***For Raine. The explanation of which is only between her and me.***
She paces across her bedroom before sitting by her computer for the fifth time in that hour. “Aish, Oppa, you’re killing me. What the heck did I do this time?”
The pregnant Bongji lets out a bark at her, probably confused about the anxiety that is disturbing the mistress. She calls Bongji close, fixing the dog’s hair endlessly until the dog yelps. “Mianhae, mianhae…” she says to the dog as she ruffles its hair. “I’m so stressed. When is he coming online? So they are still doing another trial shoot. He’s not even answering my calls.” She sniffs, not from tears but from the full-blown cold she had acquired as she caught a draft from the airconditioning in Tokyo and having to go back prematurely to sometimes-dry, sometimes-humid Seoul. “I’m sick and he acts like he doesn’t care.”
She types her login again on his official page, checks her messages and seeing if he had left any trace on each one of the boards he frequented.
Her phone rings. She jumps out of her chair to pick it up even if it was just an arms’ length away. “Unknown number.” The phone glared. “Are you playing games on me Oppa?” She hesitates to pick up. “Sniff. Yobuseyo.” She finally says to the receiver.
“Shin Hye-ssi?” The voice on the other line said.
“Bolmae-jung. Err. Sniff. Yong Hwa!”
Yong Hwa laughs heartily, amused at her temporary state of confusion. “Annyeonghaseyo, Shin Hye. Gwaenchana?” He greets her suppressing his laughter.
“De, annyeonghaseyo. Gwaenchanayo. I missed you last week. What’s going on?” She responds to him. “Ah Shin Hye. You still break my heart. You didn’t sound too delighted to hear it was me. Is it because it was just me?” He kids. “Anieyo, I’m happy it’s you. How’s everything? Have you fallen in love? With Seo Hyun-ssi?” She tells him straightly.
“I know. I missed you too. I’m okay and we can talk about Seo Hyun later. But that’s not the reason I’m calling.” Yong Hwa says on the other line.
“De? Why are you calling then?” She asks him
“Gureom. I only have a few minutes for this untraced call. So I will make it quick. Hong Ki told me that you have been a little moody towards Hyung lately. Wae?”
“De? What are you talking about? I’m actually going crazy right now that he hadn’t been calling or sending messages. So, if we’re talking moody, then that’s not me. Talk to him.” She reveals in a huff.
“Calm down Shin Hye-a. I’m not talking about the current situation but the one in Tokyo. It seems you were having a mild tantrum while there, and Hong Ki thinks it was not just the humidity.” Yong Hwa explains.
“Ah, that. Well, I was just a little stressed out then. Probably answered some reporters wrong even, when I was asked about Oppa and myself. The fans were overwhelming me, they were warm and welcoming and it was all new to me. I was trying to please Oppa’s fans too, so they won’t kill me on that stage. And I think it all just got mixed together.” Shin Hye defends herself.
“Gire, I understand now. But you know listening to you, I remember Go Mi Nam. And I thought you already took that character out of your system?” Yong Hwa probes.
“Mwo?” Shin Hye asks, confused at the analogy.
“Yea, the jumpy Go Mi Nam. The one who is scared of everything. The one Shin Woo always has to look after. I see that person in you again. As you try and hide your true self and your closeness with Hyung. As you try to make perfect how the world will see you.”
There is silence on the other line, a pause that keeps Yong Hwa going with the reason for his phone call.
“You asked me about Seo Hyun earlier. You want to know why I find her interesting? And why it seems as though I am falling for her?” Yong Hwa shares with her.
“It’s because Seo Hyun is clueless about nearly everything. And that doesn’t mean I can’t respect her, since she is a very smart girl. But her being clueless about complicated matters helps, since she doesn’t have expectations nor does she have anything to hide. Her being clueless challenges me. That somehow I need to be good at showing her around and teaching her things, while still making sure her good views of the world and people stay intact. She is neither afraid nor too confident. She leads me with her feelings and she lets me lead with my experience.” Yong Hwa admits.
“Ah, Bolmae-Jung, you really are in love.” Shin Hye chuckles.
Pretending to not have heard her comment Yong Hwa continues, “In Seo Hyun’s own way, I saw a little bit of the Shin Hye I was attracted to back in November. And I guess over the last few months, life dealt you some rough hands and you lost that cluelessness. And that makes me a little sad.” Yong Hwa quips.
And silence falls again. Yong Hwa breathes a sigh before continuing. “I saw that you were most happy with Hyung back then. That he was invincible in your eyes. That no matter what he does, you would smile. That you would not be afraid to fall for him. You had a heart that was ready to adore him like he has no capacity to hurt you. And that’s how I knew I needed to step aside. After all, I trusted that you will be in good hands. With him. You still are in good hands, Shin Hye-a. I hope you know that.”
Shin Hye continues to be still on the other side of the line. Speechless. Defenseless because Bolmae-Jung spoke the truth. “Shin Hye-a, when you let go of Mi Nam, you forgot to let go of that character’s jumpiness. I ask you now, to break down the walls. Hyung might have hurt you before. Hyung might have shaken expectations you’ve had of him before, but that was because then was not the right time. You can’t forever penalize him for not seeing through you right away, can you? Not when he is very dedicated to live as if only to make you happy. Not when he is showing me and everyone that he will stand by you, through everything. Shin Hye-a, I don’t want you to miss out on that happiness. The happiness in being led. The happiness in learning about the world from someone who has your best interest at heart. The happiness in making mistakes, hurting some, finding some with someone who is committed to be your friend forever.”
With some tears pooling in her eyes, she realizes her own shortcomings and finds that she misses her old carefree self too. The one who is not scared of anything. The one who wore her heart up on her sleeves, making a fool of herself only waiting for Keun Seuk to catch her as she falls. “Kamsahamnida Yong Hwa. This means a lot. Kamsahamnida for opening my eyes today. I’ll give Oppa his space and I hope I’ll know what to do when he comes back around.” She tells her beloved towel guy on the other line.
“Don’t worry Shin Hye. He’ll come back around. I don’t even think he’s gone away, even for a moment now.” Yong Hwa assures her.
“Gwaenchansumida, Yong. You need to go now, right?” She asks him, as if trying to make him stay even for just a bit.
“De, time’s up. But you know I’m always here, yes?” Yong Hwa tries to confirm before he hangs up.
“De, kamsahamnida again Yong. Please keep in touch again soon. Take good care of Seo Hyun-ssi” Shin Hye says.
“I will. Be strong Shin Hye. Annyeongjibuseyo.” Yong Hwa ends the call.
Sitting by herself, watching the raindrops on her window, she thinks “Bolmae-Jung, Shin Woo, Yong Hwa, you’ve given me warmth from the cold again today. Like Keun Seuk, you always know what to say. Like Keun Seuk, you make me learn some things about myself.” She sighs as she closes her eyes in prayer.
Sitting still with eyes closed, reverent in thought, she hears a familiar honk. Khan. “Am I hearing things?” She asks herself. She closes her eyes again.
“De, come on in. Sniff.” She says excitedly over her cold.
She waits a few more moments and hears him knock at her door. She opens it and Keun Seuk lays the back of his hand on her forehead. Are you well? Here I brought you kalguksu. Do you want me to heat it up? Do you want me to go out to get some citrus juice? He asks her without pausing.
“Just a cold. Anieyo. This is enough Oppa. Kamsahamnida.” She replies while smiling.
Ya, what are you grinning about? You got me worried with that Cy post of yours. I didn’t reply anymore because I just ran straight here to get you soup. It’s good for you. Bab mok ja. Keun Seuk rattles on.
She tugs his arms and leans her head on his shoulder. She feels warm and it’s not because of fever.