me, and I wanted to know the reason why.

I felt myself deflate even as I gathered up the courage to ask. His brows narrowed in concern, and my lower lip started trembling, the tears already gathering behind my lids. Mortified, I dragged my eyes away.

Why did my emotions always get the better of me? I can't believe Unnie said this was a boon. Shows you how much she knows.

I sniffled.

"Deok Sun-ah," Jung Hwan said, and I stubbornly kept my eyes in front of me, wishing and praying that the tears will not fall. I felt gentle fingers on my chin as he tipped my face up, and even then, I refused to meet his eyes. "What's wrong?"

Jung Hwan

She sat in front of me, looking as if she was about to cry. Her face, both embarrassed and ashamed, was glorious in her vulnerability, the way only Deok Sun could look. For someone as unexpressive as I am it was a sight to behold.

All at once every picture of Sung Deok Sun ran through my mind, from when we were all little to now, snapshots of the girl I grew up with and the woman I have always loved. Her every expression was imprinted in my memories, and it never failed to make me feel something.

For years I'd prided myself on being pragmatic, been criticized for being almost too unemotional. But with Deok Sun it was okay. It felt okay. She was passionate. She was honest about what she felt.

It seemed only fitting that she be the opposite of me, my perfect other half. It was one of the reasons why I fell in love with her. And the other parts... I wasn't quite sure. I had never questioned it; I did not need to.

Insensitive I may be at times, but I always trusted my instincts. And my gut always told me that Sung Deok Sun was better appreciated as a sum of all her parts, though every one of her qualities, I was sure, upon closer examination, would still be as good as the last.


It was the only word that came to mind as my hands reached for her even without meaning to, tipping her chin so that I could get a better look at her face.

She wouldn't meet my eyes and seemed to be talking to herself, upper teeth latching onto a soft lower lip. A silky stray hair brushed the back of my hands and I marveled that just minutes ago she and I had been intertwined, lips connected.

I told myself to stay focused even as the memory burned into my mind, the feel of Deok Sun's lips on mine unforgettable.

"Deok Sun-ah," I forced out, watching the way she still refused to look me in the eyes. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she mumbled, making a futile attempt at a smile. "I'm fine."

I took a second, unsure of what to do next, trying to figure out if she was telling the truth. My mother was the one whose actions I base everything I know about women on. Omma never admitted when she wasn't okay. Omma always said she was fine even when she wasn't.

Could Deok Sun be possibly the same?

I edged myself closer to her before taking her hand. With her soft fingers interlinked with mine, I looked away before I spoke again.

"I don't think so," I said carefully, "but if you don't want to talk about it, that's okay."

I could feel her eyes blinking at me. "It is?" She sounded doubtful, incredulous.

"Of course," I answered. "I'm never going to make you do anything you don't want to do."

I didn't elaborate, afraid that I would somehow find a way to bring up our painful past. I hadn't been lying... I would never make Deok Sun do anything unless she wanted to do it. That included loving me.

See? I thought... I had proof.

If I was expecting her gratitude, I was sorely mistaken. When she spoke again not one minute later, her voice was plaintive. In fact, if a voice could pout and and throw a tantrum, hers would be doing it right now.

"Yah, Kim Jung Hwan," she said, her voice low, "is this why you didn't fight for me years ago?"

Wow, was all I could think of. I really don't know women at all.

Deok Sun

"Yah, Kim Jung Hwan," I said, unable to hold back the anger that has come to my voice, "is this why you didn't fight for me years ago?"

He turned to me, eyes surprised, expression slightly chagrined. He didn't respond. Though that certain fact made me even madder, I didn't let go of his hand. He may have meant well, but I think it's time to give him a lesson.

Sung Deok Sun 101.

"What are you talking about?" He asked.

I stiffened my shoulders. "You know what I'm talking about."

"No," he replied, shaking his head. "I don't."

I narrowed my eyes at him, my sadness making way for annoyance. I lifted my chin and met his gaze, unflinching. “Years ago," I said, "you acted like you liked me. You gave me my gloves and met me and my friends. You stood behind me on the bus and put your arms around me in the picture. You acted like you liked me, but as soon as I started liking you, you started pulling away."

"I didn't pull away." His response sounded unconvincing, especially because my memory of that time was impeccable. He did pull away. In fact he pulled away so much he might as well have moved elsewhere.

"And you didn't just pull away from just me," I continued, "but from all of us. Sun Woo and Dong Ryong said it, too."

"I didn't pull away."

"Of course you did," I insisted. "Even Taek noticed."

I felt him tense at the mention of Taek's name and gave his hand a squeeze. I looked at his face and noted the way he clenched his jaw, the pensive way that he looked out at the distance and I knew.

Could it be that this had not been about me but about Taek, instead?

The realization came slowly at first, and even then I tried to will it away. But the longer I thought about it and considered, the more it made sense. Why else would he keep saying Taek's name when I was confessing my love for him?

We had all been protective of Taek growing up, but no one more so than Jung Hwan. If Taek had admitted to liking me, Jung Hwan would have... I swallowed.

Jung Hwan would have stepped aside.

I knew this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

All anger flew out of the window as I looked at the man sitting next to me, his hand holding onto mine softly. What strength it must have taken, to put someone else first. How painful it must have been, to give up what you wanted, to make way for someone else's happiness.

"Jung Hwan-ah..." I said softly.

"I didn't pull away," he said adamantly, as if I was about to bring it up again and I softened.

"Can you look at me?"

At my request he didn't just turn his face but his whole body, and it hit me again that Jung Hwan has always been like this. Even when we were younger he always threw himself wholeheartedly in whatever he decided to do.

How different he was from me. It made me all the more appreciate him.

"About Taek..."

"What about Taek?" A shadow passed over his face and I thought against whatever it was I was going to say. It was apparent that whatever this thing was with Taek went deeper than what we are talking about now.

"Nothing," I said. "Don't worry about it." A lock of hair fell over his forehead, making him look like the Jung Hwan I knew in high school, and I smiled. Without asking me why, he mirrored my expression and I felt my heart skip a beat.

"What?" His voice was lowered, more intimate, and goosebumps rose over my skin. It almost made me dizzy, but his touch kept me here, grounded in this moment.

"I love you."

"Do you?" He asked before he gave a short chuckle. "I'm glad. Though I must admit... I'm not sure I will ever get used to hearing you say that."

"You better," I warned him. "Because I plan on saying it all the time."

We shared identical grins before I saw his eyes darken. He leaned his dark head closer to me and pressed a gentle kiss on my lips, his fingers fanning over my cheek softly, almost reverently.

I would never have known the heaven that was waiting for me, the truest love I ever could have, with Jung Hwan. Even the thought of it now brought on a measure of sadness, and grief, for who we were so many years ago.

I watched him as he kissed me, doing it so carefully I almost felt my heart break, that we waited so long for this. That we almost never had it.

He opened his eyes even as his lips opened, as if to take a breath, and the gravity of how close we came to losing this filled me with a desperate need to get him closer. I touched my tongue to his lips, tentatively at first, then with more certainly when his eyes fluttered closed. His mouth was pliant against mine, yielding, and in a nanosecond his breath mingled with mine as he kissed me back, our tongues tangling.

I heard a sigh escape my lips and he drew me closer, my arms wrapping around his neck. His hands shifted to rest on my back, and I scooted closer still. He slanted his mouth over mine and I weaved my fingers through his thick hair, wanting more.

He made a sound low in the back of his throat and it made me want more. Just as his arms wrapped around my waist, I heard someone yell.

"Deok Sun-ah!" It was Appa's voice, calling out for me. "Where are you?"

Jung Hwan and I broke apart, both our chests heaving. He seemed as dazed as I felt, and I felt a surge of feminine satisfaction. At least I knew it wasn't just me.

Jung Hwan shyly looked at his watch before meeting my eyes, his cheeks adorably flushing. "It's getting late," he said. Did his voice sound huskier? "You should go in... Your parents must be worried."

"Deok Sun-ah!" Appa's voice was even louder and I almost rolled my eyes.

"I'm coming, Appa,!" I knew my father would not stop if I didn't respond. I stood up begrudgingly, even as reached for Jung Hwan's hand, unwilling to part ways so soon.

"Go in," he said. "I'm going soon, too."

What he said made me frown. "Surely..." I said, "Surely you're not leaving for Sacheon tonight?"

"No," he answered, grinning. "I'm not going anywhere. Not tonight, anyway. I just found a reason to stay."

"Okay," I said, placated. "Well," I looked behind me, "I guess I'll go inside."

He nodded and I pulled my hand away, had almost walked to the gate when I heard his voice.

"Deok Sun-ah." I turned on my heels and looked at him, still sitting on the platform, his eyes roving warmly over me.


"Do you want to go out with me tomorrow?"

"On a date?" I asked and he nodded slowly.

I felt my lips curve into the biggest smile. "I'd love to."

The next day...

Jung Hwan

I almost bolted out of bed as soon as I opened my eyes, my mind remembering what took place last night. I looked at my clock and saw that it was only 7 am, a mere five hours since Deok Sun and I parted ways.

For a second I was tempted to call her parents' house, to see, if by chance, she was already up, then thought against it. She was off from work. Certainly she deserved to sleep in.

I stood up and stretched my arms over my head, donned a hoodie over my shirt. When I exited my bedroom, I saw that all my family was still asleep, all their doors firmly shut.

Silently I padded to the front door, stretching my legs as I walked, ready to have a jog. I needed something to distract me from waking Deok Sun up. I must have already argued with myself ten times since I woke about when the right time would be to call on her.

There was no activity in the Sung household as I walked down the stairs, or in the neighborhood when I opened the gate.

I started walking at first, not quickening my step until I was a few blocks away from our neighborhood. It might have been only then that I realized I wasn't alone, Taek already out of breath as he caught up with me.

I continued to run, barely pausing to look at him. In my mind I was still struggling about what to say, afraid to blurt out the wrong thing, and decided to stay silent instead. Strangely Taek seemed accepting of this and ran alongside me, his pace matching mine. He followed me through the mazes of the surrounding neighborhoods, through the route that would take us back to my high school, where we had spent countless weekends playing ball.

I only slowed down as we reached the field. I stole a glance at my old friend and watched as he took in the scene in front of him, a small smile on his face. I walked towards a bench and he followed, still saying nothing. I sat down and he stood in front of me, the silence between us almost deafening.

It had been this way, too, the last time we were here. As if in an impasse, for the first time in years, he and I had nothing to say to each other, almost treating each other as competitors, our more than a decade long friendship close to forgotten.

I regret it now, that distance that grew between us.

He was still standing in front of me and it made me feel restless, uncomfortable. I knew that I did the right thing, thinking of myself first and confessing to Deok Sun. In my heart I knew this, that I had done no wrong. But as he continued to stand before me, his eyes regarding me with so much affection, why did I now feel as if I had betrayed him?

Though Taek had not asked it of me I felt the need to explain myself, to tell him that while I was sorry I didn't prepare him, that I wasn't sorry about falling in love with Deok Sun. That I would do it all over again. To ask, even beg him, if need be, to understand.

I would have done the same for him, had the situation been reversed. I had done the same for him.

I cleared my throat, prepared to speak, when Taek dropped down on his knees in front of me. Before I could ask him what he was doing, his fingers had found their way to my left shoe, tying the laces correctly, albeit slowly.

There was a time when Taek seemed to know nothing but baduk, when he seemed almost helpless. There was a time when he needed me to do this for him.

What he was doing now was not lost on me. Almost all at once I realized that while I was changing, so was my old friend. I realized that in the years we had spent apart, our love for the same girl creating an invisible wedge between us, my friend had also grown up.

"There," he said, straightening his spine with a satisfied grin. "All done."

I surveyed his handiwork, felt something lodge itself in my throat. "Thanks," I said softly. "But why did you do that?"

He shrugged his shoulders, as if it was no big deal. "You've done it for me, so I did it for you."

“I didn’t even realize you knew how to do it.”

Taek gave me a sidelong glance. “There are lots of things you don’t know about me.”

Our eyes met and I blinked at him, surprised that there was no judgment in his eyes, no anger. Had the competition been in my mind all along? Had I created this void between us all by myself?

"Taek-ah." "Jung Hwan-ah." We both spoke simultaneously and I looked back down.

"You first," he said and I shook my head.

"No," I said, "you go ahead."

He took a deep breath before sitting himself next to me, leaning back until we were almost shoulder to shoulder.

"Should we fight it out?" He asked, his tone almost amused and I raised my head in surprise. "That's how people always resolve things in dramas and stuff, but I have to warn you that I'm not very good at fighting, which I'm sure you already know."

"Why would we fight?" I asked, confused.

"It seems like we should do something," he answered. "Since you and I can't go on like this forever."

"No fighting," I said.

"That's a relief. Should we just talk then?"

Should we talk?

It was something we probably should have done years ago. It could have maybe been that simple, had we both just been honest with each other, the way friends should have been.

"Did everything work out with Deok Sun?" His question came out of the blue and I examined it, marveled that though he sounded curious, I noted no pretense. For a brief moment I hesitated in answering him, still afraid to cause him pain, but reminded myself that we were how we were now because I refused to speak up in the past.

It was time to rectify some things. And I could never be completely happy with Deok Sun by sacrificing my friendship with Taek.

"Yeah," I responded quietly. "It all worked out."

"Good," he said, sounding almost relieved. "I'm glad."

"You are?" I couldn't contain the surprise and suspicion out of my voice, which earned another chuckle out of Taek.

"Of course," he said. "She missed you a lot." And then, sobering, "She's waited for you for a long time." He turned his head and met my eyes. "You'd waited for her a long time, too, right?"

"How... how did you know?"

"I didn't," he said ruefully, sounding almost regretful, "I was never very good at reading between the lines. You know that."

"So when..." My voice trailed off mid-sentence. How long has he known? And here I thought I did such a great job of hiding my feelings.

"I don't know when exactly," he admitted, "but I saw you watching her a few times in high school. Somehow I convinced myself it wasn't true. Maybe it was because I thought for sure that you would tell me if you did like her." He ran a hand over his hair. "I thought you'd talk to me. Maybe that's what I wanted to believe."

I sat and processed what he was saying, unsure of what to say, almost feeling as if Taek didn't need me to say anything, yet.

"It was what I wanted to believe," Taek continued, his eyes fixed on the field before us, "because I didn't want to think about what I would do had you really liked her, too." He was silent for a few seconds before he resumed speaking. "I was unfair to you, and I'm sorry."

"No, you weren't," I said, afraid that he would take this upon himself and shoulder the responsibility. He wasn't the only one to blame. How could he have known? If I stayed silent, how did I expect him to know?

"Yes, I was," he said. "I saw the picture in your wallet and I stayed quiet. I could have just asked you but I was selfish. I made myself pretend like I didn’t know how you were, like I had no clue what you were like."

"What I was like?"

He nodded, sent another smile my way. "You’re the type of person who would put your friends first, who would sacrifice what you want for the people you love. That you would do that for me. That whatever you might have felt for Deok Sun that you would consider me, too."

It hadn't completely been unselfish, if I was being honest. It was friendship that drove me, but fear, as well. Fear of being rejected by Deok Sun, of losing Taek. Even I could admit this now.

It's amazing what kind of insight time gives.

"I confessed to Deok Sun." His admission came out slowly and I was once again surprised.


"A few months ago." His face was devoid of any expression. "She flat out rejected me."

"She did?" He nodded. "What did she say?"

"Not much," Taek said. "You know Deok Sun. She just kept apologizing. She never said your name, but I knew." Before I could ask him how he knew, he just carried on speaking, sounding as if he was glad to get this off his chest. "Deok Sun is not exactly the most subtle person in the planet," he answered. "And she kept randomly coming home. Like she was here all the time. When she wasn't in her parents' house she was at your parents' house."

"She was?"


"Are you okay?" I asked, concerned and he gave me a nudge.

"About what?"

"This," I replied. "Me and Deok Sun."

"Do I have a choice?"

I thought about his question and the answer came swiftly, without any doubts. "No," I responded. "I'm not letting her go."

"That's what I thought," he quipped. "She said almost the same exact thing."

"Did she?" I tried to sound even but even my voice couldn't hide my joy at hearing that.

"Yah, you don't have to sound so happy about it," Taek complained. "If I'm not mistaken, her exact words were, 'if Jung Hwan likes me back it will take nothing short of an act of God or a natural disaster to keep me from him ever again.'"

"She can be so dramatic sometimes.” I tried to sound like I couldn’t believe her, but found myself smiling instead.

"I just..." Taek said before he cleared his throat, "I'm happy for you both."

We both stopped speaking then, the silence between us feeling more like the silence past. It was comfortable and comforting, the way it was before all of this.

"So," Taek started, "are we good?"


"Yeah," he said, "are we friends again?"

"Were we ever not?"

"I don't know," he teased, "things were tricky there for a while."

I laughed before wrapping an arm around him, relieved when he didn't pull away. I've heard that the best friendships were the ones where you can go for years without speaking but when you do, the years melt away as if they hadn't happened. I hadn't believed it until now.

I didn't have to lose Taek to love Deok Sun. I didn't have to choose between love and friendship. I could have both.

Looking at Taek, remembering the years we spent growing up together, I was filled with gratitude. I was thankful that no more time was wasted, that I had friends who loved me as much as I loved them.

The realization may have come late, but still... it came all the same.

Deok Sun

"I'll get it," I offered and got on my feet before anyone can say anything else.

We were in the middle of eating breakfast and my family stared at me, mouths open. Everyone was here except for Unnie, who was coming home next weekend.

"It can't wait until after breakfast?" Omma asked. "The newspaper isn't going anywhere."

"No," I said. "Appa wants to read the news."

Appa blinked at me in confusion, his chopsticks still suspended mid-air. "I do?"

I nodded vehemently. "Of course you do."

"But Noona," No Eul said, darting a glance between me and our parents, "you always tell me to get it."

"Not today," I said, smiling. "I'll do it today." I ran to the front door before anyone could stop me. Slipping my feet enthusiastically into my shoes I was out the door so quickly I almost tripped over myself.

I'd been up for a few hours, staring at the wall and giggling to myself like a loon. Despite having less than five hours of sleep, I was more awake than ever, filled with an excited energy that I have never felt before.

I slowed down as I climbed the steps, smoothing a hand over my bangs, wondering if I should have changed out of my pajamas. I rounded the corner and peeked up at the house on top of ours, standing on tiptoes and trying to see if Jung Hwan was up and about. Though the inner door was open there was no one I could see and I swallowed a jolt of disappointment.

Maybe he was still asleep, I thought, wondering if he wasn't as excited as I was. Trudging towards the gate, I had just bent down to pick up the newspaper when I saw two pairs of shoes and I stood back up.

I kept the surprise out of my face as I saw Jung Hwan, wide awake, and Taek, smiling happily, walking towards me. Jung Hwan had an arm wrapped around Taek's shoulder, his face more carefree than I can remember seeing in the last few years. They were talking animatedly and Jung Hwan said something that made Taek laugh, seemingly oblivious to my presence.

Taek stopped laughing long enough to see me standing in front of them and he stopped walking before giving me a wave. Jung Hwan stopped too, his eyes following Taek's, his lips curving as our eyes met.

"Deok Sun-ah," Taek greeted and I offered him a smile, looking at both him and Jung Hwan.

"Taek-ah," I responded. "Where did you guys come from?"

"Ah," he said, shaking his head at Jung Hwan, whose eyes were still firmly directed at me. "You know... here and there."

The openly assessing way Jung Hwan was looking at me made me feel self-conscious and I blushed to the roots of my hair. Jung Hwan was still silent while his eyes took me in, appreciation and love in his gaze. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, reminded myself that it was not appropriate to launch myself at him so early in the morning. Maybe later... but not yet. As if clocking the atmosphere, Taek cleared his throat before ducking out from under Jung Hwan's arm.

"I just realized," he said, almost sheepishly, "I told my Appa I'll be back for breakfast."

"Did you?" Jung Hwan asked, though his eyes never left mine.

Taek gave me a knowing look and laughed, shaking his head again at Jung Hwan, as if in exasperation. "Yeah," he said. "I'll see you guys later."

"Bye, Taekkie," I said, watching him as he walked away. By the time I dragged my eyes away from Taek Jung Hwan was next to me, barely a foot away.

He cocked his head to one side. "Aren't you going to greet me?"

Heat suffused me as I realized how close we were standing. His voice was teasing; it rumbled through me and warmed me through and through.

"Good morning," I croaked out, my hands wrapping around the newspaper tightly.

He leaned in and took a whiff of my hair, his chest almost resting on my shoulder. "Morning," he replied. "You smell nice."

"Do I?" I asked.

He came even closer, his face nuzzling my cheek. In broad daylight. "Jung Hwan-ah." His name came out breathlessly and he chuckled.

"Hmm?" He wasn't pulling his lips away and they drifted to my cheek, soft and velvety.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "People might be watching. They might think that..."

"I'm your boyfriend?" He finished for me, his eyes lit by amusement. "I am your boyfriend, aren't I?"

I looked at him. Blinked once, maybe twice. "We haven't even been out on a date!"

"Ah," he said softly. "But we've already fallen in love."

"That's true," I agreed. "And our friends already know." I sneaked a glance at him. "You spoke to Taek, right?"

"I did," he answered. "But you haven't answered my question."

The way he was looking at me was making it difficult to remember what we were talking about. All I could think of was that his lips were this close to mine.

"What question?"

He sighed audibly. "Am I your boyfriend?"

"Do you want to be?"

He threw his head back and laughed. "Do you not want to be my girlfriend?"

I was about to respond when Sun Woo appeared from behind the gate, holding a plate, already been to Jung Hwan's house it seemed, much like we all used to do on a regular basis.

"Jesus Christ," he complained, "you two. Are you arguing again?" When both Jung Hwan and I looked at him blankly, he wrinkled his nose. "You're his girlfriend," he told me, and then to Jung Hwan, "You're her boyfriend. There... problem solved. I swear... you two are so difficult. I think you just like to argue about nonsensical things sometimes."

He walked towards his house muttering to himself and once he entered the gate, I let out an indignant sound.

"Who is he to tell us what to do?" I asked, annoyed. "Just because he's Unnie's boyfriend doesn't mean he can order us around. We decide what we are. We do, not him. I'm gonna beat him..."

"Deok Sun-ah," Jung Hwan interrupted before I could continue my tirade.


"Has anyone ever told you how cute you look when you're mad?"

Well, that shut me up.

November 1995

Jung Hwan

I stood by the arrival gate, shifting my weight from foot to foot. I craned my head over the crowd and checked my watch impatiently.

She'd said they were landing on time. Maybe I should move to the front of the queue.

I weaved my way through the other people and looked around. I noted, with some apprehension that some of the people waiting had placards and others had flowers. Suddenly wondering if I should have prepared more, I tightened my hold on the bag I carried, flushing.

It's been almost a month since Deok Sun and I became a couple. We had not seen each other since that idyllic, surreal weekend, when we spent almost all our waking moments together. Or at least as together as we could be with me staying at my parents upstairs and her staying with her parents downstairs and all our friends home as well, in their respective households.

Though we spoke on the phone every day, I was pretty sure she was frustrated with this distance. And maybe, me, too. I had never been much of a talker, preferring to think things than to actually say things; it was still an adjustment to be with someone who asks, no, demands that I speak of everything that is going on in my mind. I had only just gotten myself comfortable with the idea that she loved me back. It might take a little while for me to actually just blurt things out.

My girlfriend definitely got the shorter end of the stick.

I straightened my shirt for the umpteenth time, ran my fingers through my hair nervously. The whole drive here I wondered if, in the following days after we got together if she'd change her mind about me.

Well, I thought, if she had then I'll just have to win her over all over again. The thought made me cringe. I didn't do so hot the first time around.

In the middle of checking the time, again, a vision appeared from the corner of my eye. Someone was walking through the throng of people who just came at the arrival gate. Her eyes scanning, she broke into the biggest smile when our gazes met. Despite my reserved nature, I felt my face mirror her expression, my mouth curving up into a smile of my own.

She quickened her strides until she was practically running towards me and I began to walk. Her hair was pulled back, revealing the face that I knew so well, but in some ways I had still yet to discover. When we were but a couple of strides away, she launched herself at me, her arms wrapping around my neck.

I was so unused to receiving spontaneous bouts of affection that my first instinct had been to stiffen up. But when I looked down, I saw the expression on her face and nothing else mattered. Deok Sun was here, looking as content and happy as I had ever seen her. Deok Sun was here for me.

I leaned down and breathed her in, uncaring now that there were still people around us. I felt soft fingers over my forehead, her touch gentle and loving, before she placed a kiss on my cheek. The chain around her neck blinked at me and I didn't have to look down to see my ring hanging from it.

"Jagiya," she said, her voice whisper soft. I blinked a couple of times when I realized that it was the first time she has called me something else other than my name.

I liked it. I really liked it.

I could feel the goofiest of smiles form on my face and I only just managed to straighten my expression when she pulled away and took a good look at me. Unable to resist, I ran a hand down her hair, still surprised that she did not turn away from my touch.

I cleared my throat. "Did you have a good flight?"

She nodded, the smile that I know so well gracing her mouth. "It was okay," she said. "It feels weird flying now as a passenger since I do it for a living. Is it like that for you, too?"

I shrugged my shoulders, allowed myself to pull her close one more time before reluctantly releasing her. As soon as I did, she took hold of my hand and interlocked her gloved fingers with mine. We were almost out of the airport when I remembered the bag I carried.

"Oh," I said, stopping mid stride. Turning to her, I watched as her eyes took me in, her gaze warm and tender. "This is yours."

She took the bag with her free hand. "Mine?" She asked, her brows lifting enquiringly. She looked down for a second but made no move to open it. "What is it?"

Deok Sun

I had almost forgotten how handsome he was. Almost, but not quite. In my mind I always saw him as the Jung Hwan I grew up with, so much so that I practically forget that he was no longer that boy.

Until moments like now, when the sunlight filtering through the airport walls made a slash of light over his impossibly high cheekbones and generous mouth. His dark brown eyes were focused intently on me, traveling over my face as if it was the only thing that mattered.

"This is yours." He was holding out a bag towards me, from a store whose name I didn't recognize.

"Mine?" I reached for the bag with my other hand, keeping the one that was holding his firm. When he didn't respond, I looked down and couldn't see anything. "What is it?"

He looked away. "Just open it."

I narrowed my eyebrows at him. "Why can't you just tell me what it is?"

"You can just open it." I wasn't exactly quite sure when Jung Hwan's tone of frustration started sounding a hell of a lot like affection to me, but every time he sounds aggravated I just see it as more proof of his love for me.

He was so quiet normally; it seemed almost an aberration that he was so argumentative whenever he's dealing with me. But... as long as I was the only one he was bickering with, I found that I didn't mind it so much.

"Just tell me what it is," I demanded, enjoying the banter, expecting him to throw his hand in frustration at my stubbornness any minute now.

"Do you not want it?" He asked, trying to take it back.

I almost laughed. I know people might think that it's bizarre how much I enjoyed seeing Jung Hwan annoyed, but it's nice to know this was Kim Jung Hwan who I was in love with and who loved me. Sure... he can act like everyone else and be all lovey dovey, but Jung Hwan is not like that.

I knew that when I fell in love with him. In fact I think it's the proof to how real this was that he could just be himself and still be loved. Just like I felt with him.

For the first time in my life I knew what it felt to be accepted as I was, flaws and all.

"How are you going to take it back?" I asked, pretending to be angry. "You already gave it to me."

"You don't even want to see what's in it!"

"I do, too," I said, pulling on the bag so hard that when he let go, it almost smacked me on the face. I glared at him. "God... what is the big deal anyway?" I asked as I pried my hand away from his and began pulling the tissue paper out. "What could be so important that you have your shorts all bunched..."

My words stopped when I pulled out the softest pink scarf from the bag, the color exactly the same as the gloves I wore on my fingers.

Momentarily rendered speechless, I lifted my eyes only to see him watching for my reaction. My breath caught in my throat, I looked away as my eyes filled with tears.

He knew me so well, I thought, remembering how I had come to own my most favorite pair of gloves to begin with.

"Do you not like it?" He asked, his voice full of concern, as he lifted my chin to look into my eyes. "If you don't like it we can take it back. If you didn't need one we can just return it and you can pick out something you want. I just thought..." he blew out a breath, "I just thought with winter coming that you would need one. One that matched your gloves, but..."

I leaned in until our lips connected, effectively stopping him in the middle of his seemingly one way conversation. "I love it," I whispered. "I love you."


"Yeah." I wrapped it around my neck and struck a pose, batting my eyelashes at him. "How do I look?"

His mouth relaxed into a small grin. "How you always look," he answered. "Ugly."

On a literal level I knew exactly what he said, but the way he said it... the way he said it, made 'ugly' sound as if it was the most beautiful thing on Earth. Part reverent, part amused, the timbre in his tone made me want to curl up my toes inside my shoes.

That's the thing about Jung Hwan. Some people may think that he's brash in his speech, that he can be callous in his opinions, but the truth was that he merely liked to hide behind that toughness. And unless you knew him, you would never guess the kindness that lives inside of him.

It was a lucky thing that I knew him.

"Yah," I said, "do you know how lucky you are? If you called another woman ugly and she was your girlfriend, do you even realize the drama that would ensue? Never mind that she would probably hold it over your head forever." I flipped my hair. "Whereas I... don't need any of that, since I know you so well. Aren't you lucky?"

I was just teasing him, but he didn't even bat an eyelid before he responded. "Yes," he said in all seriousness. "I know exactly how lucky I am."

"As long as you know." I grabbed one of his arms and wrapped it around my shoulders. "I'm very lucky, too."

"Not as lucky as me."


"No way."

We continued bickering as we walked to the airport parking lot where his car was waiting. As he opened the car door, he asked, "where do you want to go first?"

"I don't know," I responded. "You're the one who knows Sacheon."

February 1996

Jung Hwan

We all had gathered together in Ssangmundong, in Taek's room. Deok Sun and I held hands under the table, and Sun Woo and Dong Ryong were talking about... something to my other side. My gaze was fixed on the show in front of me, the starting credits for "Sandglass" flashing on the screen.

"Yah..." Deok Sun asked, her voice sarcastic, "aren't you glad we came home?"

As soon as the first CF came onscreen, I turned and scowled at her. Without saying anything, I directed my attention to Sun Woo, who was currently pretending not to notice mine and Deok Sun's noticeably absent hands. "Yah... when's Taek coming back?"

He looked at his watch. "Anytime now, I should think."

"Did he win?" Dong Ryong asked. "I was working and didn't get a page."

"Yeah, he called me a few hours ago." I drank from the glass of juice in front of me even as I felt Deok Sun's head whip around. I looked at her and raised my eyebrows, as if asking 'what?'

"He called you?" She asked, her face relieved. I nodded. "I'm so glad. Everything is okay with you guys now, right?"

I thought about her question. Was everything alright between me and Taek? I smiled, a little wistful. Perhaps that had been the problem, many many years ago. Things had always been alright with me and Taek, making the decision I had to make even harder back then.

It might have been because I loved him so that I felt as if I couldn't possibly love Deok Sun and still be his friend.

Perhaps it was a testament to our friendship that to this day we never spoke about it. Just as I had once stepped aside for him, he had done the same for me. Just as we both had done for Deok Sun, for her to be able to make her own decision.

About a week after that night Deok Sun and I came together, Taek had won a baduk competition. He called me first to share the news. And just like that it was as if everything had been forgotten... that everything had been forgiven.

"Hold on..." Dong Ryong continued, "if his match ended hours ago, why is he not home?"

Sun Woo chuckled. "He had a second date today."

"WHAT?" Deok Sun and Dong Ryong said simultaneously.

"He actually went on a second date?" Deok Sun asked out loud, to no one in particular. Sun Woo and I exchanged a look and Deok Sun creased her brows in understanding. "Is this why we had to absolutely come home today?" Her voice was still confounded, though maybe not as annoyed.

Before I could answer, the door opened and Taek appeared. He had only just taken a step in his room when he discovered that we were all there waiting, boxes of untouched pizza already on the table.

His face broke out in a smile as he put his bag down and sat next to Deok Sun. He glanced at our hands and began to laugh.

"Why are you still hiding your hands?" He asked us innocently. "Everyone here already knows that you two are together."

"Right?" Deok Sun asked, no ounce of shyness in her voice. "We already made out in...."

I cleared my throat before she said any more. "So how did it go?"

Taek took a deep breath before helping himself to a slice of pizza. He took a bite before responding. "It was very strange," he answered, thoughtful. "She seems to really like me?"

Dong Ryong nodded enthusiastically. "That IS weird. Maybe it's because she doesn't know how helpless you are, yet."

Rather than protesting, Taek merely concurred.

"Do you like her?" Deok Sun asked as she helped herself to a slice of pizza, assured now that it was okay to eat since Taek has arrived.

Taek, if it was possible, looked even more confused than he did thinking about this woman liking him. "I don't really know yet."

"That's natural," Deok Sun said sympathetically. "I mean those things take time, right? Unnie wasn't quite sure she liked Sun Woo at first. I..." She emphasized the word, "I didn't know how I felt about Jung..."

"Yah," I warned her. "I'm still here."

"What?" she responded cheekily. "I was just saying."

Sun Woo and Dong Ryong were shaking their heads at us, laughing.

"Do you two ever stop bickering?" Sun Woo asked. "It's hard to believe you really are together."

Deok Sun pouted, grabbed my arm impulsively and leaned closer to me. "That's because you've never seen us just by ourselves. We are amazingly sweet and romantic...”

"Really?" The disbelief in Taek's voice had me chuckling silently, already knowing that Deok Sun was only going to get defensive.

"Don't sound so surprised," she warned him, lifting her chin up, as if in defiance. "I'll have you know that my boyfriend is the best."

Despite knowing that there was a possibility that she might just be saying that, I couldn't help but puff up with pride, at both the possessive tone in her voice, as well as what she said.

"The best at what?" Dong Ryong asked. "Being grumpy?"

Deok Sun glowered at him. "He's the best at everything," she said. "It sucks sometimes to hang out with you guys, did you know that?" Averting my eyes, I felt her glare directed unto me as she lowered her voice. "And especially not on our 100th day."

"It's your 100th day?" Dong Ryong asked. "Why are you guys here?"

Deok Sun shook her head, then pointed at me. "Ask him."

Sun Woo looked confused, looking back and forth between me and Deok Sun. "Hold on," he said, "aren't you guys going to celebrate this weekend, though?"

"No," I quickly responded fixing my eyes on his, trying to send the message (telepathically) not to say anything else.

"But you said you were going to..."

Obviously that plan had not worked and I ended up resorting to clapping a hand over his mouth, accompanied by a scowl. I looked over at Deok Sun, to realize, with some relief, that just like in high school, she still had the amazing ability to zone us out. At this moment she was currently distracted by the show playing on television.

"Does she not know you're taking her to Jeju?" Sun Woo whispered. I shook my head no. He nodded in confirmation before mouthing 'sorry.'

"Jung Hwan- ah..." Deok Sun said, once the commercials were playing once more.

"Hmm?" I asked, relieved that she heard nothing of mine and Sun Woo's conversation.

"I want to sleep over here tonight."

"No." Before I even had the chance to reply, all of our friends already answered for me.

"What?" she asked, hurt. "Why is it that when I didn't have a boyfriend I couldn't sleep here because of my," she cleared her throat, "reputation, and now that I do have one and he's right here, I'm still not allowed?"

"Yah," Dong Ryong said, "We see you all the time. We want to spend time with him, too."

"Deok Sun-ah." Taek said. "We don't let Bora Noona stay here, either."

"But that's because she's scary," Deok Sun retorted and crossed her arms over her chest. "But I'm your friend."

"But you're also his girlfriend." This came from Sun Woo.

"I'm okay with it," I said, and Deok Sun turned around and beamed at me.

"I'm not," Sun Woo said. "If your girlfriend gets to sleep over then my girlfriend should be able to, as well. And when Taek has a girlfriend, will we invite her too? What about Dong Ryong? When he gets a girl..." He stopped mid-sentence. "Maybe we don't have to worry about him."

"I hate you guys." Dong Ryong kept his eyes at the television, his expression forlorn.

"Jagiya," I whispered to Deok Sun as I scooted closer to her. "You don't want to sleep here anyway."

Her eyes widened. "I don't?"

I shook my head slowly. "Have you smelled Dong Ryong's farts?" She burst out giggling and the sight of her face, practically bursting with joy, and her laugh, warm and unrestrained made me smile too. "I'll tell you what, though... we can have a sleepover, if you want."

"We, as in all of us? Girlfriends and all?"

I shook my head before looking away, could already feel my cheeks burning. "No," I answered. "We, as in you and me." She didn't answer right away, looking a little nervous. It was such a strange expression on her, one I very rarely see. "We don't have to do any..."

"Okay," she said quickly, her cheeks blushing.


"Okay." She nodded, her hand squeezing mine. I thought that our friends heard nothing of our conversation, until I heard someone clear their throat and turned my head to see three pairs of eyes watching us.

Taek was trying to not to laugh.

Sun Woo was looking around, as if he didn't need to be hearing this.

And Dong Ryong... Dong Ryong was watching us closely and eating chips, as if there was nowhere else he'd rather be.

April 1996

Deok Sun

I took a whiff of the crisp spring air, feeling more content than I have all my life.

Jung Hwan and I walked hand in hand, trailing behind Jung Bong Oppa and Man Ok. We had all just been out to dinner, and were now walking to Jung Hwan's car. Ahead of us, Oppa and Man Ok walked with their arms interlinked. I watched, a little enviously, as he pulled her close to him and whispered something in her ear, then looked at Jung Hwan, his face unreadable.

Around us there were couples walking around in similar fashion, openly affectionate and so close you could barely discern one person from the other.

I felt the beginnings of a frown on my face. Though Jung Hwan has gotten a bit more comfortable with physical affection than he had been in the past, he was still so... cheap with it. Even the weekend we spent in Jeju was spent in two different rooms, and the sleepover he promised really consisted of him sleeping on the floor and me on the bed.

"Jung Hwan-ah."

"Hmm?" He turned his head and looked at me enquiringly.

"How come you're not as affectionate as him?"

He looked puzzled, as if he didn't know who I was talking about. “Him?"

"Jung Bong Oppa," I said. "Or them even."

"Who's them?"

I waved my hand around us, pointing to no one in particular. "Everyone."

Jung Hwan looked confused. "What do you mean?

"Just..." I tried to find the words as we walked, unable to explain how I feel in a way that he would understand. "It's just... I'm okay with you not saying much, but can you be more..."

"Touchy?" He finished for me.

I pursed my lips together. "Actions are supposed to speak louder than words and that... but your actions are kind of..." I searched for the right word, "not saying enough. You didn't even say anything about my skirt. Sometimes I wonder if you like me at all, much less love me." I deflated when I heard how needy I sounded. "Even Bora Noona is more affectionate with Sun Woo."

Jung Hwan stopped walking even as I continued.

"So," he said, making me freeze mid stride to turn around. His eyes travelled over my skirt before going back to my face. His handsome face was scowling, his jaw tense. "You doubt how I feel for you because I'm not like everyone else?"

I lifted my shoulders in a shrug. "How am I supposed to know when you only tell me once in a while and you don't act like not touching me will kill you?"

I cringed at myself. Why did I have to sound so dramatic? Feeling suddenly vulnerable, I looked down at my feet. Was it so wrong for me to want the man I love to love me back with the same intensity and the same openness? I had waited so long to have a proper boyfriend.

Jung Hwan's face remained implacable and he started walking, his steps a bit faster. He said nothing to me and for a second I feared that he would just walk off. That he would just leave since I made him angry.

I watched him, close to bursting into tears, when, in the middle of the crowded street, he cupped my face and took my lips in his. I closed my eyes as his warm breath invaded mine, the taste of spring, love and the hot chocolate that he drank after dinner on my lips. I felt a strong hand on my hair, his fingers tender, another on my neck, his touch heartbreakingly soft. My arms went around his neck, my fingers running through his thick head of hair.

His lips moved over mine gently, his tongue dancing on the edge of my lips. I made a sound in the back of my throat before clutching his shirt, pulling him as close as he could possibly get. In one second, the softness with which he was kissing me transformed into a barely restrained control, his heart beating against my chest just as fast as mine was.

I felt out of breath, as if I'd been running and running and running. The scent of him was all around me, and I felt my knees go weak.

If he was trying to convince me of how he felt with this kiss, then I was thoroughly convinced. If he kept kissing me like this, I thought a bit dizzily, then I don't even care if he ever spoke again.

Just as I thought my legs were going to buckle from under me, he pulled away and opened his eyes, his finger tracing a line over my cheek.

"Just because I don't tell you how much I love you, doesn't mean that I don't," he said, his voice husky. "Just because I don't touch you all the time and demand that you do the same doesn't mean that I don't want to."

I nodded, struggled to find the words.

"You..." he said softly, his hand tightening over my hip, "are everything to me. I waited for you for so long… do you think I am going to do anything to mess this up? You are everything to me. As precious as my family. As loved as anyone could possibly be."

I could only stare at him as a small smile formed on his lips, lips that, until just a few minutes ago, had fit perfectly with mine.

"I didn't say anything about your skirt because I didn't think it would be gentlemanly. You want me to tell you you're beautiful? I'm not going to keep saying obvious things. That's not the only reason why I love you."

I looked at his eyes and was struck by the honesty that I saw in them. He may not say much most of the time, but when he does... my heart fluttered, reminded me how much I loved this man.

I caught something on the corner of my eye and gazed around to see Jung Bong Oppa and Man Ok standing not too far from us, identical expressions of surprise on their faces. There were others too, bystanders, staring at us agape.

"Uhmm, jagiya," I said, suddenly self-conscious. "You can let me go now."

He did as I asked, picking up my hand and resuming walking as if he didn't just turn my insides to mush.

"Deok Sun-ah."


He grinned at me. "Was that clear enough for you?" He asked. "I don't want you getting confused and getting ideas in that ugly head of yours."

I bit my automatic sarcastic reply and decided to give him a pass... this time. I knew better now than to jump conclusions.

"Yeah," I said, happier than I've ever been, "I love you, too."

Jung Hwan

Jung Bong Hyung practically skipped up the steps to our house and Deok Sun and I stood by the bottom of the steps, reluctant to part.

The kiss we shared in the middle of the street still danced in my mind, and I had to force myself to think of something else as I looked at her face. The light from our house played over her features, and I felt my heart slow as I looked at her.

She looked luminous.

I was humbled by the fact that it took so little to make her smile. And how even now, even with having known her for so many years, how there was so much about her that I didn't quite understand.

She played with the hand that was holding hers captive, her graceful fingers running over my palm. She kept looking at our hands together, her mouth in a small smile.

"Are you that happy?" I asked, trying to stop myself from taking her in my arms.

"Yeah," she answered. "I'm really happy right now."

"Me, too." I knew that if I didn't let her go back to her house now that I wouldn't be able to at all. I might have tried to find any excuse to keep her with me. "Don't you have to go in?" I asked her. "You have a flight in the morning, right?"

I didn't mention that I had to be awake in a couple of hours to drive back to Sacheon, that I had driven here tonight specifically because I knew that she was coming home.

I didn't need to.

She nodded, her face sobering. "I won't be back until the weekend," she said. "I hate back to back international flights."

"That's okay," I reassured her. "I'll call you."

"I'll miss you," she said, her voice soft.

"Me, too."

I was just about to lean down and engulf her in one last hug before letting her go when the front door to our house opened and out came Appa, a dish of food for the dog in his hand. He brightened when he saw Deok Sun and assumed his position.

"Aigoo, Sung Sajang!" He said loudly, his arm shooting in a straight line against his head.

As if on cue, Deok Sun broke away from me and ran towards my father. "Aigoo, Kim Sajang."

I watched as they went through the routine, Deok Sun just as enthusiastic as my father was. There was a time when I might have found this whole thing confounding, but now... I smiled as I watched them, pride mingling with affection for both my father and my woman.

Just as the small things never failed to make Deok Sun happy, it seemed that she didn't hesitate one bit to do the same for someone else.

I wasn't lying when I said that I didn't just love her for her looks. Her kind heart, her easy personality, her willingness to put herself out there regardless of the consequence... all these things made up the reasons why Deok Sun was the only one for me. As she always had been.

Her acceptance of my family was just the icing on the cake.

She winked at me as she finished her routine with my father, her smile widening when she saw the smile on my face, very much like it did back in the day.

There might be lots of things I don't always do quite right, things I don’t always say quite right, but these were not some of them. The first: I wasn't lying when I said I knew exactly how lucky I was. And the second: falling in love with her was the best decision I ever made.

June 1996

Deok Sun

Jung Hwan and I sat next to each other, watching a movie in his new apartment in Sacheon. I looked around distractedly as the music from "Dirty Dancing" played in the background.

He looked as if he was focusing on the film though we'd seen this so many times since our teenage years. The way he looked right now no one would even guess that I had to almost twist his arm just to get him to agree to it.

His apartment was small and sparse, efficient and neat... a perfect reflection of the man I loved. Even his refrigerator was so tidy it was almost maddening. The only touches of softness were pictures of us scattered on every flat surface all over the place, coupled with pictures of our friends and his family.

I wondered what I could buy to bring myself into this place. I was still thinking about this when Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey came onscreen, dancing together, with not an inch between them.

"How can two people dance that close?" I asked out loud, more to myself than to him.

I stole a glance at Jung Hwan and saw that his eyes were still intent on the film. He shifted his weight on the couch until he was a few inches away from me. There was color high on his cheeks, his eyes averted.

The way he looked now sparked a memory: the one of us during the night of the retreat, stuck in an alley, our bodies pressed closely together. I had thought then that he must have been uncomfortable and that was why he was avoiding my gaze, but why did he look that way now?

An idea formed in my head and I tried to push it away, trying to tell myself that Jung Hwan didn't like me then. But then again, had he not confessed since that he did?

If that was the case, could it be that...

The thought left me blushing. I knew I felt something back then! Deciding to ask him directly (knowing that Jung Hwan was actually quite a lousy liar), I spoke before I lost my nerve.


"Hmm?" His voice came out in a croak and I almost laughed. What the heck was he? Sixteen again?

"That night... at the alley..."

"What alley?"

"You know what alley," I said. "When we were stuck together and couldn't move..." I let my words trail with the hope that he would look at me but the man remained stubbornly adamant about not doing so. "Something was pressing against me."

"I don't think so," he said, not quite convincing to my ears.

"Really?" I asked. "Because I really think that you were ha..."

"I'm sure you're mistaken," he replied, clearing his throat.

"Really?" I repeated, inching myself closer to him.

"What are you doing?" He asked, sounding nervous all of a sudden.

"Testing a theory," I said, leaning myself closer him as he leaned away. Unluckily for him and luckily for me, there was only so much distance he could do before he was practically parallel on the couch.

I silently rejoiced. He can't run away now. My chest against his, he blinked at me but didn't try to push me off.

"What...” he stammered, "what theory was that?"

I smiled at him. "The theory that my close proximity does things to you," I answered. "That it did, then, too."

He didn't give me an answer and I relaxed my weight against him, letting my body melt into his. He stiffened under me, tried to get some distance and I giggled.

I was right.

I only just had enough time to marvel at the thought before I found myself under him instead. He had moved so quickly I didn't even have time to brace myself.

"Well?" He asked, his eyes taking me in.

"Well, what?"

"Was your theory right?"

I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him down until nothing but air separated our bodies. "Let's see if we could prove it further."


September 1996

Jung Hwan

I straightened my uniform and took off my hat, tried to stand a little straighter. I smoothed a hand over my hair, and took a deep breath.

I had just lifted my hand to knock on the door to Deok Sun's parents' house when the door flew open and No Eul came out, his face looking at me in surprise.


"No Eul-ah," I greeted.

"Unnie isn't home," he said, looking behind him as he closed the door. "She won't be back until next week."

I nodded, tried to look behind him. "I know," I said. "Are your parents home?"

He didn't respond right away, looking at me in confusion. "They are, but why..." He smiled, relief flooding his face, as if in understanding. He pushed the door back open. "Omma! Appa! There's someone here to see you!"

I bent down to pick up the basket I had placed next to the door, and by the time I rose, Deok Sun's Omma and Appa were standing behind No Eul, both of them regarding me with a mixture of bafflement and joy.

"Jung Hwan-ah!" Deok Sun's mother spoke first. "Deok Sun isn't here."

I smiled sheepishly. "I know," I said, feeling as if this conversation had already taken place. "I came to speak to you both."

Deok Sun's Appa nodded, before opening the door wide. "Come in, come in," he said, shoving No Eul out the door.

"But, Appa," he protested. "I want to st..."

"Just a few minutes ago you said you were going out!" Deok Sun's Appa frowned at his son before smiling again at me. "Don't mind him, Jung Hwan-ah. Come on in."

No Eul was still complaining when I entered their house, and I took my shoes off before walking to the main room. Deok Sun's parents sat themselves down warily in front of me, eyeing the basket I had brought.

"Deok Sun mentioned how much you loved blood clams," I said, explaining, "And since I was in Sacheon, I brought you some. There's some fresh fish and meat in there, too."

Deok Sun's Omma took the basket to the kitchen and I waited for her to come back, meanwhile trying not to let Deok Sun's Appa intimidate me. When finally she was once again seated, I cleared my throat, and then sat on my knees.

"Omonim," I started, all of a sudden nervous. I only planned on doing this once, and the magnitude of the moment of this moment. "Abonim."

They both raised their eyebrows expectantly, as if they knew what I would say next.

"I would like to ask your permission to marry Deok Sun."

There was a pregnant silence before Deok Sun's Omma erupted in joy, clapping her hands. Deok Sun's Appa, though a bit more reserved, broke out in a grin that stretched from ear to ear, his dimple creasing his cheek.

"You're not kidding, right?" He asked.

I shook my head no. "I've been thinking about it a long time, and I knew I could never marry her without your blessing," I said.

"Deok Sun is very soft hearted," Deok Sun's Omma said. "And she's not very smart, but she's a good person."

"She is smart," I corrected her. "Maybe not book smart but in the ways that do matter. And she's kind. I," I coughed, "I love her very much. I'll make her happy, even if it's the only thing that I do."

Deok Sun's Omma fixed me with a thorough look, as if assessing how serious I was and I bowed my head.

"Her Unnie isn't married yet," Deok Sun's Appa said quietly.

"I could wait," I said. "Until Bora Noona's married. It would take that long to figure out where we would live anyway. As you know, I'm still serving at the base in Sacheon."

"That's a long way away from us," Deok Sun's Omma said, her tone a little sad.

"I know how important it is to Deok Sun to stay close to her family," I told them both, "which is why I already put in a transfer to Osan. It's closer to Seoul, so you wouldn't have to be without her too often."

Deok Sun's Omma started tearing and her husband placed a comforting arm around her.

"I'm so happy," she said, dabbing her tears.

"Does that mean you approve?" I asked, not wanting to count my eggs before they hatch and start celebrating before I received their blessing.

Deok Sun's Appa nodded solemnly. "I think I speak for both of us when I say that you have our permission."

I released a sigh of relief. One question down and another question to go. Inside my pocket another ring sat, one that was as important as the other ring I once wanted to give her but didn't until much later. Until it was almost too late.

That's not going to happen this time. The single greatest gift that Deok Sun gave when she decided on me was her unending faith, her willingness to give me another chance, time and time again, and the benefit of her doubt.

This time, I won't fail her. I will make up for those lost years for the rest of my life, forever thankful that she chose me.

"Abonim," I said suddenly and Deok Sun's Appa looked at me. "Can I ask another question?"

Deok Sun

I sat in our living room, the mountain of food in front of me failing to whet my appetite.

"I said I didn't want to celebrate Unnie's birthday with mine," I complained. "Didn't I tell you this years ago? We were born three days apart!"

Unnie glowered at me. "What's the point of having two celebrations when our birthdays are so close together? Especially now that neither of us is barely home?"

"That's easy for you to say," I mumbled under my breath, knowing that she and Sun Woo celebrated her birthday just a few days ago.

"That's right." Appa frowned at me across the table. "You're so petty."

"I'm not petty."

"You're in a bad mood, Noona," No Eul said, helping himself to a generous portion of galbi. He placed a whole fish, one from the mountain in front of us, on his plate and licked his lips. "I don't know why, when there's so much food around."

"I'm not in a bad mood," I argued. "I'm just mad that you people always ignore what I say."

Technically Noona's birthday had already passed and today was actually my birthday. Even as I protested I knew I was being unfair. My bad mood wasn't so much about the joint celebration (though in the past it had been,) but the fact that on my birthday, my boyfriend was nowhere to be found. Nor any of my friends.

Sun Woo was doing an overnight shift at the hospital. Dong Ryong was also working and Taek was abroad on another baduk tournament.

And Jung Hwan... I sighed. Jung Hwan said that he had some flying exercises at the base and couldn't leave, promising to come up next week.

I knew it was unavoidable, but still... next week was no longer my birthday.

Omma was putting some food on a plate just as I took a reluctant bite of fish, following it up with a spoonful of rice so large it almost didn't fit in my mouth. I was still chewing when my mother spoke.

"Deok Sun-ah," she said. "Go bring this across the street to Sun Woo's Omma's house."

"WHAT?" I asked indignantly. "I haven't even finished eating! Send No Eul."

My mother clucked her tongue at me. "Sun Woo is your friend. You do it."

"Sun Woo is her boyfriend," I said, pointing at my sister. "Why can't she bring it?"

"I don't want to," my sister said, looking at her plate.

"And I do?" I cried out. "We haven't even had cake yet!"

"We'll have cake when you come back," Appa said, his face softening and I wondered at the expression in his eyes. Within a second it was gone and I was convinced I must have imagined it. For a second he looked as if he was tearing up.

It wasn't that serious. Feeling guilty I stood up, already in my pajamas, and took the plate that my mother prepared.

"Don't eat the cake until I get back," I called out as I slipped my feet into my sneakers and marched out the door.

I ran up the stairs and noted curiously that Jung Hwan's parents’ house was dark. I slowed my pace, wondering where they were. Usually at this time everyone was home.

I opened the gate and almost dropped the plate I was holding. Jung Hwan was sitting on the platform outside our house, a lit cake in front of him.

Jung Hwan

She looked so surprised I thought she would pass out.

I stood up and took the plate from her hands before she dropped it. She remained silent as I led her towards the wooden platform, where her favorite cake was waiting for her.

As soon as I sat her down she looked at me, her features stunned. "I don't understand," she began, "I thought you weren't coming home?"

"I'm sorry I'm late," I said. "But I made it just in time."

She may just think that I was referring to tonight, but little did she know that I was referring to all our lives. It seemed like I was always one step behind, but no longer. We were both finally side by side. Just as we will always be.

"I would have found a way to come home tonight, no matter what."

"But you said..."

"I know what I said." I slid the cake until it was right in front of her. "I also know how much you hated that you never got to celebrate your birthday by yourself."

"How did you know?" She asked, her voice small.

"Your Appa told me," I answered. "He told me how much you hated your birthday because you never felt like it was just yours. I wanted to give you something to be happy about today."

She smiled and my heart shifted and squeezed. She stared at the cake in wonderment, her eyes glistening. "Jung Hwan-ah..."

"Well?" I said. "Do you want me to sing? I might sound bad but I'll give it my best shot."

She nodded.

I sang softly, words only meant for her and me, and watched as her smile grew. It was then that I vowed to keep her looking like this... to remember this moment in my memory for the rest of our lives.

"Make a wish," I urged after I finished. She closed her eyes slowly, her forehead lined in concentration.

When she opened them again she leaned across the cake and kissed my lips, hers pillow soft against mine.

"Deok Sun-ah," I said as she pulled away. She dipped a finger in the icing and licked it off, oblivious to my apprehension.

"Hmm?" I tried to calm my racing heartbeat, wondered if I will be able to do this right. "Did you want to say something?"


"What?" She asked, concern marring her features. I placed my hand in my pocket, touched the box that was there.

I was still trying to find the right words when it seemed she came to a conclusion she didn't like and now appeared as if she was about to cry.

"Oh my God," she said. "Are you breaking up with me?"

"What?" Trust Deok Sun to arrive at the worst possible conclusion. "Why would you think that?"

"I knew it!" She exclaimed. "When you said that you were busy and then you show up. That's not even like you. You're breaking up with me!"

How did I mess this up so badly? One minute she was so happy and now she looked like she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

"I'm not breaking up with..."

"Of course you are," she said, sniffling, my words falling on deaf ears. She began to cry and I was so panicked for a second I didn't know what to do. "Why else would you be nervous and looking like you're about to throw up? I can't believe you would break up with me on my birthday. I can't believe that you..."

She was still speaking, saying a lot of things that made no damn sense. I realized that the only way to shut her up once and for all was to just ask. She would never calm down otherwise.

I pulled the box out and opened it even as she continued with her tear-filled monologue. "Marry me."

"I don't know why you would do this," she continued, my words not registering. Then, she stopped. Hiccuped. "What?" She asked. "What did you say?"

I slid the ring towards her, the diamond blinking in the light. "Marry me."

"You..." She paused, as if not believing her ears. "You weren't breaking up with me?"

"No," I answered. "I was trying to ask you to marry me. Apparently I wasn't very clear."

She fell silent, as if not knowing now how to respond. It made me even more nervous.

"I don't have a lot," I said, my voice lowering. "In fact I don't have much, but everything I have is yours."

Her mouth was opening and closing like a goldfish, her eyes still tear streaked.

"I'll make you happy," I said. "I'll find ways to make you smile every day, I swear it. I'll fight with you but I'll let you win every time." I coughed. "Well, maybe just most times." She continued to say nothing and I found myself doing what I've never done before. I started blabbing. "You might get aggravated with me sometimes, maybe even angry, but I'll always apologize. Maybe I'll say things I don't mean and I can't promise that I won't be grumpy at times, but..."

"Jung Hwan-ah," she interrupted.


"You know what I wished for?" I shook my head and she smiled. "That you and I be together forever. Just as we are now." She took a deep breath and I saw that she was still wearing the chain that held my ring. "We're not perfect but we're happy. We're us, and that's enough for me. I love you as you are and you love me as I am... no pretense and no lies. How many people can say they have someone who loves them just the way they are?"

I hazarded a guess. "Not many?"

"Not many."

I looked at the ring, still sitting on the platform. "You still haven't given me an answer."

"Haven't you been listening?" She sounded so frustrated.

"I don't know," I said, genuinely confused. "You were happy and you were crying and then you're happy. Forgive me, jagiya. I'm only a man. I need to be told clearly."

She sighed at me then held out her hand. "Ask me again."


"Ask me again," she said, pointedly looking at her outstretched hand.

I picked up the ring and looked into her laughing eyes. "Marry me?"

"Yes, please."

As soon as she said yes, I wanted to shout out a whoop of relief. It took everything in me to remind myself that I was Kim Jung Hwan and that I wasn't one to show my feelings.

She grabbed me to her as soon as I slipped the ring into her finger and gave me noisy kisses over my face before stopping as she was about to graze my lips.

"She said yes!" I heard my Omma yell as she exited Sun Woo's house, followed by all of Jung Hwan's family and Sun Woo, Taek, Jin Joo and their parents.

"Oh, thank God," Dong Ryong said as he came out of his house. His father and mother were behind him, smiling happily.

My family opened the gate and filed out, my sister wiping what looked like tears from her eyes and going straight to stand on Sun Woo's side.

"That was the most painful proposal I have ever seen," Sun Woo joked.

"You guys were here the whole time?" Deok Sun asked.

"Of course," Taek said. "We wouldn't have missed this for the world."

Before I could even embrace Deok Sun fully, my mother beat me to it. Wrapping her arms around her, I could barely hear the words she whispered in her ears.

"You've made us the happiest parents, Deok Sun-ah," Omma said, her voice tight with emotion. She sent me an affectionate glance. "He's a handful but he's not so bad." I was about to object when she continued. "Welcome to the family."

November 2015

Deok Sun

"So we'll do this interview as if you don't know me," my high school friend Ja Hyun said as she fixed the camera. I straightened my black sweater as she fiddled with the lenses, amazed that for someone who once only dreamt of being a hairstylist, she somehow managed to get the most glamorous job amongst all of us.

When she called me a while back asking for a favor, I never thought it would involve giving an interview on screen. As one of the top PDs for one of the channels in Korea, she was doing a special on dating and marriage.

"And who," she had said, "would be a better interviewee than you and your husband? You have been married almost twenty years."

I almost busted a gut laughing, just imagining how cross Jung Hwan will be. Though he has not been in the military in years, he was still the same Jung Hwan that I have always known, meaning, that he doesn't warm up to strangers that easily.

"Are you sure your husband is coming?" Ja Hyun asked. "I can't do this interview with just you."

"Yah..." I answered. "I told you he would come." Though he mumbled and grumbled before he left for work this morning, I knew that my husband will do just as I ask. Because he always has. He may not be the most gracious person about having to do it (some things never change,) but he'll still do it because I asked.

"Where are the kids?"

"My Omma and Omonim are watching them through tomorrow night," I answered. "Jung Hwan and I are spending some quality time after this."

I smiled and my eyes drifted to the family picture in front of me, where Jung Hwan and I were surrounded by our two boys and daughter. Our first son, almost fourteen years old now, reminds me so much of Jung Hwan when he was a kid, all rebel without a cause and staying in his room, listening to music. Our second son, eleven years old, was a bit more

like both our brothers; generous like Jung Bong Oppa and extroverted like No Eul. Our seven year old daughter... was probably the combination of every woman that Jung Hwan has in his life. Soo Hyun had the fiery personality of Jung Hwan's mother, my mother's kind nature, and my aegyo. But she had inherited something else: her father's mind... a fact that I am eternally grateful for, since the whole reason she was named thus was to avoid the misfortune of having a name that would give her my lack of talent for studying.

I've been very lucky to have been able to do a career I liked until I chose not to anymore, with our growing children. And my husband... my husband left the military just as we were expecting our second kid and began a career in commercial flight, giving him a bit more flexibility and allowing our whole family to move back to Seoul, just minutes away from mine and his parents' houses.

I sighed inwardly, immensely proud of him. I always knew that he would do the right thing. I could never stay angry at him because he does things like this.

"Shall we begin?" Ja Hyun asked, straightening her spine and stretching before plopping herself down on a stool next to the camera.


"When did you first meet your husband?"

I had my head down, my face hidden behind my hair. I thought that Ja Hyun asked a question, but didn't quite hear it, and so I lifted my head. "What was your question again?"

"When did you first meet your husband?"

"Oh," I said sheepishly, then thought about it. "When we first met..." Ja Hyun nodded, urging me to continue. "I'm sorry. When I was young I inhaled too much carbon monoxide." I took a deep breath. "Actually it's been a couple of decades since we met," I answered, "We grew up on the same street, but I never imagined that I'd end up marrying him." Ja Hyun smiled and I kept on speaking. "I think I went crazy for a minute or something. Honestly, I inhaled the most carbon monoxide in Ssangmundong. It was constant... I probably inhaled it for twenty years straight. I think something happened to my head because of that." I wrapped my cardigan closer around me. "That's the only explanation." I looked at her pointedly. "My husband got lucky. Where else would he have found such a pretty wife?"

"And cut..." Ja Hyun motioned with her hands.

"How was that?" I asked. "Was I too honest?"

She chuckled. "No," she responded. "It's fine. People who watch these documentaries love that. You with your bubbly self, your husband all intense and grouchy. It's perfect material for television."

"You think so?" I asked and she nodded. "Jung Hwan will love being described as intense." I got up from the couch and looked at my phone just as a text came through. As expected, my husband, asking me if I wanted coffee. I sent a quick answer, amazed at the fact that so many years later, Jung Hwan still would rather that people think of him as this distant, unapproachable man when he was really the opposite. Even after seventeen years of marriage, he still never fails to surprise me.

"Are we going to film the next part?" Ja Hyun asked me. "Are you ready?"

"Nah," I said. "Let’s wait for my husband.”


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