Kibum went along to drop off Eunji to the small studio where Jinwon currently waited. As they walked side by side together, Kibum kept on taking glances of Eunji. Eunji didn’t mind, but she did feel her cheeks tint a little red. Trying to brush it off, Eunji looked up to the gray sky and said, “Man, the weather today is really weird. It’s so gloomy.”
Kibum also looked up and nodded, “Yeah it is. It looks like it’s about to rain.”
“Oh, what do I do?” Eunji mumbled as she searched her bag. “I don’t have an umbrella.”
“Here,” Kibum smiled, taking out an umbrella from his bag. “You can borrow mine.”
“Aw, thanks Kibum,” Eunji chuckled.
“Oh, right, I forgot to tell you,” Kibum snapped his fingers. “I know who your mom is dating.”
“Who?” Eunji turned her full attention to Kibum.
“It’s Mr. Kim,” Kibum smirked.
“Mr. Kim?” Eunji’s mouth dropped. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Kibum nodded. “They were holding hands just at the church gate yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” Eunji’s eyes widened. “And they are already holding hands?! Wow, I can’t believe I had no idea… I can’t believe neither of them told me!”
“But I think you should keep it a secret that you know.”
“Why?” Eunji asked.
“Your mom withdrew from their holding hands as soon as I appeared in front of them. I think she’s not ready to tell us for some reason.”
“Well then, I guess I’ll be acting clueless in front of them,” Eunji chuckled. “Anyway, see you tomorrow Kibum,” she said as they stopped in front of the building. “Let’s hang out tomorrow,” Eunji’s eye-smile showed.
“Yeah,” Kibum cheerfully waved his hand. “Have fun!” He watched Eunji until she was no longer in sight. With a smile on his face, he walked back to his home. Even though they were just friends, he was satisfied to have her walking by his side every afternoon. Seeing her eye-smile like that everyday makes his heart beat like crazy.
Now that Eunji knew her mom was dating Mr. Kim, she could not stop smiling. Just about a week ago, her mother was dating the hot missionary, and Mr. Kim was looking for a long-lost love—but now they have found each other? Just how did they end up being together in such a short time without her even knowing? From the way her mother was swept off her feet every time she got ready for her date with him, she knew she wasn’t going to let go of this guy so easily. If Mr. Kim was able to beat all of the men from blind dates in such a short span of time, he must’ve treated her really well. She herself cannot deny how much she liked Mr. Kim and would gladly approve of this relationship any day.
But does Mr. Kim know he’s dating her mother? That’s always the main question in the test. How well can he take that news? Eunji would be happy to have him as her father figure if it was possible. He was fun, witty, talented, and very caring, too. But would he still stay with Stephanie after knowing he would eventually have a bit of responsibility towards a teenager, too?
“Yes! You got it!” Eunji clapped her hands as Jinwon perfected the Chopin song. “You learned it so fast, I can’t believe it! I mean I couldn’t even get that last part right, but you nailed it!”
“That’s because I have a nice teacher,” Jinwon chuckled.
“No, you’re just extremely talented,” she complemented.
Jinwon chuckled at her remark and paused. He asked, “What are we going to do now? We finished quite early today.”
“Hmm… I don’t know,” Eunji shrugged.
“Ah!” An idea popped in Jinwon’s mind. “Wait a minute,” Jinwon said as stood up and rummaged his bag.
As Eunji waited, Eunji stood up and fixed the scattered papers and music sheets laid on top of the mini-grand piano. Eunji became curious when a blue notebook came to surface. She has seen this notebook a bunch of times on the piano covered in piano sheets like this. Up until now, she had no idea what’s in it. She read a little portion from it once and that was it. So she took a glance at Jinwon to check if he’s still busy searching his bag and took a peek at the first page of the notebook.
“Sunday, March 9, 1998
My name is Kim Jinwon, born in March 9, 1979.
I was in a car accident, December 14, 1997, and I cannot remember anything at all, not even my own name. A girl gave me this notebook as a…”
“Oh… Mr. Kim was in an accident?” Eunji flipped the pages, feeling like she has read something similar before. “Wait… Born in March 9? December 14 accident? Memory loss?”
“Do you remember me?” Her voice did sound very familiar and I did feel comfortable and relaxed seeing her. But no matter how hard I tried to think, I could not remember her. So I tried to honestly tell her, but my body was too sore and I couldn’t speak at all.
She held my hand tightly and told me her name was Stephanie and I just stared at her, not knowing what to say at all. I really could not remember.
“S-S-Stephanie?” Eunji let out a small gasp.
A crash of emotion rained down on her and tears gathered in her eyes, but she kept blinking it away so that it wouldn’t fall. Was the truth about her father this close to her reach all this time? She continued to read,
She asked me if I could hear her and I nodded it stiffly. She asked me if I couldn’t remember anything and I tried again to reply, but only air came out.
Suddenly, she told me she was my girlfriend. At that moment, my head spun and that’s when I realized I couldn’t even remember who I was. And I felt confused and gravely sorry for her.
“Is Mr. Kim… Mr. Daydream?” Eunji’s mouth dropped.
“Ah, yes, this is it,” Jinwon said. Eunji nervously closed the book when Jinwon approached her. “Why don’t you say we record a song?”
“H-huh?” She barely caught his words for at that moment, she saw him with new eyes. This man right in front of her was much more than just her substitute music teacher. This man right in front of her was much more than just her mother’s lover. This man right in front of her brought her to life.
“Pack up your bags,” Jinwon smiled. “We’re going to the Mall of Records.”
Eunji did as told but not because he was the same substitute music teacher, but because he was the father she thought she would never meet. She could not turn down any of their activities now.
“This music store is really awesome,” Jinwon said as they entered The Mall of Records. “I went here a couple of times just roaming around and I found a recording studio.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Eunji chuckled. “I guess I just wander in ‘Heartstrings’ and ‘Everything’ too much that I never really go up the second and third floor.”
“I’m pretty sure you’ll have fun. Recording a song is probably the only thing I can teach you as a music teacher,” Jinwon said as they stepped on the escalator. “Almost my whole life revolves around recording studios.”
“What are we recording anyway?” Eunji asked.
“Here,” Jinwon took out a paper from his bag and handed it to Eunji. “I wrote it with the girl I mentioned to you.”
“You mean my mom,” Eunji thought but she restrained herself from saying it out loud.
“I’m just going to tell you how to sing your parts,” Jinwon continued.
“Wait, is this a duet?” Eunji asked as she read the lyrics.
“Yeah,” Jinwon nodded.
“Won’t your girlfriend want to sing this with you instead of me?” Eunji said.
“I guess, but I want to teach you how recording studios usually are,” Jinwon shrugged. “And I want to have a duet with you. You have a nice voice.”
“Aw, thanks Mr. Kim.”
After three hours in the studio, the demo recording was finally finished. As Eunji waited for Jinwon to obtain the file, she couldn’t help but wonder what they noticeably both had in common. From the very start, he was quite a reserved and calm person and she was the exact opposite. Because of that, when she read his journal, she was in denial for a moment that he was actually her father. However, as she looked back, he was very perceptive and creative like she was—something that her mother wasn’t. They even had the same sense of humor and had an extreme passion for music. Appearance wise, her expressions, arching eyes, and heart-shaped lips truly mirrored her mother’s features, but it was no doubt that her small nose and defined jawline definitely came from him, her father.
“Does he know I’m her daughter?” Eunji thought as he watched Jinwon chuckle with staff members at the front desk. “I mean Mom is dating him… What is happening to their relationship anyway? He did get into some kind of amnesia. What if he doesn’t remember anything?”
“We’re done!” Jinwon happily said as he approached Eunji with two SD cards. “Here’s one for you, and one for me.”
“Oh! Thank you.”
“When I get more settled here, I’ll set up my own studio and we can record an official audio by then!”
“I’ll be looking forward to it,” she smiled. “In the meantime, I’m probably going to listen to this all the time!”
“Me too,” Jinwon chuckled. “I hope she likes this,” Jinwon mumbled.
“Oh, she will,” Eunji nodded. “She’ll love it.”
“How can you be so sure? You said it yourself; she might get jealous since she’s not the one singing the song with me. And your voice could even be mistaken as someone older than a 15 year old.”
“Just forget what I said before. Don’t worry too much. She’ll love it.” Eunji said as she picked up her bag. Jinwon just chuckled since Eunji was too confident about it.
“Anyway, want me to walk you home? It’s getting late,” Jinwon said as he looked at his watch.
“There’s no need,” Eunji said, not wanting him to know where she lived. “But I have to get some stuff back in the studio. I think I left some things.”
“Okay,” Jinwon smiled. “I can just walk you there.”
“I want to hear you play the Chopin song again,” Eunji said before leaving the studio. She still had so much mixed feeling towards the truth she just discovered so maybe Jinwon’s playing would clear her mind a little.
“Alright then,” Jinwon didn’t see any reason to hesitate so he laid his backpack back down and sat in front of the baby grand piano. He opened it and straightened his back. Eunji stood behind him not just to properly monitor his techniques, but to also hide her bubbling emotions. With much concentration, Jinwon took a deep breath, relaxed his arms, and started to play his best. As soon as Eunji heard how soft and sweet his tune had become just as she taught him, tears gathered her eyes. Monitoring his technique got way over her head as she let the slow waltz touch her heart.
All her life she believed her father was dead, but now he was here playing a tune that similarly portrayed the feeling she was going through at this moment. Just like the nocturne, her heart slowly waltzed in joy, feeling so grateful to have known him through music. Why did her mother not tell her the truth about him all her life? Why did JooHyun only introduce him to her now? Those questions didn’t seem to matter at this moment for she felt nothing but grateful.
“How’s that?” Jinwon said with an eyebrow raised as he finished the piano piece.
“That’s great!” Eunji giggled and clapped her hands. “You did a really good job!”
“Really?” He chuckled. “Thanks for all your help! It really means a lot. Now I have to seriously plan my own lessons to teach you something,” Jinwon said as he closed the piano and got up.
“You should,” Eunji laughed.
“Anyway, let’s go home now. It’s getting late,” Jinwon said as he wore his coat. He got Eunji’s coat and helped her wear it. Jinwon had been doing this to Eunji for quite a while now, but Eunji couldn’t help but feel a little bit different today. Her father was helping her wear her coat. “How cute. He’s subconsciously acting like he’s my dad,” Eunji thought and giggled.
Jinwon opened the door to the studio and turned off the lights. The two walked to the hall and then outside of the building. When they were about to separate in front of the building, Eunji stopped Jinwon.
“Mr. Kim,” Eunji called out. She reached for the back of her neck and took off her necklace.
“Yeah?” Jinwon turned around.
“Here,” Eunji reached out her hand to Jinwon to give the necklace to him.
“What’s this?” Jinwon asked as he gladly received it.
“Just some key necklace… I think you should have it,” Eunji said casually.
“W-Why?” Jinwon stuttered as he got a closer look at the necklace under the moonlight. This necklace definitely looked like his necklace from fifteen years ago. It might not be shining as bright as the one he saw in his memories, but it had the same exact pattern. What’s strange is that why is Eunji giving him this?
“Hmm… I just feel like it,” Eunji shrugged. She didn’t know if she was doing the right thing or not. Stephanie did say that the necklace is her father’s. And isn’t Jinwon her father? It only made sense that the necklace should belong to him, right? “Think of it as a reward from your piano teacher,” she smiled.
“Okay then,” Jinwon smiled. “Thank you. I’ll take good care of it. Bye Eunji!” He said as he waved his hands and headed to his apartment.
“Bye Mr. Kim! See you whenever!”
“HaYeon, can I ask you something?” Jinwon shyly asked as he peeked at HaYeon’s room.
“What is it?” HaYeon said, not even batting an eye since she was too focused on studying.
“You need to listen to me,” he said, trying to get her full attention.
“Just spill it,” HaYeon sighed. “I don’t have time for you.”
“Since Dad is on a business trip, and Mom is in Jeonju setting up the optic shop they’ve been fusing about for the past few months, can you have a sleep over at JooHyun’s this weekend?” Jinwon said.
“Why?” HaYeon’s eyebrows scrunched up bothered that his brother was trying to kick her out of the house.
“I want the house for myself and you know…,” he gulped. “Before I go to college next year, I want to know how living alone feels like.”
“All of a sudden?” HaYeon scoffed. “And you were just complaining to me a few days ago about not wanting to grow old.”
“C’mon, just this weekend.”
“What makes you so desperate?” HaYeon glared at him as she was starting to get annoyed. “I have a lot I have to work on!”
Jinwon sighed out of frustration and could not find any more excuses to say. He ran to get something in his room and came back to her door. Without words, he took out a condom and tried to confidently show it to her even though he felt embarrassed to be even holding it.
When HaYeon saw the small, square packet, she wondered what it was for a moment until in an instant, it clicked. Soon, she snorted and burst into laughter. “Woah, hey, hold on! Seriously?!”
“So,” Jinwon asked again, “Can I have the house for myself this whole weekend?”
“Hell, you can have it starting Friday night! Consider me gone ‘till Monday,” she snickered.
“Sunny, I need to talk to you about something,” Stephanie said as she pressed the phone closer to her face. “It’s something really uncomfortable for me to talk about so just hang on there, okay?”
“Yeah, sure Fany-ah. What is it?” Sunny asked.
Stephanie glanced at Jessica who was watching TV to make sure she wasn’t listening. Stephanie whispered, “I know this couple who are… going to take things to the next level.”
“What about it?” Sunny said, not sounding too surprised.
“WHAT?” Jessica shouted as she ran beside Stephanie knowing exactly that she was talking about herself and Jinwon. “What do you mean by that?!”
Stephanie sheepishly smiled at Jessica. She has been living with her under the same roof for quite a long time. She didn’t even know why she’s still keeping secrets from her. Jessica always finds them out as soon as she keeps it as a secret anyway.
“They’re still pretty young, but they do love each other. I just wanted to know what you’d think about it,” Stephanie said as she shyly fiddled with the telephone spring.
“Hey,” Sunny laughed. “You’re asking me about what I think about sex? They should use protection or something. If they don’t want to, then that’s none of my business. If they get sick or conceive, I ain’t taking the blame for it.”
“They need a piece of advice and I can’t really tell them anything myself,” Stephanie said.
“Why are you asking me? I have no experience.”
“It just seemed like you would know a thing or two… you seem wise and all that. I just have to hear some advice.”
After a long pause, Stephanie thought her cousin had hung up the phone. “Sunny, are you still there?”
Suddenly, Sunny burst into laughter, “You just have to hear some advice? What—like some wisdom words? Well then let me tell you, Fany… I can’t do anything about your choice if you’ve already made up your mind. Have you made up your mind? Are you giving me the power to stop you? You know it probably won’t change much, especially since you and Jinwon already started thinking about it. Because the moment it’s brought up, you both immediately stepped on dangerous grounds. I have only one thing to say, really: One little spark can provide great energy, but if handled incorrectly, it could burn a whole neighborhood down. You know what I mean right? But, heh, you know… that’s just what I think. So… have you made up your mind?”
“Wha- I didn’t say this was about me and Jinwon!” Stephanie burst out of embarrassment.
“Who else would it be about, though? You kind of gave it away in the last thing that you said,” Sunny teased. “And if you were talking about someone else, you wouldn’t sound as timid and nervous as you do now.”
“Is it obvious?” Stephanie bit her lip.
“Well…” “YAH! NO! DON’T DO IT PANI UNNIE!” shouted Hyuna from the other end of the line. Hyuna is Sunny’s younger sister. It seems as though she yanked the phone from Sunny.
“Yah! Hyuna! Give it back,” Sunny shouted.
A few bumps were heard until Sunny spoke again, “Sorry, what we’re you saying?”
“DON’T DO IT PANI UNNIE. GET MARRIED FIRST!” Hyuna shouted in the background.
“Sshh, shut up Hyuna!” Sunny said.
Stephanie just chuckled and said, “I’ll just talk to you later Sunny… When Hyuna’s not around.”
“Alrighty,” Sunny snickered, “If you say so.”
“Bye Sunny, talk to you later. Thanks for the few words.”
“Anytime.” The call ended. “Bye-bye!”
As soon as Stephanie put the phone back to its place, Jessica said, “You’re gonna do it with Jinwon? Are you sure about it?”
Stephanie sighed, “Well I do love him.”
“Yeah, but you guys are just teenagers. You can never be so sure with teenage love you know,” Jessica said. “And isn’t this kind of a big thing? One move and everything between the both of you could go wrong. You know that right?”
“Yeah, I know… But he wanted to do it,” Stephanie sighed. “I can’t just turn him down.”
“Yes you can!” Jessica replied without dilemma. “This isn’t a one-person decision and if you don’t want to do it, don’t force yourself just because he wants to! Your body is not his to play with!”
“Hey, I want to do this too,” Stephanie tried to argue. “Don’t think I haven’t thought about it already. I love him, Jessica.”
“Are you 100% sure you’re ready?”
Stephanie sighed and whimpered, “I guess a part of me kind of doesn’t want to do it, but… I want to do it, because it’s him. I love him.”
“Well, which part of yourself can you hear well?” Jessica said. “And are you going to do whatever it says? You have to think about it clearly before you do anything. You have to promise me, that if you go through with this, you’re going to be safe, if not cancel the whole thing! Even if it’s Jinwon we’re talking about here, I don’t want you to get hurt in the future.”
“Chill down, it’s going to be fine, Jessica. I promise…”
After helping HaYeon with bringing her things to JooHyun’s home on the Friday afternoon, the three of them, along with Hyungsoo hung out for a while in the living room. After JooHyun taught Jinwon another part of the Chopin song, Jinwon turned to Hyungsoo, “Hey Soo, I need to talk to you about something.”
“What?” Hyungsoo asked as he gobbled up some chips while watching TV.
“It’s about Stephanie,” Jinwon casually said, taking a glance at HaYeon.
HaYeon knew where he was going with this and stopped JooHyun from playing piano, “Let’s go to your room JooHyun. Let’s do something else.” She led JooHyun out of the room and slammed the door so JooHyun’s innocent ears wouldn’t hear anything.
“What about Stephanie?” Hyungsoo asked.
“We’re going to do it,” Jinwon said.
Jinwon just shot him one glance Hyungsoo almost choked from the sudden news.
“Oh really?” Hyungsoo laughed. “Why are you telling me this? Isn’t this something private? Not that I don’t mind hearing about it,” Hyungsoo smirked.
“When do you think is a good time to make everything flow naturally?” Jinwon said. “I’m getting more nervous as the clock ticks by… Agh… I don’t want it to turn awkward and uncomfortable.”
“Wait, are we seriously talking about this right now?” Hyungsoo stopped eating and turned his full attention to him. “You’re not just joking?”
“Why tell me, though?”
“Haven’t you done it before?”
“What—Sex? No!” Hyungsoo laughed in disbelief, shocked that Jinwon would assume that about him. “I know I’m tall and handsome and I know girls always flock around me, but that does not mean I did it already! I am a child of God and I will be a virgin ‘til the day I marry! But of course, as your best friend… I could tell you some scandalous tips I picked up.”
“What?” Jinwon became speechless and winced, aghast at everything that came out of his religious, yet somewhat narcissistic, rebellious friend’s mouth. Why, of all people, did he choose to lay this secret to him again?
“Hmm…,” Hyungsoo wondered and he started snickering all by himself. “No, no, I can’t tell you this. Forget I had something to say. I want to protect my mouth from profanity! I’ve already damaged my innocence… I can’t harm it any further!”
“Why did I even speak to you,” Jinwon sighed. “This conversation gets more uncomfortable the more it progresses.”
“Oh, so is this why HaYeon is having a sleepover here—so that you can have Fany all by yourself?” Hyungsoo scoffed.
“You really shouldn’t have told me. You know I’m a big pervert when it comes to this stuff. This would probably cause me insomnia this weekend because I will unintentionally imagine it and wonder if you’re doing it while I’m getting ready to sleep. Now I probably won’t look at the both of you the same.”
“Please shut up now,” Jinwon huffed, feeling more and more uncomfortable. “Please forget I said anything.”
“Seriously though,” Hyungsoo said. “You better respect her ‘til the very end! If you mess up and end up risking the great bond we all have as a band, I will forcefully drag you to church with me.”
“I know, I know…”
Jinwon woke up and couldn’t stop thinking about his dream. It seemed the timeline suddenly moved to a few months later. What disturbed him was that he was talking about sex the whole time and that definitely felt like one of the memories he tried so hard to block.
As the rain poured down that Tuesday afternoon, Kibum hung out in Eunji’s home. Since Kibum had his guitar back, he was playing it to pass time. On the other hand, Eunji still kept reading her mother’s pink-striped notebook. Now that she’s sure who her father is, she was interested more in her parent’s love story. However, she stopped when she started reading a certain page.
“November 1, 1997, Saturday
Last night was one of the best nights of our lives. The thing that Mr. Daydream and I have been thinking about for quite a while now has finally happened.
Before it, we decided to bake some cupcakes. While waiting for the cakes to bake, we drew each other for fun and it was so fun studying each other’s faces. I got a closer look at that tiny mole just above the dimple on the right side of his chin. It’s sOOo cute! And when I saw his drawing of me, it was so good! I thought I was staring into a mirror!! Haha… I’m joking… He couldn’t get my nose right but that’s alright hehehe. He was better at the designing the cupkakes anyway! Seriously, he was so detailed and good its like a professional’s work!
We watched a horror movie and I could hardly remember the plot. It’s not that it was scary—it actually wasn’t. But as the night grew, it just got harder to calm myself down from anticipating when he would make a move.
Oh~~!! I was so nervous Knowing what that night would eventually lead to… Just thinking about it now makes me feel so awkward!!!
And even when we finally decided to do it, we couldn’t even do it because we felt so nervous and decided to just sleep.”
“What is she talking about?” Eunji’s eyebrows crumpled for she could not understand what was going on.
At 12 on his bed, lights turned down low, we were just talking and then at some point we ran out of things to say. We just stared at each other in silence for a minute until he leaned in closer…”
“Oh, nope, nope, nope,” Eunji mumbled as she quickly closed the notebook and threw it on the coffee table. She covered her face started snickering. Just when she thought reading about her parents’ lovey-dovey stories were weird, things just got too X rated for her. She knew it was bound to come across it at some point since she wouldn’t be here without them doing it, but knowing who her father was now just made it extremely cringe worthy to read.
“What’s wrong?” Kibum casually asked as he continued to pluck on his guitar.
“Nothing,” Eunji sighed. “Just a little bit shaken by weird stuff.”
“What weird stuff?” Kibum asked.
“It’s nothing,” Eunji said and cleared her throat. “Anyway… How’s that song coming a long?”
“I just finished,” Kibum said with a big smile. “Want to hear it?”
“Of course! Who did you write it for though?”
“You—that’s the title,” Kibum chuckled making Eunji take it lightly as a joke.
“Okay, I’ll start.”
(Song: U – Taemin)
Kibum started plucking his guitar.
I couldn’t bear to say that I like you
Just being by your side like this is good enough
Yes, should I muster up some courage one more time?
Should I tell you how I feel?
To this heart that you don’t know, you’re just smiling brightly
Kibum strummed his guitar.
I’m telling you that I want you
Eunji’s mouth slightly opened as she realized that Kibum’s words were not a joke.
I’m telling you that I’m calling you
Hold my hand, hold my hand
I’m afraid that I’ll lose you
A smile slowly showed on Eunji’s face and her heart started to beat loudly.
I’m telling you that I want you
I’m telling you that I love you
Eunji’s cheeks instantly blushed in bright pink and her heart beat faster.
Are you listening to my heart?
It hurts just to look at you
Eunji exhaled silently and heavily after knowing how Kibum was feeling. She wished she knew how he felt a little earlier.
Kibum became extremely shy to have eye contact with Eunji. Now that he was confessing his feelings to her, looking at her without knowing how she felt hurt him.
Shyly, I hide my fluttering heart
And I met you again today
I worry that my heart will be noticed
So I turn around
I’m telling you that I want you
I’m telling you that I’m calling you
Hold my hand, hold my hand
I’m afraid that I’ll lose you
I’m telling you that I want you
“I want you, too,” Eunji whispered in her head.
I’m telling you that I love you
“I love you, too,” Eunji thought.
Are you listening to my heart?
It hurts just to look at you
I’ll stay with you, I still need you
Nothing can replace you
Cuz I love you – wait for me
I will tell you my heart
I’m telling you that I’m looking for you
I’m telling you that I want to have you
Hold my hand, hold my hand
I’m afraid that I’ll lose you
I’m telling you that I want you
I’m telling you that I love you
Are you listening to my heart?
It hurts just to look at you
As soon as the song ended, an awkward silence fell upon them. Eunji had a lot to say, but her fluttering heart was stopping her. Kibum, on the other hand, became extremely shy to even look at her. He knew Eunji got the message since she did not clap or say anything.
Jinwon stood by his window watching the storm pour down. The wind was blowing away trees and the road could barely be seen from his view. Lightning and thunder started flashing in the skies. It definitely wasn’t pleasant to see.
As another lightning and thunder flashed right before his eyes, short visions of him riding a car in a snow storm started flickering in his brain. It was sharp and clear that it was the night he swerved his car and lost his memories 15 years ago. Recalling a glimpse of it gave him a cold chill down his spine. He did not want to think about the possible dangers this storm could bring.
“I don’t think you can drive home with this kind of storm tonight,” Jinwon said as he feared something might happen to Stephanie. “It could be dangerous driving with that kind of rain pouring down.”
“But I have to come home,” Stephanie said as she grabbed her coat and wore it.
“Why? You can stay here for tonight. I can sleep in the couch and you can sleep in my bed. Leaving your house just for tonight won’t hurt right?”
Stephanie thought about the situation carefully. If she says she has to come home, Jinwon would bombard her with questions she doesn’t want to answer. If she says okay, then she’ll be sleeping at his apartment. She could just tell her that she had a daughter to come to, but she was still not ready to tell the truth.
“I guess,” Stephanie sighed in defeat as she removed her coat.
“Well then,” Jinwon said as he walked up to the stereo and slid a CD in it. “I’ll cook us up some food. Listen to this song while you wait.”
Piano and Guitar started playing from the speakers.
“What’s this song?”
“It’s the song that we wrote together. I figured I’d record it if you don’t mind.”
Can you love me
Stephanie froze as soon as she heard a woman’s voice—Eunji’s voice. She knew that voice better than anyone else.
Even though I’m not enough for you?
“Oh, I think I haven’t told you,” Jinwon said as he started to boil some water.
I have nothing but love to give to you
“The girl singing is just my student—JooHyun’s piano student if you’ve heard of her.”
So do you still love me?
“Oh, yeah,” Stephanie nodded. “It’s Eunji right? Yeah… I have met her.”
“Isn’t she cool?” Jinwon chuckled. “She’s a really nice kid.”
Stephanie’s smile grew at the thought of father and daughter. They already knew each other from the start and she had no idea.
Let’s not say those kinds of things from now on
Your heart right now is enough for me
Because we have loving hearts
They are bigger than anything in this world
Someday (far ahead)
Even if we get old and tired (get tired)
Let’s promise to love just like now
Till the day you are in my arms
‘Til we close our eyes (even on that day)
Let’s be together
Jinwon thought Stephanie would be jealous since another woman was singing with him, but instead, she found her smiling. What Eunji said was true. Stephanie liked the song. In truth, Stephanie has never been happier to hear Jinwon and Eunji singing together. It was one of her earliest fantasies—to hear her child sing with its father.
I was always lonely
Without you, time was long and dark
Now I feel happiness because I have your scent with me
I feel something as I pass the darkness to meet the sunlight
Now I’m not afraid of anything
Because I am in your arms
After time passes (far ahead)
And life becomes hard (becomes hard)
Let’s promise to lean on each others shoulders
Us together, ’til the end
I have no regrets
Because we have our love
When life gets hard
Let’s lean on each others shoulders
‘Til the day you are in my arms
And we close our eyes (close our eyes)
Until the end of the world
Let’s be together
Just like now (just like now)
Just like right now
“Okay, instant noodles are ready,” Jinwon said as he headed to the living room with two cups.
“Is instant noodles the only food in your cabinet?” Stephanie chuckled.
“No, but this is nice for a rainy day. Keeps you heated up. Now go and eat,” Jinwon said and started eating. Stephanie gave one last chuckle and started to dine in.
“Th-that’s a nice song…” Eunji stuttered.
“Thanks,” Kibum smiled. Feeling more awkward, he stood up and started packing his guitar. “It’s dark. I should head back.”
“O… okay.” Eunji hated the feeling of him leaving, but she didn’t know how to make him stay. She watched as Kibum packed up his stuff and prepared to leave. She was starting to regret that she couldn’t bring herself to say anything.
As Kibum hung his guitar on his shoulders, a text came from Stephanie to Eunji, “Won’t be coming back tonight due to the storm. I can’t drive out tonight. Sorry Eunji… but you’re a big girl now right? You take care of yourself tonight, alright?”
After reading the text message, Eunji called out to Kibum, who was already by the door, “Don’t go…”
Kibum was a bit startled and it took him awhile to process what Eunji just said.
“Mom’s not coming home tonight… I don’t want to be alone,” Eunji timidly said. Once again, Kibum couldn’t resist her request. So, despite how awkward things might be between them, he decided to keep her company.
Laying his guitar back down on a corner, he finally smiled, “Want me to cook you up some samgyeopsal?”
“Ahh, that would be great,” Eunji chuckled with a clap. With that, the awkwardness was quickly lifted, and they both were filled with laughter once again.
After finishing their little supper, Jinwon lent Stephanie some of his clothes so that she would be comfortable instead of wearing her blouse and jeans. Being small for a man’s average size, Jinwon’s clothes fitted Stephanie just right. It was not too big for her at all. This made Stephanie more comfortable.
“So what do you want to do?” Jinwon asked as he flopped himself beside Stephanie on the couch. He took a glance at the clock and it was already 11 pm. They’ll probably have to call the day off soon.
“I don’t know…,” Stephanie just shrugged. When Jinwon was turning the lights down low, an idea popped in her head. “Ah! About that kid you were tutoring…”
“Yeah. How did that go? How did JooHyun set you up to tutor her?”
“Ah…,” he wondered and sat beside her. “I just wanted something to do. I really hate not being occupied because I have a lot of time to think alone and you know how scary that can sometimes be for me.”
“Can you tell me about her?” she smiled with so much enthusiasm. “I really like her voice! How did your first meeting go? What’s she like? You guys meet during Thursdays and Fridays right?”
Jinwon was puzzled at her sudden interest in his free tutoring job but was nevertheless happy that she wanted to know more about what has been going on in his life. “Well, she’s fifteen; really bright and energetic kid! So talented and composed, too. Actually, before I even met her, I had an idea of who she was since JooHyun told me lots of stories about her.”
“Really?” Stephanie casually said, but inside her she was shocked that he knew his own daughter even before the job.
“Yeah. JooHyun was crazy about her, telling me how funny that kid was and in some ways very similar to how I approached music. She told me I should definitely meet her and so I did. JooHyun was right about us being similar, but I think that kid has a potential to be even better than me.”
“Oooh,” Stephanie smirked, proud of her own daughter.
“When I met her, I sang a song and she harmonized on the perfect pitch the moment she opened her mouth. It was so mind-blowing. I’ve never met someone who was able to do that on spot besides JooHyun! And when I was having a hard time writing a song, she wrote a chorus for it and even added the perfect chords for it. She was a genius. I didn’t even think I deserved to be her teacher because she was better than me in a lot of areas and even ended up teaching me things instead.”
“Wow, really?” Stephanie’s eyes sparkled, feeling so proud to hear these very words come out of her daughter’s father.
“I asked her once about who taught her everything about music. She said that her mom and JooHyun were her main teachers. Yohan and Hyungsoo taught her stuff too because she’s in the youth band, but she said that JooHyun and her mother taught her almost everything. Ah… It made me realize how good of a teacher JooHyun really is. I wonder how her mom taught her, too.”
“I think I know her mom,” Stephanie blurted out.
“Yeah,” she nodded.
“Can you help me meet her?” Jinwon eagerly requested. “I really want to meet her mom and shake her hands or something. It is such an honor to meet Eunji.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Stephanie stared right at his eyes and tried her hardest not to giggle. Eunji’s mother was just right beside him.
“You know, Eunji actually kind of brought us together. It all started with that kid,” Jinwon wondered. “If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would’ve regained my memories back or even get a job in Xiah Dragon Noodles.”
“Really?” Stephanie blinked. How exciting it was to know that their daughter would actually be the one who would bring them together!
“Yeah, it’s so weird. Suddenly, my memories started coming back because of her. Maybe it’s because she looks a lot like you when you were younger.”
“She does?” Stephanie just smiled, finding it amusing now how clueless he was. Jinwon took out his phone and showed her a photo of him and Eunji together. “See? Doesn’t she look so much like you?”
“Oooh,” she chuckled. “You’re right! She does!”
“She’s such a good kid, too,” he continued. “A few weeks ago, I got into an accident and she visited me with her friend at the hospital even though we barely knew each other. And when I was able to get home all sore and stuff, she and her friend did the groceries for me, too.”
“Aw, that’s so nice of her.” She remembered how concerned Eunji was at that time. If only she knew Mr. Kim’s full name a little sooner, she would’ve visited Jinwon on the hospital with her.
“Oh, her friend by the way was Kibum, that kid who you said cleans at your house,” he said.
“Huh?” Stephanie was confused for a bit since Kibum doesn’t really go to her house to clean, but then she suddenly realized why he said that. “Oh! Kibum! Yeah, yeah…”
When the conversation was about to die down, Stephanie said, “I want to hear the song again.”
“Alright,” Jinwon got up and turned on his speakers and connected his phone. Then he pressed play to “Our Love Like This” again. As soon as Eunji started singing with the accompaniment of soft guitar tunes, Stephanie felt so complete. This song was written by her and Jinwon with their daughter singing in it. Without her even stressing about it, they have made their first family project. It will truly hold a special place in her heart forever.
Stephanie softly rested her head on Jinwon’s shoulders and closed her eyes. Jinwon was a bit startled, but he just let her do as she pleased. At least by now, they were starting to feel more comfortable with each other. Such intimacy must not be dismissed.
Jinwon brushed off the stray hairs away from Stephanie’s and saw how the time that separated them had little effect on her appearance. Her cheeks looked soft and irresistibly pinch-worthy just like the first time he met her all those years ago. She looked so innocent with her eyes closed as if no tragedy has touched her at all.
It made him wonder if he also managed to keep the innocence of his teenage years. Appearance wise, his features may have turned sharper and rigid, but one thing is for sure. His heart, that almost had no hope of love, suddenly jumped in excitement like it’s the first time he’s heard his favorite song. He felt like he could accomplish anything and dream dreams he never thought would ever cross his mind. Just being beside Stephanie gave him all the strength he lacked all these years.
While listening to the song halfway, Stephanie softly asked with her eyes still closed, “Can I ask you something?”
“Ask away,” Jinwon replied as he relaxed himself and also closed his eyes.
“What do you remember fifteen years ago… about us?” Stephanie asked. “I know it’s a burden to ask but…”
“No, it’s okay,” he assured her. “You can ask all about it now. I’m okay with it.”
“What do you remember, then?”
Since Jinwon had waited for this question for a while now, he answered confidently, “Our first year together. It’s becoming really clear to me now.”
Stephanie knew there was no use beating around the bush to get the exact answer that she wanted. So she just got straight to the point, “What about the last days before your accident?”
“Oh… those memories haven’t been cleared yet,” Jinwon sighed. “Those times are the most blurry. Why, is there something important that I have to remember?”
Stephanie froze for a moment. Not wanting to make Jinwon ask too much questions, she fixed herself more comfortably on Jinwon’s shoulders and tried to just shrug it off, “No pressure. I’m just a little curious.”
“Well, the past is just the past right?” Jinwon chuckled. “All I know is that I have you by my side. That’s all that matters now, don’t you think?”
Stephanie gave out a wry smile exhaled heavily from her nose. She didn’t want to answer that. She didn’t want to agree and lie. She also didn’t want to be straightforward with her words.
“Do you think we will be together forever?” Stephanie sighed.
“Mmm,” Jinwon tried to think for a moment. “I want to believe that’s possible, but whether or not it will really happen,” Jinwon said as he opened his eyes and looked at Stephanie. “But let’s promise to love… just like now.”
Stephanie’s eyes shot open and she chuckled. “How incredibly cheesy,” she thought since those were the lyrics of the song that was playing. She turned her eyes to him to laugh at his words but was caught up in a haze. Their faces were too close and she could lightly feel his breath inviting an intoxicating pull. The only thing Stephanie could see among the fog were his eyes screaming out his desires at the moment. She was slowly drawn to this mystery and so was he. Without thinking, their lips softly touch, sweet as a drop of honey.
Goosebumps immediately ran like flames through her arms and cheeks the moment she closed her eyes. With the fading sense of everything around her, her whole being got trapped by his captivating lips. Without proper control, her body began tensing and loosening up every few seconds. Her back started heating up like summer was making its way before this stormy, autumn night. Although this thrilling sensation was not new to her, it oddly felt like she was experiencing this for the very first time.
Unconsciously getting drawn more and more to the taste of her lips, Jinwon wanted her closer. He gently caressed his way from her cheeks to the back of her head to get a better taste. Stephanie’s soft lips became incredibly sweet and a little sour like strawberry ice cream that it fueled him with much passion. For a moment, he withdrew from her lips to breathe, but he could not pull his being away. His hands smoothed their way to her back and he pulled her body closer to him. He continued to peck her softly starting from her left cheek until it reach down to her neck. Her neck became drenched in his kisses and it left a trail when he went down to her smooth shoulders. He was just exploring the tastes her body had to offer without much thought.
Stephanie moaned softly as the fire continued to run under her skin. She was fully aware of what was going on and was overwhelmed that this was suddenly happening. Her ears burst from being tense and her body flinched to his touch a few times, but she tried brushing it off. Knowing her body, she tried winning over the continuous reflexes trying to protect her from what was happening, or what was about to happen. This wasn’t the time to back out now, she thought, for she was finally with her dream man—the only man she could never let go.
Jinwon made his way to her lips again, and this time, he started getting a little rougher. Stephanie could not compete with him so she allowed him to take the lead. Her back fell flat on the couch as Jinwon almost had half of his weight on top of her. His free hand made its way to touch her hips and pressed his hand on it softly, feeling the soft curve of her body. Her stomach tensed up from his touch but she tried her best to relax.
At this point, Stephanie wanted to lose her thoughts too for Jinwon seemed so passionately eased being enchanted by this spell of desire. She tried her hardest to focus on his scent, his body, and his arousing moves, but even with such effort to lose her mind, she could not seem to do it. She kept repeating in her head how much she liked this vulnerability coming upon her, but her body hated it. Half of her just wanted to pull him closer and closer, but half of her wanted to push his body away. These clashing impulses started building up until his intoxicating moves paralyzed her rather than relax her. The expected bliss just didn’t seem to be present when she could not control her body properly. This scared her, because for so many years, things had always been under her control, but now she couldn’t even put her mind and body together. She kept dismissing these thoughts until her panicking soul finally caused another reflex to get her full attention. Her nose puffed up as she reached the peak of her body’s protective limit and tears started trickling down to warn her of a possible danger. Still, she tried brushing it off.
As Jinwon continued to press his lips softly on the tiny mole at right side of Stephanie’s neck, he felt something wet roll down on his cheek from her jaw. At first he thought it was sweat, but it was too early to perspire for they haven’t even done something exhilarating. So he continued on, but then her sniffling snapped him back to his senses. He stopped, wanting to know what was going on.
“Are you… crying?” Jinwon brushed Stephanie’s bangs away from her face and anxiously stared at her shut, trembling eyes.
“No.” She weakly fluttered open her drowning eyes and denied even though the tears continued falling.
“Fany-ah…” Jinwon did not want her to lie about what was troubling her so he tried getting up to give her space, but Stephanie tightly gripped his shirt telling him not to move away. She didn’t want Jinwon to stop even though her body was not agreeing to her own decision.
“No it’s fine,” Stephanie sniffed as she tried to stop herself from crying. “Keep going. I can take it.”
“No, Fany, it’s not fine,” Jinwon heavily sighed and held her hand that was clutched on his shirt. “It’s my fault. This is too soon. I’m sorry, I—”
“No, it’s not that your fault,” Stephanie interrupted, her voice still lightly wavering. Jinwon just stayed at his position not knowing what to do or say.
“Then… what’s wrong?” Jinwon asked still filled with concern.
“Nothing… ” Stephanie’s voice broke. While staring deeply at his worried eyes, she broke down. “I don’t know why this is happening to me, I’m sorry.”
She sat up and said, “I’m just… overwhelmed by you… and me and this… maybe it’s because we’re suddenly back together after such a long time.”
Stephanie felt more tears form in her eyes. They met only met a few days ago but suddenly, they are already making out so intimately like this. Even the fact that Jinwon and her daughter got along so well added to her stream of emotions. Everything just felt so unreal and sudden that it felt like she was splashed with ice water on a cold winter day without warning.
She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. She massaged her temples and closed her eyes for a few seconds. She tiredly asked, “What if I’m not ready?”
“I can wait,” Jinwon said.
Stephanie took another deep breath, “What if I’m never ready?” In her mind, she wasn’t just talking about sex or a serious relationship, but she was thinking about the time to finally telling him the truth about Eunji.
Jinwon’s eyes dropped. What was he supposed to say?
“I mean,” Stephanie sniffed, wiped her tears away, and turned around to face Jinwon. “What if we do this and everything changes or… we fall out of love?”
“Fany-ah,” Jinwon tried to calm her down but Stephanie continued.
“But what if, Jinwon? I mean, we could do this and it could feel wrong for the both of us. I don’t know… maybe it’s just because part of me feels this one thing is just gonna screw everything up or…” Stephanie sighed, “Tell us something we don’t want to know.”
“Like what?” Jinwon asked.
“Like… like we’re not really meant for each other,” Stephanie sighed and stared at the window. The sound of the rain greatly added to her stress. Storms always reminded her of trouble. There was a storm that night, too, when he lost his memories. It was during the time she needed him the most. She knew Jinwon could not fully understand her feelings right now so she refrained from saying what was really on her mind. “I don’t want history to repeat itself. I don’t want to lose you again.”
Jinwon sat up and softly held her arms. He looked her in the eye and asked, “Do you really believe in those things?”
“No…” Stephanie looked into his caring eyes. “But I’m scared; I don’t want us to change. Not again.”
“I don’t want us to change either,” Jinwon gently cooed as he caressed her cheeks to calm her down. “And we won’t lose each other again. I won’t let that happen.” Stephanie found comfort in his hand’s warmth. How nice it would be to believe that heartbreak won’t come their way just because of his words.
“You know what, it’s not something we have to do,” Jinwon sighed. “We were both just losing our minds… That’s possible every once in a while, right?”
“So what should we do?” Stephanie turned her eyes back to Jinwon.
“Let’s just… let’s just go to sleep… like nothing happened,” Jinwon suggested.
Stephanie sighed and bit her lip. She knew Jinwon doesn’t want things to get any more awkward between them. That’s one of the things Stephanie loved about him. When things get too uncomfortable, Jinwon will lay it aside. “Alright,” Stephanie nodded and got up to get ready for bed.
Jinwon took deep breath as he felt he just dodged a bullet. A while ago while Stephanie was talking, he thought this would be another end in their relationship. Seeing Stephanie with a smile as she walked to the room made him feel relieved. He could not take losing her again.
As he fixed the couch to get ready for bed, Stephanie shyly took a peek from the room, “Come sleep with me?”
“Huh?” Jinwon blinked rapidly and gulped as he tried to process what just entered his ears.
“You know, just sleep… no funny business,” Stephanie blushed. She cleared her throat and continued, “It’s kind of cold tonight… and I don’t think these sheets would do.” Stephanie bit her lip, “You’re okay with it right?”
“Uh… s-sure,” Jinwon stuttered. “Let me get my pillows. I’ll be there in a second.”
“Thanks,” Stephanie smiled and came out of Jinwon’s sight. She madly blushed at the thought of having him beside her. It might be a bit awkward since they almost did something they were both not ready for a while ago. But while she’s here in his apartment, the least she could do was make some kind of move.
In a few seconds, Jinwon came inside the room with a big pillow. He threw it beside Stephanie’s pillow and slid himself beneath the bed sheets. He took one glance at Stephanie and he closed his eyes.
“Goodnight, Fany-ah,” Jinwon whispered softly. Stephanie chuckled, finding him adorable and turned off the lights. She slid under the bed sheets and also closed her eyes.
“Goodnigt, Jingoo,” she giggled.
In no time, both of them fell asleep.
“Are you ready?” Jinwon said as he lay on top of Stephanie. Stephanie just nodded.
“Just take it easy, okay?”