I Dare You – Part Une

Oh, if you would only know how tough it was to pick the line that will serve as the prompt for this two-shot series.   Definitely worth giving it a listen when you have a moment.  For the last few days, in the midst of reason and delusion, every time that this song came up, scenes of my unlikely pair of lovers keep swimming in my head.  Why did she leave so soon and so long after the drama?  Why did she come back earlier than she was supposed to?  Why did he have those moments of ire answering “private” questions during their, what I want to call, time apart?  Why did his mood lighten up right before his schedule became crazier than what is fit for a man entering the military?  Honestly, I don’t know why.  But just this once, indulge me.

***

I dare you to need me
Like nobody else
I dare you to feel me
Like you’ve never felt
I dare you to want to want
To wanna be good to me

Baby you’ve got your reasons
Dangling from kite strings
But you can open your hands, let them fly
Oh I know you wont always say and do the right things
Oh but some things are worth a try
So if you can, be my man…

-I Dare You, Leann Rimes

***

“And that’s a wrap! Great job everyone!”  PD-nim yelled as the last scene was shot.  Jeon Hae Rim felt like how she always does whenever a drama ends.  “108 days of my life,” she quietly thought to herself. She took a quick moment to gather herself, sneaked into a corner to take a few deep breaths, before coming out to smile and bow to everyone. Taking photos left and right, she is once again Ha Ji Won, acting as if she was okay and that she will be fine.  Yet, deep inside she is still also Hae Rim, and admittedly she was feeling a bit empty and confused. 

He was watching her.  He saw her sneak into the corner.  He saw her take a few deep breaths.  And he badly wanted to right then and there grab her, take her into a cramped fitting room, and ask her to make his heart stop racing.  In all his years in the business, Kim Tae Pyung knew to define the line between acting and reality.  Funny, because it is in a fantasy drama where he played a character most different from his real self, when he started blurring his lines.  And before he knew it, it was more complicated than he needed nor wanted it to be.  He had heard of her before.  Had bumped into her more than once.  After all, they shared a very common circle. Yet, it was only now, only when he knew how it feels to hold her close, that he saw her, really see her.

Ha Ji Won was talking to her manager.  The latter was asking her whether she was attending the farewell party.  She, being the gracious and good-natured woman she is, obliged.   She silently hoped Hyun Bin won’t come.  Just so she can be a little bit more at ease.  Just so she can hold on to what little sliver she has of her sanity.

At the farewell party, Philip sat next to her most of the time.  They became good friends working together.  And Philip may be “foreign” but he is not dense.  He knew full well that there’s something beyond chemistry between noona and Binnie. So that night, he wanted to be what she needed most, a friend who’ll protect her.  He made sure she had fun.  He made sure she was at ease.  He made sure that her infectious smile didn’t leave her lips even once.  She relaxed when she didn’t see Hyun Bin anywhere in sight.  In her carefree way, she drank a bottle or two or more of soju and some wine.  She thought she had a good handle on her alcohol.  Until she started to forget what was going on around her. 

Hyun Bin saw her getting intoxicated.  He saw her relax around Philip.  And without reason, his heart ached a little.  “Why can’t it be me?,” he thought to himself. “Pabo, you are the one with the girlfriend in this picture.” His reason reminded him yet again.  But his heart is stubborn and was drumming to its own beat. So, he grabbed a beer or two or more when he finally joined the commotion. “She doesn’t even know I already got here.  She doesn’t even think of me right now.” He tried to convince himself over a gulp of beer. 

Philip had to take a phone call, so Ji Won, so intoxicated by then, was left almost slumping down the couch, on the spot where Philip sat.  Her manager kept trying to prop her up.  “Ji Won-ah.  Let’s just go home now,” her manager pleads.  “Aniyo, Oppa.  Let’s stay here for a bit.  I can’t face myself when I get home.”  Sitting just two couches behind her back, Hyun Bin hears the honesty in her statement, and his heart breaks again, for her. “You can’t be selfish, Tae Pyung.” he thought.  “I probably just need to get fresh air,” she was heard saying resignedly, “I will be right back, Oppa.”  Her manager nodded in approval as she tipsily headed for the back door. 

His eyes follow her.  And as if a learned reflex he follows her, literally.  Only a few seconds behind her, he hesitated upon reaching for the door handle to the exit. “Just what are you doing?” he asks himself while shaking his head. “It won’t hurt to sit next to her at least one more time, one last time,” he thought.  So he turns the doorknob, and the crisp Seoul winter air grabbed hold of his senses. He almost stumbled as he got overwhelmed. 

She looked up at the person who opened the door. Him.  “Tough luck,” she mutters to herself. He sits next to where she was sitting.  There were no stars that night.  “Kwenchanayo?” he finally asked her.  “De, wae?” She asked back.  “You don’t look alright is all.” He honestly told her.  “I’m fine.  I will be. Don’t worry about it. Just last-day-blues,” she lied.  And she opted to turn silent again instead.  She kept her tears from falling. No, she won’t allow it to fall right next to him.  She stared at the space before her.  “Noona, you are not a good liar, you know?” she heard him say.  She didn’t indulge him with a word.  And once again this broke his heart into a million pieces. He just wanted to comfort her.  To hold her.  To deal with his irrational heart.

From the corner of his eye, he caught her stirring from where she sat, wobbling to stand up.  She was a little tipsy.  She swayed as she tried to walk.  Her emotions and the winter air wasn’t helping the situation.  He caught her as she was about to collapse. She struggled to be freed from his grasp.  Yet, he held on to her tight, enveloping her in his arms until she submitted to him, whimpering.  When she calmed down a little, he looked into her eyes, ready to ask his questions.  The truth he found in those orbs was enough as answers, and without knowing it, his lips reached for hers. As if it was the only solution. And because it was what the moment needed, she welcomed the taste of his mouth on her, this time without cameras rolling. Until her brain cells finally registered the situation a few seconds later, and she tried to push him off, but she was struggling with herself as well.  How could he know what she needed? How could she resist need?  She finally succeeded in her confusion and surprise moments more later, and by that time the effects of the alcohol on here were all gone. 

She stared at him angrily.  “Don’t. Don’t, don’t…” she stammered. Smelling the alcohol in his breath as well, she was enraged.  She glared at him.  “Don’t. Stop this. Please,” she said incoherently yet pleadingly, pausing with each word.

“I can’t help it.” He told her. “Nappeun!” she exclaimed at the childishness of his statement.

Trying to pick up her bearings, she walked away. With her back on him, she found her reason. “Don’t play these games with me.  We’re too old for this.  You have way too many strings,” she began.  “Don’t ever do that again, not without permission or with the absence of such, without a reason.”  He heard her out and answered, “I will try but I can’t promise.” He paused. “And, I didn’t think we were playing games.” 

She sighed and began to leave again.  “Gureom, try. Please.  I dare you, find a reason.” She walked away and closed the door on him.  Alone with the dark night in front of him, “I already know my reason.  But I am just not brave enough yet.  Noona, dare me.  Dare me to find my courage.” he reflected, and without knowing it a tear rolled down his cheek.  It broke his heart that his confusion and cowardice was breaking her – the most amazing woman he had set his eyes on, and without warning, learned to love.

Phillip saw her come back in and with the tears pooling in her eyes, he knew something happened outside.  He watched her storm across the room straight to her manager.  “Oppa, I’m ready to leave,” she told her manager.  Ji Won put her smiles back on and graciously said her goodbyes to everyone.  Hyun Bin came back in just in time to see her retreating figure by the front door.  He scanned the room and met Phillip’s eyes.  He walked to him.  In almost a whisper, Phillip told him, “Untangle your strings, man. Noona may be strong, but she doesn’t deserve this.  Not from anyone.” Hyun Bin nodded gently in agreement “Ahrasso.  In time, I will. Soon.” He told Phillip, yet sounding as if he was trying to convince himself. 

 

***

“Kwenchanayo?  Why are you working as if there’s no tomorrow?” Dong Gun chided his best friend over the phone.  He knew Hyun Bin all too well.  The guy drowns himself in work whenever something is bothering him.  “De, kwenchana. Komowo.” Hyun Bin tried to assure him.  “I want to take a wild guess, even if I want so badly to be wrong. May I?” Dong Gun asked. “And you cannot chant Kim Soo Han Moo as an answer.” he joked.  Hyun Bin chuckled. “Go for it, hyung. Grill me,” he said granting permission. 

“Having heart issues?  Look man, I am aware that you and Hye Kyo have been on the rocks.  I am not the press, I know these things.  And Hae Rim, I know her too.  We’re good friends.  She has a track record of being irresistible.   But even so, her greater track record is her good heart.” Dong Gun rattled on. 

“Hyung, do I still have to answer?  You sounded like you were answering for me.” Hyun Bin says. 

“Tae Pyung-a! Ya! Just let it come out of your mouth.  That’s all that matters. Who cares what I know?”  Dong Gun snorts. 

“How do you break what you thought had been the ideal relationship?”  Hyun Bin answered by asking a question.  “And how do you stop being scared that what you will pursue will not just get broken apart later?” he kept going. 

Dong Gun paused for a long while before answering, “It matters not how you break up.  It matters not what could happen in the future.  It matters not that hearts will bleed in the process. What matters is this, whose man do you want to be?  Because the moment you stop being the man you should be for the one you are with or will end up with, you become less of a man.  So, just be with someone when you truly, honestly want to be that someone’s man.” It was Hyun Bin’s turn to be silent. 

“Don’t drown yourself in work in an effort to escape, Tae Pyung-a.  The truth needs that man too.” Dong Gun advised him before hanging up.  

 

****

She just came back from Beijing. And confidently she thought she had somehow shed Ra-Im out of her psyche by then. So, she is ready, she thought.  Her phone vibrated as she picked up her luggage on the carousel, she fumbled for it in her purse whispering “Munja wassyeong. Munja wassyeong.”  Kim Ddol Chu the caller ID read.  She hesitated for a bit and she missed the call.  But her phone vibrates again.  Kim Ddol Chu it read again.  Mustering up her courage, she held it up “Yeoboseyo!” she answered.   Hearing his familiar voice say “Yeoboseyo!  Jagi!”, she smiled.  “Oh, Hyun Bin!” she cheerily greeted him.  “So you met the great Tang Wei, huh?” he told him.  “Aish, I didn’t know you were such a gossip,” she joked.  They tried to catch up with each other as she walked her way to her van.  "Oh Hyun Bin-a, I need to hang up now.  Heading home, I’ll hope to see you at the DVD recording then?”  she bid him farewell.  Before hanging up, he said, “Gureom, and…” but his message got drowned up when he heard fans gather around Ji Won when her arrival was finally spotted.

Ha Ji Won kept smiling to all those who greeted her arrival.  She steadily walked to her van parked outside.  As she waved one final goodbye to her fans, after getting inside the van and closed the door, the huge blanket on the seat beside her stirred and said “You didn’t even say goodbye.  You didn’t even hear me say what I said.”  She recognized that voice.  She was just talking to it moments ago.  Hyun Bin lifted the blanket off of himself.  “Geu namjaga geudaereul bogosipdago.  Otoke? (This man is missing you.  What should he do?)”  She glanced at the rearview mirror at the front of the van and meets her manager’s gaze, her eyes could almost shoot poison.  “Igeo mwohaeyo?!? (What is this?!)” she said almost yelling.  “Oppa!! Are you trying to take me down with a scandal?!?” she cried to her manager.  “Would you like one?” Hyun Bin joked.  “Shut up! I’m not talking to you!” She said angrily.  She wanted to scream, but her heart was giddy.  Why is this happening?  Her manager turned around and shrugged his shoulders.  “Mianhae, Hae Rim-a, the punk was already in the van when we took off from the office.  He pulled the same blanket trick on us.” she was told.  She exhaled in exasperation.

“Ya, ddo! (Hey, you!) Igeo mwohaeyo?!” she said facing him now, almost about to cry from the mixed emotions.  “So are you talking to me now?  Can I say something now?” Hyun Bin teased.  She arched her eyebrows. He slumped on his seat not breaking his gaze at her, “Aigoo.  How many times do I have to repeat saying this thing?  Sunbae? Noona?” he asked.  “Shut up. Just talk. Explain this to me. Make it good.” Ji Won ordered him.  “Pabo ya?  That’s confusing.  Shut up or talk? What do you want?” She slumped on her seat as well, crossed her arms in front of her, knit her eyebrows and stared at him.  “Nan, nan…” he stammered at the way she looked at him, “Nan bogosipdago. (I miss you)  Jjinja. (Really), otoke?  Hae Rim-a?” he finally opened his heart to her, wishing that she will have the answers for him. “I missed you too.  And I am tired.” she replied.  With that, with her arms crossed, she lay her head on his shoulder.  He wraps his arms around her, as if by reflex.  They fit perfectly.  And they sat like that in silence all the way to Seoul.  She with her fears and thoughts.  He with his confusion and emotions.  “I will make this right.” he told himself as he watched the highway they were passing by. 

Her manager decided to call his manager to pick him up at a deserted parking garage in Mapo-gu.  They dropped him off there.  He squeezed her tight when he was about to get off.  “Mianhae, Hae-Rim-a.  I was not thinking right.” he apologized.  She nodded, “Kwenchana.  Don’t hold yourself off now.  Friends can miss each other too.  Let’s be like that.  At least like that it will be easier, for both of us.”  The wisdom of her years showed.  There was hope in her statement, but somehow hearing the word ‘friends’ felt more like a dagger was drawn through his heart.            

****

For a few more days, they were like that.  Exchanging text messages.  He took the role she assigned for him in her life.  Like a dutiful friend, he made her know he thought of her.  That meant he SMSd her almost countless times each hour.  “Did you eat?” “What did you eat?” “I’m tired.” “Are you sleeping?” “What’s with the cappucino foam in that photo?” “Good answers in that interview.” “The sun is up.” “The sun is down” “Are you cold?” “Are you warm?”  “Do you want to be warm? ;)”   He was sending her messages all the time.  And she smiled at each time she replied to him.  She tried to be as reasonable as she could be in her responses.  Bracing herself, shielding herself from expecting too much or knowing too little.  Yet, sometimes their reality got the better of her. And it made her a little sad.  It made her a little insane.   So, without a word she scooped her family for the vacation she promised them.  It was just right before a big shoot she was scheduled for overseas. Trying to escape her Secret Garden life, Ra-Im and Hyun Bin, she left without telling anyone.  Or so she thought.

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