Chapter 1: Cuts
DECEMBER 11, 1997, Thursday
Softly and carefully Jinwon’s hands pressed the mini-grand piano’s keys. Piano has never been considered as one of Jinwon’s expertise, but with JooHyun’s constant lectures echoing in his head, his fingers started taking it away gently.
The sweet sound of Chopin’s composition echoed through the small studio, throwing Stephanie daggers of mixed emotions right through her heart. He seemed too eager to play this sweet nocturne, too deep in-love, as if music and love could really get him through anything in life. Even his slouchy and depressing musician posture was cured by his eagerness to do this piece right. He was radiantly glowing while Stephanie flickered dimly with all that was left inside of her.
“Forget about food,” she remembered what he said when she asked him about what he’d bring on a deserted island. “I would rather bring my guitar and die with music because there’s nothing else better than that…” He almost loved nothing more but music—it was and will be his first and last love as he would always say. But while he was engulfed in this passion, he found something he loved more. “But there’s truly nothing better than bringing you with me because you make my heart sing. You are the best music in the world, Fany.”
As a teenager in desperate need of love, Stephanie kept these words close to her heart. People say those words are fleeting promises among young lovers, but it could only convince her that their love would last forever. “I know him. He loves me and will never leave me.” She would make herself believe them day and night. Today, they will surely be tested.
The little dimple sunk deep under the right side of Jinwon’s chin and he was giggling on his own as he jubilantly pressed those spruce keys. His seemed so perfectly seated on his own cloud of oblivion—so peaceful, so undisturbed. It drove Stephanie’s heart to the ground. How was she supposed to approach him with news that could end his enchanting high? Should she lie and leave him there or should she hit him with the news as soon as possible? Lying shouldn’t even be an option, yet if that choice fades away, the truth will hurt like a rock hurled to his head, damaging his sense of ease and freedom. Just how could she do that to the boy dreaming high up in the open sky?
She closed her eyes to let the melody comfort her. She was reminded of memories—sweet and happy memories—and it soothed the tension currently running in her veins. It could have almost helped release her worries, but Jinwon abruptly halted with a husky sigh.
“Why did you stop?” Stephanie whimpered. She wanted him to keep playing so that she could forget about the cruel world—even for just a minute.
“I can’t quite get the last part right yet,” Jinwon replied. He looked at Stephanie and saw saw that she looked a bit letdown. He thought it was because he couldn’t play the last part, so he grinned excitedly and said, “Do you know why I have been trying so hard to learn this song?”
“Since we’re still kind of teenagers, I am not sure if we will end up being together forever,” he said and tears instantly started pooling on Stephanie’s eyes. He was at it again with honeyed words. Its high used to fly them together up above the clouds of pleasure and love, but since she has been pulled down from these clouds so suddenly, it only gave her a stomach ache.
“But,” Jinwon continued, “When I finish this Chopin piece, when I can play it perfectly, when I can play it without my hands trembling, that’s when I’ll know, I’ll be with you forever. It’s like an assurance.”
The bubbly feeling Jinwon intended to overflow her with could not put a smile on her face. It’s not every day he gets to say he wants to be with her forever and she needed it today more than ever. However, it was said at the wrong time. Just how much rougher will this day get for her? Nothing seems to be on her side and it frightens her that Jinwon won’t be on her side today either.
With this dreadful thought in mind, she tried to hold her tears back. Like a balloon that could not hold any more water, she grimly burst in to tears. She quickly turned her face away from him and sobbed trying to say sorry for reasons she didn’t even know.
“Wh-what’s wrong?” Jinwon asked, trying to sound as calm as possible even though he mentally panicked. She was undeniably crying from pain and anxiety instead of tears of joy. Did he do or say something wrong?
“I-it’s just…,” Stephanie breathed raggedly and her voice trembled, “do you really believe in that? Do you really believe that we can make it through anything… forever?”
Jinwon stared at her in confusion. Why was she suddenly asking these kind of questions—these words of doubt? That was not the Stephanie he was familiar with. “I can’t say for sure since this life is unpredictable,” Jinwon sighed.
“Extremely unpredictable…” Stephanie thought.
“But I do want to believe that we will be together… forever,” Jinwon continued, “no matter what.”
“Even if the worst comes?” Stephanie asked as her tears continued to fall down.
The worst never came to them but hearing this question caught Jinwon off-guard. They have maintained a fresh relationship for a year now by avoiding the hard circumstances. They do fight at times, but it would always be resolved the next day. Gloomy topics barely got brought up since Stephanie wanted her days to brightly move forward despite a hurtful past. The only things they ever sought to do were to understand each other and love like they have known each other all their life. So why was she so doubtful towards him today? What was she hiding from him? Did the worst finally come?
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Jinwon warmly side-hugged her and brushed her long wavy hair away from her face. “Is there something you’re going to tell me?”
Stephanie wiped her tears away and stared deeply into Jinwon’s eyes. The longer she stared, the harder her tears wanted to pulse out. She could feel her chest burning in agony and her throat choking up until she could breathe no more.
“I’m pregnant,” Stephanie said as her voice trembled and broke, feeling restlessly ashamed of her own existence. “I’m sorry…” She closed her eyes to avoid his gaze, for the longer she felt those shattered eyes linger on her, the more her heart bled with ignominy.
Jinwon froze at the unbelievable news. The climax of what they did 6 weeks ago flashed right before his eyes. Shame engulfed him and he trembled knowing what they had both willingly and foolishly done. He was so sure they played it safe. Although this news came from the love of his life, the girl he swore he would marry someday, this felt more like a nightmare than a dream.
He cradled Stephanie into his arms to stop her from crying for her cries made him weaker like a kryptonite. He did not want her to think—not even for a second—that this situation would make him leave. “I’m not running away,” is what his soul’s embrace assured. “We’re not going to break,” his body screamed the tighter he pulled her in.
It was like Heaven and Hell clashing together as his warmth comforted Stephanie while haunting her of their sin. She uncontrollably sobbed causing him to pull her closer more than ever.
“Shh, shh, you don’t have to be sorry,” Jinwon softly hushed as he caressed her hair with stiff hands. “It’s going to be alright. I’m right here. You’re not losing me.”
JANUARY 9, 1998, Friday
It was silent.
The heartbeat monitor beat constantly, steadily, and loudly. The hours Stephanie had spent in this room drowned out this monotonous tune, it could even lull her to sleep. Her head bobbed up and down trying to stay awake, and her back has been acute for about an hour now. Though her body complained to her about how uncomfortable things were getting, she didn’t say a thing. She willingly wanted to suffer like this, to sacrifice her comfort just to be with the one she loved.
A soft grunt erupted in the silence. Its volume was low, but it sounded like trumpets to Stephanie’s ears. Her weary eyes shot open and it stared at the cold body in front of her. She expected some kind of change or progress, but he was still lying there without a care in the world. Nothing happened just like any other day she visited. Maybe tiredness was just taking its toll on her.
She couldn’t even form thoughts at this point. The little growing seed in her stomach drained her battery faster than normal. She felt nauseous every day, making every little thing worse than it should be. Her endurance ran thinner and her emotions got a better control of her. Her hopeful soul grew to become doubtful. Crippling thoughts overcome her, giving her a strong desire to feel as numb as the one in front of her.
However, she has trained herself enough to believe that all these dangerous thoughts were telling her she needed to rest. So before she accidentally spends another unhealthy night in this stale hospital room, she stretched her stiff arms and prepared to leave. It was already 8:34 PM anyway. The family who cared for her would certainly be worried by now.
Before she stood up, she stared one more time at the body in front of her.
“He’s not waking up,” she sighed. If only she had all the time in the world, she would watch him and his chest rise up and down, indicating that there was still life left in him—that there was still hope of him waking up some day. If only fairy tales were true, she would’ve kissed his chapped lips to bring him back to life a long time ago—but even a tale of a princess waking up a cursed prince has never been told. And so she prayed, or rather murmured, “Please wake up soon.”
Like magic, her words came true and the boy’s eyes slowly flickered open. A sharp static exploded in his ears when his body tried to adjust to his sudden awakening. His head pounded but the pain quickly subsided. The first things he noticed were whitewashed ceilings above him and an annoying beep entering his left ear. He couldn’t move his body and his mouth had gone dry.
“Where am I?” Jinwon thought. His vision constantly blurred and he couldn’t decipher what was happening. Everything he saw seemed foreign to him; he couldn’t describe anything that his eyes landed on. But then it met Stephanie’s blood-shot eyes. Something about those brown, glistening eyes felt like home.
Stephanie lost her breath seeing him stare back at her. Her mouth dropped from shock. It felt like a dream seeing him finally awake—finally looking at her with those calm eyes.
“Jin-Jinwon?” Stephanie stuttered with a smile. However, he did not respond and Stephanie immediately assumed the worst. “Do you… remember me?”
Although unaware of his current situation, Jinwon was still able to understand her words. He stared at her trying to find an answer. Who was she? Her voice sounded familiar like a popular song of the past. Her face, although swollen and abused with tears, looked absolutely beautiful. She must have been someone in his life for his heart felt comfortable just staring at her, but not a memory or even a name came to mind. He tried to reply in any way he could but his sore throat did allow him to speak. His nerves were too stiff that he helplessly could not move any part of him. All he could do was faintly squinted his eyes for a second with his eyebrows struggling to furrow along as an answer. Then his eyes suddenly felt sore from being exposed to light, so he closed it.
Stephanie held his hand tightly trying to get her soul closer to him. As she desperately tried looking for a way to find assurance that he knew what she was saying, ragged breath escaped her lips. Jinwon opened his eyes, startled that her tears began to show. Though clueless as to what these emotions exactly meant, Jinwon felt the desperation starting in her voice. “It’s me,” her lips quivered, “Stephanie.”
Not a reply came for he could only do nothing but blankly stare. When she could not take seeing his lifeless eyes on her, bloated tears fell. One fell warm on Jinwon’s arm, and then came another. For a minute, this hot rain poured endlessly on his skin. His heart violently reacted to every drop, and the heartbeat monitor amplified it all. He wanted to reach out for her cheeks and catch her tears, but his weak muscles forbid him.
“Can you hear me?” she cried. Jinwon blinked slowly and slightly nodded his head. Stephanie felt a little glimpse of joy and relief, but it just didn’t seem enough.
“Can’t you remember anything?”
Jinwon opened his mouth but only his breath made a faint sound. He closed it immediately knowing nothing would come out. The thought was at the tip of his head, but he could not bring himself to answer. What was he even supposed to say?
“It’s me, Stephanie… I’m your girlfriend.”
Understanding the words she said, Jinwon’s head spun. It was at that moment that he realized something was horribly wrong. “If you are my girlfriend, who am I, then?” Jinwon wondered.
“You do know me, right?” she said, with the last bit of energy that kept her emotions from breaking down.
With a grunt, Jinwon was able to give her an answer before wincing in pain, “No…” His sore body closed his throat again for too much energy was drained trying to force himself to talk.
Stephanie clearly heard him, but in disbelief she just sat there unable to let it sink in. Jinwon had been in a coma for a month from a deadly accident. Memory loss was extremely unavoidable according to the doctor’s diagnosis, and she heard this almost every day. So what, really, was she expecting?
She fixed her gaze on his eyes to find another answer other than the truth, but Jinwon just stared at her like she was transparent. Tears pushed out of her eyes like a rally trying to break down a gate. She couldn’t hold them back no matter how much she convinced herself things would be alright. She covered her mouth and left the hospital room. It was unbearable to look at him, the boy whom she had fallen for, who had fallen on a terrible fate.
Outside of the room, she leaned her back to a wall and cried. Her hair was messy and the bags under her eyes didn’t look so good. She didn’t care if anyone looked. She didn’t care about anyone anymore. She began to shatter as she tried muffling her shriek of sadness. What then was she supposed to do without him now? Questions and doubts started seeping through the cuts on her heart and she had to let it bleed out somehow.
“Tiff, you okay?” Jessica knocked on her door. Hip-hop music blared in the room annoying and worrying Jessica and her parents who treasured silent nights the most. Stephanie had never turned up the stereo enough to reach the whole house before—especially at 10 pm in the evening. She had enough conscience to be considerate towards the family that took care of her during a storm in her own family. And as the open-hearted girl that she was, her room was never locked. Now that it’s past time to make such a loud ruckus, and now that her door was sealed shut, something obviously got her upset. Jessica was not going to let her best friend sink to this level of depression, and neither was she going to sleep with a pounding head.
“Tiff, can you please tell me what’s wrong? You stormed in here crying a few hours ago. Do you expect me to assume you’re fine?” Jessica shouted.
There was no response.
“Stephie…” Jessica sighed. “I know it’s hard for you, but it’s going to get harder if you don’t let me bear it with you.”
The door opened and Jessica was greeted by Stephanie’s miserable hue-less complexion. Her eyes and nose were puffy from endless weeping. It was hard not to cringe at her best-friend’s pitiful sight. Where did the girl with the unbreakable smiling façade go? Stephanie always used to be so cheerful even on her darkest days. People even recognized her as that American-born girl with the unceasing eye-smile—the smile when her eyes took shape like horizontal crescent moons, the smile that could almost brighten anyone’s day. Imagining her downcast almost seemed impossible, but now, even the slightest grin was nowhere to be seen.
“What’s wrong, Steph? Did something happen to Jinwon while you visited?”
Stephanie lowered the volume of her stereo and sat on her bed. She closed her eyes and covered her face with her slightly oversized blue hoodie to ignore Jessica’s question.
“Your future husband would find you charming in his blue hoodie. This is Jinwon’s, right?” Jessica said, trying to hold up a conversation.
“Don’t joke about that. He’s not my future husband,” Stephanie bitterly said.
“Woah, hey, since when is he not your future husband?” Jessica teased. As Jinwon and Stephanie’s best friend, it was unavoidable to witness most of the shenanigans the couple did in their relationship. And since they both were individually special in Jessica’s heart, she closely watches them, making sure they both wouldn’t hurt each other. Even though at times it annoyed her how they both decided to spend most of their time together instead of with her, she was still happy they enchantingly got along. Those lovebirds tended to each other better than the usual teen-age love story that it was no doubt to Jessica they would get married someday. Especially since she witnessed Jinwon’s charming heart first-hand, she knew he’d marry Stephanie once he wakes up from his coma. If not, then she would definitely scold this foolish boy who got her best-friend pregnant. “Jinwon is a great guy. Of course he will marry you in a heartbeat, Fany-ah,” Jessica thought.
Stephanie stayed silent. She didn’t have the ability to shoo her best friend away. When Jessica turns into a curious cat, she might not stop clawing and scratching for answers. She hid herself under her blankets wishing her best friend would see that she did not want to hear Jinwon’s name tonight. She just wanted to be left alone.
“Okay… I’m sorry,” Jessica sighed, catching onto the fact that Stephanie wanted her to leave. “Can you just tell me what’s wrong? You look worse than ever.”
Prince Charming, a Maltese dog given to Stephanie on her 17th birthday by Jinwon, jumped on Stephanie’s bed and nuzzled closer to her. He whimpered and licked Stephanie’s fingers as a sign that he was worried too.
“See, even Charming cares for you. Fany-ah… Stephanie…”
“Jinwon’s awake.” As soon as those words came out of her mouth, her chest constricted with pain. She pulled her pillow closer to muffle her crying from Jessica.
“Oh?! Really?” Jessica was overjoyed but her shoulders immediately dropped at her trembling friend. She nudged Stephanie and gently turned her face from her pillow. “Woah, hey… What’s wrong? Is it… is it not good news?”
Stephanie just continued crying, making Charming a bit jittery.
“Stephanie…” Jessica took off the hoodie and brushed away Stephanie’s hair from her face. All she could see was the depression of just wanting to sleep things off.
“Fine. It’s okay. I don’t have to know that right now.” Jessica glanced at Stephanie’s flat stomach and sighed, “But don’t forget about your baby, Fany-ah. Who knows, if you’re distressed, it might be distressed, too.”
She stood from Stephanie’s bed and prepared to leave until Stephanie spoke, “I wish I listened to you.”
“Back in October… I wish I knew better. I wish Jinwon and I never did it.”
Jessica sighed, “Oh well… what’s done is done. You need to stay strong to reap what you sow.”
“I wish I never had this.”
“C’mon. Don’t think like that now. Try to cheer up,” Jessica said. “I know all you want to do is curl up and cry, but at least try not to skip any meals. Do it not for yourself, but for Jinwon. I mean after all, you are carrying his baby.”
JANUARY 10, 1998, Saturday
HaYeon, Jinwon’s sister, younger only by a year, excitedly swung the door open and saw his brother awake. She just couldn’t believe her ears when the hospital phoned her family, telling them he was awake. An exciting day it truly was to be able to see her brother back to life again. However, her parents didn’t share the same spirit for they knew what there was to expect from an accident like this. And so they trudged slowly behind, bracing themselves for what might come.
“Oppa!” HaYeon smiled widely and sat by his hospital bedside. “I’ve missed you so much! It’s so boring without you. I wanted to prepare some gifts but Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me.”
Jinwon slowly turned his emotionless eyes to her. HaYeon’s smile dropped instantly, confused as to why his response had no energy.
“Can he… hear me?” HaYeon asked the nurse who was just wrapping up on checking his health’s status.
“Mmhmm,” the nurse optimistically nodded.
“Why is he staring at me like that?” HaYeon asked.
“Like he doesn’t know who I am.”
“Maybe he doesn’t. Considering what he has gone through, memory loss is very common,” the nurse smiled like it was nothing. “But considering how early he has woken up you don’t have to worry. His memories will probably come back in no time.” She bowed and then left.
Mr. and Mrs. Kim entered the room and found the room to be silent. They thought HaYeon would be talking non-stop, and that Jinwon would laugh, but the air was quiet and it was stale. No one was talking. No one was smiling either.
Tears pooled as she scanned Jinwon’s face. Her brother always smiled whenever she was around. He always laughed at everything she said back then. However this stiffened reaction was not the way she imagined him at all. “It’s impossible,” she tried telling herself. “He would never forget me.” But the reality was no joke. This turn of events would surely change everything. She got up and turned her head away, trying not to show her tears to her parents. Never had she sobbed as hard as this and she hated the feeling of this vulnerability. She wanted to stop crying but it just wouldn’t stop at will.
“Dear? What’s wrong?” Mr. Kim asked. HaYeon didn’t answer. Mr. and Mrs. Kim glanced at each other worriedly. What they feared certainly made them panic.
“Jinwon… Jinwon, dear,” the mother softly held her son’s hands. “It’s me, your mother.”
Jinwon heavily blinked and averted her gaze. Mother? Even though he knew the meaning behind it, the fact that he didn’t even know his mother troubled him. First, he had the slightest clue as to who he was, then got introduced to a girlfriend he didn’t know, and now, he doesn’t even recognize his own family.
His mother started crying silently while hugging his sister. His father tried to keep himself sedated and be strong for the girls, but it looked like he could also fall apart any second. They were warned about the memory loss but still, it was too hard to accept this possibility.
Stephanie, however, was warned about a hundred times by the doctors since she asked too many questions. She was here in the hospital everyday unlike the others who just visited whenever they were free. Jinwon’s parents even asked her about his awakening since they knew how fond she was of every second in that hospital room. However, she was too tired and depressed to break the news to anyone.
Now the unavoidable reality has come. They wanted to stay optimistic about him remembering what he needed to know, but who was to say? This was an unpredictable world after all.
JANUARY 13, 1998, Tuesday
Jinwon sat upright and it felt like a great accomplishment to him. He could finally do it on his own, yet somehow it wasn’t enough. He could never get sentences to form right—the thought would be in his head but the words just wouldn’t come out. The only thing he could do best was just eat and sleep. Just nod and just sigh. It frustrated him.
Every day, he had a visitor.
It had only been a few days since his new birth yet people came and go through his door. He had naturally lost count how many had visited and he could care less about how many stuck his memory. They were all a blur to his eyes as they all had somewhat the same features. Even their names all rhymed the same. Maybe it was because they all buzzed the same words—“I used to be your-” and the words that he started to despised the most, “Do you remember?”
“Jinwon… this is our friends, Hyungsoo, Yohan, and Jessica,” Stephanie said, pointing to the two tall guys and a blonde-haired girl behind her. They too have been a frequent visitor during Jinwon’s one month sleep because they were his best friends. Though not as frequently, they had their time staring at his pale face, wondering when he would wake up, for they all shared the same hope of hoping to be his friend again.
“Shouldn’t we wait for JooHyun first?” Hyungsoo spoke, referring to the youngest member in their school band, whom had tutored Jinwon for almost a year on the Chopin nocturne he so desperately wanted to finish for his precious Stephanie.
“She’s not coming,” Yohan sighed tiredly. They all haven’t had a proper lengthy conversation with JooHyun after Jinwon’s accident. They’re starting to suspect she’s been avoiding all of them. They do not know or could not guess the reason why, but they couldn’t blame her for not being here. Jinwon’s accident was traumatizing for everyone. They didn’t need to understand the effect the accident had on JooHyun.
Jessica had her eyes glued to Jinwon’s complexion. The last time she saw him, his skin was pale and his lips were chapped. Now he was starting to gain back a little bit of hue, but his expressions were still cold. She missed his jubilant smile, always ready to tease at any moment. Now he’s just staring off at the wall, quietly and intentionally trying to ignore their presence.
“Are you sure he can talk?” Jessica whispered to Stephanie, but was audible enough for Jinwon to hear.
“Yeah,” Stephanie whispered back. “When he woke up, I asked him if he remembered me and he did answer. But…” she trailed off.
“But?” Yohan asked.
“He doesn’t remember… anything,” Stephanie sighed hopelessly as tears threatened to gather again.
“What?” Hyungsoo turned his full attention on Stephanie in disbelief. He wasn’t warned about this memory loss problem because Yohan, Jessica, and Stephanie never explained how horrible the accident turned out to be. They didn’t want Hyungsoo, Jinwon’s brother-like friend to hurt as much as they were hurting.
Jessica felt her legs wobble but Yohan held her hand tightly to keep her from falling. This reminded her of how hard it must be for Stephanie, so Jessica kept her emotions together and softly laid her hand on her best-friend’s shoulder. She knew Stephanie needed much more comfort than her.
Jinwon glanced at his so-called friends and noticed the evident sadness on each faces. Hyungsoo was confused yet he tried to hide it. Yohan tried to be strong for Jessica, but his glum eyes gave his weak heart away. Even Jessica who seemed the most emotionless out of them, who tried to be strong for Stephanie, trembled faintly as she tried not to fall apart.
As for Stephanie, he already had an idea of how hard it is for her. That night when he woke up a few days before, when those hot tears fell on his skin and those trembling words desperately wanted him, Jinwon sensed just how much her heart had been fueled with much agony. He even heard Stephanie’s muffled cries from outside the room. He wanted to stand up and ask why she was crying, but his body failed him.
Every time a guest comes into his room, they cry. It’s either they cry or they try not to fall apart. He’s not doing anything, but he sure does have a talent now at opening the waterworks in every person’s eyes. He was cutting hearts without moving a single muscle.
If he could only lie to them—that he did know them—he would do it. However, he would be lying to himself. He needed to figure himself out before he could actually start letting people in.
“Hi… I’m Jessica,” Jessica introduced herself. Jinwon just stared at her and awkwardly nodded his stiff head. He didn’t really care about them but he didn’t want to be heartless either.
“I’m Kwon Yo-Han,” Yohan forced a smile.
Jinwon avoided everyone’s gaze and blankly stared at the neon light going up and down on his left. That was getting more and more entertaining to watch than meeting new people. It’s not that he had a grudge on these innocent “friends,” he just wasn’t interested in them. He had no reason to be. He just wanted to be left alone.
Nobody seemed to understand that he was not mentally ready to be bombarded like this. Only the nurses and doctors have sense when it comes to how much company he could take, but even they get it confused since he could already reciprocate well during the short amount of rehabilitation time. He could only hope someone would catch onto his bitter expressions and save him from all of his social anxieties.
“Do you remember when we first became friends?” Yohan said. “I was only a nerd who was being bullied by this idiot,” Yohan pointed to Hyungsoo.
“Hey, I’m not an idiot!” Hyungsoo sneered. “If anyone’s the idiot here, it’s you. You thought I was a sunbae so you were so respectful to me.”
“Let’s face it. We were both idiots,” Yohan laughed, but Jinwon’s poker face stopped it and sent chills down their spines. He didn’t know what they were talking about and did not share the joy they were feeling as they reminisced.
Yohan sighed and continued on, “Since Hyungsoo was your friend, you told him I was cool and that I was great for your band. I didn’t like being friends with you because Hyungsoo was there, but now we’re buddies, too. I thought I would never have friends, but you came along and gave me more than I had hoped for.”
Jinwon smiled hoping they wouldn’t feel letdown having to tell all these stories he couldn’t even relate to. However, keeping this façade up wasn’t easy and he surely was close to his limit. If only he wasn’t so special, people like them wouldn’t have to feel all the grief he is causing. Life would be so much easier for him and everyone else. Because no matter how precious or funny these memories about him were, he just couldn’t bring himself to sincerely care at all.
There is no use in fooling Stephanie, though. His drooping introverted gaze could only show how rapidly his energy depleted from the endless conversation. She took advantage of this opportunity and said, “I think you guys should go home. He needs some rest.” Jessica, Hyungsoo, and Yohan stared at her, confused that they were being kicked out after 15 minutes of finally seeing their best friend awake. Stephanie pleaded with her tired eyes, hoping they’d understand that there’s something she needed to tell him. They felt sympathetic of her telepathic request and agreed to leave her alone with him. So they bid goodbye for now.
“Why did you do that?” Jinwon asked with a bit of struggle.
“Do what?” Stephanie stared at him anxiously. He was talking—talking to her.
“Send them home,” Jinwon said.
“I sent them home because I wanted to talk with you,” she said.
“Isn’t that…” Jinwon trailed off and winced. There had to be the right adjective that described what she had done.
“Selfish?” Stephanie said. “It seems like it. But I have something to tell you.”
Jinwon stayed silent. Everyone always has something to say to him so that does not make her any different. He probably wouldn’t be interested in anything she has to say if it involves a memory he couldn’t even remember.
Stephanie stared down at her flat stomach and sighed. “I have a secret to tell you that everyone knows,” she thought but could not bring herself to say it. She argued with herself to be straightforward with this from the very beginning, but at that moment, she just got choked up. No matter how many people already knew this secret and stood up to help her carry this burden, it just never seemed enough. Jinwon was the only one who needed to hold her hand on this situation. If he agrees to lock his hand with hers, then she will be assured for a lifetime. But just how much could he take at this state? He was only a boy trying to adjust to too many things all at once. She could not add anymore to his stress by telling him he’s going to be a father.
“Do you feel okay?” was all that Stephanie could say.
Jinwon hesitantly nodded. “Not really” was what Jinwon thought. But he didn’t want people to cry anymore, especially this girl who seemed to look the saddest out the visitors he has met so far. He has seen Hyungsoo, Yohan, and Jessica smile even just a little bit, but Stephanie, never.
“Do you want to hear a story?” Stephanie said.
Jinwon stayed silent but anticipated it. He looked at Stephanie’s eyes and waited.
“…I know this girl and boy. They… from the day the met each other, they knew they wanted to be with each other. Every day, they hung out together and fell in love. However, out of greed or curiosity—I’m not exactly sure which of it best describes it, maybe both—they have created a curse that was meant to be a blessing. They both promised never to let go of each other’s hand even if that curse was quite hard to bear, but one of them got into a big trouble and ended up leaving the other alone. And everything they did together was forgotten by the one who got in trouble, leaving the other with so much pain.”
Jinwon was a bit bothered that she was probably referencing the relationship they once had, but was a bit intrigued that she was not direct about it.
“Is that the end?” Jinwon asked.
Stephanie was caught off guard. She didn’t expect him to ask that.
“I hope not.”
“But I hope we can begin again,” Stephanie said. “Will you allow me? Us?”
Jinwon looked up and stared at her tired eyes. He wasn’t quite sure what he should say. All he knew was that he didn’t want to keep seeing her upset over him.
“I’m Jinwon. Kim Jinwon,” Jinwon offered a hand to shake. Stephanie was taken aback and didn’t know if she should accept it or not.
“I don’t know who you were before,” Jinwon said, saddening Stephanie. “But more importantly, I don’t even know who I am. Let’s… make a new story together.”
Tears brimmed in Stephanie’s eyes but she didn’t let it drop. She smiled sincerely and took hold of Jinwon’s hand and shook it. Oh, how Stephanie wished to kiss his lips right there on the spot instead.
“I’m Stephanie. Stephanie Hwang,” she softly chuckled—for the first time in 4 weeks. Jinwon smiled upon seeing her pretty face light up. Even though she looked tired, she was beautiful. Still, he had no feelings for her and his heart did not flutter in any way. It would take Stephanie a whole sea to cross for her to get him to fall in love again.
Chapter Theme Song:
기다릴게요 (I’ll Wait For You) – SeoHyun
I can see you
The only person in my heart
The one who I miss so much
I can see you
Can’t you see me?
Can’t your hear my heart?
I’m right here, I am waiting
You’re the only one for me
Even though it hurts, I smile
Even though I smile, I cry
I am in the place where your memories remain
How much more do I have to wait
Before you see me?
This earnest heart of mine
Don’t you know it?
Can’t you see me?
Can’t you hear my heart?
I’m right here, I am waiting
You’re the only one for me
Even though it hurts, I smile
Even though I smile, I cry
I am in the place where your memories remain
The outstretched arms that gently held me
The heartwarming smile that once looked at me
The love that even made tears beautiful
My heart still remains the same
You’re the only one for me
I will be standing here
Even if time passes, even if tears fall
I will only wait for you
Even though it hurts, I smile
Even though I smile, I cry
I am in the place where your memories remain