A M N E S I A: Chapter 8

Chapter 1: First Love Nocturne

Chapter 2: Date?

Chapter 3: Daydreaming Heartbeat

Chapter 4: Closer

Chapter 5: Are You Listening?

Chapter 6: Confusing

Chapter 7: I Miss You

Chapter 8:

안녕 (Goodbye-Hello)

      As Jinwon’s eyes floated dreamily on the diamond-filled sky, he couldn’t help but feel like this was all too good to be true. Stephanie was finally beside him and he was walking her home under this beautiful autumn night. Was it not just a few days that he saw her with someone else? How did she suddenly end up being here with him?

      Although they were a little shy and conservative towards each other, just being able to be this close was enough for the both of them. They both couldn’t organize their thoughts anyway for it still felt so much like an unbelievably perfect dream. They definitely didn’t want to ruin or wake up from it any time soon.

      However, as they walked into a familiar neighborhood, Stephanie was brought back to reality again. She glanced at Jinwon and noticed how much he smiled all by himself like it was the first time he had gone on a date. Whatever had been going on his mind didn’t seem to be anything troubling unlike the thoughts that were running in her brain. “Does he remember Eunji? Should I ask him?”

      She shook her head, No, I shouldn’t. I have to be careful about what I say.”

      “What is it?” Jinwon shyly asked noticing that Stephanie had been staring at him for a while. She timidly looked away and gulped.

      Not knowing what else to say, she stuttered, “I-I’ve missed you…”

      Without holding anything back, Jinwon softly replied, “I’ve missed you, too.” This was the second time these words came from her tonight and it didn’t matter how many times she was going to say it, he will always reply the same thing back.

      Soon, they were in front of Stephanie’s house and it was time to say goodbye for now.

      “Well, this is my home,” Stephanie said. “I’ll… see you whenever, okay?”

      “Okay,” Jinwon smiled.

      Stephanie expected him to walk away but he still stood there, staring at her. The fact that she was finally before him immobilized him, that’s for sure. His dream girl was finally right in front of him—the girl whom he thought would not become a part of his reality, at least not this soon. It was the same for Stephanie. She could not even twist the door knob because she was afraid he would leave before she clearly captured his fresh smile. It has been more than a decade since she last saw him. How was she supposed to let go of the man she loved for so long even if it was just for tonight? If they lose each other’s sight, it would feel like they would never see each other again.

      “Who’s that?” Eunji mumbled as she tried to take a peek from the window. There was a figure of a man in front of their house, but she couldn’t quite see clearly because of the night’s darkness.

      “Goodnight…” Jinwon waved his hands as he slowly walked farther away. It was hard to lift his feet up or even take his eyes off of her, but he clung onto the hope that someday he would never have to say any form of farewell to her ever again.

      “Goodnight to you, too…” Jinwon’s heart pumped the farther he went away. But she convinced herself this is what was best for now. It’s been fifteen years, she shouldn’t expect too much on their first day meeting again.

      Seeing that the man was out of sight, Eunji opened the door and her mother almost stumbled from leaning on it.

      “Oh, Eunji!” Stephanie sighed with her hands on her chest.

      “Who was that? I couldn’t see his face,” Eunji said, still trying to see if the man was indeed gone.

      “Oh,” Stephanie mentally panicked for a moment and was blank for a good five seconds trying to find a good lie. Then she let out an awkward laugh, “Oh him? He’s uh… just one of my friends.” When she said that, she internally screamed in frustration. She has introduced Eunji to almost all of her friends. If she mentioned someone her daughter did not know about, she would certainly be curious. That’s the least thing she wanted her daughter to be, at least for now.

      “Who? Uncle Tae-Sung?” Eunji said, referring to one of Stephanie’s first blind dates that just became one of her close friends. “That guy doesn’t seem as tall though. Besides, not many guys walk you home… who is that?” she raised an eyebrow.

      “Eihh,” Stephanie awkwardly laughed and then cleared her throat. She leaned in closer, smiled, and softly pinched Eunji’s cheek. “Well, aren’t you such an overprotective cutie? Stop overthinking things and go to bed. You have school tomorrow.”

      Every time Eunji suspected something fishy, Stephanie would always clear herself without a delay. Her mother had always been a straightforward person, so for her to suddenly throw the “go to bed” card without giving her a proper answer definitely made her suspicious. She knew her mother was hiding something, but since she respected her mother’s privacy and trusted that she was keeping whatever it was from her for a good reason, she just let it side for now. So she changed the topic, “Where’s Aunt Sunny anyway?”

      “She’s crashing in Hyungsoo’s place tonight.” Stephanie felt relieved that Eunji didn’t press on with the topic of who she was with. She was not ready to tell her that the man whom she claimed to be dead all this time was actually alive and still handsome as ever.

***

      “Will you be fine without me?” Stephanie asked Jinwon while they waited for Stephanie’s cousin.

      “The real question is: will you be fine without me?” Jinwon questioned back.

      Stephanie sighed and looked down on her lap, petting Charming, the sleeping white Maltese puppy. “Maybe,” Stephanie chuckled. “I do have Prince to keep me company remember?”

      “Aigoo,” Jinwon snickered and petted Prince. “You should’ve just named him Jingoo.”

      “I only have one Jin-goo and that’s you,” Stephanie giggled as she ruffled Jinwon’s hair.

      “Well then,” Jinwon chuckled. “You know what I have?”

      “What?”                                                                          

      “I have one love, and that’s you.”

        Stephanie’s shoulder raised and she slightly blushed. She then scoffed and hit him softly, trying to calm the butterflies Jinwon has created in her stomach.

At that moment, a white, rusty car stopped right in front of them. A girl who was slightly smaller than Stephanie got off the passenger seat and approached the two. It was Sunny who was wearing a slightly large, white jersey jacket and a cap, creating a kind of tomboyish image since her hair was somewhat short.

      “Is that your cousin?” Jinwon asked as they both stood up.

      “Yeah… Sunny,” Stephanie sighed as she readied her bags.

      Before Sunny could reach them, Stephanie gently laid Prince on top of one of the bags and gave Jinwon a tight hug. Knowing that they won’t see each other for a long time, she relayed her farewell words on him, “I don’t know how long we’ll be separated, but always know that I will come back to you.”

      “Then I’ll be waiting for you,” Jinwon whispered back and tightly gave her one last piece of his warmth.

      “Bye Jingoo.”

***

      “Aish! I’m going crazy,” Stephanie and Jinwon flopped themselves on their beds and stared at the ceiling. It was quiet in their homes, but their thoughts seemed to buzz louder than a city’s busy street.

      “When are we going to meet again?” Stephanie mumbled.

      “How are we going to meet again?” Jinwon huffed as his bangs flew up.

      “No, this won’t do,” They both sat upright and reached for their phones.

      “I’m going to call Jessica,” Jinwon said.

      “I’m going to call Yohan,” Stephanie said.

      Meanwhile, having a peaceful lunch on a Thursday noon, Yohan and Jessica were feeding their kids. Even though they had busy schedules on their jobs, they both always take the time to eat lunch together as one family.

      Since Stephanie and Jinwon already met, they feel they did not worry about how things will work out for them because they knew those two won’t ever let each other go now. It was obvious to see the immense longing in their eyes last night at Xiah Dragon Noodles. Whatever goes on between them was none of their business anymore. However, their phone rang at the exact same time and it was none other than the two.

(Yohan’s ringtone: Cold Noodles – Jessica [SNSD] and Park Myungsoo)

(Jessica’s ringtone: The Boys – Girls’ Generation [소녀시대])

“…..Chagaweo neomuna, sokishiryeo neomuna, eebbali neomush—”

“Keobi naseo shijakjocha an hae bwaht-damyeon keudaen tudeoldaeji mara jom. GG. Jujeo—-”

      “Hello?” Yohan and Jessica said in unison on their own phones.

      “Jessica!” Jinwon exclaimed.

      “Yohan!” Stephanie exclaimed.

      “Oh, Fany-ah!” Yohan greeted.

      “Oh, hey Jinwon!” Jessica greeted.

      Yohan and Jessica glanced at each other across the table as they both overheard who they were both talking to right now. It’s strange how the two contacted them at the same time.

      “You guys were the ones who planned things last night right?” Jinwon and Stephanie asked.

      “Yeah…” Yohan and Jessica replied.

      “First of all thank you, guys… for bringing us together again,” they both said.

      “Oh, haha,” Yohan laughed. “Of course, of course!”

      “You’re welcome,” Jessica said. “Told you I had a plan.”

      “But now, what do I do?” Jinwon and Stephanie asked, making Yohan and Jessica blank. They haven’t really thought this far.

      “I mean, Yohan, you were close with Jinwon,” Stephanie said. “What do you think I should do?”

      “I mean, Jessica, you’re close with Stephanie,” Jinwon said. “What should I do?”

      “Um…” Yohan and Jessica’s minds were completely empty.

      “It’s been a long time and I’m really going crazy here! I need some advice!” Stephanie whined.

      “I don’t exactly know how I’m going to be around her and I’m going crazy here! I need some kind of information!” Jinwon grumbled.

      “Aw, sorry Fany-ah… I don’t know much about Jinwon myself, at least not anymore, so I can’t say much,” Yohan gently said.

      “Oh… right…,” Stephanie pouted. “I knew it was going to be like this,” she mumbled.

      “Didn’t I already tell you that you ask nothing about Stephanie from me? Go find out things yourself! You can’t just keep relying on me!” Jessica angrily replied.

      “Says the girl who told me to trust her?” Jinwon scoffed. “Ugh, I knew it was going to be like this,” he mumbled.

      “Fine, it’s alright. I’ll call you later,” Jinwon and Stephanie said.

      “Wait,” Yohan said as he waved his hand to get Jessica’s attention. “If it makes you feel any better, Jinwon usually goes in the coffee shop near Xiah Dragon Noodles every 5pm.”

      Jessica heard her husband and also said to Jinwon, “Hey Jinwon, if it makes you feel any better, Stephanie usually goes in the coffee shop near Xiah Dragon Noodles every 5pm.”

      “Really? Thanks… I’ll call you later.”

      “Alright,” Yohan and Jessica said. “Good luck then.”

      The moment the call ended, Yohan and Jessica sighed in relief and then erupted into laughter. They didn’t want to get caught up in the middle of the two’s relationship. They have done all they could to reunite them, but the next chapters were not up to them.

***

      It was the afternoon and the four friends were once again on a double date. Minjae wanted to let Sarang and Bomyi come a long to make it as a group hang out, but the two didn’t bother. They knew Minjae’s intentions. Bomyi and Sarang thought pairing Kibum and Eunji was useless and stupid since Minjae just wanted to tease them. So Minjae just let them be and the four strolled down the park and ate ice cream that was sold on a snack bar.

      “So what do you guys want?” Eunji asked as she got up from the picnic table with So Eun.

      “I’ll just have what you’re having,” Kibum casually said.

      “I’ll have what So Eun is having!” Minjae cheerfully raised his hands.

      “Okay,” Eunji chuckled. “We’ll be back.”

      As Eunji and So Eun walked farther away from the boys, Minjae started, “So Kibum, do you really not have feelings for Eunji? You seem to be really close to her these days.”

      “What kind of feelings are you talking about? We’re just friends,” Kibum grumbled and crossed his arms to his chest.

      “You did not answer my question,” Minjae smirked. “Do you have feelings for Eunji?”

      “Maybe,” Kibum aloofly replied with his chin up.

      Minjae snickered, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

      Soon, the two girls came back with only two cups of ice cream. “Sorry guys, they’re out of stock.”

      “That’s alright, you girls can just have it,” Kibum and Minjae said.

      Eunji sat next to Kibum and So Eun next to Minjae. The girls happily enjoyed eating their ice cream while they chattered about random things. Because So Eun and Minjae were now really close friends, So Eun didn’t mind sharing Minjae her ice cream and fed him like a baby. Kibum and Eunji just sneered at the sight of the two who was acting all lovey-dovey in front of them. It was nothing new to see since they have been like that for a while. They both have been kind of getting sick of it.

      “Why don’t you guys share your ice cream too?” Minjae said, still trying to find out if the two has some kind of relationship going on. If they will act awkwardly, they surely have feelings for each other.

      “Okay,” Eunji casually replied and held up the teaspoon with ice cream in front of Kibum’s mouth. Kibum was a bit startled, but he gladly ate it anyway. Minjae on the other hand, found that it wasn’t going to be easy to crack them open, but he wasn’t going to give up.

      “Eunji, do you like Kibum?” Minjae asked.

      “Sure,” Eunji said as she spooned more ice cream. “He’s a nice friend,” She smiled and held up the spoon in front of Kibum again. Kibum made a flattered face and jokingly ate the ice cream as if he was feeling all shy. Kibum snatched the spoon and also scooped one for Eunji. She was also taken aback, but she gladly ate it. They were still as playful as ever and totally not cheesy towards each other at all, making things even harder for Minjae.

      “How about you, Kibum?” Minjae asked, making Kibum slightly choke.

      “Of course,” Kibum nodded. “I like Eunji.”

      “How much?” Minjae smirked.

      Kibum knew Minjae’s intentions by this point and he figured he would not resist bottling up his feelings. In a playful tone, Key answered, “Let’s just say if I was an angel, I’d probably be Eunji’s guardian angel. And if I was supposed to save either you or Eunji, I’d definitely save Eunji.”

      Eunji just snickered and her expressions looked like she just took it as a joke. But deep inside her she listened closely to Kibum’s words and took it at heart. She knew Minjae and Kibum were best friends, but hearing that Kibum would save her rather than Minjae was funny and sweet at the same time.

***

      The next day, back in the same small studio where of the baby grand piano and two blood related human beings hung out, a thought came to Eunji after she finished teaching Jinwon a part of the Chopin song.

      “So, have you found your girlfriend yet?”

       Jinwon became startled for a moment and stuttered, “Y-Yeah…”

      “Well? What happened?”

      “We met just a few days ago.”

      “And?”

      As Eunji waited for an answer, Jinwon suddenly looked at his watch, stood up, grabbed his coat hurriedly, and said, “I have to go. Let’s meet whenever okay?”

      “Okay…?”

      And with that, Jinwon ran as fast as he could to the coffee shop near Xiah Dragon Noodles. Believing Jessica’s words from yesterday’s phone call, he thought surprising Stephanie there would be nice. However, as soon as he barged in the coffee shop, his eyes swept through the whole shop and Stephanie’s figure was nowhere to be seen. What time was she usually here again? He’s sure he got the timing right.

      “Did those two lie to me?” Jinwon grumbled. Before the barista could greet him in, the chimes of the coffee shop rang again. He blinked and held his breath hoping the person he wanted to surprise would surprise him instead.

      “Jinwon?” As soon as he heard that familiar husky voice calling out his name, his heart began to race.

      “Stephanie?” He jerked his head around and there Stephanie was equally dazed hearing her name in his voice. When the ends of her mouth tugged up to an uncontrollable smile, her cheeks turned incredibly round and pink and her eyes perfectly shaped an arc that enhanced the brightness of her soul. Her chin tucked in timidly and her shoulders became tense, slowly rising at every glance she took of him. Her chocolate hair cascaded gracefully down to her chest and she brushed it consciously with the tip of her fingers. It was obvious to see that she pampered herself for him today, for the last time they saw each other, her hair had only been tied up to a lazy bun and not an ounce of make-up covered her childlike eyes. But one thing was for sure—the teenager he was familiar with had beautifully bloomed to a delicate lady.

      Jinwon still could not help but wonder how a woman so cute and beautiful marched right in his life without a notice. What did he do to deserve this diamond before him? He didn’t even properly dress for this occasion. He looked too much like a worn-out college student wearing a hoodie printed with pandas with his hair uncombed since the night before. If only he planned this whole thing better, maybe he would be more presentable. But rather than being conscious of how casually he dressed, he tried to brush it off and enjoy his dream girl again.

       “Hi,” Jinwon greeted with an awkward wave of his hand. He just chuckled at how ridiculously uncool he said it instead of beating himself up, and Stephanie was drawn to laugh at it too. Anyone could tell they were both too shy anyway to properly compose themselves with much confidence.

       Jinwon then cleared his throat and stuttered, “So-uh… Wanna… um… wanna grab some coffee?” With a nod from Stephanie, they ended up hanging around the coffee shop talking about their lives, both deeply interested in every story each one had to tell. Rather than talking like heartbroken, shattered lovers, they conversed with each other like they were once just high-school friends, eager to catch up on what they have missed in each other’s life.

       However there was one thing that got Stephanie at the edge of her seat. Among all the stories she had, she could not even mention or hint at the one thing that brought her the most joy during the fifteen years apart from him. While Jinwon openly told about the journey he went through as a music composer with the friends and family that helped him through it all, she tried so hard to come up with the most random questions to avoid being questioned too much about her own life. It’s because all questions seem to lead back to the thought of her precious daughter, the one who had been beside her the most.

      “So how about your love life?” Stephanie immediately asked him after he finished his story of his music company’s bankruptcy. She pressed her hands to her hot cup of coffee to warm her cold hands and said, “Are you single or…?”

      “Single. To be honest, I really didn’t have time for women,” Jinwon shrugged. “Sure, there might have been dates here and there… flings… but that was all to it. I never got into anything serious.”

      “Really?” Stephanie did not believe him. “But you’re a really cool and loving person. Don’t tell me you haven’t shared your heart to anyone at all.”

      “Since after the accident, you know my brain was kind of in a scrambled mess. I spent half my fifteen years studying things again the other half working in a music company. I’m a really busy person,” Jinwon truthfully said.

      “You really didn’t have time for girlfriends?” Stephanie said, still in disbelief.

      “Including friends. I didn’t have time for friends. I don’t have many friends,” Jinwon said, with the volume of his voice gradually going lower. “Well… I guess I do have many friends but they are not close,” he wondered.

      “Who keeps you company most of the time then?” Stephanie asked.

      “My sister HaYeon, her family,” Jinwon replied, “And her friend JooHyun. Oh, and YongHwan also. I know there was another one I was really close to back then, but I don’t remember clearly. My memories are so shaky…”

      “JooHyun?” Stephanie was slightly taken aback by his reply. If JooHyun knew Jinwon, why hasn’t she mentioned anything about this to her at all?

      “Yeah, we were friends for as long as I could remember. But she doesn’t have time for me these days ‘cause you know… she’s pregnant and stuff.”

      “Wait, you know JooHyun?” Stephanie asked. “A-and you’re close with her?”

      Jinwon went silent for a moment. It always seemed strange to everyone that he knew her and was close to her.

      “Why are you so surprised?” he asked and took a sip of his coffee.

      “It’s just that… JooHyun never showed any interest in trying to talk to you when you woke up after the accident. She tried so hard not to exist in your life back then, but now you’re saying you guys know each other? I don’t know… It’s just strange. I mean I’m close to her, too.”

     This thought never really crossed his mind until now. It was true that he had no record of JooHyun in his first journals yet she was included in his dreams. It started to hit him why JooHyun used to be so hesitant and awkward just being near him back when they “met” each other. Eventually, they grew closer after always hanging out together, but why did she never mention knowing him as a close friend when they were teenagers? Maybe she knew that he hated being reminded of his forgotten past, thus never brought it up to him at all.

     “It’s probably because of HaYeon,” Jinwon wondered. “She was always with JooHyun so I guess it was pretty unavoidable not to know her again.”

     “Oh… I guess.” Even though Stephanie completely understood how JooHyun and Jinwon became friends again, it still did not make sense to her how JooHyun never mentioned it to her. How was she able to hide that fact from her for so many years? It would have been nice to know how close Jinwon was from her reach just because of JooHyun’s connection!

     Immersed in her own thoughts, Stephanie did not notice that a minute of silence had passed without her shooting another question. Before she could even think of another question, Jinwon started, “Stephanie…” He stared outside the coffee shop window and continued, “Why haven’t you been curious about what I remember from our past?”

     Stephanie’s mouth dried up and shoulder became tense. Why was he suddenly asking something she tried so hard to avoid? Of all of the possible questions, why did he ask that? Did Jinwon remember the most important piece of information about the both of them? Did Jinwon remember getting her pregnant and promising her all the things he eventually couldn’t keep? What answer did he want to hear?

     “Do you want me to?” Stephanie asked blinked as she tried to organize and prepare all the possible answers to all his possible questions.

     Jinwon looked back at her and saw how flustered she was. To him, it looked as if the past did not cross her mind at all and that she was more intent on knowing the present. Even if this thought seemed fine, he still wanted to reminisce a little with her.

     “I’ve been seeing my teenage memories play out,” he said, shyly fiddling with the handle of his cup. Stephanie nervously turned her eyes away. “I sometimes see little moments or something that didn’t even seem significant back then. Sometimes I can’t make sense of it, but more often, it really feels like I’m traveling back in time, like I’m actually there,” he sighed, “…and you’re there with me.”

     Stephanie stayed silent trying to avoid his gaze.

     “We were really happy, you and I,” he said, slowly getting depressed the more he remembered his dreams. “But I don’t even remember everything… that’s why it became an unreachable dream in the end. Even if I still don’t remember everything about who we were or what we used to do, is it really okay to be here with you like this?”

     Stephanie noticed how uncertain he was about her desire to reconcile with him. She had to assure him that it was all okay to be with her even with his incomplete memories. “Of course it is okay, Jinwon. Keeping memories are important and precious and all that, but loving each other at the present day will always surpass that, don’t you think? What matters more is that we were given another chance. And I believe with such a clean slate laid out before us, everything that we laughed and cried about back then would be replaced with greater things.”

     Jinwon carefully listened to her words with an eased heart. She was right. Trying to loving each other on the present day is much more important than trying to love what they once were. It’s really time to wake up from his dreams. The past is just the past after all. Instead of rebuilding a broken house, it is better to make a new one.

***

      As soon as Eunji entered the house, she notified her mom that she was home with a loud shout but there was no response. Through the silence she immediately assumed she went somewhere to take care of some affairs. She didn’t mind it for it was usually like this. At some days, Stephanie would just suddenly be out of the house without telling her anything about it, not even through a phone call or text. But there will always be a note left behind for her to read. This time, it was written: “Out on a blind date. I’m coming home before dinner. Love You baby <3”

      Realizing that no one was around to see what she can do in the house, Eunji ran up to her mother’s room and snatched the pink-striped notebook again. Oh, where did the respect for her mother’s private life go…?

She flipped through the pages and started to read,

 August 11, 1996, Sunday

     As I said, yesterday night, Sunny called. She told me that my father had a stroke and that everyone in my family is in total chaos right now… History is repeating itself again sigh Sunnys bringing me back to the city today.

     I love my cousin. She knows me well. I was sent away from home so that I wouldnt witness my mothers death, but she knows I dont want the same thing to happen to my father. No matter how distant I am from my father, I want to at least say my last words on him if he actually dies. Family is family after all, and I love my cousin for understanding that more than anyone else.

     However, I dont know how long Ill be staying in the Seoul. I will probably be back in that same horrible school where everybody clings to the stuck-up popular crowd. I will probably be back with a bunch of jerks hoarding around me. I will probably be back with the same bitchy group of girls that hung around in the restrooms. I will probably be back riding the same noisy bus. I will probably be back walking in the same old noisy street. Ugh, the city is just not where I want to be.

     I thought leaving this town would be easy since Ive only lived here for three months, but I found myself calling this town home. Its not so easy to let go of my new friends or my new life. Even if Ive only been here for a short time, Ive been taken care of so kindly. Ive been treated like I have lived here all my life. Ive been loved by everyone that I have met. Im so blessed to be here. But of course, no matter how comfortable I may be in this town, my family will always have to come first. There is no no when a family members life is on the edge.


     “There are a bunch of sassy, arrogant girls hanging around back in Seoul, at least from what I remember, but I will surely miss my best friend Jessica. Jessica is not any different from all of the arrogant girls back in the city if you see her for the first time, but once you get to know her, shes a total keeper. JooHyun was right, the nickname Ice Princess does fit her, but Jessicas heart is pretty warm. She may look like a cold person, but shes actually caring and pretty fun to have around and is not as dumb and ignorant as those popular girls in the city. We both are complete opposites, but thats what I love about her. Weve been friends since back in the days when we both lived in Seoul, but shes not moving back there like I am. Oh how I wished I could just stay here

     Im pretty sure I will never meet any greater guy friend like Yohan back in the city. Hes a pretty goofy kid but he has a caring heart. He shows it in a very unique way and I love that. Like that time when we first met, I ran into him one night while I was crying my heart out about my mom because I couldnt sleep. You know what he did? He just gave me milk and said it would help me fall asleep. He has troubles trying to show that he cares, but thats what I love about him. Whoever he will wind up with in the future will be a lucky woman (If it happens to be Jessica, then Ill probably be convinced that I have the power to predict time ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ).


As for my only dongsaeng, JooHyun, Im sure I will never meet someone as unique as her back in Seoul. Shes so different from anyone that Ive met. I mean seriously, how can she be so perfect as in healthy? Ive never seen such a disciplined human being in my life. And shes so innocent! After all that, shes so cute most of the time, and she has this obsession with some cartoon! Shes the best dongsaeng in my life! If I ever come back to this town, I will surely be a better unnie to her.

     And also, Mr. Daydream hes my dork. He is my first kiss. He is our kid leader. I wish I couldve spent more time with you. Wait for me. Ill come back to you.

Eunji skipped a few pages that consisted of her Stephanie’s life back in Seoul and continued to read,

December 21, 1996, Saturday

Ive got it! I finally bought the perfect gifts for everyone back in town. The gifts I bought are totally the best, especially the gift I prepared for Mr. Daydream. Weve been sending each other letters pretty often and what he always says is that his throat has been getting sore lately. I told him to drink a lot of ginger tea because I know that helps in some way. But that cold kept coming back to him and so hes usually just at home. Theres no one to keep him company but his family and that makes him lonely. So you know what I bought? I bought him a black poodle puppy with the size similar to Charming. I dont know if that would actually help get rid of his sickness, but Im sure that would get rid of his loneliness! Of course, I cant really give it to him directly, but Im going to mail it and the gift will arrive at exactly Christmas Day!

Just you wait everyone!”

***

      “Wah!” Kibum uttered in the living room of Eunji and Stephanie as he was reading the same book he had borrowed from Jinwon a week ago. It was another day of boredom. No one was around to keep him company in his home so hanging out with Eunji was all that he could come up with to pass the time.

      “Why, what happened in that story so far?” Eunji said, not taking her eyes of the keyboards as she was still practicing the ending of the Chopin song.

      “As I told you, they are angels right? Everything was okay in the beginning, but somehow, they winded up in this crazy world where this green neon light controlled them for evil and they eventually destroyed a bunch of other worlds.”

      “Okaay…” Eunji laughed since she wasn’t really getting anything.

      “And I’m reading the part where they are about to unknowingly destroy this place called Diamond Rock where the Council of Nine got their power. Ah, basically, there’s a whole series of these kinds of books and I think Mr. Kim has them all!”

      “Oh!” Eunji suddenly chuckled in excitement. “I did it!”

      “Huh? Did what?” Kibum laid the book down.

      “I got it! I finally got it! Hahahaha!” Eunji laughed as she clapped her hands. “I perfected the song—the Chopin song!”

      “Really?” Kibum sprang up from his seat and approached Eunji.

      “Want to hear it?” Eunji said with a big smile on her face.

      Of course, Kibum could not turn her eye-smile down. “You bet I want to hear it!” Kibum happily smiled back at her.

      “Okay,” Eunji took a deep breath. “Listen closely.”

      Sweetly and fluently, her hands played Nocturne in E-flat major, Op.9 No.2. Kibum was definitely amazed at how well Eunji could play. Every time he saw her play, Eunji’s elegant side shone and that was one of the things Kibum loved about her. As for the piece, he knew she could finish it. With great talent like hers, he was sure Eunji would perfect the song at some point.

      As soon as the song ended, Kibum cheerfully applauded her and stared at her in amazement, “Wow, I knew you could do it!”

      “Thanks,” Eunji chuckled. “It’s kind of strange though. I couldn’t do it yesterday, but somehow, I can now.”

      “Maybe it’s because my presence gives off some kind of luck,” Kibum joked, making Eunji softly hit him on his arm and chuckle.

      “Anyway,” Eunji stood up, stretched her arms, walked to the couch, and flopped herself on it. “That’s enough playing for today.”

      “What do you want to do?” Kibum sat beside her.

      “I just want to rest right now. You go on and tell me all about that story you’re reading.”

      “Really? You want to hear about this book?” Kibum said, as he picked up The Tale of the Neon Lights book.

      “Yeah, go on.”

      “Okay,” Kibum cheerfully opened the book. “So here’s the thing. There are these five guys who were appointed to be guardian angels of our Earth. Their main missions were to protect people, solving mysteries in different timelines with their time machines…”

      “Wait, where did they get the time machine?”

      “From one of the Council of Nine.”

      “Wait, I don’t get it. Who are the members of the Council of Nine anyway? What are they?”

      Soon, Stephanie entered the home and found the two teenagers sitting on the couch chatting together.

      “Hi kids, what are you up to?” Stephanie said as she slid onto some slippers.

      “Oh mom, you’re back. How was your date? Did you turn down Choi Si-Yoon already?”

      “Date?” Kibum turned to Stephanie. “You were on a date?”

      Stephanie’s eyes blinked rapidly out of nervousness. She gulped and said, “Si-Yoon left the country two days ago.”

      “Who was it then?” Eunji asked.

      “J- um…” Stephanie coughed. She cleared her throat and held her chin up high, “You don’t have to know.”

      “What?” Eunji pouted. “Since when was I not worthy of knowing this kind of information?”

      “Don’t worry. If it’s the right time, I’ll let you meet him,” Stephanie said. She knew she’ll have to tell her about Jinwon at some point.

      “Oohhh some mystery this time, huh?” Eunji scoffed.

      “Do you like him?” Kibum asked.

      “Yes,” Stephanie said with no hesitation. Eunji never heard her mother so confident in saying this. Who was this guy that was all of a sudden good for her mother?

      “We might meet again tomorrow so Kibum, if you could keep my daughter company after school, that’d be great.”

      “Of course!” Kibum’s eyes filled with excitement. “I have nothing to do anyway.”

***

      “Ugh, so noisy,” Jinwon grumbled as he groggily locked himself in his room. It was Christmas Day. His parents’ friends, including their children—a bunch of people he doesn’t really know—were guests in his home. It wasn’t a very fun Christmas Day for him since all the wrong people were spending it with him, and he was sick. His head pounded from his cold and his throat felt as dry as sandpaper, slowly and torturously scratching away every bit of his sanity. The longer he had to hear another one of the guests’ wheezing and cackling laugh, his head might explode.

      “Ugh,” Jinwon snorted and closed his burning eyes. “Why is Christmas so horrible this year? I can’t even spend it with my friends or my cousins.”

      After grumbling about how bad Christmas was going for him, he looked to his right, seeing the small pile of letters from Stephanie. He sighed, “I wonder how Fany is doing… I hope she’s having a nice Christmas.”

      As he slowly drowsed off, someone knocked on his room. Just when his head was at ease, all the stress went back up again and his headache pounded once more.

      “Oppa, it’s just me,” his sister HaYeon said on the other side of the door.

      Jinwon just grumbled and closed his eyes. He didn’t bother to move a muscle.

      “Jinwon Oppa!” HaYeon shouted, constantly slamming on the door.

      Jinwon glared at the door. He knew HaYeon will not stop until he actually opens the door. So he got up slowly and opened the door.

      “What do you want?” Jinwon snarled as HaYeon entered his room with a big pink box. He closed the door to keep the noise out and asked his sister, “What is that?”

      “This package came for you,” HaYeon said with a big smile.

      “For me?” Jinwon stared at the pink box with small holes on top. Never in his life has he received such a girly looking present.

      “It’s from Steppanya Unnie,” HaYeon smirked.

      “Stephanie?” Jinwon’s energy sparked back up and he instantly examined the box. Suddenly, there was a whimper heard in the box. “What’s in there?”

      HaYeon helped him open the box. As soon as the box was opened, Jinwon and HaYeon’s face went close together to see what was inside. Inside the box lay a shy little, black poodle with big round eyes.

      “Waaah, a dog!” HaYeon gently picked it up and petted it. She cuddled it before Jinwon ever could. “Ah!!! It’s so cute!”

      Jinwon looked at the box and there laid a note written: “Someone to keep you company whenever you’re lonely.” He giggled as he read it and stared at the quiet puppy on HaYeon’s arms.

      “That’s so cool of Steppanya Unnie,” HaYeon said as she passed on the puppy to Jinwon. “What are you gonna name it?”

      “I’m not sure,” Jinwon said as he caressed the puppy’s curly black fur.

      “Name it something really ridiculous like ‘Princess Lovely’ since Stephanie Unnie has ‘Prince Charming’,” HaYeon joked.

      “It’s a boy though it says here,” Jinwon said as he read the small letter.

      “Then what are you gonna name it? ‘Night’, ‘Stefan’?”

      “Mmm… let me think about it,” Jinwon said as he scratched the puppy’s chin.

***

      The next day, Jinwon still had not come up with a name for his new pet.

      “Hi…” He stared at the puppy’s big round, black eyes, and the puppy just stared back at him and tilted its head as if it was really listening.

      “What shall I name you?” Jinwon asked the puppy on his bed with his chin resting on his arms. For a few minutes, Jinwon was silent, but his mind scrolled with the most random names that he could come up with.

      His mother knocked on his door and entered, “Jinwon, here’s a glass of water if you’re still sick,” She said, laying the glass of water on his side table. “There’s also hot water on the pot if you want to drink some ginger tea. If you want anything else, just ask okay?” she said and left.

      As Jinwon stood up to get the glass of water, a name clicked. He noticed that his headache had gone away and that he could breathe properly again. Yesterday he was feeling horrible and sick that he could barely breathe because of his throat constantly wheezing, but today, it was as if he never had a cold. So he picked up the puppy on his arms and walked to her sister’s room.

      “Hey, I’ve come up with a ridiculous name as you said,” Jinwon snickered as he scratched the puppy’s neck.

      “What?” HaYeon’s eyebrows rose with much anticipation.

      “Ginger.”


CHAPTER 9: Friends


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