(Stephanie’s ringtone: Linguafranca – Girls’ Generation [少女時代])
“Sekaijuu de koi seyo Girls! Ima Lingua Franca, Lingua Franca… narihi—”
Saturday, 10 am in the morning, there was a call from Yohan to Stephanie. She put it on loud speakers to let the call be audible even to Eunji who was eating breakfast with her. Yohan was like a brother to Stephanie and was the closest father-figure Eunji had in her life. He spent too much time with the two girls throughout the years that most of his affairs were also their affairs.
“Fany-ah!!” shouted the man on the other end of the line. “How are yoouu?”
“I’m fine,” Stephanie chuckled. “What’s up?”
“We’re having a jamming session tomorrow night at 8pm at our house. You going?”
“Ah really?” Eunji and Stephanie’s eyebrows went up synchronized upon hearing the invitation. They were talking about jamming sessions just last night so this definitely hyped them. “You bet I am!” Stephanie exclaimed.
“Can I come, too?” Eunji spoke.
“Oh, hello Eunji! Of course you can!” Yohan happily allowed Eunji. “Bring friends. I want many people here tonight with their instruments. I don’t care if that will cause chaos!”
“Okay, we will definitely go,” the two ladies answered.
All of a sudden, weird noises can be heard. “Hold on, I gotta go, Yoona is dying to play with me,” Yohan said referring to his 4 year old daughter who seems to be throwing a tantrum.
“Okay,” Stephanie laughed. “See you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you tomorrow!” Yohan ended the call.
“Yoona must be pretty impatient,” Eunji chuckled, drinking the milk from her cereal bowl.
“Yeah, that cute kid is hyper these days.”
Suddenly, Eunji’s phone rang.
(Eunji’s Ringtone: U You – Apink)
“Nae sarangeun U! U! Neoman bomyeon jakku tteollyewa—”
“Oh, it’s Aunt JooHyun.” She swiped her thumb on her phone and answered.
“Hello Eunji!” JooHyun greeted.
“Hello Aunt JooHyun, how are you?”
“I have a favor to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“You just met Kim Jinwon, your substitute teacher right? How was he?” JooHyun asked.
“Oh Mr. Kim? Yeah, he was cool.”
“That’s good. Do you have time today?”
“Well it is Saturday so there’s pretty much nothing to d—”
“Can you show him around town today?” JooHyun interrupted.
“Why?” Eunji casually asked. Meanwhile, Stephanie was making hand signs in front of her, telling her that she wanted to talk to JooHyun.
“Well, he might not know his way around town,” JooHyun explained. “Also, he doesn’t know anybody other than you and me and YongHwan.”
“Can’t Uncle Yong show him around?”
“He’s with me… so…” JooHyun wasn’t really good at giving excuses. The truth is the couple actually had nothing planned. She just wanted YongHwan beside her for the whole day.
“Fiinee…” Eunji sighed. “I’ll show him around.”
“Thank you Eunji! I’ll text you his phone number.”
“Hold on, my mom wants to talk to you.” Before JooHyun could object, Eunji already passed her phone to Stephanie.
Since Eunji just met Jinwon, there was a huge possibility that Stephanie knew about it. The least JooHyun wanted right now was to be asked why that man was in town. The thought of explaining things just felt a little terrifying.
“Hi JooHyun,” Stephanie got up from her seat and walked away from the kitchen table. Eunji also got up to wash the dishes from their morning breakfast.
“O-oh, Unnie,” JooHyun stuttered feeling nervous as to what Stephanie would say.
“Do you still have the Nocturne in E-flat major, Op.9 No.2 music sheet?” This was not the question JooHyun expected, so she felt relieved. However, it took her a few seconds to realize where Stephanie might be going with this.
“Yes, I think I still do,” JooHyun replied.
“It got into Eunji’s hands,” Stephanie whispered, looking around to see if she can’t be heard by Eunji who was washing the plates in the kitchen.
“What? How?” JooHyun became flustered.
“I don’t know! I thought you threw that piece away from Eunji’s reach!”
“Oh no, I must’ve forgotten to put that away the studio when I was running through my pile of music sheets. I had so many that I didn’t check all of them!” JooHyun never felt so clumsy before. “I’m sorry, Unnie!”
Stephanie knew JooHyun well and understood her. “Ugh, it’s alright. You didn’t know. I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Bye,” Stephanie ended the call.
Feeling a bit frustrated, Stephanie dropped herself on the couch and buried her face in a pillow. After hearing Chopin’s song, tears fell silently in her room last night. While going through old pictures from 15 to 16 years ago, she blasted music in her room so that Eunji wouldn’t hear her sobs. It had been some time since she poured her heart out and it still felt as painful as the last time she did it. Regret, sadness, and loneliness: these emotions that she didn’t want to feel came rushing back to her all because of Nocturne in E-flat major, Op.9 No.2. Now, all that she could think about was how Eunji found that piece. She can’t just command Eunji to stop playing that song since Eunji already claimed it as her favorite song. Telling her to stop will just lead to questions she can’t answer.
After washing the dishes, Eunji entered the living room where she found her mother’s face buried in a pillow.
“What did you guys talk about?” Eunji sat on the couch and snatched her phone from her mother.
“JooHyun’s asking for baby names,” Stephanie lied.
“They still haven’t thought of that yet? I thought couples already have that prepared before they even get married,” Eunji wondered, making Stephanie chuckle and ruffle her daughter’s hair.
“What did JooHyun say about your Mr. Kim?”
“Oh, right,” Eunji opened the messages app on her phone as she finally received her substitute teacher’s phone number. “JooHyun asked me to show Mr. Kim around town today.”
“Oh okay,” Stephanie nodded. “You can show him around in the afternoon. Right now I want to just spend time with you.”
“Okay, Mom,” Eunji snuggled closer to her mother. “I’m all yours right now,” she said like a lover would and made Stephanie giggle and forget about her breakdown last night.
“Why don’t you invite Mr. Kim tomorrow for church or the jamming session?” Stephanie suggested. “I’d love to meet him.”
“You want to date him?” Eunji teased.
“Aigoo,” Stephanie sighed, slightly hitting her daughter’s arm. “Just invite him. It’s a good way to make him feel a little bit more comfortable in town.”
“Okay, hang on. Let me call Mr. Kim.”
It was 10 am; Jinwon never woke up this late before. For sure the last time he looked at his clock, it was 8 am. Just when he thought he closed his eyes for only a few minutes, he actually slept for two more hours.
“So, this must be the life of the jobless…” he thought.
Still a bit tired and sleepy, Jinwon yawned constantly as he walked like a zombie to his small kitchen. “Aigoo, what do I eat?” He scratched his head while opening every empty cabinet. Since he just moved a few days ago in this small apartment, things were still a bit messy. Boxes were scattered everywhere and he didn’t know exactly where all of his things were. Good thing for him, JooHyun bought him a welcome box. Everything he needed for now was there, including food. Looking through the box he found different kinds of snacks and ingredients but the only thing that he reached for was the instant ramyun noodles.
While waiting for the water to boil with droopy eyes, his phone rang from his bedroom.
(Jinwon’s Ringtone: I’m A Loner – CNBLUE)
“Hello?” Jinwon answered as he walked back to the kitchen.
“Good morning, Jinwon Oppa!” greeted JooHyun.
“Oh, hey Seobaby!” Jinwon cheerfully greeted back.
“S-Seobaby?” JooHyun stuttered. Instead of smiling at Jinwon’s greeting, JooHyun froze. Jinwon has never called her that nickname in years—15 years to be exact.
“Oh, was that weird? Sorry, my brain’s not working properly. I kind of just woke up,” he said as he poured the hot water in his instant noodles.
“Hah… really? Why did you call me that name all of a sudden?”
“You want to know?” Jinwon yawned.
“Yeah,” JooHyun pressed the phone closer to her ears.
“I just had a dream last night.”
“Really? What was your dream about?”
“Hmm…” Jinwon stared at his cup of noodles trying to remember his dream. “Well, it was some kind of band meeting with a bunch of people I really had no idea about. They all look a bit familiar… but there was this kid that looked like you and I called her ‘Seobaby’.”
“Ah, really?” JooHyun forced a laugh. “It must’ve been a weird dream, huh?”
“Seobaby? How did he start dreaming about that? Is he finally remembering after all these years?” JooHyun’s head were filled with questions but she can’t just start asking them one by one especially since she knew Jinwon disliked hearing about the forgotten past.
Remembering his dream where JooHyun and Eunji might have appeared in along with the faint-sounding “best eye-smile” phrase from yesterday, he scoffed, “Yeah. It was kind of weird.”
“Anyway, you’ve met Eunji already, right?” JooHyun changed the topic.
“Yeah, I have.”
“She’s going to show you around town today.”
“Why? Not you or YongHwan?”
“I know you want to be shown around town, but we can’t today.”
“I can understand that, but why Eunji?”
“I asked her to. Since you already know each other, and since you’re going to be her teacher while I’m preparing for this baby to come out, this is a chance for the two of you to spend some time together.”
“She already agreed,” JooHyun added. “She’s probably going to send you a text or call soon on when and where you’re going to meet.”
“Aigoo JooHyun-yah,” Jinwon sighed, as he got ready to eat his noodles.
“I’m going now! Good luck and have fun Oppa!”
“Wait, I—” Before he could say anything more, JooHyun already hung up.
“What the heck?” Jinwon deeply sighed as he stared at his phone. “Did she just set me up on a date with a fifteen-year old? What was she thinking?”
“What were you thinking, babe?” said YongHwan, approaching his wife with a plate of hot sweet potatoes. “Are you sure that’s the right thing to do?”
“Ah… I don’t know,” JooHyun pouted.
“What happens if Eunji figures things out?” YongHwan said. “What if she starts hating Stephanie for lying? You know Stephanie never talks about him in front of Eunji at all. He’s a dead person.”
“Ugh, I don’t know. A part of me isn’t agreeing to this either,” JooHyun sulked. “But a part of me wants to at least see them happy together.”
“We all do,” YongHwan sighed. “But is this really the best way?”
Eunji met Jinwon in front of the studio building with no plans. She has absolutely no idea who this guy was before yesterday so it was a little nerve-wracking to think she should be spending time with him today. However, she cannot deny how interested she was in getting to know her new substitute teacher. Although he was a very laid-back and quiet guy, he seems to have a knack for not making things awkward. People like that work well with her youthful and outgoing personality. It will be easier for them to make their plans as the day progresses.
“Hello!” Eunji cheerfully smiled as she bowed her head in front of her substitute teacher.
“Hi! Where will you take me today?” Jinwon smiled amusingly, making Eunji laugh and instantly feel comfortable.
“I don’t know. Where do you want to go?”
“How am I supposed to know that, Ms. Tour Guide?” Jinwon laughed. “I just arrived here four days ago.”
“Oh right,” Eunji wondered. “Is there a specific place where you usually want to go?”
Jinwon wondered for a few seconds and found his answer. “Music store,” he smiled.
“Oh, there’s actually a huge music store near here. Let’s go!” Eunji’s spirit went up as she heard him say music store. Just a few buildings away was Eunji’s favorite place and so she lead them there.
“Wow, it’s bigger than I thought!”
They were standing in front of the music store called The Mall of Records. From the outside, no one would have guessed that the whole building was actually just a music store. Some people would mistake it as a museum, but really, it was just a whole building dedicated entirely on music.
“This is a music store?” Jinwon asked.
“Yep,” Eunji smiled.
“This whole thing?”
“Yep,” Eunji giggled. “You won’t believe what they have in store.”
“Woah… this is even bigger than Nagwon Instrument Arcade in Insadong!” Jinwon just stared in amazement at how big it was. He has never seen a music store this big. “I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this place…”
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Eunji grabbed the man’s wrists and dragged him into the building. “Let’s go in.”
“Wow this place looks like a mall,” said Jinwon as his eyes wandered the wide three-story building.
“Yep, it’s a mall for music lovers,” Eunji smiled as she crossed her arms on her chest. “I love going here.”
“No kidding. I think I also just fell in love,” Jinwon laughed.
“Well, what store will we look at first, ‘Heartstrings’ or ‘Everything’?”
“What’s that?” He turned his attention to Eunji.
“Heartstrings’ on the left and ‘Everything’ on the right are the biggest stores in this building.” She explained, “Heartstrings’ sells guitars, pianos, violins, and all sorts of stringed instruments. Once you enter that, it will be paradise. ‘Everything,’ on the other hand, sells English, Korean, Japanese, and all other kinds of music from around the world. Its inventory has songs from the classical to today’s most recent music. It’s like a huge library for old and new albums. You could rent or buy music. I think you could even sell some records you no longer need.”
“Wow, I could spend the whole day here,” said Jinwon.
“So, where do we go first?” Eunji said, as she rested her hands on her hips.
“Heartstrings!” Jinwon pointed to his left like a little kid choosing which to ride in an amusement park.
“Heartstrings it is,” Eunji nodded, making Jinwon feel extremely excited.
Entering “Heartstrings,” the two were greeted by the scent of wooden guitars hanging on the walls. Everywhere they turned, classical guitars, acoustic guitars, and electric guitars shone brightly in front of Jinwon’s eyes. It felt like he was in a dream for he had never seen such a large number of guitars in one room. It was totally paradise for him.
“Woah,” Jinwon repeated as his grin grew bigger and bigger while running his finger through guitars’ strings. “These guitars are awesome. Most of these are even cheap!”
“They are, aren’t they?” said Eunji as she followed behind him. “Every time I pass by this part of the store, I feel like learning how to play.”
“Really? I’ll teach you how to play guitar, then,” Jinwon smiled.
“Then I’ll be looking forward to it, teacher.”
“Wow, they even have a pedal section.”
“What’s that?” Eunji likes guitars but she didn’t really know much about it.
“Just some awesome effects thingy that you tap with your foot…” Jinwon knows Eunji had no knowledge about guitars so he didn’t explain much. “It’s for an electric guitar.”
“Ah… See, this place even has sections for things like that,” Eunji said, as she looked at the guitar pedals. “Wait till you see all the other stringed instruments!”
“Really? What’s the closest section next to the guitar section?”
“The piano section.” Even though it was a big place, Eunji visited this place several times before. She already knew where everything was.
“Shall we go there, then?” Jinwon smiled.
“Okay,” Eunji smiled. The piano section was her favorite.
The piano section had a very different layout compared to the guitar section. When the guitar section had guitars hanging on every inch of the walls, the piano section had empty white walls. It was necessarily a much wider room so that different sizes of piano could fit in. Grand piano, upright piano, keyboard, spinet, you name it. They were all there. This was Eunji’s version of paradise.
The first thing she thought of looking at were the music sheet section. Mozart music sheets, Beethoven music sheets, and even modern music like Lorde and Adele were there but she didn’t want to see those. What she looked for were the Chopin music sheets. She was a big fan of Chopin’s music, so much to the extent that she wanted to learn at least all of his compositions. Looking through the huge shelf, she finally found it—a music sheet book complete of Chopin’s songs. As her eyes sparkled while turning each page of the note book, Jinwon suddenly landed his finger on a random title. “Play for me.”
“Do you know this song?” Eunji became curious because the title he was pointing at right now was no other than Nocturne in E-flat major, Op.9 No.2.
“Not really. I just want to hear you play.” Jinwon really didn’t know what kind of song he was pointing at. He was still the same man from yesterday who said that he seriously had no knowledge of classical music. He just really wanted to hear Eunji play.
“Alright.” Eunji walked to the nearest upright piano and opened it. She laid the music sheet on the piano and properly sat on her seat. Eunji started playing.
“Oh,” Jinwon’s eyes became wide open. “This was the song that you were playing yesterday before I entered the studio.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Eunji nodded without breaking her eyes from the music sheet.
“This is a really nice song.” Jinwon’s mouth was slowly opening out of amazement without him knowing.
“Yeah it is.”
“You should teach me how to play this song.”
“Teach you?” Eunji glanced at him.
“Yeah,” Jinwon nodded. “I want to learn that.”
“I thought you didn’t know how to play piano.”
“I don’t. But still, I want to try.”
“Okay then, I will.” Once again, Eunji stopped near the ending for she still could not play it.
“Why’d you stop?” Jinwon asked.
“The last part is still kind of hard for me to do.”
“I don’t know why, but it just is. I mean, I can read the notes properly, but my hands just can’t seem to follow.”
“Oh, you’ll master it in time.” He gave her a warm smile as he patted her back. He knew Eunji just found that music sheet yesterday, yet she was already playing almost the whole song fluently. Those were the kind of musicians that he liked seeing play the most.
Three hours have passed and they have finally gone through all the sections of “Heartstrings.” From the guitars to the foreign stringed instruments, they loved every section of it. It felt as though they have only been there for a while, but actually, the sun already went down.
“Oh, it’s already 5:37.” Jinwon looked at his watch. “We’ve been there that long?”
“Eii, that was nothing,” Eunji laughed. “The first time I came here on my own, I was in there all day that my mom thought I was missing. Hahaha, a hectic event of the past… it was fun for me, though!”
“Really?!” Jinwon looked at her in disbelief and Eunji just nodded.
“Aigoo,” Jinwon laughed.
“Shall we go to ‘Everything’ before we eat?” Eunji said, pointing to the big music library just across “Heartstrings”.
Everything really looked like a library—a really cool music library. At the end of each shelf were small screens that showed the artists/album placed in the row. There was also the main computer near the front desk where you can search if they have the album that you want. This made it easier for the buyer to find what he was looking for.
“What kind of genre do you want to check first?” Eunji also knows this huge store well. She and her friends have been here too many times before.
“I don’t know. I’ll just follow you.”
“Okay, most recent songs it is,” Eunji smiled and walked to the small section of the most recent songs. This is where you would find the newest releases from all around the world. The favorite thing that she does with her friends in this store was to look at the “about to be released” lists.
“Switchfoot and The Fray will have a new album? The guys would freak out when they see this,” Eunji said as she stared at Switchfoot’s new album cover, Fading West and The Fray’s Helios album cover.
“What guys?” Jinwon turned to Eunji.
“Oh, just some guys in my international youth group.”
“Oh.” Jinwon also stared at the new Switchfoot album cover. “I remember when these guys released their second album back in ‘99. They’re cool.”
“Oh really? That was a year after I was born.”
“Wow, that makes me feel kind of old,” Jinwon laughed and so did Eunji.
“I almost forgot,” Eunji snapped he fingers. “Do you want to go to church tomorrow?”
“Hm, I’m not sure. I still have to fix my apartment.”
“Oh…” Eunji felt a little bit disappointed, but suddenly remembered Yohan’s jamming session. “There’s a jamming session in Aunt JooHyun’s friend’s house at 8pm. You want to come and meet some people with your guitar?”
“If I finish cleaning up by then, sure, I’ll go. Just give me the address later. I might be able to come.”
“Yes!” Eunji became filled with excitement as an eye-smile slowly started to show. “You better come! It will be really fun.”
“I will.” After seeing the kid’s eye-smile, he couldn’t resist. Now, he felt like he really had to come.
Jinwon walked to the section titled “best from the 90’s/early 2000.” He knew that he’ll probably love this section. There he found Michael Jackson, Matchbox Twenty, Lifehouse, Backstreet Boys, Destiny’s Child, and more. He recognized a lot of artists since he liked the music from the 90’s to 2002, specifically.
Right above Michael Jackson’s album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, a Mariah Carey album caught his eyes.
“Oh, Mariah Carey, Daydream?” There was something familiar about this for some reason, as if there was a certain song or a certain time he had listened to it before. He just couldn’t place when. He flipped the CD case to see the track listing.
But before he could see it, his vision turned dark.
“Okay, Fany, Fany, Tippani!”
There was that faint whisper again.
“What…?” Jinwon blinked, trying to grasp what just happened. “What is happening to me?” He looked around to see if anyone was actually just fooling around with him but he only found Eunji approaching. As quickly as he could, he tried to hide his flustered face and forced a smile.
“Let’s go, Mr. Kim. I’m hungry,” Eunji cutely pouted.
“Oh? Mariah Carey’s Daydream?” Eunji spotted the CD Jinwon was holding. “My mom has a tape of that.”
“Tape?” Jinwon laughed. “I guess she must’ve bought it when it actually released.”
“Yeah, she probably did,” Eunji laughed. “She was actually playing that album yesterday night.”
“Anyway,” Jinwon put the Mariah Carey album back to its place. “Let’s go eat.
The church service just ended and everyone had gathered out at the courtyard. Many people with different races conversed merrily with each other in Korean, Chinese, or English. Through the culturally diverse crowd, Eunji was easily able to spot a familiar handsome young Korean man. It was Junmyun, a friend from her youth group.
“Oh! Eunji, hi!” The seventeen year old waved his hand as Eunji approached him.
“What’s up?” Eunji gave him a high five.
“Nothing much,” he sleekly replied. “What about you?”
Eunji wanted to reply the usual answer which was “nothing much happened,” but her eye’s spotted Minjae. “Kibum and I have set up a date for Minjae and So-Eun.”
“Ha! Really?” Suddenly, the cool and calm guy burst into laughter and moved beside Eunji to take a glance at Minjae. “That’s good. I hope he won’t freeze in front of So-Eun anymore.”
“Oh, and So-Eun joined the youth band last week.”
“Yeah, she’s actually singing today.” Eunji added.
“Ohh….” Junmyun snickered, “Is Minjae playing the piano?”
“Haha, no,” Eunji replied. “Jinki2 is playing piano. Minjae doesn’t know that So-Eun is in the band yet.”
“That’s good,” Junmyun chuckled. “Anyway, I’m going up first. I have to set up the chairs today.”
“Okay, see you.”
As Eunji waved her hands at Junmyun, Minjae approached her. “Hi Eunji.”
“Oh, h—” Turning her head to Minjae, she almost burst into laughter.
“Hey, Lee Minjae,” she snickered. “You look toooo~ well today.” Usually, Minjae would casually wear shorts and an oversized shirt to youth group, but today, he was wearing a buttoned up polo and black jeans. He also combed his hair which was something Eunji had never seen before. He looked like a flower boy who tried too hard to impress just for today and it was very amusing.
“What’s so funny?” Minjae casually tried to make his hair messy.
“I can see that you’re ready for your date,” Eunji teased, trying her hardest to hold in her laughter.
“Hey, don’t remind me about that,” Minjae pouted. “I’m turning red just by thinking about it.”
“Aigoo,” Eunji ruffled his hair, turning it even messier. “You’ll be fine.”
“Are you singing lead today?” Minjae changed the topic since he actually felt hot just by thinking about So Eun.
“No, I’m just background this time,” Eunji replied.
“Who’s the lead singer today then?”
“Sungyeol3 and Henry are the lead today.”
Eunji looked at her watch. It was almost 12pm. “Let’s go up now,” Eunji said, opening the door to the church, and Minjae went along with her.
Entering the “boiler room” where the teenagers usually meet and converse with each other, they were greeted by their youth leader Jessica along with her four-year old daughter Yoona who was tightly clutching her mother’s hands.
“Eunji, Minjae, welcome!” Eunji gave Jessica a friendly hug and Minjae instantly ducked to greet Yoona. His aegyo skills were showing like crazy in front of the little girl and the little girl found it very amusing.
“Aunt Sica4! How are you?”
“I’m good! How’s your mother’s date this Thursday? I forgot to call her about that.”
“That didn’t work out either,” Eunji sighed.
“Hey ladies!” Yohan entered the room and joined their conversation with a bright and playful smile.
“Minjae’s here,” Jessica said, pointing downwards.
“Isn’t Minjae a lady too?” Yohan teased making Eunji and Jessica burst into laughter. “He’s really pretty.”
“H-hey, Mr. Yohan!” Minjae sprung up and was about to defend himself, but he looked around and the two girls were still laughing. He’s been getting that joke for quite a while now and unfortunately, he was getting used to it. He was also starting to accept that he did look kind of girly with his smooth, milk-white skin, plump cheeks, and naturally pink lips. His body was also too thin like a girl, but he’s still wishing puberty would change him someday.
“How’s your mom?” Yohan asked Eunji as the two girls finally calmed down from laughing.
“The date wasn’t successful again, Johnny,” Jessica answered, calling her husband the affectionate English version of his name.
“Yeah, she didn’t like the guy,” Eunji added. “What’s his name? That Jo Yunho man…”
“Your mother is really being too much. I’m getting more worr—” before Yohan could finish his sentence, Yoona was pulling him away.
“I wanna play, daddy!” Yoona jumped up and down, and did her natural aegyo5 that Yohan just couldn’t resist. Even if he tried to maintain a manly appearance in front of people, it instantly becomes replaced by a sweet and aegyo-filled father when it comes to his children.
“Aigoo, yes, yes!” Yohan was dragged away, making the three giggle at the sight of the father and daughter.
At that moment, a woman carrying a one-year old girl on her arms joined their conversation. It was Victoria, a Chinese youth leader with a little pretty baby named SooJung, who was also nicknamed “Krystal” by Jessica. SooJung is Yoona’s younger sister.
“Oh hey Minjae, are you going to play piano today?” Victoria talked to Minjae since the two girls were too busy making cute faces in front of SooJung.
“No, I’m not in the band today.”
“How about you, Eunji?”
“I’m just singing. Jinki is playing the piano,” Eunji said, not even batting an eye at Victoria since she was too focused to get SooJung’s attention.
As Jessica also got dragged away from the conversation by Yoona, more teenagers entered the room. It was Yue, Josephine, and ChanYoung The three were also from the youth band like Eunji, but Yue was not singing today just like Minjae. As soon as Yue, Josephine, and ChanYoung entered, they went straight to mess with the toddler, SooJung.
“A cuuuteee!!” “SoooJungiee!” “Krrystaaal!”
The three were losing their minds in front of the baby who had no idea what was going on. They kept touching her cheeks, patting her head, and played with her small chubby arms. SooJung didn’t really seem to mind. She was starting to recognize the three since they were the usual teenagers who approached her every week.
“May I carry her?” Josephine pleaded Victoria. Even though Josephine had this tomboyish charm, she always had a soft spot for SooJung. Out of the three of them, she was the one who always wanted to hold SooJung.
“Aigooo! Why are you so cute?” Yue squealed, gently pinching SooJung’s cheeks.
“I know right, she’s so adorable,” ChanYoung, who also had a kind, and charming face like Minjae, was starting to lose his manliness over the kid. If you were to see him being all cute around, you never would have thought that he was the drummer of the youth band.
After a while, Josephine and Victoria snatched SooJung away, leaving Yue, ChanYoung, Eunji, and Minjae alone.
“So, how are you guys?” Yue asked.
“Minjae has a date today,” Eunji blurted out.
“What?” Yue snickered.
“With whom?” ChanYoung became curious.
“Shh-!” Minjae hit Eunji with his right elbow, telling her not to say it.
“Don’t want to tell us, huh?” Yue laughed. “That’s alright, just good luck with that.”
“I know a perfect place for a date,” ChanYoung said. “Xiah Dragon Noodles!”
“Oh that place? My mom and I always go there,” Eunji said. “But since when did you start suggesting places, ChanYoung?” Eunji laughed.
“I don’t know. I just went there with my family yesterday and I thought it was a nice place.”
So-Eun, with her long, soft, black, straight hair, entered the boiler room. She was shining in the eyes of Minjae. Her brightness to him was enough to make him paralyzed in his spot. Once again, his ears shut down and his eyes were completely focused on So-Eun.
“Hey,” Eunji loudly snapped her fingers an inch away from Minjae’s ears. His senses came back quickly. “Are you really going to be like that on your date?”
“N-no,” Minjae’s cheeks went pink. “Of course not”
“What’s happening to you?” Yue asked. “It looks like you have make-up on your cheeks.”
“Eii, Noo!” Embarrassed more than ever, Minjae covered his face. Meanwhile, Eunji secretly pointed to So Eun giving Yue and ChanYoung the message that she was the reason why Minjae was acting like this.
“Oh hohohoho!” Yue laughed with her eyebrows raised. “I get it.”
Eunji called So-Eun to join them. The closer she got, the more nervous Minjae became, but he tried hard not to show it. He took a deep breath and finally had the confidence to say hi with his pretty smile. “Hi, So-Eun.”
Even though So-Eun greeted him back confidently, she couldn’t help but feel her heart slightly flutter. What Minjae didn’t know was that So-Eun also had a small crush on him but it never showed on her face.
“Food’s here!” Hyungsoo, another youth leader, entered the room with eight boxes of pizza on his arms. People may think that’s too much food for only 30 teenagers, but it was actually enough to fill everyone’s crazy stomachs. Servings this many, whether it was Subway sandwiches or Domino’s pizza, will all be finished by the end of the Youth service.
“Ooooh! Pizzaaa!” Yue instantly came to the table where Hyungsoo laid them down. Eunji, So Eun, and ChanYoung wanted to get their share too, but they were stopped by Yohan.
“You three come with me,” Yohan said, preparing to leave the boiler room and to the main youth room with Josephine following behind him. “You need to prepare for the band.”
“But we haven’t eaten yet,” So-Eun pouted.
“You can eat later. We need to make sure that everything will go smoothly.”
Eunji sighed, patting So-Eun’s back. “Now you know the pain of being a band member.”
Entering the main youth room, the few teenagers greeted them with a simple “hi” and continued to occupy themselves with their instruments. Josephine unpacked her bass guitar and ChanYoung took out his shaker and walked up the small stage to join Henry, who was singing and playing guitar, and Jinki, who was playing keyboards. Sungyeol was also on stage practicing the songs’ riffs and solos on his electric guitar alone. Eunji on the other hand walked to Junmyun with the new band member So-Eun following behind. Junmyun was preparing the lyrics that will show on screen so that people could sing along.
“Junmyun Oppa, is everything ready?” Eunji asked.
“Yes. I just have to edit a few things.”
“Okay guys,” Yohan suddenly clapped his hands. “Let’s do a quick run through the songs.”
And so, So-Eun and Eunji joined the guys on the stage. Even though their band already practiced that Wednesday, Yohan always wanted to be sure that they had everything together. Even though the band members would miss lunch time and game time because of practice, they were still happy to serve the Lord through music.
Finally, lunch time and game time ended and it was time for them to sing to Lord. The lights in the youth room were turned off and there were only green, blue, red, and purple colors lighting up the stage. To get the teens into the spirit, they decided to start with a rock praise song, You Deserve by Hillsong with Jinki and Josephine as main singers, and Henry, Eunji, and So-Eun as background. After that, they sang Forever Reign, another song by Hillsong. For the finale they decided to do a slower song.
Henry started plucking his guitar. Jinki played synth on his keyboards, and Eunji was given a xylophone to play since no one would volunteer to do it. Soon, Sungyeol also started plucking his electric guitar, and Minhyuk played his shaker.
“We’ve never played this song before here in youth group, but I want you guys to just listen and just soak in the words you’ll hear as if it was your own.” This time, Henry was the lead singer. “If you think you can sing along, sing.”
Henry, Jinki, ChanYoung, and Eunji stopped playing their instruments leaving only SungYeol and Josephine with their guitars as soon as the verse started. Henry started singing with So Eun and Eunji as high background voices.
Jesus, keep me near to Your heart
For outside of You I’m lost
Jinki continued playing his keyboards and harmonized along with them as the lower background voice.
Draw me in the tide of Your will
Lead me as I yield myself to You
Henry continued plucking his guitar.
Keep me near Your heart
Keep me near Your heart
With his right hand carrying a shaker, ChanYoung hit the cymbals with his left hand and played the box drum that he was sitting on
Rescue me in weakness of mind
When distraction conquers me
Keep me in Your shadow, oh Lord
Give me grace to follow where You lead
Keep me near Your heart
Keep me near Your heart
You are everything that is beautiful
And You are all that I long to see in me
You are everything that is beautiful
Breathe Your desires in me
Even though Minjae was deeply amazed by his band mates, most of his attention was on So-Eun. He didn’t know that So-Eun could sing so beautifully even just as a background voice. Now that he has discovered So-Eun joined the band, he will definitely try to have a chance to play the piano instead of Jinki next week.
Keep me in the place where You are
For Your presence is my joy
Break my selfish nature and pride
Mold a life of loyalty to You
Keep me near Your heart
Keep me near Your heart
Keep me near Your heart
Keep me near! Woah!
Instead of plucking, Henry finally started to strum his guitar along with Sungyeol. Everything was starting to get louder.
You are everything that is beautiful
Some teens were starting to wave their hands up in the air and close their eyes.
You are all that I long to see in me
Yue was also about to lift her hands up but he noticed Minjae, lost in the view of So Eun.
“Hey,” she nudged Minjae.
You are everything that is beautiful
“Sorry…” Minjae sheepishly smiled. He knows he’s a fool for turning his full attention to So Eun when he should be praising Him like the rest of the teenagers in the room.
Breathe Your desires in me
Just as he practiced, Sungyeol confidently played his solo for the ending.
And so, their performance was finished. Choi Si-Yoon, one of the church’s missionaries, delivered his messages to the teenagers, and after that, youth group ended.
It wasn’t a completely finished, though. Anyone who wanted to hang out in the “boiler room” until 4pm can do so and enjoy a fun time doing random stuff. They moved their instruments to boiler room, took out a bunch of card games, and also set up the Wii set. However, most of the teenagers already went home. The only ones left were pretty much all the members from the band, Junmyun, Jessica, Yohan, their kids, and Hyungsoo.
Yohan and Hyungsoo would play with the four year old Yoona and Jessica would allow SooJung to just walk around with her support. When SooJung becomes tired and just wants to sit around, Jessica would let her sit beside Yue and Josephine as the teenagers played some songs.
Henry, SungYeol, Jinki, ChanYoung, Junmyun, Josephine, and Yue sat in one big circle. Every week, they played random songs after youth group. It was much more fun than the actual band practice since they weren’t as serious about what song they play. Usually, Eunji would join them, but today, she had other plans.
“Let’s play Maroon 5!” ChanYoung happily suggested.
“No!” SungYeol strongly objected. “We play ‘This Love’ and ‘Payphone’ all the time!”
“Then how about ‘Sunday Morning?’” ChanYoung liked Maroon 5 too much to not stop suggesting their songs.
“Rain isn’t even falling,” said Henry.
“So what if the rain’s not falling on this Sunday morning!” ChanYoung grumbled.
“It’s not morning either,” Junmyun laughed.
“Oh, I know!” Henry suddenly got the boy’s attention. “I found a really nice song of Relient K.”
“Really, what is it?” Sungyeol asked.
“I’ll play it for you,” Henry turned on Jinki’s keyboards and the boys fully anticipated the song. As soon as Henry started to play, SungYeol bursts into laughter.
Ten seconds of your life.
“Eiii, what was that?” ChanYoung scoffed.
“Was that even a song?” Jinki laughed.
“Yes, it’s a real song! The title is called ‘Crayons Can Melt On Us For All I Care.’”
“Wow,” SungYeol tried to catch his breath from laughing, “I can’t believe you guys haven’t heard of that.”
“Gosh, guys, just pick a proper song already,” Josephine said impatiently, almost about to lay her guitar down just to play with the toddler, SooJung, since the boys were still fooling around.
“Yeah, guys,” Yue sat beside Josephine. “I wanna sing along.”
“Fine, fine,” SungYeol chuckled. “Let’s play ‘We Cry’ by The Script. I’ve been wanting to play that for a while.”
“Okay,” ChanYoung started tapping the box drum.
Meanwhile, Eunji was beating embarrassed Minjae in Mario Kart, amusing So Eun very much.
“I don’t want to play with you anymore! You’re not much of a challenge.” Since Eunji had been trying to get the two to be more comfortable before their actual date, she casually passed the Wii remote to So-Eun.
“Am I doing this right?” So-Eun repeated since it was her first time playing Wii.
“Yeah, you’re actually doing this better than me!” Minjae was finally less awkward around So-Eun after racing cars on a screen with her. Looks like their date won’t go terrible after all.
“Ugh, where’s Kibum?”
It was 6:00 pm, finally time for their double date. The four planned to meet in front of the church but it seems as though Kibum wasn’t going to show up anytime soon. Becoming more and more impatient, Eunji made up her mind to just leave Kibum from the picture and drag Minjae and So-Eun to the restaurant ChanYoung mentioned earlier, Xiah Dragon Noodles.
“Now what kind of food do you guys want?” Eunji asked as she held the menu.
“Something that has beef,” Minjae replied.
“Oh, I just love beef,” So-Eun said, with her hands clasped together.
“I know right,” Minjae turned to So-Eun, “Beef is just the best.”
“Yep,” So-Eun chuckled. “I could eat as many as five servings of anything with meat. Especially samgyeopsal!”
“Me too,” Minjae laughed.
“Aigoo, you kids start looking at the menu yourself.” As Eunji passed the menu to the two teenagers across her, she got a text.
“Eunji, let’s leave Minjae and So-Eun alone on their date. I’m at the front of the restaurant right now.”
“Kibum’s here,” Eunji stood up from her seat, agreeing to Kibum’s plan. “I’ll go get him.”
Before Eunji could greet him, she was dragged away from the front of Xiah Dragon Noodles Restaurant.
“What are you doing?” Eunji gets the part where they leave Minjae and So-Eun alone, but not the part when Kibum grabs her hand and drags her to someplace they didn’t talk about. “Where are we going?”
“To pass time, of course,” Kibum tried not to let Eunji know that he actually just wanted to spend time with her. “We’ll have to get back to the two when they finish.”
“Okay…” Eunji eyed him suspiciously. “Where are we going, though?”
“Mall of Records.”
“Oh okay, why didn’t you say so?”
As they spent an hour just looking through albums in the “Everything” store, they ran into Junmyun who was browsing for recent K-pop music to listen to.
“Oh, Junmyun oppa!”
“Hi, Eunji. Hi, Kibum. Aren’t you guys going to the jamming session tonight?”
“Oh, right, the jamming session. You wanna come, Kibum?”
“Sure,” Kibum nodded. “Sound fun.”
“If you guys don’t mind, we could ride the same taxi on the way,” Junmyun suggested.
“Yeah, it’s alright. We can go with you.”
Jinwon flopped himself on his bed after a long day of cleaning and arranging furniture and items in his new home. Everything was finally on its right place. There were no more boxes in sight and the place was squeaky clean. Never would he believe that he could finish unpacking in just one day. Feeling quite satisfied with himself, he took a bath and freshened himself up. As he dried his hair from his hot shower, he remembered the jamming session.
“Oh, it’s 7:15, I still have time.” Even though he was tired, he didn’t want to miss this opportunity to meet new people since he barely knew anyone other than JooHyun and YongHwan, who by the way were not great friends to hang out with because they were already married and were too busy to spend time with him because of coming baby business.
Fixing the guitar case hung on his shoulders, Jinwon walked to the stoplight. “Now, she said I have to take a taxi or bus on the other side of the lane…”
As Junmyun started walking with the green light, Kibum held Eunji’s hands. Instead of feeling romantic and safe like usual girls do, Eunji can’t help but feel weird about it. He was holding her hands too much today. It’s becoming quite uncomfortable for her. The only guy she has ever held hands with comfortably was Minjae because they were friends ever since they were little. But Kibum was someone entirely different and they weren’t even close friends at any point in their lives.
“Hey, it’s Eunji!” Jinwon cheerfully walked to the stop light. He was about to shout and call out to her, but something caught his eye.
“Can we stop holding hands?” Eunji stopped walking halfway the pedestrian crosswalk and slowly withdrew her hands from Kibum’s grasp. “My hands are kind of getting sweaty.” It wasn’t. She just said that not to offend the thoughts that Kibum could be harboring in his mind right now.
Carelessly dropping his guitar to the ground, Jinwon ran as fast as he could and pushed Eunji out of the way. Seeing this man out of nowhere harshly pushing Eunji without a warning, Kibum felt enraged. He was about to beat the wits out of him, but in a split second, he changed his mind. His eyes looked away at the horrible scene.
It was such lively night for everyone walking by at this area until the sudden eerie squeak of a stopping wheel caught everyone’s attention. The loud thud that came after it stunned and scared everyone even more. Eunji quickly turned her head to see who it was that pushed her, but people gathered quickly around the scene before she could pick herself up. She could not see the man’s face among the strangers’ legs, but she could hear everyone panicking, wondering if the person was alright, and all frantically calling the ambulance. When she finally stood up, she shoved her way through the crowd and into the heart of the circle with Kibum following behind her.
It was Jinwon, lying unconscious on the cold, asphalt ground. The man who she spent her yesterday with, the man, whom she barely knew, hit by a drunk driver. Eunji hesitantly, but calmly tried to wake him up. Not a single muscle moved. In an instant, the ambulance’s annoying beeping noises that sounded like heaven for once could be heard. They quickly and carefully lifted Jinwon from the ground to a stretcher and into the ambulance car. Without hesitating, Eunji hopped in the ambulance, making Kibum and Junmyun have no choice but to accompany her.
As the three teenagers watched Jinwon being rushed to the emergency room, Eunji’s phone rang.
“Nae sarangeun U! U! Neoman bomyeo—”
“Eunji where are you? It’s already 7:40.” It was her mother, Stephanie. “I kept on calling you but you’re never answering!”
“Oh Mom,” Eunji said, trying to catch her breath, unfazed by her mother’s shrill voice due to the bigger shock of witnessing an accident. “I think I’ll come a bit later.”
“Why? Where are you?”
“Is Uncle YongHwan there? Can you get him on the phone?”
“Why,” Stephanie worried, “did something happen?”
“Mr. Kim, he… he got into an accident.”
“Mom, I don’t have time for questions right now. If Uncle YongHwan is there, please…”
“Okay, okay, he’s here,” Stephanie passed the phone to YongHwan.
“Eunji?” YongHwan spoke.
“Uncle Yong, Mr. Kim got into an accident. You have to come to the hospital quickly!”
“Oh? Okay. I’ll be there.”
When the call ended, Eunji restlessly bit her nails. She’s never witnessed an accident before, let alone an accident she was somewhat involved in. The worst part was that she’s slightly gotten attached to Jinwon since yesterday. She didn’t want to lose someone new so quickly.
“Before we start our practice, let’s find some new songs.” Yohan said.
“And some snacks,” Hyungsoo added.
“Okay, you guys and Jessica go on food patrol,” Jinwon spoke like a leader. “JooHyun, Stephanie, and I will check the songs out.”
“‘kay, sounds good.”
The six separated as soon as they went out the studio. Jinwon, Stephanie, and JooHyun went to the music store and went straight to the “Everything” store in the most recent releases section.
“Oppa, is it okay if I check out the classical music section?” JooHyun pleaded.
“Sure, JooHyun,” Jinwon smiled. “Stephanie and I can handle this.”
“Thanks Oppa!” JooHyun cheerfully left the two alone in the most recent releases section.
“So, what are we looking for exactly?” The short-haired Stephanie wasn’t as blurry as before. Jinwon could clearly see her face this time, and it wasn’t Eunji. They looked rather similar though…
“You go and look through the pop section and listen to what you think might be good to play for our band for the school fair,” Jinwon replied. “I’ll go ahead and check the rock section.”
“Okay,” Stephanie scanned the shelves carefully. “Ahh!” She squealed. “I didn’t know Mariah Carey had a new album!”
“Stephanie, we’re not singing Mariah Carey.”
“I know, I know,” Stephanie reached to her sweater’s pockets anyway. “I’m going to buy this… Oh! I forgot my wallet!” Stephanie pouted.
“Want me to buy that for you, Stephanie?” Jinwon sincerely offered.
“Wh-what?” Stephanie stuttered. “Y-you don’t have too…”
“C’mon, Stephanie. If you don’t want to borrow my money, I’ll buy it for you anyway.” Jinwon snatched the Daydream album from Stephanie’s hands and went straight to the cashier. Stephanie became stunned for a moment and slightly blushed. She took a deep breath and followed Jinwon to the cashier.
“Here you go,” Jinwon happily handed Stephanie the newly bought tape.
“Thanks,” Stephanie shyly hung her head low, trying not to make the big grin on her face.
“I’ll pay you back for sure.”
“You don’t have to,” Jinwon smiled. “This is my treat.”
“Okay,” Stephanie giggled. “But you calling me ‘Stephanie’ is starting to sound weird. Call me Tiffany or ‘Fany’, like Jessica and Yohan do. We’ve known each other for some time already.”
“Okay, Fany, Fany, Tippani!”
- Jun-Myun (준면)
“JUN” is pronounced like “JUNE” or read as “JOON”
The “UN” in “MYUN” is prounounced like the “UN” in “UNDERSTAND”
- Jinki (진기)
“JIN-KI” can be read as “JIN-KEY”
- Sung-yeol (성열)
“SUNG” as in “sing, sang, SUNG”
“YEOL” can be read as “YOL”
- Sica (Jessica’s nickname)
Pronounced as “SHIKA” not “SIKA”
Koreans’ names consist of only three characters (syllables) and the first character is usually the person’s last name. With a three-syllable English name, the “Je” in “Jessica” was taken off by her friends leaving her with the nickname “Sica.” It’s also the same with how Stephanie got her nickname “Fany”
- aegyo (애교)
childlike, adorable, or sometimes annoying actions + voice trying to be considered as cute / actions to try and capture someone’s heart.