“Don’t you dare speak to me about coherence.” The words sound with acid clarity in the sudden silence that had swept over them. As though her emotions had stolen the sound from the night. Leaving it silent and empty, aching for noise. As he ached for a relief from the rollercoaster of what they flimsily called a relationship.
“Buin.” He tries to articulate himself in a manner that she will understand, a manner she will want to understand. “Hye Jung.”
In the grey light of the underground garage, her face looks as colourless as the cracked texture of the walls. Her hair hangs limp and her eyes are filled to the brim with tears and he realizes with something close to pain, disappointment. She takes a deep breath, her shoulders square and she looks up and meets his eyes. She looks away for a second, frowns a little, wets her lips and then meets his eyes again. He is frozen in that instant, reading in her expression the words she is going to say. “It was a mistake, Hyunjoong ah. We made a mistake.”
He swallows. Calls himself a thousand different names because he can’t tell her that she’s wrong, that all he has ever wanted to do is love her. Eternity is the tear that loses its battle with her control and starts its lonely journey down her cheek. She wipes it with the back of her hand, a brusque action. “So let’s pretend it never happened.”
“Buin…” And even at the end, he can’t stop calling her.
“Don’t call me that anymore.” She meets his eyes one last time and their gazes catch and Hyunjoong damns himself a million different ways as his feet take him nearer to her. She puts her hands up, halting his approach, shocking him still. “No.” That’s all she says and that’s all she needs to. She turns and walks away from him without another word and damn him again, he lets her.
It started when he was first introduced to her. The very first time he saw her; talked to her, he felt it. That interest, that curiousity about her that was more than just a simple curiousity for a colleague. No, he wanted to know what made her laugh as she did and more secretly, if he could make her laugh as she did. With abandon. A careless disregard for the rules of etiquette that kept other women in his company shy and repressed. Hwang Bo Hye Jung was not afraid to be herself, all of herself at any time. He supposed it was because she was older than him that she could treat him in a casual manner. As if being her junior had robbed him of his manliness. Had rendered him genderless. And truth be told, that rankled him.
Time passed, as it was wont to do. His interest in her was buried in the face of other more immediate concerns; work, fame; money; fans. Each an unreality realized, a goal that hadn’t been set met. Hyunjoong found himself growing and changing from the prices extracted from him by fame and the rewards granted him by that same fame. His entire world coalesced on the songs they sang and the records they sold and it was as though he was turning into a musical note forming a beat, the rhythm of the sort of music he didn’t want to make.
One day, following the edicts of the President of his agency, he attended a meeting which would change him forever. He hadn’t known much about the nature of the program that he was being considered for. Except that it was a reality show where he would have to pretend to be married to some stranger.
Hyunjoong remembers the conference room where the meeting room was held. The walls were painted cream; dirty white is what Hyunjoong would call it. There were curtains pulled aside on one wall to reveal floor to ceiling windows. The desk was long and coloured a russet brown as were the chairs. The carpet was soft under his feet and it was entirely empty. His manager had abandoned him to take a call before the meeting and the people conducting the meeting had not yet arrived. Hyunjoong had sat in the empty conference room, fiddling with his phone. Hero had called him and he remembers saying in response to a question, “Nah, I’m just killing time until the meeting starts.”
“’As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.’” An amused voice had said from behind him and he had swiveled in his chair. Startled.
“Excuse me?” He had sputtered while hanging up on Hero.
“Henry David Thoreau said that.” Hwang Bo Hye Jung had said to him with a smile. “Annyonghaseyo.” She had extended a hand to him and he had taken it mutely, shaken it. Replied in kind. Later he would wonder if he had looked as shocked as he had felt. Because seeing her, so close, so warm, so…beautiful had reminded him in a rush of all the reasons he had spent nights thinking about her. He had chalked the experience down to his extreme youth, that sort of prickly feeling you get during the first blush of a crush but years had passed and he had thought that he had grown up and become suave enough that feelings like these wouldn’t affect him anymore.
Apparently, he had been wrong.
The first instant he realized that was when his heart tried to run out of his chest at the news that she had been chosen to play his wife. Wife. He had stared wide eyed, dry mouthed at the producers and then at her unable to croak out a word. She had interpreted his silence as an unwillingness to work with her but it was kind of difficult to talk when your heart has decided that it wants to do catapults of extreme excitement. They told him to treat her as a Noona, tease her about her age, as a sunbae. He must have heard them in some corner of his mind but the majority of his attention was focused on ‘wife’. He had never even dared to think of her as a girlfriend and these people were telling him that she was his wife. Pretend wife yes but wife.
It was like waking up to a week of weekends. Or depending on your taste of pleasure, and Hyunjoong’s was, getting to sleep in till the afternoon every day.
Shooting for the show had been twice a week and extremely awkward in the beginning. Hyunjoong had difficulty with strangers, yes, even strangers he had dreamt about. But getting to know her, her eccentricities, her quirks, her thoughts and ideas had been worth his sleepless nights when even the promise of dreams didn’t tempt him to surrender his conscience to Mobius. He strategized his moves, his words and his each action around her. He would casually grab her hand, pat her cheek, sniff her hair, looking at her an extra second, and add heat to his gaze. And as he got to know her better, he learned to read her shyness behind her bluster, her uncertainty of his feelings and of him and the fact that she could be insecure about him made him feel like he was on top of the world. For all of two seconds. His greatest coup was getting her to notice him as more than her hoobae, her junior. He wanted – no, needed her to look at him as a man.
When the moment came for him to confess his true feelings, he did so with a fluidity and a confidence that still surprised him. Because the truth was that if anyone had looked inside his heart at that moment, they would have seen the scared little boy trying to grasp desperately what the man inside him wanted. Her.
They had been shooting at a farm in the rural area outside Seoul. He had planned an ‘event’ for her at the urging of the show’s P.D who figured that a little romance this far in the game wouldn’t hurt the ratings. He hadn’t really needed the urging but it had given him an excuse. It had been well executed too. She had liked the cranes he had spent hours folding – hours when he should have been sleeping. But the bright sheen in her eyes which was her way of crying without tears had been, as corny as it sounds, enough. When the shooting ended and it was time to return to Seoul, he had asked her to drive back with him. That itself had been the initial confession. If she said yes, then he had a chance. If she said no, he would turn up his charm and try again. Because this far in the game, rejection wasn’t an answer Hyunjoong was prepared to accept.
She had agreed, surprise colouring her voice huskier than usual. He had insisted on driving and as they navigated their way down roads blushing with the dark, Hyunjoong had coolly turned into an unpaved road leading off from the highway, ignoring her startled look and following questions. He had driven until he had gone enough distance that the sounds and life of the outside world receded, capturing them in absolute darkness and a silence punctuated by his breathing and hers. He had leaned over to turn on the interior light and she had gasped and moved away. The warm light had spilled out over her hair, forehead, lighting up the look in her eyes, down her cheeks and his eyes had inevitably snagged on the gloss of her lips.
The atmosphere had become tense, anticipatory and Hyunjoong had leaned even closer to her, unable to stop himself. Later he’d be full of recriminations, later he’d scold himself for forgetting the pretty words but at this moment, right now he couldn’t have stopped himself from kissing her if a gun had been held to his head. Too cliché? But clichés fell apart in that second before he sealed his fate. This moment he hadn’t dared to think about. This…his brain had shut down temporarily. Her lips were soft under his and he kissed her softly, carefully bestowing the same attention on her that honey bees do on the flowers they steal nectar from. He had lifted his head and found her eyes wide and dreamy and he had kissed her again. She had pushed him after a brief touch and he had pulled back.
“The words I said…back there…I meant them.” He had told her. “You know…?”
The look in her eyes had sharpened and she had opened her mouth to turn him away; he knew that. “I’m not asking you for anything more than what we have right now.” He had curtailed any objections on her part. “Give me now. You can do that…right?”
Perhaps it had been the moon that chose this moment to come out from behind the clouds or perhaps it had been the crickets with their harmony but whatever it was, she had licked her lips which signaled her nervousness and then nodded her head. One quick bob of her head and colour had flushed her cheeks and she unable to meet his eyes, uncharacteristically shy, had turned away to look at that same moon, hanging pendulously in a sky that had seemed to Hyunjoong suddenly full of stars.
He had held her hand all the way back to Seoul.
The days that had followed his “night whispers” as she called it were...well…incredible. The show gave them an excuse to spend as much time together as they could without arousing suspicion from other people. Of course there were speculations, he couldn’t entirely divorce the true reality from the pseudo reality of the show and if his feelings for her were obvious in their interactions onscreen, they let it be. He would write her silly notes and to his delight, she would respond in the same playful manner, letting him see a side of her that was not exposed for general viewing. A softer side that only he knew about. He reveled in his discoveries of her, her opinions delighted him and sometimes maddened him. Even though she must have felt something for him, she didn’t let those warm feelings stop her from acting the sunbae when he was wrong. And he had appreciated it. Appreciated her frankness and honesty. He would kiss her quickly behind a door or duck into an empty room in the studio; hold her hand under tables; give her impromptu hugs that would scare her of being discovered by others.
She had said to him once, “Why are you always touching me?”
“Are you supposed to ask a man who has been wandering in the desert why he is so thirsty?” He had replied with a straight face.
“Yes, if there are oases surrounding him, there is no reason he should be thirsty.” She had shot back and he had made a face at her reply.
When his management had told him of the drama role offered to him, he had been both euphoric and at the same time concerned about what it meant for his current roles. He had found her asleep in a van at the shooting site and confessed to her. That accepting the role would mean leaving this show and he didn’t know if he was strong enough to do so. She had cupped his face in her warm hands and pressed a kiss on his lips.
“Go for it.” She had whispered, her eyes alight, celebrating his fortune.
“Buin…it means leaving you.” He had whispered back, the words evoking a cold contradiction of emotions in him.
She had bit her lip, thinking before speaking. Then she had sighed. “Endings are inevitable, Shillang.”
He had winced and reared back with the sudden pain her words had caused him. “You asked me for “now,” Hyunjoong. We did not discuss forever.”
He had caught her hands in his and his eyes had begged mercy. “If you end this, I will die.” Melodramatic? Certainly. Sincere? Unfortunately so. At that time, he had really felt that he would die without her. “How about this…” He had swallowed and forged on ahead despite her silence. “One date after I’m done with the drama. One date like a normal couple. And then you can decide. Okay?” His words usually fell apart around her. His poetry was a love letter that had unraveled into words and the emotions he wanted to convince her of remained heavy in his chest. He had stared for what seemed an eternity into her eyes as she waged a million internal battles, doing his best to convince her with his gaze alone.
Her “okay” when it had come had been soft, a whisper he had barely heard over the rush of blood in his veins. And he had reacted in his inimitable fashion, singing loudly and he is ashamed to admit now his profession being what it is, a bit out of tune.
They had parted ways on the show for the world to see and judge and he had flown away to do what she had urged him to do. He had worked hard, kissed other women, won accolades and the first day he had the chance, he had called her: ready to claim the date, ready to claim her. She had arrived at the place he had chosen, a nearly deserted with a flushed face on which a smile had bloomed uncertainly. He had been wearing dark glasses and a hat on his head that entrapped any errant strands of his conspicuously coloured hair. They had stared at each other, both hesitant to break a silence borne of having too many things to say and not knowing how exactly to say them. He had stepped forward, hand extended almost unconsciously to grab hers, to touch her once again when the fascinated gaze of a passerby had frozen him. He had straightened up, keeping his demeanor almost excruciatingly casual, knowing that one wrong move would give him away. She, perceptive as always to his every changing mood had nodded once and walked on ahead. As if she didn’t know him and he had let her, as if he didn’t know her.
That failed attempt at a date was only a precursor to other failed dates that would always frustrate his desire for some time with her. Fame was exacting its heaviest price from him and there was not a single thing he could do about it. He’d talk to her on the phone in the morning and float through the days. He wouldn’t be able to meet her when they planned to because their schedules were the whim of creative geniuses who apparently had no respect for time and he would spend the entire day glaring at everything and everyone who dared to irk him.
Then Youngseng had told him of Kangin’s birthday party. And how he could take a date if he wished and no one else would know or care. That’s what he had said and Hyunjoong had done everything in his gratitude except promise him his first born. An honor that Youngseng considered dubious. But Hyunjoong hadn’t been listening.
It had taken a lot to convince her to go. He had tried everything from promising to be good for the rest of his life to threatening to tell everyone of their relationship. The former she had snorted at and the latter had almost caused a fight. But in the end she had relented. He had picked her up that evening and now when he thinks about it, that is just when everything had gained an edge of surreality. She had been dressed in something pretty, silver and more revealing than he had liked but they had discussed his dislike for her clothes in an adult manner. Which meant that she had told him that while she appreciated and understood some of his thoughts, what she wore and when she wore them to a certain extent, was her choice. And that if he couldn’t understand and accept it, well, there were other men out there who would.
He had lost that battle. And so when he had looked at her with a suddenly thick throat and eyes that seemed to be stuck to one particular area of her anatomy, he had a sudden urge to march her right back inside the house and demand that she change. Not something that would have gone over too well but now that he thinks about it, Hyunjoong wishes he had stopped the night from beginning. At least that fight could be settled with a few kisses and some false promises to become less domineering and more accepting.
As they had driven to their destination, which was a very posh, a very private hotel downtown, he had kept sneaking looks in her direction. And she had finally smiled at him and told him to look in front because she didn’t want to die prematurely in an accident because he couldn’t keep his eyes to himself.
“It’s difficult, Buin.” He had muttered. “We are finally together and we are not fighting. It’s a miracle.”
“No, Hyunjoong.” She had rolled her eyes. “It will be a miracle if we can get there on time and without any accidents.”
At that time he hadn’t known that the greatest test of his life was waiting and if he had been told that he would fail it, he wouldn’t have believed it.
They had taken the elevator to the top floor of the hotel. Kangin had rented out the penthouse and even though it was slightly hedonistic, it was understood and even expected of the young celebrity culture that was all about one’s worth and how lavishly one showed their worth. Hyunjoong had been so excited that it was almost tangible. His excitement was a smoky longing for something he was not yet ready to articulate. They had gotten off the elevator and walked towards the hosts; exchanging greetings along the way. They were the celebrated Lettuce couple and seeing them together had become somewhat a norm for society. Nobody had yet questioned their relationship too closely though everyone was curious.
“Hyunjoong! You’re finally here!” Kangin is a little overbearing, a little loud and somewhat obnoxious. He’s traditional and his ideas on life, love and the roles of women as such are traditional. He had greeted Hyunjoong with a hug and accepted the present he had held out to him. Then he had focused on Hwangbo who had been standing slightly behind Hyunjoong talking to Heechul who had come up to greet her. “Ah, don’t tell me you and Hwangbo Noona came together?” Kangin had said loudly enough that he had attracted the attention of several other friends and colleagues standing by. Hyunjoong had frozen. But before he could speak, Kangin had continued, “I thought that Ahjummas weren’t your style, Hyunjoong.”
Later, Hyunjoong would want to kill the him in the past because the thousand different ways he could have reacted to the words, he had chosen the one designed to damn him. He froze. And when his silence became his answer, Heechul stepped up. “Get your eyes checked, Kangin. I know you’re getting old but to call Noona an Ahjummah?” He had nudged Hyunjoong on the shoulder and Hyunjoong had turned, almost blindly. Not comprehending what had just happened. “Thanks for bringing Noona as I asked.” Heechul had lied smoothly, saving both of them but more essentially, saving her. “I’ll take over from here.”
And he had walked away, his arm loosely around Hwangbo’s waist and she had let him after she gave Kangin his present and a tight smile. Hyunjoong, she didn’t look at. In fact, she had spent the entire night not looking at him and Hyunjoong had been confused. What had he done? Why hadn’t he replied to Kangin’s stupid words because that’s what they were? Later Kangin introduced his cousin to him and the girl had spent the night glued to his side and Hyunjoong had barely noticed because his mind was in chaos and the trickle of a cold realization had turned the drink in his hand to vinegar and the food in his mouth had tasted like sawdust.
An hour later, Hwangbo had come to find him.
“Take me home.” She had said and when Kangin protested she had replied, “A hoobae needs to learn to take his responsibilities seriously. He brought me and so he’ll take me home. Then he’s free to come back here.”
Hyunjoong had jumped to his feet, erringly thinking that whatever he had done was forgiven. He hadn’t known the true reason she asked him to drive her home.
She maintained her silence and soon they were nearing her apartment complex. Hyunjoong had cast several nervous glances at her face but couldn’t make himself start the conversation. He drove through the entrance to the underground parking garage of the apartment complex, parked and turned the engine off.
“Buin…” He finally said cautiously. “I’m sorry.”
She had untangled herself from the seatbelt and reached for the door handle. He had acted swiftly and without thinking and reached out a hand to stop her from leaving. “Let me go, Hyunjoong.” Her voice was controlled, tightly controlled.
“I froze. I knew what I was supposed to say but I froze. I’m sorry.” Words rushed out of his mouth in a desperate haste to mend what he had broken.
She went entirely still and her chin rose a notch. That damned pride of hers was asserting itself. “It’s okay…we all make mistakes, Hyunjoong.”
His shoulders had slumped in untimely relief but she wasn’t done yet. “But that doesn’t mean that the mistakes aren’t costly.”
“What are you saying?” He took his hand away from her.
She gave him a long, considering look and then got out of the car. He opened his door and got out too. Waiting. “Do you know how I felt when you didn’t say anything to Kangin?”
“I’m sorry.” He repeated again, helplessly.
She shook her head. “Apologies are not what I’m looking for. I’m not punishing you, Hyunjoong. There wasn’t anything specifically horrible about what you didn’t do. In fact, it helped me decide.”
“What are you saying?” Hyunjoong frowned, feeling the weight of that decision condense the atmosphere with anticipation. And yes, dread.
“I’m saying that I don’t think you are ready for any sort of relationship.” As was her style, she pulled no punches and she gentled no words.
“I am. It was a mistake, damnit. How many times do I have to apologise.”
She remained silent.
“We…our tempers are…we are not being coherent right now.” Hyunjoong was tired of this emotional see-saw.
She straightened up and he could feel the rage radiating off her. And he had known that they had passed a boundary neither of them were cognizant setting.
And that was how he had arrived at this moment. Two weeks after the event. And if you are curious, no, he didn’t die. This is not to say he didn’t do a superb rendition of a corpse. He did. But life, as is the old adage, goes on.
“You’re telling yourself that life goes on, aren’t you?” Hero, Hyunjoong’s best friend walks into his room and sits down on the bed opposite the one Hyunjoong is lying on.
“Have you come to berate me for my stupidity?” Hyunjoong sends Hero a bloodshot stare designed to stop any further communication occurring.
“No. I have come to take you out.” Hero stands up, indicating that Hyunjoong should follow him. “You might think it nice and dandy to wallow in your misery but your band mates are becoming suicidal.” Hero rubs his chin. “Or should it be homicidal.”
“Leave me alone.” Hyunjoong buries his head underneath his pillow. But Hero is unfamiliar with the concept of mercy and nags until Hyunjoong is dressed and following him out of their apartment which has been wisely deserted. No one wants to cross paths with Hyunjoong in a rage. Supper with a shark might be safer.
“Where are we going?” Hyunjoong finally thinks to ask when he’s strapped in the seat beside Hero and weaving through the traffic.
“A club.” Hero is being sparse with his words.
“Club? I’m not in the mood to party, man.” Hyunjoong scowls and looks out at the crowded streets of Seoul. His mood gets blacker as he notices all the couples.
“The newly crowned Ahjummah is there.” Hero says with a brief look at Hyunjoong’s face.
“Ahjummah?” Hyunjoong frowns and then winces.
“Gossip, you know?” Hero explains with a shrug. “It travels fast. The entire industry knows that she was called by that bast- er, Kangin and you didn’t say anything to refute him. I’m afraid her admirers may be using your face for target practice. I know Micky’s pissed.”
“Micky?” Hyunjoong focuses for the first time, his senses recognizing the deep thrill that danger called her own. “Why was Micky pissed?”
“Oh don’t be dumb, dude. You know that Micky has carried a torch for Noona for since…ever.” Hero changes lanes smoothly navigating the roads.
“I thought he was joking.” Hyunjoong frowns.
“You hoped he was joking.” Hero shoots back.
“Ah.” Hyunjoong recognizes the truth. “I suppose. He’s mad at me?”
“In a way, for hurting her I suppose. But I think he’s pleased too.” Hero has no compunction in airing his opinions when he feels the need to.
“Why is pleased?” Hyunjoong really doesn’t like where the conversation is going.
“Well, it means you are out of the picture now.” An innocent smile accompanies his words.
“Like hell it does!” Hyunjoong clenches the door handle, poised to run out of the car and into the club on some reclaiming mission.
Hero puts a restraining hand on Hyunjoong’s shoulder. “Let me park properly, for God’s sake.” He parks while Hyunjoong waits bristling with impatience.
“Before you go marching in, let me ask you a question and I want you to answer it properly. Honestly. Can you do that for me?” There is no sign of that innocent smile on Hero’s face. He’s serious and the moment warrants none.
“What is it?” Hyunjoong asks warily.
“Do you really love Noona or was what you felt for her a leftover effect from your enforced proximity during WGM?”
“I love her.” Hyunjoong answered almost immediately.
“Then why in the world didn’t you speak up when that as- Kangin said what he did?” Hero frowns. “I don’t get it.”
“You see…” Hyunjoong rubs a hand over his face. “She hasn’t said anything about what she feels for me. And if I said that yes we were together and we came together and…you know what I mean? Everyone would know that we were together and I don’t…didn’t know if she wanted me to confirm what everyone was wondering about. Am I making sense?”
“Barely.” Hero grins. “But it’s okay. I get it. Let’s go.”
Club Nyx is located on the posh side of downtown and is the usual destination of young celebrities who wish to evade fans on a night out for the sole purpose of hedonistic pleasure. There are bouncers at the entrance who ensure that the only people entering are those who can afford the decidedly expensive drinks and food that’s served there. Reporters and gossip hounds are not welcome inside and anyone caught taking pictures of whatever is going on is treated in a manner that skirts the blurry edges of the law. It takes a lot to provide privacy for people who are unused to it and as such the club is heavily frequented by them.
Hyunjoong follows Hero inside, looking around at the people on the dance floor and sitting on the edges of it in the booths provided. He doesn’t see her or Micky. A frown settles itself right in the middle of his forehead and his head aches slightly at the loud music.
“Here.” Hero leads through people who smile, murmur greetings, call out coquettish invitations. Hero returns some of them while Hyunjoong pretends he is in a jungle wading through a fleet of very noisy, vibrantly coloured parrots. Finally Hero stops at the back of the club, in a dimmer area further away from the dance floor. There is a private booth and there, seated comfortably beside Micky is Hwangbo Hye Jung. She hasn’t noticed their arrival; most of her attention on whatever Micky’s showing her. Micky who is sitting way too close to her.
Hero opens the door to the booth and enters. Micky looks up, nodding at Hero and glowering at Hyunjoong. Not very much of a welcome but Hyunjoong wasn’t expecting one. His eyes are drawn almost against their will to the woman who is pretending he doesn’t matter. She’s smiling at him with her best “I am a Sunbae so I have to be polite” smile. The same smile he has seen on her face when she greets men she hates. The knowledge is not very comforting.
“Hero, why did you bring him here?” Micky asks.
“Because he’s my friend and even if he’s stupid, he needs some intervention. Once in a while.” Hero replies easily, flopping down on the opposite seat. “Sit.” He pulls down Hyunjoong beside him. “Talk.”
There is a flush in her cheeks and her eyes are lustrous with things she won’t say. Her hair is softly curling around her face which seems thinner than when he saw her last. Her lips are a glossy peach and he wonders if she has kissed anyone since. The thought fans a banked rage and he sits up.
“Okay, let’s go Micky.” Hero gets his cue and stands up. Micky follows albeit reluctantly. “Noona,” He pauses at the door, “Don’t settle for him if you don’t want to. He’ll live.”
Then they are gone and there’s just him, her and the silence. At least the silence is a familiar emptiness. She shifts a bit in her seat, her discomfort obvious and Hyunjoong gets up. Startled, she looks up and moves away from him when he settles down in the seat beside her.
“Noona,” He says softly, willing her to look at him. “Do you love me?”
His words have a ponderous effect on the silence. It becomes frayed and fraught with the weight of things that haven’t been said yet, things that should have been said before this question had been asked. She looks at him finally and then almost immediately looks away. She wets her lips in a nervous gesture that Hyunjoong has learned to decipher as her inability to elucidate herself in a manner she likes. Then just as he is thinking that she won’t reply at all, she asks, “Can I be honest?”
Hyunjoong nods. “Please.”
“I have never thought that age is a viable factor in the matters of love. I would have no problem loving a man six years older than me as I would not have a problem loving someone younger.” She pauses and turns away from him, as though trying to hold herself together by threads that only bind when he isn’t present. “When you asked me to be with you, I thought it was because you had mistook the camaraderie and the affection that grew between us during the filming as something more. I thought that it would be okay to humour you with your request because you are fun, charming and I liked you. I liked you enough to be drawn into your world where everything is a game and gravity is a sin.”
She stops talking and Hyunjoong waits.
“I expected you to move on with the ending of the show and found myself surprised, happy when you insisted on calling me, wanting to take me out. So I let you. Because I believed myself adult enough to steel myself against any future expectations of you. But that day when you didn’t move to say a word for or against me, I was hurt. It hurt me unbearably and I wanted to drown in my own fury that I let a child like you affect me so much. I was angry and in my anger I realized that I had been stupid.”
“What?” Hyunjoong blinks, realizing that she has said something very important. She meets his eyes and he sees himself reflected in the tears she is too proud to let fall.
“I fell in love you and by doing so, I made myself vulnerable. I did what I promised myself not to do.” She takes a deep breath and then sighs. “It is too difficult.”
“I’m really sorry, Buin.” Hyunjoong dares to take her hand in his. His fingers curl around hers and the warmth of her skin heats his. “I do love you.”
“I know.” She replies, almost embarrassed.
“And I am sorry.”
“I know that too.” She is smiling slightly.
“Will you forgive me?” He almost whispers.
“I really don’t care about what Kangin called me.” She shrugs. “What mattered was what you did.”
“I know.” Hyunjoong nods.
“But at the same time, I cannot really blame you for freezing. You probably didn’t want to give anything away.”
“So you aren’t mad?”
“Oh, I am mad. Of course I am.” She narrows her eyes at him. “But I was wrong to call it a mistake.”
“You were.” Hyunjoong nods firmly. “That hurt.”
“I’m sorry.” She sighs suddenly and then puts her arms around his neck, pulling him close to her in a hug. Hyunjoong pulls her closer, feeling her heart beat faster against his chest and her hair tickling his face. Perhaps love was like this, dramatic and melodramatic, peaceful and chaotic and everything in between. She had been a wish he had made upon a star that hadn’t fell and now at the end of a story that he hadn’t wanted told, she was in his arms and if he were poet he would write an ode to the life that had granted him this grace.