She wasn’t replying to any of his messages over the last night. He had been busy but he checked in with her still. He was trying to skirt grilling interviews about his private life. Frustrated at reporters who obviously don’t understand that he didn’t know the answers to their questions. Heck he didn’t even know the answers to his own questions! “Ji Won-a, this is my 107th message. Are you really not going to answer? Do I have to send a message for each day we had on the set?” Hyun Bin SMSd her again. She read it the moment it came in but held off her reply, like she had with the other messages that came . She had her suitcase in front of her and she was halfway done with packing. She thought of taking off her battery just so she would stop seeing his messages come through. But she had other important calls she was waiting for. Still trying to be responsible, she was checking for schedule confirmations, re-schedules and also waiting for the rest of her family to call as they are nearing their gathering time. “Hae Rim-a, do you need help with your suitcase?” she heard her omma ask as she knocked on her door. “Aniyo, Omma, I am about done, just packing my swimpieces. Kamsahamnida,” she yelled back. She stared at the phone which was buzzing, this time withKim Ddol Chu calling for his 14th time. “Mianhae chinggu-yah. I can’t let you break my resolve. I need to do this.” she said staring on her phone screen. “Aish, is she really not going to talk to me? Did I say something wrong with my interviews? I don’t even mention her in them,” his thoughts race. “Hyun Bin, we need to go. The traffic is already building up in Myeongdong.” his manager told him. “Ahrasso. I’m coming.” So, with that he left for his signing event that day, but his mind was somewhere else.
They fill up the van with her luggages. Her parents were going to go on a different van. They were bound for Hawaii, by taking the last flight out that night. She was going to leave last this time and the media was asked not to do any coverage, if they even had the slightest idea of what she was going to do. She had banked enough chips for them to grant her this favor.
At the Lotte in Myeongdong, signing the last autograph, still thinking far away, Hyun Bin smiled one last time for the camera. He was getting nervous for no reason, like he was going to lose something. Upon standing up he rushed between the pile of people blocking his way, as he reached a clearing, he whispers behind to his manager, “Hyung, we need to go somewhere.” With the look on his eyes, his manager understood. “You know what you’re doing, right, Hyun Bin? You will owe me big.” His manager asked. “De, ahrasso.” he said, his eyes begging. He knew that his irrational plan had scandal written all over it. “If only I didn’t like who you love right now.” His manager told him. And with a pause, he was asked “And just what are you planning to do with Hye Kyo? You’re supposed to meet her after her signing.” “I’ll deal with it later. We have to go.” And with that, their van came and transported them back to the office where another car was waiting for them in the parking garage. They went in the building as if going into their office, only to divert toward their parked getaway car.
Upon reaching her neighborhood, his heart started to race. He went this way once while they were still shooting and they had a late night dinner with the rest of the cast. Her manager had something else to do so Hyun Bin ended up dropping her off. He still remembered that night, and how her doorstep, her house felt like home. About to alight the passenger side of the car he was on to ring her bell, he saw her come out the door. “Wow, just in time!” he thought to himself. Then he saw her manager following her with her purse on his arm. The car in front of them opened its trunk and he saw pieces of luggage in it. “Is she going somewhere? Do you know where she’s going?” he asked his manager. “I was going to tell you. Her management informed me just so you’ll know the blurb on her in your interviews, but she will be taking an indefinite leave abroad." His manager told him. “She is leaving? Wae?” He sat frozen in his seat for a while. “Andwae, andwae. (She can’t. She can’t)” He said as he hurriedly got off the car to go to her.
Looking back at her dwelling, trying to remember if she got everything she needed, she started to walk to their car heaving a sigh of relief, ready for the much needed breakaway. “Just where do you think you are going?” a familiar voice startled her. She looked in his direction and saw that dimpled face with a grin “So you think you can get away, huh?” Trying to keep her composure, she said “Oh, Hyun Bin. Sorry I wasn’t able to return your calls and messages. Had been busy.” She saw the doubt in his eyes. She averted his gaze. “How many times should I tell you that you are a good actress but you’re a very bad liar?” He called her bluff out. They stood there facing each other silent. Until Ji Won breaks the stillness by looking at her timepiece, “Oh, I will miss my flight if I don’t leave soon. Mianhae. I have to go.” She proceeded to walk away. But he caught her wrist, “Aniyo, stay, for a while. You have at least half an hour before you can start worrying . Or fifteen minutes before someone gets a hold of this information of me and you standing together on a sidewalk in broad daylight. I’m leaving my cares to the wind, right now Hae Rim-a, just so you won’t leave without being honest, so you won’t leave not being what you say you are, my friend.” He said without stopping, with all the reason he held at that moment.
She listened to him speak the most truthful and most courageous he had been since their drama wrapped. She frowned. “You didn’t have to come, you know. I would have been fine. I had wished you wouldn’t come just so I can go away in peace.” She started. “I would have come back in peace also. I would have come back still being your friend. I would have come back with a better understanding of how I would face and handle this situation, our situation.” She said trying to defend her moment of weakness. "Hyun Bin, Tae Pyung-a, if you needed me to tell you this. Yes, you are precious to me. Very precious. That I wanted to accept not to expect anything more, or anything less. That I am who I am in your life. And that whatever that was, I would be grateful.” She told him honestly. He choked back his emotions but kept himself from saying anything just to hear her say what she needed to say, just to free her from the shackles he had unfortunately wrapped her in. “There are reasons why I met you. There are reasons why I hold you dear. And I don’t need to seek them. They will unravel in time. Right?” She said, hoping he’ll confirm. He indulged her by nodding. And with it that she continued, “So I am leaving with the truth in mind. You will still have your life. I will not ask you or dare you to make any changes to them, for me. It’s not my place to do so. At the very least, I wanted to be your best friend. So I will be. I would love who you love. And I would wait and guide you until you become honest enough with yourself.” She assured him.
“Ahrasso,” he finally said breaking his listening silence. “Komowo, Hae Rim-a. Geurigo (And…), joeseonghamnida (I’m sorry/respectful tone). Jeongmal. (Really) Jeongmal mianhada (I’m really sorry),” he told her bowing his head. She holds her hand up to his cheek. “Chinggu-yah, don’t be sad. Don’t be sorry. What we have is a gift. Let’s treasure it, nae?” He looked up to her. “De. You will come back, right? And “indefinite” is the new term for “only a couple of days”, right?” She smiled at his innocence. “Wae? So I can give you the pleasure of seeing me be sad when you go off into the military?” She chided him. “Hah! Aniyo!” he said defensively. “I just wanted you to be there, in one of the most important days and weeks of my life, in however way you can.” He requested her. “Aish, overdramatic much, this dongsaeng.” she said chuckling. “I am hurt, Noona. You don’t take me seriously.” he said dejectedly.
“Gureom, I will not make promises. But one way or another you will know I support you. But for now, can I…” she stopped herself from going on. He arched his eyebrows and nodded at her to continue. “Can I dare you to find yourself? To be honest with yourself, so you can be honest to the people who love you?" she told him. “You didn’t need to ask. You already inspire me to. And that journey to find myself begins tonight, as you temporarily go away.”
He begins to walk her to her side of the car. “Come back soon. Where are you even heading off to?” he said, opening her car door. “Aww, how gentlemanly of you, dongsaeng! You make me proud. And I’m heading off to somewhere warm. Winter is depressing me.” He nodded as she sat in the backseat. “Had I no schedule I would have come too.” He said teasingly. “Why not? You deserve a break too. Take one when you can, nae?” she carried on with his teasing. “I’ll SMS you where you could hang out in Hawaii.” he said before he closed her door. He chuckled at the perplexed look on her face wondering how he knew. “Sometimes managers are such teases.” he muttered as he tapped the side of the car to signal the driver to drive away. He walked back to his car with a smile. His heart was still a little empty with what they had come to conclusion with, but he felt also that his load got a little bit lighter. She had promised him that she would be there in his life. And with everything that was going on, that promise was more than enough to hang on to.
“Are you happy now, Hyun Bin-a?” his manager asked from the front seat the moment he got back into the car. “De, I’m fine.” Hyun Bin said just as his phone was ringing. He checked the clock on his phone, before answering, “Yeoboseyo?” he said. “Hye Kyo-ya? De, mianhae. I am running late. I will be right there. Give me about half hour more?” he told his girlfriend who was on the other line, waiting for him at the restaurant as was planned. "I’ve never imagined you to be a two-timer, Hyun Bin-a” his manager shrugged as he heard Hyun Bin coolly talk to his girlfriend. “I still am not. I’ve got business to deal with. Tonight, I will keep promises I made.”
She was waiting for him at the restaurant. She knew where he was coming from that night, and she even expected that he wouldn’t show up. Song Hye Kyo had been on this road before. She knew that characters sometimes get through to actors’ selves. She knew that sometimes fiction becomes reality. She knew it from the way Hyun Bin’s smile had changed, and how his eyes had lost some of the sparkle it had from the last few months of filming the moment the drama wrapped. She didn’t want to have to deal with it. She probably still wouldn’t, but she would be ready to let him go, the moment he asked her. The question was whether he would ask her. She couldn’t be mad at Ha Ji Won. The woman had been fair and respectful to what she had with Tae Pyung. She didn’t flirt with Hyun Bin. Her sunbae kept the necessary distance. But Hye Kyo, acknowledged that, Ji Won was fire to a clueless moth, she was irresistible. How could she not be when she is almost next to perfect? Yet, Hye Kyo couldn’t find any reason to hate her. “Just tell me Tae Pyung-a. I could let go. If it cannot be you and me, I don’t find anyone else worthy, but her.” Hye Kyo bravely whispered to the wind.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting.” he broke the private room’s eerie silence. “Ahrasso,” she said turning around to his direction from the spot she stood on, by full-length windows overlooking the lights of Seoul. The lights were going off one by one, signaling the deepening of the night. She smiled to him. “Did you already have dinner?” she asked. “Aniyo, bab mok ja. (let’s eat)” he summons her to the table. She goes to join him for dinner. He was in a happy and clear mood that night, and with it she grew a little nervous of what could unravel. He asked her questions about her day, her fans, her signing. She responded in earnest. She asked him the same and of his schedule the following days. They both chide how their schedules had been so packed the last few months that they had to schedule time for each other as well.
After dessert, while he made a quick trip to the bathroom, she walked back to the spot she stood before he came. There was an iron bench near it, perhaps for diners who would like to sit still and enjoy the view. So, she sat. Seeing her there, he joined her shortly after returning. “Did you want to tell me something?” she began. “De.” he confirmed her fears. “We made a pact that we will be honest, right? That more than lovers, we would be friends?” he told her. “De. Spare me the agony, Tae Pyung-a. You can be straightforward.” she gently pleaded to him. “Gire. Mianhae. Well, today, I went to see Ji Won-ssi off to the airport. She’s going on a long vacation. We had a good talk before she left.” he confided.
What he was saying was far more gentle than what she expected. And with it she grew a great deal more respect for her sunbae. “Ji Won-ssi is precious to me, Hye Kyo-ya. I want her in my life. But I just don’t know yet how. And it is unfair to you how I am not able to juggle this with our relationship. Because, you, Hye Kyo-ya, are also important to me. I want to make you feel that too.” He continued. “Yet, I must be honest, with both of you.” he said, still with a slight tinge of confusion.
“Tae Pyung-a, komowo. I’m grateful for this kind of honesty. Our relationship had gone through so many fires now, hadn’t it? And if I may be straight with you, I am quite tired of the emotional rollercoaster.” she told him. “Mianhae,” he said choking back his guilt. “Aniyo, nothing to be sorry about. Relationships go through this.” Hye Kyo comforted him. “And sometimes, relationships also need changes for it to grow further. And for us, with everything happening, and with everything yet to happen, we need to make changes.” she said, helping him find answers to his dilemma. “What are you saying, Hye Kyo-ya?” he asked her to clarify. “Are we breaking up?” he fearfully asked. “Would it matter what we call it?” she asked him. “The way I see it,” she pondered aloud, “what we had then was over some time ago.” She continued, “What we have now, I am grateful with the loyalty you had for it. I appreciate it. So I guess, what I’m saying is that we should just start being honest with ourselves too. To free ourselves from behaviors prescribed of committed relationships. And to work instead on what we want to do and must do in true friendships.” He stood there trying to grasp her words. She held his hand next to her and turned to face him, “I’m letting you go. To find yourself.” He squeezed the hand that was holding his and turned to embrace her. A tear rolled down his cheek as they stayed in quiet embrace. There was a time he loved the woman before him, and part of him loved her still.
“Komowo,” he finally said. “This is a huge responsibility. I will not let anyone down.” “De,” she told him still locked in embrace, “use the freedom responsibly. And if I could be selfish and selfless at the same time,” she said choking back her own tears. “Mwohae? Malhallae. (what? tell me)” he asked. “Please be nice to Ji Won-ssi. If there was someone else I would be honored to take my place, it is her.” she said unexpectedly, “Right now, Tae Pyung-a, she doesn’t deserve your confusion. Cherish her as you would cherish me. And when you go off to the military, go independently. Then, come back with your mind made up. Can you do that?” she asked of him.
“De, I think I can. Jeongmal komowo Hye Kyo-ya.” he said breaking their embrace to look into her eyes. It was rimmed with tears that she was refusing to let fall. So, he sat again, to face the window to look out the city lights. She placed her head on his shoulder, finally letting the tears fall. She sniffled quietly, as his hand gently rubbed hers, like allowing her to be free to cry in the warmth of a friend’s shoulder.
Hours later, when he finally reached home, he saw that his parents were already sleeping. He went straight to his room, checked his schedule for the next day and set his alarm for an early rise. Tae Pyung stared at the ceiling waiting for sleep to come. It was probably the longest day of his life. He was left all alone, in a single day, with no woman to call his. His heart was aching a little bit, but he was more anxious of the future. He will keep the promises he made to both women that day. They both deserve at least that. His thoughts raced until sleep finally came over and allowed him to rest.
“It feels so good.” Hae Rim thought as she frolicked in the sands of Waimea. She wrote her name in the sand and watched it be washed away by Oahu’s North Shore waves. “Hae Rim-a!! Munja wassyeong!”, her mom called out to her. She chuckled at the teasing tone her mom did when she was told her phone was ringing. “De, Omma! Coming!” she ran to where her mom sat by the umbrella on the upper shore side of the beach. She took her hand phone and checked her message, Kim Ddol Chu, it read “There’s more to Hawaii than being lazy at the beach. ATV at Kualoa Ranch. And who knows they might think you are Park Ji Eun of Hawaii 5-0 and cast you.” She laughed out loud at his message and shook her head. “Punk,” she muttered to herself. She sat next to her dad in their space on the beach. She watched the sun beginning to set on the western horizon and smiled. Her needed emotional healing was happening.
As Ji Won wrapped up her photo shoot in the streets of Los Angeles, she was told that her mobile had been ringing the entire day. When she went to check it, it was from an Unknown caller. She got a little nervous until she realized that the same number left her a message. “Ji Won, it’s Tang Wei,” it read, “are you coming back for Manchu’s premiere in Korea? Hyun Bin tells me that he didn’t send you an invite because you couldn’t come.” She smiled upon reading the message left from her newfound friend, who perhaps went through great lengths to send her the English message.
As she typed up her response that she will try, the phone rang again, still an unknown caller. She picked up knowing who it could be. “Yeoboseyo? Hello?” she said on the receiver. “Hello! Ji Wonnie!! Ra-im-ssi!!” she heard Tang Wei’s cheerful voice on the other line “You must have been very busy. So sorry if I had been calling like some deranged fan.” her friend told her. “It’s okay, Tang Wei-ssi! I am honored to have you be calling me. I received your SMS and was about to reply.” Ji Won told her honestly. “Ah, no need for that now. Just tell me now. So, will you be coming?” Tang Wei asked with urgency. “Ah that, well, I am not sure yet. I was not set to return until…” but she was cut off by her eager friend, “No, no! You must come. I have invites to give out too! Please come as my guest! I will send it to your management office. Bye bye! You take care there Ji Wonnie!!” Tang Wei said, not taking a no or a maybe for an answer.
Back in China, in front of her computer, Tang Wei typed up “You will get pwned, Hyun Bin!” to the guy she was chatting with. “And you will be paying me big bucks!” she continued. “Or you can just date her for real, you know? After all, aren’t you now a single man?” she jeered at him over chat. “Haha, let’s see. You don’t know Ji Won. If she said no, most likely, she won’t come.” he told the girl trying to play cupid. “No? Watch. And if she comes, don’t wet your pants. And at that point, please let me have the honor of wiping that grin off your face, understand?” she told him.
Days later in Kangnam, it was February 11. Hyun Bin already got word that Ji Won is back from the States. “She is back soon. I will lose my bet. But I think it’s a bet I could gladly lose.” he was thinking to himself as he paced around the room. “Hyun Bin-a, how many premieres have you done in your life for you to be pacing like that?” his manager had to ask. “Is Hye Kyo coming?” he asked his manager. His manager raised his eyebrow, “Are you asking me? Aish, you are very confusing these days.” He stared at his manager. “What? They are both my friends. I want them both there. Is that wrong?” he said defiantly. “Well, it’s not wrong, but it does invite a lot of attention,” his manager reminded him. “We’re grown-ups. We’ll know what to do. They’ll each know what to do.” he said with a lot of hope.
Still jet-lagged, Ji Won looked at the time, 3:20 pm, the clock read. She stumbled out of her bed hurriedly. “Pabo, pabo!! Almost gonna miss what I painstakingly came back home for. Pabo, pabo!!” she said slapping herself running around her room. She looked at her closet and sighed. “I’ve been gone quite a while, I forgot to tell them to take my dress to the cleaners. Aish, whatever, I will just throw on anything that’s stylish enough. I’m not the woman of the hour anyway.” So she tossed a wardrobe she picked with the pieces in her closet onto her bed and hurried to take a shower.
As she finished her shower, she looked at her mobile. Two Unknown calls. She checked for an SMS, nothing. “Must be Tang Wei.” she said, moments before her phone rang again. Unknown caller, it read still, but it was a number in Korea. She picked up the phone, “Yeoboseyo? Hello?”. “Yeoboseyo,” said the person on another line, the voice sounded familiar but Ji Won wasn’t quite sure. “Ha Ji Won-ssi, this is Hye Kyo,” the voice on the other line said.
Suddenly Ji Won felt all the awkwardness one could feel in the world. “Ah, Hye Kyo-ssi. Annyeonghaseyo! Jal isseosseoyo? (Hello! Are you well?) What can I do for you?” she said in reply. “I know you are surprised, sunbae-nim. But I’m calling to ask you a favor?" Hye Kyo said on the other line. “De, would be glad to help. Mwohae?” Ji Won asked nervously.
Why does she feel like a kid being asked by some torturous teacher again? “If you weren’t planning to come to Tae Pyung, aish, Hyun Bin’s screening today, I was going to ask you to go.” Hye Kyo told her.
Why is everyone pressuring her to come to this thing? What is so important about this? These were thoughts that came to Hae Rim’s head. “Ah, gugeo (that). De, I was going anyway. And you, will you be there? It will be nice to see you too!” Ji Won again asked nervously. “Aniyo,” Hye Kyo told her, “I had some schedule conflicts. Oh, and if you didn’t know, Tae Pyung and I are no longer a couple. But we remain friends though. He had told me how important you were to him. So I just wanted to make sure at least one of us was coming tonight.” she honestly told Ji Won. “Jeongmal mianhae, to have called in such an awkward manner. Perhaps a first-meeting would’ve been nicer. But you had been away for awhile, and I had been busy.” Hye Kyo said apologetically. “And I thought that although both of us should be there to support him, only one of us could, to avert the media attention.” Hye Kyo explained.
“Gureom, no problem! I must get ready then if I will be going for both you and me. Please do keep in touch with me again, hoobae. I would love to spend time over coffee or something when you’re not too busy.” “De, kamsahamnida, Ji Won-ssi. I will be in touch with you soon! Have fun at the premiere!” Hye Kyo cheerfully bid her goodbye.
Hearing about the state of their relationship made Hae Rim feel mixed emotions – she was glad that they were okay but she was also sad that they had to move on. Not even for a second did she feel a desire to take advantage of the situation. Her heart was too good for that. On the other hand, Hye Kyo in her filming location, asked one of her managers to go in her stead to the premiere. “Please make sure she arrives. And if she does or doesn’t, let me know. Tae Pyung needs either one of us.” she requested her manager.
At Manchu’s premiere, Ji Won came early to try and escape the attention, but Secret Garden’s popularity hadn’t completely waned just yet. Throngs of people buzzed around her arrival. “Ji Won-ssi is at the cinema.” one of his managers informed Hyun Bin. “Did she arrive unscathed? Is she okay?” he worried for her sake. “Well, what do you expect? The fans were all over her. But we’re told that she is fine. She will be seated with the rest of your co-stars.” An SMS came in through his mobile phone, “PWNED!” it said. He chuckled upon receiving the message, apparently Tang Wei was already also informed about Ji Won’s arrival as well.
In the theater, his eyes scanned the crowd but instantly found what they were looking for the moment he saw Kim Sa Rang in her seat, because to her left was what he was hoping to see, Jeon Hae Rim. His lips naturally form a wide smile. And he felt Tang Wei rib him slightly, “I told you I’ll wipe that grin off your face, remember? I’ll switch places with someone else, so I can watch you be a little boy” she teased him. He smiled again, almost turning red. The entire time he was onstage prior to the screening, he can’t try even once to avert his eyes from that one spot. Kim Sa Rang whispered to Ji Won “What is he doing, eonni? He’s getting you in trouble, eh?” so Sa Rang glared at Hyun Bin in defense of her sunbae.
As the screening ended, before he went back onstage to thank those who came, he once again looked her way. She was still there. And that made him feel better. As the crowd was piling out, he sends her a quick SMS, “Please come to the coffee after-party. No cappucinos involved, promise.” She laughed quietly when she read his message. “De, I am coming. I am jet lagged anyway, I am not yet sleepy.” She confirmed her attendance. “Yay! Please wait for me. I’m just going to finish up a few things.” read his other message. She looked at him at where he was standing, nodded at him and smiled.
At the cafe, they were surrounded by some people. Private and personal guests of the stars she was told. Hye Kyo’s manager came up behind her and tapped her shoulder, “Ji Won-ssi, Hye Kyo-ssi wanted to give you this” She looked quizzically at what she was given, a note card. She opened it discreetly and read, “It is nice to stand alongside with you in Tae Pyung’s life. Thank you for coming for both of us tonight. And sunbae-nim, whatever happens, I hope for just one thing, that at the end we are all happy. Have a great time!” The message was sincere and warm. She signaled to Hye Kyo’s manager to come back, “Please tell her we are going to have lunch when she is free. Can you tell me when that is?” she whispered to the manager. “De, I can coordinate this with your manager if you would like. She would love that,” the manager obliged. She smiled. It was a good night.
Hyun Bin entered the room and was eager to see his friend. He sat across from her and saw how cheerful she was to be there. “I’m glad you came,” he sincerely told her. “De, didn’t I tell you that in one way or another I’ll show you I’ll support you?” she said. And with that they chatted about the lost time they had, and also his excitement about going to Berlin. It was her turn to give him advice on the festival, after all she made the same trip last year for Haeundae.
All around them people saw the ease and joy they have around being with each other. Two great friends with an electric chemistry. Two individuals who would dare be honest with their feelings. Two hearts that can someday light a fire when they dare cross that line at the right time. Only time and destiny can tell. He needed the space and time to find himself. As she needed the same to keep her self-worth and respect. They are each other’s best friend, and nothing’s better than that right now.
Because for now, this is all they could dare. In a few months, a year or two, that can all change. Because someday, maybe he would deserve her. Maybe then, he would hold her, like she is the only woman in the world, for him. Right now, he would just hold on to her, in ways that are right.
For now, this is the best, and they are sure.