Shin Ji Hyun
They say mirror has two faces and so does everything else. There’s life and death. Love and hate. Happiness and sadness. There are even people with two faces. It’s just the silly me who don’t understand that very simple concept.
My ability to see and sense ugly things that aren’t visible to naked eyes is non-exist. I take things at their face value. If you act like you love me, I’ll believe you love me. If you look like a nice person it wouldn’t cross my mind to think otherwise. Reading between the lines or trying to see what is hidden behind someone’s smiles and sweet talks are not my forte.
Although my brain power is nothing to talk about, the fact that I’m not smart doesn’t bother me in the least. If being smart means one has to deceive other people I’d rather stay stupid. And if being smart enables one to see bad thing in everything one encounters how could one be happy?
To me the world is a beautiful place with colorful rainbow, sunshine, background music and wonderful people. As long as I can remember most of my memories are about happy things. We don’t have tragic events or mysterious diseases in our family.
Well, they also say ignorance is a bliss.
Sometimes, like for a split second I do wonder whether I would rather stay ignorant than knowing things that would hurt me. But only for a split second for I’d rather experience every excruciating and heartbreaking pain that I have been through all over again than not knowing the meaning of true love which I finally found albeit the hard way.
Being a happy girl that I am, I always take love for granted. Subconsciously assuming that it’s a second nature for other people to love me. Hence, me being loved is not a big deal. I also don’t think much of the fact that I never experience any real pains.
I guess in my own way I have become rather ungrateful of my too wonderful life. Who knows had I been more aware of my surroundings I don’t have to experience the gut wrenching pain that makes one wants to die and is left without hope or desire to live.
I’m not saying I begrudge what happens to me but it is only natural when bad things happen one looks for reasons why they happen just to see whether the persons who have those bad lucks deserve to be so unlucky.
In my case the only thing that I could think of to justify what happens to me is my tendency to meddle and get involved when I see injustices or misfortune that befalls the less fortunate regardless of the fact whether they want my interference or not. Other than that I can’t think of anything else.
I’m not evil. I never do things that would hurt or harm others in anyway. At least not intentionally. The pain and suffering of other people hurt me in a way that I can’t explain. It is not a mere sympathy that makes me empathized with the less fortunate. Their pains bother and stay with me until I take action to rectify it which is why I have a tendency to meddle.
Most people have ambitions and dreams to pursue but all I ever want is to make other people love this world and enjoy their lives as much as I do and experiencing the kind of happiness that I’m experiencing.
Because even then I know that life is too short and precious to be wasted in sadness. If I go for a beauty queen pageant I could go on stage and not only confidently but convincingly as well answer: ‘World’s Peace’.
Without meaning to pat myself on the back I think overall I’m what most people will call a good person. So, do I deserve what happens to me? If we think only bad people deserve to get bad things, perhaps not.
But who says the good people shouldn’t be touched by painful things and that the good things and happiness are exclusively theirs? Don’t good and bad things happen to everybody regardless of the fact whether they are being good or not? And it doesn’t matter what kind of person we are in the end we all want to be happy.
The problem is although everybody wants to be happy some people think that it’s okay to hurt other people in order to grab their own happiness. And to them happiness is equal to having a lot of money. They wouldn’t even mind trading their soul for that wealth. I guess that’s why they are called bad people. And I learn of their existence the hard way.
I can see I’m digressing again when I’m trying to tell my story in an orderly manner but really, if only I know that they are not as happy as they seem to be I would be more than happy to give them my fortune.
I don’t care if I become the poorest person on earth as long as I’m loved by my father, mother and my best friends In Jung and Soe Woo. What scares me the most is not poverty but being alone and unloved. Fortunately everybody loves me.
Having said that I must confess that I don’t have a boyfriend. Aside from my beloved father there’s no other man who loves me. I know it’s hard to believe but that's the truth.
In case you think I’m downright ugly and could only use my wealth to buy myself a man I need to be clear about my looks. I may not have In Jung’s height and sexy looks but my petite body is formed in perfect proportion in all the right places. As for my face, without exaggerating it could be described as angelic.
In theory, men should be attracted to me without even knowing how much money I have in my account but for some mysterious reasons none is. Fortunately, I don’t care that I don’t have a boyfriend. It doesn’t even bother me that I never fall in love with any man either.
I have my two best friends and my parents whom I love and who love me back more than any man ever could. My life is already perfect the way it is. However, the power high above seems to think differently.
A princess needs a prince to make her life complete. Thus, it gives me a fairy tale romance and my very own knight in shining armor. A prince charming who’ll slay the dragon to save me. My prince charming being a perfect gift did the dragon slaying thing by saving my life.
That fateful day when I met Kang Min Ho oppa I got the chance to experience the romantic meeting of a damsel in distress and her gallant savior just like in romantic stories and movies. Although in reality there was nothing romantic about that day. I was half dead with cold and nearly senseless with fear.
Anyway, I’m starting my story with today the day I’m getting engaged to my Knight in Shining Armor. But for the first time ever things are not working in my favor. I should have known then that things are just going from bad to worse. That my charmed life is ended.
The traffic doesn’t seem to know that I’m having my engagement today. It decides to show its ugliest face. Our car can’t move. Not even an inch. Everybody else who is also in a big hurry stretches their necks out of their cars’ window trying to have a look at what has caused the jam.
I start to get anxious. I can’t be late on this important day. I can’t ruin my own engagement party by being late. Everything should be perfect on this special day.
Park Soe Woe has already jumped out of the car in her desperate attempt to have a better look. Shin In Jung who sits next to me also stretches her elegant neck out.
After sticking my neck out too and see the long line of cars in front of us, I no longer interested in finding out the cause. I’m too stressed. Whatever causes this dreadful traffic the result is we’re stuck!
I cry in dismay. Helplessly, I turn to In Jung. She is always cool headed. Not to mention competent, efficient and effective.
“What should I do? What should I do In Jung? I’m going to be late!”
I look at her. Just looking. In normal time my brain isn’t the quickest there is. Under duress it goes into a jam-mode comparable only with this traffic.
In Jung looks at me in exasperation then says impatiently.
“I said, get out!”
What do I think? Of course we have to get out of this car. Sitting here isn’t an option. So, the three of us start to run as fast as we can. Soe Woe with our bags in her hands while In Jung and I try to keep my gown from tripping me either flat on my back or on my nose.
As we run along the street other people turn their heads to look at our trio curiously. I feel like I’m shooting a scene in Runaway Bride who in my case actually gives her best run towards her groom. Despite my predicament I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.
“How could you still laugh at a moment like this?”
Asked Soe Woe in disbelief.
“It’s really funny. Doesn’t it feel like we’re filming a movie to you?”
I try to explain but running, laughing, talking and holding one’s dress at the same time are not an easy task.
“We only have 10 minutes more!”
Warns In Jung behind me.
I’m not good at multi-tasking. So, while running, laughing, talking and holding my dress and trying to listen to In Jung’s warning I forget to pay attention to the pavement and accidentally stick my high heel into a hole.
I automatically cry out when I fall backward. In Jung promptly holds my back from behind while Soe Woe drops all our bags then swiftly turns to grab my waist and enquires worriedly.
“Are you okay? You’re not hurt are you?”
I’m fine but my high heel isn’t that fortunate. I feel like crying when I look at the heel of my lovely shoes. And almost burst into tears when I realize what it means. I couldn’t go to an engagement party without shoes. I couldn’t go there barefooted.
“In Jung, she’s crying again!”
Soe Woe sounds like she’s about to cry herself.
“Hey, cry baby, stop crying. Stop crying okay? Here, put these on!”
I don’t even realize I cry until In Jung tells me to stop. I look at her in a daze as she takes her shoes off.
“Hurry up! Put them on!”
“But…what about you?”
I stare at her bare feet but In Jung quickly herds us down the street. Soe Woe runs again with all our bags while In Jung informs my mother on the phone that we’re just right in front of the building and will be there in a flash. She then forces me to run faster.
“I keep stepping on my dress.”
I try to explain why I couldn’t run any faster.
Without much ado In Jung raises my gown to my thighs.
I gasp in shock and turn my head to see whether we’re being watched while instantly trying to put it back down belatedly realizing that In Jung is right. What is a little skin compare to being late or sent to hospital for treatment from tripping injuries.
With In Jung holding the front of my dress we start running again.
He tries to get busy with his sketches. Focusing all his attention on designs that could easily give him millions of dollars if he ever decides to allow them to be used by others. However, the probability of that happening is close to zero as he has no interest in making money and much less in interacting with other people.
On the outside he might look like he’s completely immersed in his drawings but his mood is far from good. Not that it could ever be described as cheerful in his best day anyway, but it turns decidedly worse when Hae Won barges in carrying a suit and calmly tells him that he has to wear it.
He hates suits.
“You want me to wear that?!”
He shouts in disbelief.
“It’s an engagement party.”
Comes the calm reply from Hae Won.
Like he doesn’t know and need a reminder. He takes a deep breath and gets ready to be difficult.
“Just for an engagement party must I…”
But the non confrontational Hae Won decides that it’s an important issue and isn’t willing to relent. He stands his ground firmly, cuts and reminds him that he’s already late then urges him to change with his gentle smile.
He throws Hae Won a mean look then huffs before moving his butts upstairs to do what he is supposed to do.
Hae Won is over reacting. It’s not like he doesn’t want to go. Well, actually he doesn’t. But this is an important event for Ji Hyun. She would love to have everyone there to be part of her important moment.
No matter what he feels or what he thinks he should and shouldn’t do, he always knows that he’ll go to that engagement party and try his best to look decent while he’s at it.
For reasons that perhaps only she understands, despite his best efforts to show his meanest and rudest side to her Shin Ji Hyun doesn’t seem to get the message that he doesn’t like her. She never stops considering him as her friend and would be perplexed if he doesn’t show up at her engagement party.
He might be mean, rude and cold towards her. He might show her his worse and let everyone else sees how indifferent he is to her because that’s what he thinks he should do. But the truth is…….
He takes a deep breath in an attempt to deliver a new flow of fresh air into his tightening chest with the hope that the cool air could sooth and patch the wounds in his aching heart a little bit.
He shouldn’t care that that stubborn rebellious organ gets hurt. But as that organ is inside his body he feels what it feels. It shouldn’t feel all these pains had it listen to him. But when it comes to Shin Ji Hyun his heart has a mind of its own. It makes its own decision and refuses to take order from anybody.
He doesn’t want to admit it but the truth is he’s kind of afraid of his own heart. He’s afraid of its inability to see reasons.
He’s been trying to convince himself that Shin Ji Hyun belongs to somebody else. He’s been trying to accept the fact that they could never be together. Which is not an easy feat to accomplish. And the job doesn’t get easier when his bruising and aching heart has no intention to support it.
It refuses to see the boundaries and reasons which make it impossible to keep loving Shin Ji Hyun. It sees no reason why it has to stop loving her. The fact that she belongs to someone else whom he happens to like means nothing to it.
At the rate it’s holding on to Shin Ji Hyun there’s a huge possibility that he’ll end up losing his honor or dying of broken hearted, literally. Life sucks. He has every right not to have any interest in it. Brooding is his way to entertain himself.
With an abrupt jerk he stops his car in front of the hotel’s lobby and gives the key to the attendant. He takes a deep breath and tries to ease the kinks and boost his moral by stretching a little. He feels like he’s going to his own execution where he needs to look his best.
He starts to dust off his suit but when he looks down at his shoes he promptly scowls and grumbles. How in hell his shining shoes got smeared? Without conscious thoughts he raises his leg and introduces the offending shoe to his black pant.
Another deep breath.
With no more thought about the offending shoe he looks at his watch. No miracle. Despite driving at top speed he’s still late. Another deep breath might do wonder to ease his anxiety. So, he takes another deep breath before moving his legs forward.
He hates attention but it’s hard to avoid it when one arrives right in the middle of the speech of the father of the soon to be bride. The said father gives him a menacing look for daring to ruin the perfect moment of his precious daughter. Just great.
Soe Woe calls and waves her hand to signal him to join her table where she sits with In Jung and some other people he doesn’t know. But as they sit in the front row and with complete strangers he declines her invitation and walks to the back of the room instead.
From where he stands he could watch Kang Min Ho and Shin Ji Hyun freely. They look good standing side by side like that. A perfect match.
But despite the happy moment something is bothering Ji Hyun. She starts twiddling the tips of her fingers. She only does that when she’s extremely anxious, nervous about or troubled by something. However, when Kang Min Ho turns to her and gives her his attention she starts to smile again.
As he looks at her smiling face he knows that one thing is crystal clear. It doesn’t matter how much he hurts. It doesn’t matter if he has to live the rest of his life without her. He only wants her to be happy and smile like that even without him in her life.
Shin Ji Hyun
As we exchange our rings I feel really happy. But when I accidentally see In Jung tries to sooth her aching feet and try to put her shoes back on I feel really bad and guilty. She’s hurt because of me.
But before I could dwell on how selfish I was by accepting her shoes the MC announces that it’s time for father to make his speech. I know he’s been looking forward to this. But just as he starts his speech the door opens.
Everyone turns their heads around to have a look. Father stops in the middle of his speech and glowers.
“Ah, that kid.”
Kang Min Mo oppa mutters then shakes his head at Han Kang’s tardiness. But I couldn’t stop myself from wondering out loud why does Han Kang just come in.
It’s not because I’m angry that he’s late for I’m not. It’s just that whenever I see Han Kang I have this uncontrollable urge to either run to his side or promptly respond to his presence.
All of a sudden I feel quite nervous. I could feel my heart beats really fast and then abruptly stops still for a second. I try to take a deep breath then another but my chest still feels constricted. I hope I’m not going to pass out in front of all these guests.
As my father resumes his speech Kang Min Ho oppa turns and gives me a glass of wine to make a toss. My jumbling nerves start to calm down. How silly I am, there’s nothing to be afraid of, everything will be alright.
When my father’s speech is over we tour the room to accept the well wishes from our guests. That’s when we find Han Kang stands all by himself next to a solitary table holding a glass of wine.
“Hey! Who comes at the end of an engagement party like this?”
Kang Min Ho oppa chides him good naturedly.
“You’re lucky that I’m able to come. Can I leave now?”
Han Kang replies to Kang Min Ho oppa. His usually stern face is half smiling.
“You’re the last one to arrive and now you want to be the first one to leave too?”
I ask him half reproachfully not wanting to offend him. Seeing him makes me really happy. He looks extremely smart in a suit and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in one. He has the blinding looks of movie stars. Every line and shadow in his face is perfection. But he doesn’t seem to realize how physically stunning he really is.
His half smile disappears. He turns away, ignores my question and sips his wine all without even looking at me once. That’s when I realize that he’s not joking about leaving. My happy mood changes in a blink of an eye. I start to feel irk.
“Hey, Han Kang, at the very least you should give us your congratulations before you leave.”
He pretends he doesn’t hear me but he looks at Kang Min Ho oppa when he says his congratulation.
Now, I’m more than a little bit miffed. Sometimes Han Kang is really too much. But my disapproving look is wasted on him for he doesn’t even bother to look at me. That’s when father comes to inform Kang Min Ho oppa that President Jo wants to meet him.
Kang Min Ho Oppa who’s been helping me to stand straight by holding my hand nods and turns to Han Kang.
“Kang, here, hold Ji Hyun’s hand for a moment. Her dress is….”
Han Kang takes one look at our join hands. His face loses its color. It’s easy to see that he’s shocked and offended. He slams his glass down on the table and almost shouts when he refuses.
“Hyong! Why should I hold your fiancées’ hand?!”
What is so difficult and offensive about holding my hand? I don’t have a contagious disease! And in front of my father too! How could he!
“Fine! I don’t want your help either!”
I’m sure I could manage on my own just fine without his assistance. I quickly gather my dress in my hands and walk off. I could vaguely hear Kang Min Ho oppa shouting for me to be careful.
I should have known this. The only person who wouldn’t lift a finger to help me in this big world is Han Kang. What’s wrong with me? How come I can’t remember this simple thing?
He looks at her retreating back in surprise. He’s never seen Ji Hyun in a fit before. Not like this. Usually, when she’s angry with him she just raises her voice or keeps on talking and badgering him until he does what she wants him to do.
Perhaps he shouldn’t be that harsh. But, he’s too shocked to think clearly. He never dreams that he would ever touch her. Holding her hand till the party ends will do him serious damage. It’s better to let her getting angry with him. Her anger doesn’t last. She could never stay angry for long.
And she doesn’t.
Not long after her angry departure she is already all smiles and laughing when she talks to In Jung, Soe Woe and other people, happily basking in their best wishes.
Silently, from across the room he sends her his best wishes too.
Shin Ji Hyun
I am too tired after the engagement party that I go to bed without waiting for father. Normally, I won’t be able to sleep before I see him and have our end of the day talk which has become our routine.
Therefore, when the day after he asks me to come to his office at first I thought he wanted to have our delayed talk but then I see Kang Min Ho oppa who is already sitting there in his office.
What is it? Why does he want us to come and see him? When he finally says what he wants from both of us I am more than shocked.
“Mr. President, what are you saying?”
Kang Min Ho oppa asked in surprise.
“Dad, we just got engaged yesterday.”
I remind him.
“How could you suddenly want us to marry in a fortnight?”
I was happy and saw no problem when father and Kang Min Ho oppa suggested that we should get engaged. But to marry in this fashion? There’s only one reason for a hasty wedding. And everyone knows what it is.
Kang Min Ho oppa and I only hold hands in a few special occasions. I don’t think we even hug that much. We certainly never kiss. A speedy wedding will definitely send a wrong message.
But father doesn’t care about such thing. And I’m sure he has no idea about the complexity of preparing a wedding.
“I was wrong. I didn’t think it through. Instead of throwing an engagement party I should have held a wedding party for you two.”
Father said as if he didn’t hear what we said.
“Dad, we’ve already had an engagement party.”
I try once again.
But he is in no mood to be opposed. He stares us down and silent us with questions like whether we no longer want to get married and whether Kang Min Ho oppa really has any intention to marry me which effectively cuts any further objection from him.
“But how could we marry in two weeks? There’s so much to do!”
I wail but father doesn’t care. He wants us to marry in all haste. Period. I feel slightly hurt by his refusal to listen. He never refuses me anything before. This would be his first.
“He wants to officially make Kang Min Ho our family as soon as possible thus the resort development project could run more smoothly.”
Mother tries to explain.
I look at her in bewilderment. What does a resort development project have to do with our marriage?
“He wants us to get married quickly because of the company?”
Mother stops drinking her tea and looks at me disapprovingly then she lashes out.
“Really! Do you think your Dad cares that much about his company? Don’t you know that you’ll always be the most important thing in this world for him. I’m the second and that company of his only comes third. That’s how it is for Shin Il Shik. How come you still don’t know that?”
I feel terribly guilty for I do know how much father loves me. I know that he loves me more than anything else in the whole world even more than his love for mother. To him nothing is more important than me. I will always come first.
“I know. But even Oppa was also shocked.”
I tried to explain my confusion to mother. But she still looks rather pique.
I see that there’s no point in questioning father’s motive anymore. Whatever it is it’s not important. So, if we must marry in two weeks the best thing to do is to start the preparation as quickly as possible. There’s no time to waste to wonder about why father wants to marry me off so quickly. Besides, I love shopping!
So, I spend my day doing what I love. When I go out of my favorite bridal shop with both hands carrying shopping bags someone blocks my way out. It looks like he does that on purpose. I try to have a look at his face but I couldn’t see it as he covers it with a huge bouquet.
Once again I try to have another look but it’s not possible. That bouquet is really huge. However when I start to get confuse he slowly lowers his bouquet and that’s when I am finally able to see his face.
“Oppa! What is it?”
What is Kang Min Ho oppa doing here? He’s a very busy person. He doesn’t have time to waste doing silly things.
“Because father has set a wedding date like that I didn’t get a chance to propose to you.”
Ah, yes. A guy should propose to a girl in order to get her agreement to marry him. I look at the roses with wonder then become completely enthralled as Kang Min Ho oppa gets down on his knees and gives that huge bouquet to me just like in the romantic movies.
I’m indeed the most fortunate girl in the world. This is just perfect. Or almost. The only thing left is the accompaniment of our closest friends. And a celebration feast. To rectify that problem we head off to Heaven.
The moment we arrive at Heaven I can’t contain my excitement any longer. I let Kang Min Ho oppa’s hand go and start to jog. My Heaven!
“Oppa hurry up. I’m starving.”
I walk as fast as I could in high heels.
“I’m hungry! I’m hungry! I’m hungry!”
My excitement is wasted. My hope is totally dashed. When I get in there’s nothing on the table. Nothing. In Jung and Soe Woe just sit there with an empty table in front of them.
“Why is there no food on the table? Didn’t you order anything?”
I look at In Jung and Soe Woe with disappointment. But In Jung seems to be more interested in talking to Kang Min Ho oppa who comes right behind me. Listlessly, I take a sit on the empty table.
Dimly, I could hear In Jung asking Kang Min Ho oppa why he didn’t go to the factory as planned and oppa saying that he wants to pay his respect to both In Jung and Soe Woe before we marry. Then Soe Woe blames us for not telling them that we’ve already set a wedding date and how surprised they were when they heard the news about our wedding.
Sullenly I look at Soe Woe and remind her that we called 5 minutes ago to inform them that we’re getting married. Therefore she couldn’t say that we didn’t inform them. And how could they not order anything at all?
Suddenly in the mid of my ranting, Kang Min Ho oppa puts his hands on my head and turns it towards the kitchen where Hae Won ajusshi shows me a hot plate in his hand. And the grey world is back to full of color again.
His heart beat accelerates when it hears her voice. He could feel the surge of happiness that spreads over into every pore in his body. Each particle starts to breath and comes into awareness at the sight of her.
Her excited chanting comes into a stop and her happy expression turns into disappointment when she sees the empty table. Her tiny body slumps onto the nearest chair like a wet doll.
Then she starts to sulk and get cranky when In Jung and Soe Woe show no attention to her and keep on talking about how surprised they are hearing about her sudden wedding. He is just as surprised if not more so but he tries to look uninterested while listening closely.
She is the only one who doesn’t pay attention to the conversation at her table. She just sits there half brooding. Her bad mood ends when Min Ho turns her head towards the kitchen. Her scowling and frowning face changes in an instant. She starts to smile her blinding smile and laughs happily and mouths ‘I’m hungry’ to Hae Won.
He turns his head towards Hae Won who he had ordered to prepare her favorite dish right after he heard she’s coming.
“Ajusshi, did you take the bay leaves out?”
He asks sharply. She hates bay leaves.
The ever attentive Hae Won answers his question with response that shows how closely he also pays attention to Shin Ji Hyun's preferences if not his order.
“I took the bay leaves out and put in twice as much garlic”.
If Hae Won is fishing for compliment he’s not going to get it. Not after handing over that plate to his young assistant who takes his sweet time in delivering the food.
“What are you doing? Take it over there! Quickly!”
He growls to the slow lad.
“I just picked up the dish Boss!”
He doesn’t care. Ji Hyun is already withering.
He watches how that plate is brought to Shin Ji Hyun and how she perks up right away when she sees what he has prepared for her. With their own volition his eyes follow her every movement as she starts using her chop sticks to enthusiastically eat her pasta.
How is he ever going to convince himself that he no longer loves her? How could he fight with his own heart when just looking at her like this brings him so much joy. How could he accept the fact that they are not meant to be when every part of his body comes alive just by being in her proximity.
He knows he’s not the only one who ever loves. But other people seem to find joy in other things too. In his case, he’s not interested in anything else. Shin Ji Hyun is the only thing that interests him. The only thing that forces him to bear the boredom and tiresome chores of daily life. The only sun that lights his dark world.
Not being able to be with her hurts. But not as much as not knowing whether she’s happy. Whether she is fed whenever she’s hungry. Whether she has someone that could protect her and be there for her whenever she needs help.
His need to be with her only comes second to his need to see her happy.
Her being with Kang Min Ho is something that he never predicts. But if she has to be with someone else to make her happy he prefers that someone to be Kang Min Ho to some other guy he has no knowledge of.
Fate has never been his favorite and it doesn’t seem to favor him either.
“Kang Min Ho, that fateful day when you met Shin Ji Hyun did you suspect that she would eat this much?”
This question from Soe Wo brings his attention to the fact that there are other people in that room besides Shin Ji Hyun and to the thing that he is most curious about.
Min Ho looks at Soe Wo for a second then at Ji Hyun.
“Fateful day? Oh, you mean the day my heart almost became paralyzed?”
His stubborn heart stops beating for a second. Loving Ji Hyun as much as it does. It is easily bruised and vulnerable when it comes to her. Hearing fate being brought up against it hurts. He hates fate even more now.
He takes a deep breath to fortify his heart. He wants to hear this story. He wants to know how the hateful fate brought these two together hence keeping him out of her life. But hearing how romantic she thinks their meeting was doesn’t hurt as much as knowing how close he is at losing her that unfortunate day.
How could he hate that day when it was the reason that Ji Hyun still sits across his table, looking happy and healthy.
Shin Ji Hyun
As the taste of the delicious pasta fills my mouth I could feel my strength returns along with my spirit. And the memory of that day when I met Kang Min Ho oppa. I don’t think I would ever forget it. I would die that day if he didn’t find me on that chilly mountain.
Hiking or tracking are definitely not my idea of having fun or of how one should spend one’s free time. I’m more of a shopping mall girl so I’m still baffled at how did In Jung talk me into it.
I recall I ended up being the enthusiastic and energetic one while she lagged behind. Far behind. The fact which I didn’t notice until it was quite too late. I remember I called out her name till my throat hurt and I lost hope.
The remembrance sends a shiver down my spine. I’ve never been that afraid before. I remember I was crying while helplessly calling out for father all in vain. I remember how the cold slowly seeped into my narrow bones and numbed all my limbs.
I was already half dead or at least that’s how it felt when Kang Min Ho oppa arrived and carried me on his back from the hill top to the nearest village at the bottom of the mountain. The only thing I noticed about him was the scratch on the back on his hand and his soothing voice while assuring me that I would be alright.
I pull myself back from the memory and look at the people around me who listen to his story and smile.
“Wasn’t that just like a thing that happens in the movie? You know as Kang Min Ho oppa piggybacked me down the mountain I wondered whether he is really human.”
I try to read what’s on their minds. It’s not easy, particularly because I’m not good at reading what’s beneath the surface. But there’s something in In Jung’s expression before it disappears without a trace.
“What was that?”
I quickly address her with a big smile.
“You’re still feeling guilty aren’t you? What if I died on that mountain? It would be because of you.”
In Jung smiles.
“There’s no way you could die in a place like that. You’re God’s beloved daughter.”
Her conviction that no harm could come my way doesn’t match with how I felt that day and even now I’m still absolutely sure that I would die that day if Kang Min Ho oppa didn’t find me.
“If it weren’t for Min Ho oppa I would have died there.”
Nobody responds but I have a feeling that this topic has affected them somehow. And, I don’t want to remember that day again. I’m very happy that I’m still alive. And being here today to prepare my upcoming wedding with my two best friends.
The three of us return to my home and spend the night together in my bedroom just like so many times before.
“The reception hall is set, the dress is set, we need to send the invitations. Now we just need to shop for bridesmaids’ dresses.”
In Jung says while crossing the check list in her hands.
“There are too many things to buy.”
I sigh and lean on her shoulder. Despite my earlier excitement preparing a wedding is very tiring. But my tiredness is forgotten when the TV screen shows a wedding advertisement for the latest wedding gown wears by a bride and her two bridesmaids.
I get up and excitedly cry.
“They're coming out! Oh, they're so pretty!”
“In Jung and I need to wear those dresses then, huh?”
Soe Woe says resignedly.
The bride’s wedding dress is beautiful alright but the bridesmaids’ dresses are not that great. I understand why Soe Woe sounds so resigned. With my eyes still on TV I tell her.
“I'm going to pick your dresses tomorrow.”
But, I should not watch TV, talk and try to drink all at the same time. Even while using my eyes properly I’m still prone to accident. The result is I spilt the wine glass I was trying to take from the table onto In Jung’s lap.
“Hey! How can you be so clumsy with that dress on? Do you have any idea how much it costs?”
Soe Woe shouts, looking at the wedding gown I wear in horror
She’s right. This beautiful dress must cost a fortune. Not everyone could afford it. And I’ll only wear it once. What a waste! But it won’t be a waste if it’s worn more than once by more than one person!
“This dress... You two should wear it too when you get married! All three of us will get married in the same wedding dress! It's better than renting a dress, no?”
My brilliant idea gets no response. Nobody says yes. In Jung and Soe Woe just smile.
I think another one of my shortcomings is that I always think everybody feels the way I do. It doesn’t occur to me that Soe Woe and In Jung might want to pick their own wedding gowns when they marry the men they love.
Soe Woe who clearly has no interest in wearing my wedding gown asks something unrelated to the dress.
“You're making In Jung's room into a workroom, right?”
“Yes. While we're on our honeymoon, my mom said she'll renovate the whole 2nd floor.”
Soe Woe starts to lament.
“If I had come to Seoul for school, we all could've lived together.”
Her sentiment is actually my own sentiment. I used to think how wonderful it will be if Soe Woe also lives with us. But I don’t want to be distracted, so I come to In Jung’s side and try to cajole her.
“In Jung, try it on.”
“No, I feel guilty to Min Ho.”
She refuses with a smile.
I know it’s a no but I still don’t understand what is the taboo, so I point out.
“It's not like you're walking down the aisle in this dress as the bride.”
Both In Jung and Soe Woe just smile. Despite feeling a little bit disappointed I smile too. The most important thing is I have them with me. It doesn’t matter what they wear. Suddenly, as if on cue my phone bibs. A text from Kang Min Ho oppa reminding me to go to bed.
“Min Ho is really a spirit. How did he know we're not asleep yet?”
Soe Woe asks in wonder.
Happily, I look at his text and reply that I’ll do as he says while proudly telling Soe Woe.
“There's nothing he doesn't know about me.”
If only I had enough brain and imagination. If only I had a suspicious nature. But who would have guessed? I don’t think even someone with the most suspicious nature could imagine something like this.
He never envies anybody because he never wanted what other people have before. He never feels the need to compete with anybody else either because there’s nothing to compete for. Besides, if he competes he’ll easily win any competition with his superior brain.
So, this compelling urge he feels to beat Kang Min Ho in a trivial thing like running on a treadmill is totally ridiculous. But he just couldn’t stop himself despite liking Kang Min Ho. He knows he is being silly when he increases his speed just to show he could out speed him. So, he totally ignores Kang Min Ho when he gives him a weird look.
“Each of those thirty houses need to be uniquely designed, okay?”
Instead of eating his food Kang Min Ho reminds him again for the umpteenth times during their lunch after their exercise.
“If you can't trust me, hire someone else.”
With a dangerous tone he warns Kang Min Ho not to push too hard. He doesn’t want to do this project. He ends up doing it simply because Kang Min Ho keeps on asking him to do it.
Kang Min Ho stops short at his tone.
But although he stops at reminding him about their project he doesn’t stop talking. And to make matter worse his next subject is not to his liking either.
“Why don't you start your own company? With your skills...”
“Do I have to do that? To be your groomsman-whatever?”
Kang Min Ho gives him a look for ignoring what he said and changing subject just like that. But after a few seconds he sighs and answers his question with an answer that stuns him.
“Don't do it if you don't want to. It’s alright.”
No. It’s not alright. How could it be alright? Ji Hyun wants him to be Kang Min Ho’s best man. Although he already told her he doesn’t want to do it, he might end up doing it because he always does what she wants him to do.
“Ji Hyun is too naive, please try to understand her.”
Kang Min Ho says as if reading his mind.
He doesn’t feel relief. It doesn’t make any sense and it worries him. Ji Hyun wants her wedding to be perfect. But how could it be without a best man? Something is a foot.
“Who'll do it?”
Kang Min Ho doesn’t seem to hear for instead of answering he asks his own question. Unfortunately, it’s a question he doesn’t want to answer either.
“Oh yea, the woman that’s your reason for coming here and you said you'd find once you had arrived. Did you find her?”
He doesn’t know what emotions are shown on his face but apparently enough for Kang Min Ho to make his own conclusion.
“What? In this small country you still couldn't find her? Shall I help you and look for her?”
What could he say? Should he say that he learned of that woman’s where about almost as soon as he arrived here? Should he tell Kang Min Ho that he doesn’t need to look for her because not only he had found her but he even saved her life as well when he walked into the woods on that fateful day?
He looks at Kang Min Ho for a second then tries to swallow his food.
“No. It's fine.”
Shin Ji Hyun
One of my favorite activities besides spending the night together is going to the bakery where Soe Woe works for our breakfast. But this time my happiness increases ten folds when I see Han Kang passes us by on his way to his restaurant which is close by.
The beautiful morning becomes more beautiful although looking at his sour face seeing me doesn’t make his morning good. But as always I’m extremely happy to seeing Han Kang. I no longer remember I was angry at him the last time I saw him.
“In Jung, just a minute.”
And not waiting for their reaction I excitedly wave at Han Kang, calling his name and happily running towards him. I end up half running chasing his rapidly retreating back with my short legs.
“Han Kang! Kang!”
At last when I am able to catch up, I have to do my talking one step behind him because every time I try to walk by his side he stretches his long legs to keep the distance between us. I don’t care he’s being deliberately mean, because he’s still next to me.
I start trying to explain why it’s important for me to have him in my wedding as Kang Min Ho oppa’s best man.
“We want to be surrounded by our most beloved friends while getting married. Because you're Min Ho oppa's favorite younger brother and my friend.”
This time he stops, turns to me and coolly says.
“We're not friends.”
Not friends? Besides In Jung and Soe Woe I always think of him as the closest person to me. If he tries to distance himself by saying that we aren’t friend it’s not going to work.
“Why aren't we friends? We went to high school together.”
“If studying together for just a few months makes us schoolmates, then so be it. It makes us schoolmates, not friends. Even if we were friends, I still refuse to be the best man.”
He says that so adamantly that I’m truly baffled. If he doesn’t want to admit that we’re friends, then fine, but he’s still Kang Min Ho oppa’s closest friend. Why doesn’t he want to be his best man?
Han Kang takes a deep breath. He seems to be losing his patience. His beautiful eyes shooting daggers at me. His voice turns sharp and dismissive.
“I already talked to Min Ho and decided not to do it, so go!”
What? I couldn’t believe it. Even if Han Kang doesn’t care how I feel, Kang Min Ho oppa knows how important it is to me. He knows how much I want Han Kang to be his best man. How could Kang Min Ho oppa lets Han Kang go and not be his best man? I really don’t understand.
“Oppa said that's okay if you don’t want to?”
Han Kang takes another deep breath before turning his back on me and growling.
It’s clear that he wants me to go and has nothing more to do with me. But I can’t let him go just like that. I couldn’t. I can let go the best man but I can’t let Han Kang go without explanation.
With a sudden inspiration I shout at his back to stop him from leaving me.
“Hey, Han Kang. Are you still blaming me for what happened in the past? Is that it?”
He doesn’t turn his back but he stops moving like he’s been frozen on the spot. Gosh. It was really that! Relief at finding the real reason I continue to press my advantage.
“What kind of man holds grudges for so long? I've forgotten. And, as a matter of fact, if someone should feel bad about things that had happened, it should be me!”
Yes, I’m the one who should give him a cold shoulder. I’m the one who is supposed to be angry. Suddenly, the reminder of the past brings back the pain that hurt me that day.
“You’re still as pushy as before.”
Stunned, I look at his angry face.
“Taking thing out of context and going overboard as usual. Yes, I'm not doing it because of you. Better now?”
How could I feel better? His words are hurtful. And I don’t think I deserve them. I never did anything that could hurt him. On the contrary I did everything I could to make him happy. Things that he doesn’t even know about.
“Han Kang. How long are you going to be angry? Are you going to be angry with me forever?”
My heart aches like it’s been stabbed with poisonous knife that poisons everything. Suddenly, I see a forever without Han Kang. A world without a light. An empty world without music and rainbow. But he isn’t finished yet.
“Once you get married, I'll treat you well as my Hyongsunim (*friend's wife), so leave it be. We’re done here!”
The aches turn into an unfamiliar heaviness that fills my heart as Han Kang turns his back on me without any more excuses. Slowly, I also turn my back and leave Heaven.
His last meeting with Kang Min Ho bothers him. It makes him feels like he has betrayed Kang Min Ho by hiding the identity of the woman who was his reason for returning to this country when there’s really nothing he can do about how he feels about Ji Hyun. Neither does he has any control on how often she comes to his mind even when he doesn’t want to think about her.
And it’s not his fault if they accidentally meet from time to time. Just like now.
She stands there right in front of Soe Woe’s bakery. Just as his eyes fall on her, her eyes light up, her whole face shines with pleasure. Damn. He should have just walked straight down the street. No more turning his head into that direction.
Without much hope he quickens his pace. He could hear her voice calling his name. He could hear her small steps trying to catch up with his longer ones. Giving her his cold shoulders doesn’t seem to deter her from trying to convince him to come to her wedding as Kang Min Ho’s best man.
She sounds so hopeful and excited. He doesn’t want to burst her bubble. But he really has no choice. He has to put a stop to her efforts to include him into her circle of loved ones.
The problem is no matter how hard he tries to put a wedge into their relationship, no matter how bad he treats her Ji Hyun doesn’t seem to understand that he wants nothing to do with her. Even now, she’s having a hard time accepting his words that they aren’t friends. She sees no reason at all why they couldn’t be friends.
His heart almost stops when she asks him whether his reason for not wanting to be friends was related to what had happened between them before. But, right then he sees the chance to end it once and for all. Hardening his heart he attacks her. Saying that she’s the reason why he doesn’t want to be Min Ho’s best man.
Her face turns white. His words seem to go deeper than merely hurting her. He could see her fingers start to twiddle. The unconscious reaction that she doesn’t even realize happens whenever she’s in shock, extremely distressed or completely at loss.
Without waiting for another second he walks away from her. He could hear that she also turns back and retreats. After walking for a few steps he turns around to look at her and the sight that he sees make his heart bleeds.
She’s always bouncing with happiness but now her small body looks like it’s been burden with a dead weight that’s beyond her capability to carry. Her small steps are slow and forced as if they are taking her to her grave.
He couldn’t see her face but, he doesn’t think he’ll ever forget the way she looked at him when he told her that he’s angry with her and will always be. By now he is used to be in constant pain but her pain brings his pains to a new level.
Shin Ji Hyun
I walk back into the bakery where Soe Woe and In Jung wait for me without knowing how I get there. Thanks God a person could operate solely on auto mode because otherwise who knows where I would end up walking absent mindedly like this.
“He's not doing it, right?”
Soe Woe said without asking for details. It’s obvious she already knows what Han Kang’s answer will be even before I talk to him.
“Isn't Han Kang a little too extreme? How could he treat his friend like that?”
Hurt as I am now I still couldn’t understand why Han Kang being so mean to me. And I don’t understand either why neither of them think that it’s strange that Kang should treat me like this.
“Do you want to be like that to Kang?”
In Jung asks carefully.
‘”What did I do?”
Yes. Why am I in the wrong? Why does even In Jung think that it’s wrong of me to treat Han Kang the way I do?
“Don't you remember how awkward it was for the both of you during those few months?”
This time it’s Soe Woe’s turn to ask carefully.
What does it have to do with everything that happens now? Although I asked Hang Kang the same question myself but now it seems very silly, laughingly I reply.
“But that was a long time ago.”
This time In Jung chides me without trying to be careful.
“What’s the use of you seeing him as your friend when Hang Kang clearly says he doesn't want to be friends with you? Where can you find a one-sided friendship?”
A one-sided friendship? Is that what happens between Han Kang and I? How could there be a one-sided friendship? Once we’re friends we’ll always be friends. How could you un-friend someone who is close to you? How could you stop your feelings and just un-feel? Like what Han Kang did to me. It’s not possible.
“Isn’t it that if you’re friends once, you’ll always be friends forever?”
“Kang hates you so much, don't you also hate him?”
Demands Soe Woe.
“No, I don’t hate him.”
I feel a little bit defensive and rather stupid for saying it out loud. But the truth is no matter how many times he hurts me I never hate Hang Kang. Not even once.
In Jung shakes her head disapprovingly.
“You are really an angel.”
Her compliment makes me feel uncomfortable. I should get used to being refer to as an angel or God’s beloved daughter by now because In Jung says it often enough but I’m not. So, in order to correct her I tell her a little bit about what I feel about Han Kang.
“I dislike him occasionally, but I don't hate him.”
“If someone hates you, as a human being, you're bound to hate them back. Why don't you hate him?”
Soe Woe is almost shouting. I could see both of them are looking at me with disbelief. They are clearly waiting for me to give them a satisfactory explanation. But how could I give it to them when I don’t understand it myself.
How could I explain that no matter how mean Han Kang is to me, no matter how callously he treats me, to me he is just Han Kang. His behaviors might upset me from time to time and hurt me this time but I’m always happy to see him. Just the sight of him makes the whole world more beautiful and the day seems brighter.
I don’t know where it comes from but I could not ignore this strange feeling I have that no matter how bad Han Kang treats me when I need him the most he’ll be there for me and that I could count on him no matter what. Always.
It’s perhaps another proof of how stupid I am. Because like what In Jung, Soe Woe and even Hang Kang himself said, he hates me. I decide to close the topic and change the subject without explaining myself.
“There's a reason. In Jung you'll be late to work. I also need to drop by my house. Today's very busy. See you!”
I run off without looking back. I’m not lying. I’m busy. I have tons to do. I have a wedding to prepare. First, I need to see Kang Min Ho oppa.
Shin Ji Hyun
“Property registration, birth certificate, and my personal seal. I didn't forget anything, did I?”
I look at Kang Min Ho oppa eagerly. I don’t want to mess thing up. At least not this time. I do that too many times already.
He smiles after checking all the items I bring out for him. Good. Now, I can ask why he lets Han Kang off the hook. Han Kang is the best best man for him. Who could replace Han Kang?
“But oppa, did you tell Kang that he didn't have to be your best man?”
He looks a little bit taken aback. I guess he doesn’t expect me to question him about it for I never question him about anything he did before.
“He hates being in front of people, why would he want to stand in front of the wedding party? He was like that in America, too.”
“He doesn't like people? Han Kang?”
It’s hard to believe. Han Kang has always been mean and rude to me but he’s quite polite to other people when he interacts with them. Sure, he yells to his employees a lot but he treats other people with courtesy.
“He's more complicated and scarred than he seems. That's why he didn't want to do it. I'll take care of choosing my groomsmen.”
Now, that I know how Han Kang hates being the center of attention, I no longer hurt by his rejection. If he doesn’t want to do it I don’t want to force him anymore. The heavy weight in my heart has been lifted.
I get up and happily remind Kang Min Ho oppa.
“Make sure that you’ll choose friends of mine as one of the bridesmaids.”
“Call me if you could finish before 4pm, so we can go together.”
I smile and before taking my leave let him know that the possibility of me failing to finish before 4 pm is 99%. But before I reach the door Kang Min Ho oppa calls out.
“Did you forget something?”
That’s when I realize that I indeed forget something.
“Oh, my cell phone!”
Kang Min Ho oppa gives me my hand phone while smiling gently.
I give him another smile before leaving.
“I'll go now.”
As I leave I could hear him saying.
“I'll be going to Namyungju by 5pm.”
5pm! I’d better hurry and finish all the things I have to do today if I want to join him. I can do it!
Shin Ji Hyun
I take the golden peach dress and try to imagine how it would look on In Jung.
“I think this'll look good on In Jung.”
But as I look into the mirror and see how beautiful it really is, I become doubtful, the dress looks stunning on me but I’m not too sure it will suit In Jung’s exotic beauty.
“Would a sexy look be better? What should I do?”
Unable to keep my indecision to myself I say it out loud. The helpful sales assistant readily renders her opinion.
“Choose the one you like, Ms. Ji Hyun. On your wedding, it's only important for the bride to be beautiful.”
“No, no. I've chosen someone for her among my fiance's friends. In Jung has to look stunning.”
It might be my wedding but In Jung needs to be the most beautiful woman that day so that guy would instantly see how lucky he is to get to know her.
“Then, tell her to come to try it on in person.”
Of course! We could shop together and pick the best gown for her! It’s going to be fun! I’m so excited that I walk out of the shop and get into my car with a very big smile on my face laughing happily thinking that today is going to be one of the best days before my wedding day.
Never once it occurs to me that that day is going to be the last and the worst day in my entire life. That all my smiles, laughs and happiness will be gone just in a few minutes time.
Shin Ji Hyun
I don’t know what wakes me up. But something doesn’t feel right. Why am I lying down on the asphalt? I try to open my eyes and briefly remember that a motor bike was suddenly swerving right in front of my car.
Groggily, I try to stand up and then try to check whether I’m hurt anywhere. No. I’m perfectly alright. But there is something wrong. There’s no sound at all. It’s eerily quiet and empty. There are many cars around me that stop right in the middle of the road minus their drivers.
It seems like time has stopped. But as I stand there trying to think about why am I here the sounds return and the people come into being. A lot of people. Panic people. Some are gathering and screaming something at someone’s car.
I carefully walk toward them to have a better look. That’s when I see that they are looking at my wrecked car with me lying unconscious and bleeding heavily on the steering wheel. The shock of seeing that sight sends chills down my spine.
I can see the broken picture of Kang Min Ho oppa and me on the passenger seat amid the broken glasses. I move forward and try to get even closer then push a man who stands right in front of me.
But my hand couldn’t touch him. It feels like touching invisible wall that bars me from getting a direct contact with things in front of me. What happens?
I look again at the unconscious me who still bleeds profusely. No, no, it’s not happening! I start screaming at the men around me telling them that it’s not true. But nobody seems to hear, they don’t even know that I stand right beside them.
I think I have a panic attack and start moving around without knowing exactly what to do or how to ask for help from people who don’t even see me. I’m at the end of my wits and that’s when I see him across the street.
A very tall good looking guy who stands next to a motor bike with a phone on his ear and he sees me too. He looks directly at me with a frown on his handsome face. That’s when I start to see hope. Excitedly, I start calling at him, waving my hands madly.
But instead of acknowledging my call he turns away from me. As I move to approach him the medical team passes me while pushing the unconscious me into the ambulance.
I try to look for that man again but he has disappeared without a trace. I really want to look for him but I couldn’t let them take my body just like that. I’m torn and don’t know which way to go but in the end I decide to jump into the ambulance.
“Miss! Miss! Miss!”
The paramedics keep calling me as they apply the CPR while I try to call him with no avail. I could see my own body covers with blood and not moving an inch despite all their efforts.
The tears start to fall down my cheeks unchecked. The chills that I felt when I first saw my own body returns with a vengeance. I start to shake in fear. I desperately want my father here with me to comfort me and to make everything alright again.
“What has happened to me? Daddy…..”
But father is not here. I’m all alone. When we arrive at the hospital it becomes even worse. Seeing them putting oxygen mask to my face is like seeing a dead mask being put on. I’m beyond afraid now. My entire body shakes in fear. I no longer aware of the tears that wash my face and fill my shaking hands as I press them to my mouth.
I’ve never been so afraid and entirely alone before.
Shin Ji Hyun
“Excuse me. My daughter... Shin Ji Hyun.”
That’s father’s voice! There he is! For the first time since this nightmare I feel better.
But he doesn’t hear me. His face is stricken white and his voice is shaking just as badly as his body.
“The car accident victim. Where is she?”
Kang Min Ho oppa who comes right on his heels greets him as he comes in.
Everything is going to be alright now. The two men who love me the most in the entire world are here now. It’s going to be alright. I run towards them. They run towards my unconscious body and pass right through me.
It’s not like those pains you feel when you cut yourself. It’s a totally different kind of pain. My body doesn’t feel it but it feels like my heart has been ripped apart. The excruciating pain is unbearable. That’s when I start screaming in abject despair.
It’s not going to be alright. Nothing is going to be the way it was before. I put both of my hands to my head trying to cover my ears from the sounds around me. But I could still hear them.
Father whispers in pain.
“How is it?”
Kang Min Ho oppa asks him with fear in his voice.
The pain. Oh. The pain. I don’t think I can bear it. My trembling legs could support me no longer. I crumble to the floor still covering my ears.
“Ji Hyun! Ji Hyun! Ji Hyun!”
I could hear father’s voice calling me desperately. Slowly, I turn around to look at him. There he is standing next to my body with tears falling down his face. His body is swaying like he’s about to collapse himself.
I stop crying but my heart is slowly breaking into a million pieces.
I’ve always been his greatest love, the source of his happiness but now it looks like I’m going to kill him with pain. My dear beloved father who always happy when he sees me now look like he has aged twenty years just when he looks at my unconscious body.
I need to pull myself together. I’m not going to be the death of him. Even if I’m dead myself!
Father, Kang Min Ho oppa and I follow my body as the medical team pushes me into the operating room.
“You can't come in here”.
They stop us in front of the door.
“Please save our Ji Hyun!”
Kang Min Ho oppa shouts as the door closes on his face.
Father’s face becomes even whiter and more stricken than before. Kang Min Ho oppa looks like he’s seen a scary monster. They stand there in front of the operating room’s door without moving.
“Dad. Oppa. It's me, Ji Hyun.”
I raise my hand to touch father but just like before I couldn’t reach him, I look at my hand in disbelief.
Then, I turn and start hitting Kang Min Ho oppa’s back.
It’s just the same I couldn’t touch him either no matter how much I hit him.
Apparently being dead if not enough, it’s what happens after that will drive me crazy. Slowly, I turn my back on the two men who are my last hope. That’s when I see my mother. With a new hope I call her.
But of course she couldn’t see me either. She staggers forward, and at that precise moment I realize that she’ll walk right through me, so I quickly move out of her way.
“Dear. Our Ji Hyun, how hurt is she?”
Father who looks like he’s about to die a moment ago gently touches her shoulders.
“We’ll know more after the surgery.”
It is too much for mother. Every mother loves her child it’s just that father’s love for me which is far greater than the love of other fathers for their children has somehow put her love pale to comparison. But, she loves me a lot.
She sways and would have fallen to the floor had Kang Min Ho oppa not quickly catch her then takes her to have a seat outside of the operating room. Father who also has his hands on her shoulders is too grief stricken and weak to do anything at all. His hand rises to his heart, and tears start to fall down his cheeks and his entire being wrecks with pains.
“How could this thing happen?.What is happening?”
My already breaking heart breaks some more hearing his choking words. I can only cry to myself.
“What should I do?”
I need someone to explain this to me. I need someone to give me hope. To make me understand what’s happening to me. Without much hope I look around and there he is. That good looking guy with a bike who wore black and looked directly at me when nobody else can see me.
There he is walking not far away from me, again, talking on his mobile phone. Hurriedly, afraid that he’ll disappear like last time I run after him.
He walks into a patient’s room and stands there watching the scene around the patient’s bed. But the door to that room is already closed and I couldn’t walk inside. I try to open it but I couldn’t touch the handle. Fortunately, one of the doctors comes out, and I quickly slip inside when the door opens in his wake.
That guy turns his head from the scene and looks directly at me.
“Excuse me! You know me, right? You saw me earlier, too?”
To my relief he doesn’t pretend he doesn’t know me. He looks at me and shouts.
“Hey! Shin Ji Hyun! Where do you waste your attention while driving?”
It is not the kind of reception that I expect and I am quite shocked to be yelled at. But he turns his attention back to bed. I too turn around and look without really understanding what’s happening. The thing I see doesn’t make any sense at all, it gives me chills.
The patient is still lying on his bed but I see him rises from his own body and walks towards us. My heart feels like it drops to my stomach.
“He has died.”
That announcement is followed by the cries of his family. Cries of grieves and denial.
“Dad! Please get up.”
That guy bows to the man and greets him.
“You've lived well. Let's go.”
“Where do I go?”
“Just follow me.”
In horror I watch the recently departed man obediently follow him to a corner where out of thin air an elevator appears in front of us. That guy waves his hand to open the door and signals the man to go inside.
After watching that man go inside he turns and looks at me with his icy black eyes. I duck and try to evade his look. I no longer feel relief that this good looking guy could see me. I’m scared as hell.
He turns his attention back to that man and gives him his last bow. The door closes and the elevator disappears from our sight, just like that. I forget my fear and comes forward trying to get a better look at the now empty space.
“What is all this? What is that? Who are you?”
He turns his back and walks away without a backward glance to check whether I follow his order. I start to follow him but then I stop and turn around to give the now empty space one last puzzling look.
After we arrive on the roof top he comes closer and stares at my face from a very close range. Automatically, I move back trying to get away from his scrutiny. He is not the only one with questions. I’m full of it. Tentatively, I ask him.
“Then, you... You're the grim reaper?”
“Ah, how childish. What century is it that you're still carrying around such old beliefs? I'm not the grim reaper. I'm a Scheduler.”
He says the word like someone would have when announcing a very important occupation.
“People are born with a particular destiny. There are always reasons, but we can talk about that later. Anyhow, making sure that people die according to their time is my job.”
“Yes, so isn't that what a grim reaper is?”
He brings his face closer to my face and then starts to shout the word.
“I told you - it's not grim reaper, it's Scheduler!”
A grim reaper with a temper! What’s the big deal? I don’t see how a scheduler is a step up from mere grim reaper. And who the hell he thinks he is to shout like that? So, I shout back.
“Either way! You're telling me I'm dead.”
“Yes. You're dead.”
There’s no sympathy what so ever, as if being dead is not a big deal or a major shock. I try to be strong and swallow my cry.
“So you're here to take me away? That's why you know my name?”
“No, it's not like that. Today, my schedule was messed up. You saw the man who just left? I was waiting for him. Kim Jin Su. He was about to die from a heart attack while driving. But because of today's accident, the attack came later.”
Once again he brings his face close to mine and starts raising his voice as if the accident is my fault and I’m not the victim.
“It's what we Schedulers hate most, when our schedules get messed up!”
I raise my voice too but I could hear the quiver in it.
“But then why did I become this way? Why isn't someone coming to get me?”
“Because the schedule got messed up today.”
My head hurts. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m slow but his explanation doesn’t make things clearer.
“You weren't supposed to die today.”
“I wasn't supposed to die today?”
I look at him in utter disbelief. He lowers his voice and in a conspiratorially manner delivers his explanations.
“Every so often there are troublemakers who disrupt the schedules, like the one who tried to commit suicide today. Why don't they just wait? Even if they want to stay, they can't stay forever.”
I don’t have a temper but I think I’m entitled to have an outburst after all that I’ve been through today. I have a right to yell my frustration and my woes.
“How can you do that!?”
He moves back in shock and touches his heart.
“Ah! You scared me! My heart almost drops”.
I feel like wailing and bawling.
“How can I die when it wasn't my destiny?!”
“I told you it was an accident!”
Or throwing tantrums. Who dies by accident? Angrily, I shout even louder.
“Exactly! How can I die by accident?”
How could I be dead when here I am yelling at him? Suddenly, I realize another explanation and look at him with a new look from the top of his curly hair to his shiny shoes.
“You're lying, right? I'm not dead, right? Yes, I'm not dead. How can there be a grim reaper that looks like you?”
“Who says there couldn't be a Scheduler that looks like me? Have you ever met someone who died and lived again? Even if there were, they wouldn't remember us.”
I don’t want to believe him. He’s lying. But the pains caused by his words are so intense. I try to stop the tears from falling down my face. I don’t want to cry in front of this liar.
“I'm not dead. There's no reason for it. I'm in surgery right now. I saw myself being wheeled into the operating room. How can a dead person be operated on?”
“How can a living person see herself be wheeled into surgery?”
He has a point there. I try to swallow the lump in my throat.
He has been standing outside for hours, looking down at the space where he had thrown those awful words at her this morning. His heart feels heavy with pain. He couldn’t breath. He raises his head to the sky and tries to take a deep breath and looks at another direction but again he could hear her voice and his own.
‘We want to be surrounded by our most beloved friends while getting married. Because you're Min Ho's favorite younger brother and my friend…’
‘We're not friends’
Like a bad record he could hear how harsh and cruel his own voice was when he said that damning sentence. And then the delivery of his final blow:
‘Yes, I'm not doing it because of you.’
The pain of hurting her is not decreasing, it increases with every replays of what transpired this morning. It’s tearing him apart. He blinks to stop the tears from falling. He swallows to stop himself from screaming his pain out loud.
He could bear the pain of unrequited love but he couldn’t live with the knowledge of her pain, particularly when he knows that it’s caused by him. He wants nothing but her happiness so how could he refused to do what she wanted him to do when he would even give her his life if she asks for it.
His heart hurts. It’s almost impossible to breath normally so he starts to breath from his mouth. But each breath feels like he inhales fire down his throat that he ends up gasping with pain.
The pains are eating him alive. He couldn’t even stand straight. He doesn’t know how long he could stand like that before the pain kills him. But a desperate cry brings him back to the land of living.
“Hey, Han Kang!”
“Park Seo Woo?”
A very distraught Park Seo Woo starts shouting and crying at the same time. As far as he remembers she never shouts at him. He carefully looks at her, trying to figure out whether she has gone crazy or something.
“Why aren't you answering your phone?”
Then, very slowly, in a broken voice she continues.
“Kang, Ji Hyun was in an accident!”
Just like that his world collapses.
Shin Ji Hyun
I never know that watching those you love in pain will be this painful. I should have known that if the pain of other people hurt me the pain of watching my father, my mother and Kang Min Ho oppa’s in this state would be beyond words.
Mother who sits on the left hand side of my bed turns to look at father who paces up and down the room.
“Honey, what's going on? Why isn't she waking up? When is she getting up? Where's the doctor!”
Father stops his pacing and haltingly answers her.
“Just wait, dear.”
I take a deep breath and say the words that are designed to give me strength.
“See? I'm not dead.”
Without any sympathy that scheduler barks.
“Keep your mouth shut and wait.”
I look at him and realize that he is here not to help me. Although I can communicate with him but I’m totally alone. All alone. There’s no one to turn to. I start so shiver.
Suddenly the door opens. I turn around to see who is coming.
She half runs towards father and greets him. Her voice trembles.
Father couldn’t say a word and only nods. Slowly, In Jung turns toward the bed and cover her mouth when she sees me.
“It's my friend.”
I say that sentence softly. But the scheduler replies coolly.
“I know. That’s Shin In Jung. That one is fiance Kang Min Ho, the other two are your father and mother.”
He stops a moment and cocks his head like he’s trying to listen before continuing.
“And Park Seo Woo and Han Kang will come too.”
Right after he finishes his sentences the door opens once more and Soe Woo runs inside towards father.
“What happened to Ji Hyun? An accident? How?”
Throwing those questions Soe Woe looks like she still doesn’t believe it.
Han Kang who comes right behind her doesn’t even bother to greet father or anyone else. His face turns deathly white. The moment he steps inside his eyes are fixed on my unmoving body. His body seems to be frozen on the spot but for a second it looks like he’s about to run towards me.
Getting no answer from father Soe Woo turns around to look at me on the bed.
“Ji Hyun…. What happened?”
It is a very depressing scene to see. Everybody in that room is full of questions which none can answer. At that precise moment the doctor who is in charge of me comes in. Every one turns around to him with a new hope.
Father quickly grabs him.
“Dr. Jo! My daughter... how is she?”
“She's in a vegetative state. It is equal to brain dead.”
Silence greets his announcement. I can see the effect of his words on everyone’s face.
“Brain-dead? If she is brain dead…….”
But mother couldn’t finish her sentence, she loses her consciousness in mid-sentence and falls to the floor.
I try to move toward my unconscious mother but the scheduler quickly moves and grabs me.
“This is not a place where you should meddle.”
My tears fall down unchecked as I look at my poor mother who is now lying in the protective arms of Soe Woo who is weeping silently.
My father looks at the doctor incredulously and half accusingly
“What are you saying? I thought she just needed surgery.”
In Jung could no longer hold her tears and starts calling out my name.
Kang Min Ho oppa starts crying again.
Han Kang who is frozen on the spot finally moves. He staggers towards the bed before stopping in his track and covers his mouth with his hand. He doesn’t say a word but the pain in his eyes.....dear God it hurts.
The scheduler turns to look at me with his cold eyes.
“Have you seen it?”
How I wish I haven’t. Completely in despair and pain I follow him when he leaves the room before hesitantly ask the question that I don’t want to hear its answer.
“What will happen to me now?”
In a solemn tone he says:
“Where are we going?”
He keeps on walking without answering my question. Then, I remember what happened to that dead guy. I remember how he sent him into that elevator. As if he could read my mind without much heat he opens his mouth.
“I won't put you on the elevator, so follow me.”
He’s got to be kidding. I’m not that stupid. I turn around and start running away from him. But in a blink of an eye he pops up right in front of me.
“Gosh, I'm getting sick of this. How can you all act the same? Can't you think differently at all?”
His cold eyes are staring me down. His intimidating height is intimidating me.
“Don't come any closer!”
He comes even closer.
“I said I wouldn't put you on the elevator. Why are you running away?”
Trying to hold my tears in and boosting my courage I answer his question.
“Don't joke! Why would I listen to your lies?”
He laughs derisively and threateningly looks back at me.
“Lies are the realm of humans. Do I look like a human to you?”
After saying that with a smile – his smile is not like human smiles at all – he once again brings his face closer to mine. I could see his very black and cold eyes clearly. He scares me to death. Flinching, I turn my back on him, and try to huddle while crying pitifully.
“Please save me.”
He scoffs then grumbles.
“God actually allows me to save your life!”
Then back in his harsh tone he continues.
“Don't you know who I am? Let's go.”
The word God does me wonder. It makes me realize that he is just a no body. And that I’ve been intimidated and driven to hopelessness by him. I should talk to someone higher than him, someone with authority, someone who counts.
“I don't need you. Who's above you?”
Feeling rather bold and clever I demand.
“You said you're just a messenger from the nether world. How can I believe what you say? There must be someone above you. God, Buddha, whoever!”
“Sure! I'm a pawn who takes orders from above, but this is my jurisdiction! Reporting, taking orders, making deliveries, this place is my responsibility!”
He looks angry, but I couldn’t care less. My whole world is ending. The happiness of my father and mother is also ending.
“I’m getting married in a week. My mom and dad... I'm their only child! Making me dead even when it wasn't my time, that's your fault!”
My tears are falling down my cheeks again without me even realizing it. I’m in too much pain but I’m also incredibly angry. This guy whoever he is, is at fault here. This is all his faults.
He gives me a weird look probably because that’s how he looks when he feels guilty but doesn’t want to apologize for the mistake.
“There are always mistakes. But for mistaken deaths, we don't force you on the elevator.”
I quickly wipe my tears and my runny nose and look at him with a new hope. This is probably the best news I hear after I’m dead.
“Is that the truth?”
He gives me that weird looks again but says nothing. Once we are outside he starts talking.
“This is my 5th year as a scheduler in your neighborhood. During that time, I've only seen two cases like yours. You're only the third.”
So, there were actually other people who experienced the same thing?
“In that case - when it isn't your time to die but you do through someone else's mistake, there are two choices. You just have to choose one.”
I look at him and ask him with a new hope.
“What are they?”
“One is, following a scheduler and leaving this world.”
This guy! Knowing how much I look forward to hearing his answer! Is he playing with me now?
“Are you joking? That's telling me to die!”
“One of the others said they wished to leave this world to find new opportunities in the next life, and walked into the elevator himself.”
“One of the others said they wished to leave this world to find new opportunities in the next life, and walked into the elevator himself.”
I can’t help but shudder when I hear his explanation. What kind of person chooses to leave this world on his own free will and leaving behind all the people he loves.
He quickly moves towards me and glares with his icy black eyes. His height towers over me. His threatening voice threatens from right above my head.
“Who am I? A lying person?”
I cringe fearfully. Turning my back on him unconsciously I huddle again.
“All right, I get it. Don't come closer. What did the other person do?”
I ask that question without looking at him but his answer makes me turn around and face him once again.
“He chose number two.”
There is actually number two! I can feel that my luck is about to change. My hope returns and I start to feel that things aren’t as bad as I first thought they are.
“What's number two?”
“Within 49 days, you must find 3 people who love you. Then you can go back. It's a measure of whether you're a worthwhile person enough to send back to the world you've left.”
He’s talking like that is a very difficult job to do. Which is rather confusing because I can’t see what’s so difficult about it? You only need to find 3 persons who love you anyway.
“It's not like 30 people. Who isn't loved by at least three people?”
“Oh really? It's the work of leaving the afterlife, do you really think it'll be easy?”
He smirks and gives me a look that says he knows all along that I know nothing at all.
“Well, you said three people. You saw earlier. With my mom, dad, and friends, I'm over three already.”
I feel happy and very optimistic. I should have known that this is just a nightmare that would end soon.
“You can't count family or blood relation.”
“Why not blood relation?”
“Because family will always be on your side.”
“But how can you prove it?”
“The person who loves you - their tears cried over you is the proof. At least three drops of 100% pure tears.”
I think I put too much value on his profession. He doesn’t seem much brighter than me if he thinks that that requirement would devastate me. It’s still very easy!
“It's like that? You should've told me sooner. You saw Min Ho, In Jung, and Seo Woo all are crying for me.”
He gives me his superior and contemptuous looks. As if he could read my previous thoughts.
“You think all tears are the same?”
They are not? Doesn’t he say I only need to collect tears from 3 people? Fortunately for me he decides to let me see by myself what he really means and brings me to a funeral home. But, I still don’t get it what am I supposed to see in this place. This place makes me feel uncomfortable.
“Why are we here?”
“The tears of people crying, look carefully.”
I start to take a careful look of the people around the tables. Those people come to this place to show their sadness and sympathies for the lost of whoever has just passed away. Some people are crying while sitting in front of the table set for them. But I could see that the tears of the woman closest to me are evaporating in a purple smoke.
“Those are tears of someone pitying the short life of her friend.”
The scheduler explains when he hears my gasp. He continues his explanation when I saw the tears on the second woman disappear in a grey smoke.
“The lady next to her is consoling herself over the early death of her friend.”
Oh. My. God. Who would have guessed that tears are actually evaporating in colors? Who would have known that we could know what’s really inside someone’s heart through their tears?
The third woman I see is also crying so earnestly but the scheduler informs me rather mockingly.
“And that one is forcing out tears for the sake of courtesy.”
He should have known what he says because that woman’s tears are in the color of blood red. Although red is not my favorite color I’m rather distressed after witnessing that red associates with hypocrisy.
He’s not interested in seeing those crying people and proceeds to look for another example to show me. It only takes him a second to find what he’s looking for.
“There they are - 100% pure tears.”
I quickly turn my attention from that lady who just pretends to cry to the lady he points out. She cries so heart brokenly. And her tears are crystal clear or is it silver clear or diamond clear or water clear? Anyway, it’s not the color of blood, purple or murky grey.
“So that's a real tear. Meaning that lady truly loved the person who died?”
I feel very sorry for that lady. Even if I couldn’t see the color of her tears it’s impossible not to see how sad she is.
“Yes, she’s the younger sister of the departed. Over there is the husband. The one who died left quite a bit of life insurance, the husband is sad but even as he cries is thinking of the future.”
I gasp in shock as I see the husband’s tears disappear in a green smoke in the beginning but end up in red smoke. But the scheduler turns his attention to other table and starts tsking with disapproval.
“And there are two people who secretly feel glad although they cry.”
The tears of those two are simply black. Perhaps as black as their hearts. In his most disparaging tone the scheduler lets me know what he thinks about humans.
“Humans are quite complicated.”
Yes, we are. And I didn’t know it until today. When we are outside he turns to me.
“How do you feel?”
I’ve been trying to find out whether those things I just saw change how I feel about life and people at large. But although I was a little bit shock the first time I saw those colored tears, I still feel the same about the world and the people I love. However, they do make me wonder.
The scheduler sighs his disbelief and turns to look at me closely then lets me know his opinion of me in his most lecturing tone.
“You're naïve and optimistic, aren't you?”
If he means to offend me, he doesn’t succeed because that’s really my name. So, helpfully I tell him.
“That's my nickname - Naive Princess and Optimistic Princess.”
“So what are you going to do now? Yes or no?”
Yes or no? What yes or no? When I ask him he lost his temper and shouts.
“Are you going to search for the three drops of tears!?”
For the first time in his presence I smile and laugh. I feel like I could breath again.
“Of course I am! I'm different from that other person.”
But he cuts me short. Clearly he doesn’t think that hearing my reason why I chose to do it matters.
“I don't need an explanation, just your decision.”
It’s not difficult at all. Even I can make this decision without thinking much and hurting my head in the process.
“I'm doing it!’
“Okay, follow me.”
I don’t know whether he says that on purpose but doesn’t he have any other vocabulary beside follow me? But this time I follow him without fear. He brings me to a convenience store where we stop to spy on a very sorry looking girl.
Although she’s not as beautiful as In Jung, but she’s pretty enough and tall. The problem is there’s nothing appealing about her. She looks like a walking and breathing doom and gloom.
The scheduler starts his explanation or perhaps his instructions, I’m not quite sure which one, that I have to learn by heart. The problem is he’s talking so fast, that I find it difficult to catch what he’s saying let alone remembering every detail he mentions.
“Name: Song Yi Kyung. Age: 28. Grew up in an orphanage, graduated from university after studying hotel and tourism, worked in Seoul Hotel for two years, She was unemployed for a year then had a series of convenience store gigs.”
I try to follow what he says I really do, but in the end swallowing my embarrassment I cry.
“Wait, just a moment! Can't I write this down somewhere?”
He doesn’t say anything but gives me his contemptuous looks. My cheeks turn red but it’s better that he knows I’m not that smart from the get go. So, I continue.
“My memorization isn't that good.”
He continues his rapid fire words as if he doesn’t hear what I say.
“She works from to 2am to 5am.”
Rather upset I shout at him.
“I told you, write it down for me!”
But as I close my mouth something clicks in my mind. The experience is like having a laser beam shining down on you after a black out.
“Woah, I remember it all…. ”
He smirks then lectures.
“Don't live the same way like you've been living.”
But I don’t care about his jabs. It feels so wonderful having a light inside your head. I turn my attention to that girl, Song Yi Kyung and voice my reservation.
“But, must I really borrow her body to live?”
The scheduler scowls and sharply retorts his annoyance.
Seriously? For a moment I wonder whether he really doesn’t know or he is just upset I don’t do his bidding with lightning speed. But they say men don’t see thing like women do. So, I point out the obvious.
“She doesn't look good. That hair! And those clothes!”
I shudder. How could a woman live with that look? It’s not like she’s hopeless and beyond salvation. Her body is tall and thin. Her thick hair is long and curly. Her face is pretty. Why doesn’t she do them justice? Why does she look like that?
The scheduler is not impressed. In his most condescending tone he replies.
“I don't know how it works in this neighborhood, but in ours nothing happens for no reason. Everything is related.”
Everything is related? What does it mean? Is he saying that I am and Song Yi Kyung are related? His statement perks me up. To make sure that my understanding is correct I ask him.
“That woman and I are related in some way? How?”
He gives me one of his peculiar looks that I can’t read and changes the subject by shouting at me.
“What in the world were you thinking when you got into the accident!”
His tactic works. My attention shifted to that accident. Try as I may, there’s nothing in my memory. I can’t remember what exactly happened and why I had involved in that accident. Automatically, I voice my surprise out loud.
“I don't remember.”
He doesn’t even bother to show the tiniest bit of sympathy or utter words of encouragement and go straight to his usual mode which is half mocking half condescending.
“Then stop interrupting and listen. Pay attention to things. There was a really big truck.”
Even if there was an elephant I don’t remember. He’s right it’s pretty clear that I didn’t pay attention while driving but why? What was I thinking? But, it doesn’t really bother me that I can’t really remember what happened because I’m not going to die. I’ve been given a second chance to go back.
I return to the hospital where everyone is still there in my room. In Jung and Soe Woo are still standing in the middle of the room not far from my bed while Han Kang is leaning on the wall near the door.
The sadness in that room is palpable. The air is thick with it. I look at my father, my mother and Kang Min Ho oppa who are the most effected by what happened.
“Mom, dad, just wait for a few days. Min Ho oppa you too please wait. I'll be right back.”
I can’t go with that strange scheduler. I have to live for my father, mother and Kang Min Ho oppa. I’ll do whatever I have to do to go back to the land of living.
With that new determination I go to Song Yi Kyung’s place and wait for her to return home.I don’t know how long I’ve huddled in the corner of her tiny place before she finally comes home.
Once again I’m struck by her sad appearance. There’s no happiness on her face, there isn’t even a spark of excitement that one normally has when one returns to one’s home after a long day. She just looks extremely weary.
As I watch her taking a slow step inside and tiredly lies her body down I recall what the scheduler has said.
“Wait until she falls asleep. Don't be afraid, or scared, or think heavily about it. Entrust her with yourself.”
Stealing myself I get up and come to her. Closing my mind to everything else I fit myself into her sleeping body. I don’t remember what happen after that because the moment I regain my consciousness is the second I open my eyes.
The first thing I see is the ceiling and then the awareness of actually feeling the temperature around me. I get up and start to inspect my body carefully. A solid body that actually connects to other things around it.
A mirror! Yes, a mirror would confirm that I’m a human being.
Tentatively, I move toward the mirror and steal a glance. Yes, I can see a reflection there. Once again, more confidently this time I walk right in front of it. There it is. A reflection. I’m staring at a reflection that stares right back at me. I feel like crying and laughing at the same time. I’m alive! I’m back!
“I am Shin Ji Hyun!”