A M N E S I A: Chapter 15

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

Chapter 9: Friends

Chapter 10: Uncomfortable

Chapter 11: Sleepless

Chapter 12: Unpredictable

Chapter 13: Warmth

Chapter 14: Ready

Chapter 15:

Reason to Love

      There Eunji was standing with a book close to her chest watching Kibum from a distance. He was in the lounge of the rehabilitation center and this was the first time she would be visiting him after he woke up from his coma. No one can deny how nervous she was with her fingers unconsciously brushing through the ends of the book. She had her expectations low for this encounter since she knew very well that memory loss was just so common. To her, it’s not going to be about their past memories at all. She figured she just had to start again.

      Beside her stood Junmyun, her good Oppa from church who was also holding a book. She didn’t want to be completely alone to face Kibum. She didn’t want to drag along her friends from school either. If there was anyone that would be perfect to bring along, it was Junmyun, and he was glad to be invited by Eunji. He used to volunteer helping the people in the rehabilitation center. Situations similar to Kibum have occurred in the past and he knew a thing or two about how to entertain and keep patients like him company.

      “Oh, I think they’re your first guest that aren’t your family, Kibum,” The nurse said. Slouching Kibum did not reply back. He just stared off into a distance, ignoring everything that the nurse was saying. He didn’t even bother to bat an eye at anything or anyone. He just had no reaction.

      The nurse got up and greeted the two guests. She informed them that Kibum has indeed lost his memories and is going through a rehabilitation program at the moment. The nurse also told them that he has not yet been taught about whom he’s friends were so they should be careful about approaching him with certain things.

      “We understand,” Junmyun bowed his head.

      Eunji just simply nodded and the nurse left them.

      “Hello,” Junmyun friendly greeted Kibum as he pulled up a seat for Eunji. Kibum didn’t pay any attention. He still looked at the wide windows of the building, avoiding contact of their faces.

      “Hi…” Eunji awkwardly sat across Kibum on the round table. Junmyun took the seat beside Kibum.

      “I know you can’t really read properly yet… but I figured you might want to practice with this book. You’ll probably like it,” Junmyun said, sliding the book “Easiest Ways to Bring Back Memories.”

      “Oh, what?” Eunji’s eyebrows crumpled and she picked up Junmyun’s book. “My dad read this. He said it sucked.”

      “Really?” Junmyun tilted his head. “I thought it was pretty nice… I actually reminisced while reading this book.”

      “Forget about that book,” Eunji gave the book to Junmyun and slid her own book in front of Kibum. “This is much better.

      Kibum was a bit startled by how Junmyun and Eunji were acting. Other than the nurses and doctors, the people that visited him so far introduced themselves as someone expecting to be remembered. He was fed with facts and information everyday even though he knew nothing about them. He totally hated it. But what’s with these teenagers all of a sudden? A book? Aren’t they going to introduce themselves? He glanced at Eunji’s book and slowly read the title: “The Tale of the Neon Lights.”

      He decided to look up and see who this girl was. He blinked and remembered it was the same girl who he saw the moment he woke up. It was the girl that had been giving him comfort the whole time he was trapped in his coma.

      “W-why…” he stammered, trying hard to ask why she’s bringing this book to him. The title did seem familiar.

      “It’s pretty boring here, yeah?” Junmyun spoke and Kibum looked at him. “We’re not allowed to bring any games because they said it could stress you out so this is the least we could do. Besides, books are nice.”

      “Not much the reading part,” Eunji shyly said. “What’s nice is the story.”

      “Hey, reading is nice. It makes you smarter,” Junmyun said.

      Kibum closed his eyes and shook his head. For the first time, he wanted to know who this girl was. “W-who… are you?” He roughly stammered as he stared at Eunji.

      “O-oh, m-me?” Eunji stuttered. Junmyun and Eunji exchanged glances. “Right… I’m Eunji.”

      “Eunji?” Kibum repeated as the name echoed in his brain. He remembered waking up and instantly having the name Eunji click on his head. Could she perhaps be someone he knew well from before?

      “I’m Junmyun,” Junmyun pitched in. Kibum gave him a simple smile. That name didn’t click to anything.

      “Can you… read for me?” Kibum said to Eunji all of a sudden. Since he remembered her voice clearly, it excited him a bit. He just wanted to hear Eunji’s voice for as long as possible to gain some kind of peace of mind. Staying in the rehabilitation center has been driving him crazy and it has only been a week.

      “H-huh? Sure,” Eunji nodded and smiled. She picked up the Tale of the Neon Lights, tucked her hair back to her ears, and took a deep breath. Before she started, she noticed the corner of Kibum’s mouth go up. He was smiling for the first time ever since they arrived. It gave her a bubbly feeling. It was the same smile that made her realize she liked him that one time they hung out in the living room. It was that same smile that made her hang onto him even though he was a silly, unusual, and outgoing kid.

      And so, she started, “In a time, place, and universe far from the planet of earth, there stood a tree…”

      As Eunji read, Junmyun’s reactions were priceless. He was shocked and thrilled at every scene in only the first chapter. This amused Kibum very much. Besides, Kibum could not understand some words that came out of Eunji’s mouth anyway because of his destroyed memory. Still, he enjoyed spending this time with them. Well, he did… until three nervous teenagers were pushing each other towards his table. The group was two boys, and a girl. One boy was tall and sport-bodied, the other, sleek and somewhat smaller, and the girl was pretty yet tall for a girl’s average height.

      “Is he even okay?” “Shh! He looks fine. Just shut up and take it easy.” “He doesn’t look so pleasant to see us though… I mean look, he’s staring at us right now!”

      Eunji heard the uneasy whispers of these three teenagers. She stopped reading as he noticed Kibum’s attention was not on her anymore. She turned her head to see who it was. It was Jinri, Minho, the athletic guy in school, and Jonghyun, the sleek and handsome guy, famous for winning most of the singing competitions next to Eunji. They were Kibum’s set of best friends. She didn’t know them well, but Kibum did talk about them a few times before.

      “Eunji, Junmyun Oppa, you’re here?” Jinri saw Eunji and Junmyun.

      “Oh… yeah,” Eunji pitied them because Kibum does not even remember them. She knows the pain of losing a friend will hit Jinri, Minho, and Jonghyun harder than she did. They have known him since they were kids. It will be hard for them to believe all the memories were erased because of one accident.

      “We were just about to leave,” Eunji said knowing the three would want some time with Kibum. Besides, she was content to have at least half an hour with him. It was a satisfying to see his bright face again alive and breathing—talking and moving.

      “Already? Are you sure you don’t want to stay with us?” Jinri kindly suggested.

      “I’d rather not,” Eunji sighed and wryly smiled. “Besides, you guys are his close friends. I don’t want to steal your time with him.”

      “Don’t leave… please,” Kibum suddenly spoke, his voice much clearer than before. The three turned to Eunji and Junmyun. Eunji turned to Kibum. She didn’t want to stay, but Kibum’s haggard and pleading eyes dropped a stone in her heart. She felt trapped by his request and she could not resist it. This was the very first time Kibum had pleaded her to do something. All the times they have spent together, she was the one making the requests and Kibum could never resist. Now she wondered if this was how Kibum had felt saying yes to her irresistible eyes when his whole being wanted to say no. With a slight nod, Eunji and Junnmyun sat back to their seats. The three slowly followed, sitting themselves around Kibum.

      “Hi Kibum,” Jinri greeted. “I’m Jinri and this is Minho and Jonghyun. We’re your friends. You know us, right?” she carefully said.

      Kibum turned his eyes to the fingers on his lap and sat silently after Jinri stopped speaking. “No, and I don’t care.” he thought bitterly. He doesn’t even know who he was and they expect him to know them? It frustrated him that his peaceful storybook reading with Junmyun and Eunji were interrupted by another session of “Do you remember me?” It’s already sickening enough to memorize details about his family, now there’s already new batch of people added to the queue?

      Silence fell over them and an awkward atmosphere enveloped them. It felt deafening and painful being in it. Having a feeling that Kibum did not want to answer, Suho said, “The nurse told us that he lost his memories for the time being.”

      The three exchanged shocked glances and no one could speak a word for a few moments. In disbelief, they started telling stories to Kibum about the things they did in the past thinking they were impossible to forget, but Kibum could only shake his head to say he recalls nothing. It was too hard for them to believe that they even joked around that maybe he was pranking them. Kibum was not pleased with being accused of this but tried not to give a reaction.

      Eunji, who only observed the situation, suddenly spoke after noticing Kibum’s bitter expression. “Maybe you guys shouldn’t push it like that,” she gently said. “Memory loss is a serious thing.”

      The three of them turned to Eunji and their spirits withered down. Kibum was denying everything, after all. There is nothing else to do but to accept the truth. However, after taking it in as the reality, they began to tell him stories not to prove that he remembers something, but to help him remember things. Kibum’s mood did not change.

      Although Eunji tried to give Kibum a bit of a break, it seemed like the three wouldn’t stop until he recalls something. It worried her that this could annoy and stress him out even though he did not show it. The pressure was just too much, and all these information being shot at him definitely won’t stick in just one day. On the other hand, she also understood the grief that his friends were going through. It’s not easy to lose someone you thought would normally always be around. So who exactly was she supposed to pity in this situation? One thing was for sure, though. Taking sides in this situation will eventually cause some kind of trouble, and she will avoid doing so as much as possible.

***

      Every day, Eunji and Junmyun visited Kibum in the rehabilitation center. They brought books that Kibum used to read, shared some laughs and stories about their day in school, and cheered him up whenever he felt down.

      Eunji didn’t mention anything about their simple history together. She tried not to. All she wanted was to spend time with him—be friends with him all over again.

      Kibum, on the other hand, was still dying to know who she might be. The name Eunji always rang a bell in his mind. He couldn’t quite place why his heart thumped every time he heard that name. One thing was for sure, though. Eunji was the only one who was making him really happy.

      There he sat on the same round table in the rehabilitation center. Eunji was unavailable today and only Junmyun had the chance to visit. That didn’t bring him down. He was already quite comfortable with Junmyun. He was a fun guy to have around—a much more comfortable company than the people who always tried to make him remember things. He actually wished that Junmyun had been his brother in the past.

      “So, Kibum, how’s your progress going?” Junmyun asked as he flipped through some of the books he had given to Key.

      “I can read now,” he happily said. “I can write too.”

      “That’s brilliant!” Junmyun high-fived Kibum. “You’re progressing faster than I expected. You’ll probably be out here in no time!”

      “Thanks, Hyung,” he chuckled. “Let me read you something.” He picked up the Tale of the Neon Lights and flipped to a random page.

      “He waas in a st-state of confffussion. How was he suppposed to tell her “I love you” when he was not allowed to love? He was a guuaaardian angel, not a human being. He was not supposed to fall in love…” He started reading slowly like kids from kindergarten. Junmyun grinned widely like a mother who was hearing its child say words for the first time.

      “That’s all I can do. It’s too much effort reading the whole thing,” Kibum said.

      “That’s actually pretty great! You did great. The story though was a bit… hmm. What is this book about? I don’t think I’ve read this before or seen it anywhere in the stores,” Junmyun said, picking up the book.

      “Don’t ask me,” Kibum laughed. “Eunji is the one who owns that book.”

      “Oh right.” Junmyun looked at the book and started reading where he left off. He became curious to know what the plot was about and began reading quietly on his own. It became silent and Key didn’t want that.

      “Um… Hyung,” he began. He thought of something to talk about. Now that Eunji wasn’t here, maybe he could talk about her with Junmyun. “I would like to know who Eunji is.”

      “Eunji?” Suho glanced at Kibum then back to the book.

      “Yeah… I’ve been so curious to know who she is. Who is she in my life? Is she someone special?”

      “Special?” Junmyun chuckled. “You guys were not close friends the first time I saw you together, but I think she came to like you in time. Right now, all I know is that you are special to her.”

      “I am? Do you have a clue as to why?” Kibum asked.

      “I don’t know… she never really told me about her feelings. I just assume she likes you since it’s clearly written all over her face,” Junmyun chuckled. “Especially since she keeps visiting you here. That girl is not a charity type of girl until this happened to you!”

      “Do have a clue on how she started to like me?” Kibum asked.

      “I don’t know,” Junmyun wondered. “Hmm… oh, there was this one time,” he smiled.

      “What happened?”

      “Well, Eunji’s dad got into a car accident a few months ago. You, Eunji, and I witnessed it. She didn’t know he was his father yet at that time, but she was still so troubled about it. Only you were the one who stood beside her and comforted her in those days. I think she felt lonely during those times. You were the only one who could truly keep her company since your houses were both close to each other. I suppose that’s how it started. I don’t really know,” Junmyun shrugged.

      “So I was the one keeping her company during hard days?” Kibum wondered.

      “Yeah. Now, ever since you got into your coma, she’s been keeping you company—keeping you company on harder days,” Junmyun smiled.

      “So is she really the one singing to me while I was in my coma?” Kibum wondered.

      “I don’t know, but that’s probably her since she visited often. She has a lovely voice; I’m sure that’s her.”

      “I want to hear her sing again…”

      “I’m sure if you kindly ask her, she will sing for you.”

 

2 WEEKS LATER

      “I’m going to be released from this place tomorrow,” Kibum happily declared before Eunji headed for home.

      “Really? Wow, I’m so happy for you!” Eunji squealed and hugged him from excitement. “I can hardly believe you were like a vegetable just a month ago!”

      Kibum’s heart suddenly thumped louder and faster. Whatever he was feeling, he couldn’t understand, but he liked it… up until a sharp static sound entered his ears. His vision blurred and a vision of him under an umbrella kissing Eunji flashed before his eyes. There were also visions of him feeding some kind of dish to Eunji and even singing a song to her. He could not believe what he just saw. Now he was more curious than ever to know who Eunji really was.

      However, he brushed it off and focused on reality. “Eunji, do you have maybe some place we could go tomorrow to celebrate?”

      “Don’t you want to spend your first day out of here with your family?”

      “You’re my only friend,” Kibum pouted. “You’re the only one I know and feel comfortable with. Please,” he pleaded. Once again, Eunji could not turn him down.

      “Sure,” Eunji smiled. “I’ll take you somewhere.”

***

      It was a quiet afternoon in Stephanie’s house1. The variety show Happy Together was playing on TV but neither Jinwon nor Stephanie could continue watching it when one of the guests concern was about marriage. After the night back at the farm, things have turned awkward between them whenever marriage was mentioned. They also haven’t been latched onto each other as often before. They always sat on both ends of the couch with a huge gap between them. Although they still acted like everything was okay and normal between them, they haven’t been speaking their thoughts out clearly to each other anymore.

      Stephanie glanced at Jinwon and sighed. She knew this stale air shouldn’t continue between them. It just wasn’t right to drag on this silence but how was she supposed to stop it? Jinwon is very persistent when he doesn’t want to talk about something, especially when the topic is sensitive.  She could just ask him, but she feared that it would bother and eventually anger him. Was time really all that he needed? It’s just ridiculous considering how long they have been separated together. Was this really where all the waiting went—another season of waiting?

She picked up her phone and messaged Jessica.

      “—Jinwon doesn’t want to marry me.”

In less than five seconds, her best friend replied,

      “—Huh

      —qhat

      —WHAT??

      —are you serious

      —Youre not serious right??

      —Fany????????

      —DID HE SAY THAT?

      —WHAT DOES HE MEAN BY THAT OH MY GOSH WHAT

      —I SWEAR I’M GONNA KILL HIM

      —FIFTEEN FRIGGIN YEARS

      —U MEAN TO TELL ME U CRIED FOR NOTHING

      —I THOT U GUYS WERE IN LOVE???

      —Is he not in love???

      —GIRL

      —GILLR

      —WHAT BAUT EUNJI OH GOSH WHAT A DICK”

 

      Jessica’s texts went by too fast that Stephanie had a hard time butting in. Jinwon couldn’t help but be curious about who was causing those notification sounds.

      “Who are you texting?”

      “It’s just Jessica,” Stephanie casually said as she lowered the notification volume of her phone. Jinwon’s  worries were eased and he didn’t think any more about it.

      Before Jessica started swearing, Stephanie immediately sent,

      “—omg sica calm down pls

      —ok sorry he didn’t actually say that but kinda something like that…

      —We’re just kinda awkward right now because of something. Let’s talk at your house.”

 

***

      When Stephanie arrived at the Kwon apartment, Jessica was just about to finish washing the dishes and the lively kids were dancing along to a replay of an episode of Mnet countdown. Yoona was giving it her all as she flailed her arms about while her younger sister SooJung just stood on one spot while moving up and down with a doll clutched to her chest. Yoona kept trying to force SooJung to move more but the toddler didn’t want to budge at all, let alone even let her older sister take hold of her hand. When Stephanie was about to greet them, Yoona touched her little sister’s doll, causing SooJung to screech. Tiffany got startled and laughed her head off. Oh, what lovely sight it was to see that the house was really bright and noisy with the kids, unlike back at home when she could not even talk to Jinwon properly and Eunji who always drifted off because of Kibum.

      As soon as Stephanie and Jessica finished drying the dishes, Jessica said, “So, what’s the problem? What’s that about you being awkward with Jinwon?”

      “Okay, here’s the thing… he didn’t tell me he doesn’t want to marry me. That’s just what I think. But seriously, every time marriage gets brought up, it becomes so quiet between us, and it goes on for the rest of the day.”

      “Why? Haven’t you guys talked about it yet? You know eventually you guys have to face that.”

      “Yeah, yeah, I know. We did talk about it… for a moment, anyway,” Stephanie sighed. “And it was right before Sunny and Hyungsoo got engaged in front of our eyes, too.”

      “Oooh, that timing. What did he say?”

      “He said, and I quote, ‘I’m not ready. And I don’t know if I will ever be.’”

      “What? He really said that? After everything?” Jessica scoffed.

      “I don’t know his reason for it… When I asked why, he was way too vague and hesitant to tell me. I remember before that conversation was even brought up I was talking about my life back when I lived in Yuchiri. And in the middle of that conversation, he suddenly says how he regrets hurting me back then when he didn’t know I was pregnant and all that. But he said that wasn’t the reason either. I can’t figure out what is really going on. Now it’s like we’re together, but not really because it’s like there’s no more end goal for all the things we’re doing together.”

      “Gosh, if he’s cheating on you, I’ll be the first one to kill him,” Jessica mumbled.

      “Cheating!? No way! How can you even think that of him? I don’t think that’s even possible after everything!”

      “You just told me you couldn’t figure him out. Now you’re telling me it’s impossible for him to cheat on you? He’s been gone from your life for 15 years, for goodness sake! How would you know if he’s keeping a side-chick from you or something all this time?”

      Stephanie opened her mouth to argue but she shut it immediately not knowing what to say. Jessica has a point but it just didn’t fit Jinwon’s loyal and careful personality. She lowered her head and replied, “Still, out of all things, cheating would never be his reason to feel that way.”

      “If you say so… But I’m just wondering, have you even talked or I don’t know, wondered carefully about what bothered him about marriage? I remember I myself was quite against it too.”

      “I guess I got scared to ask him because he told me he might never be ready and he was very hesitant to say anything more after that… it’s just so awkward if I bring it up and I’m scared he might show or say something I fear if I press on. But did you really feel that way, too? What was your reason?”

      “I felt like I didn’t deserve Yohan,” Jessica said. “I felt like I will never be able to make him as happy as her past girlfriends did.”

      “Really? And I thought all this time you always wanted him for yourself.”

      “Yeah, and that’s how I used to think for a long time. I always thought I deserved him. I always thought I was better than all of his girlfriends. And I guess, if I think about it now, yeah, I am better than all of them since I’m now married to him,” Jessica giggled. “But anyway, there was a time when I thought I was the worst for him.”

      “Is it because you guys fought a lot?”

      “Yeah, we were on-and-off for a long time because I was very stubborn and he was a little naïve. I mean I guess he did have his own mistakes towards me too, but I still felt like my mistakes towards him were far worse. So I thought he deserved someone better. With us breaking up many times, I thought we were not meant for each other.”

      “Jinwon and I, though… we haven’t really fought much,” Stephanie said. “Not yet, at least…”

      “Hm… Then look at it this way… don’t you think he’s a little pressured?”

      “Pressured?”

      “I mean, c’mon, everyone gets pressured at some point at the mention of marriage. After all, it’s not just about marrying one person—you have to consider the partner’s family as your family, too. That’s what makes marriage so special and also a very hard thing to commit to. Yohan had no problem getting my parents approval because apparently Dad kind of already gave him his blessings at 18 without me even knowing about it, and it’s crazy to think how we haven’t even started dating at that age… But anyway, I didn’t have it easy and was scared to marry Yohan because his mother didn’t like me. Because Yohan and I had a long and tiring history being together, of course she didn’t want his son to hurt over and over again because of me. So trying to prove to her that I’ll be a good wife was a big burden to bear. I thought I might disappoint her. With your situation, even though he doesn’t have to worry about any of your parents’ approval, he still has to worry about Eunji, and Eunji is not only your daughter. Remember, Eunji is his daughter, too.”

      “But Jinwon gets along with Eunji better than he does with me so what’s there to worry about?”

      “Yeah, okay, but what I’m trying to say is that Jinwon wants to be a good father to her or a good husband to you. It’s not just about getting along well with both of you. He wants to treat you both well.”

      Stephanie slumped into her seat and nodded, fully understanding what she was saying. Jinwon always wanted to be at his best in everything that he does, and treating her and Eunji is no different. “But being perfect is not important,” Stephanie thought out loud. “If we fight along the way, then we’ll work it out. If he hurts me, we’ll work it out. That’s how we’ll get to know and understand each other better, don’t you think? Besides, he has already been good to me and Eunji. He doesn’t have to prove himself more.”

      “See? There you go! Tell him that. But also maybe he wants to prove it not just to the both of you, but to himself? After all, it seems like he’s the only one who thinks he’s not good enough,” Jessica said. “Still, I think it’s a good thing that he’s thinking these things. He’s just questioning his priorities and his own abilities. When he gets past all that and makes up his mind, his decision won’t change so easily.”

      Jessica then rested her chin on her hand and said, “I’m telling you from experience, Fany-ah. If he truly loves you, he will come back. He’ll man up and this waiting won’t go on forever even if you think it will. Don’t worry.”

      “Do you think he truly loves me?” Stephanie pouted. “Why would he even say that he won’t ever be ready to marry me? Even if he was so conscious about what he can’t do for us, saying that he can’t marry me is basically as close as breaking up with me at this day and age. If not now, then when will it ever be the right time?”

      “Okay, look. If he does break up with you, remember, I’ll kill him for you and I’ll make sure the whole world will be against him.” Jessica said. Stephanie just scoffed. “But don’t think too much about the negatives yet. All you have to do is give him some more time to think it all out. He probably knows that it’s taken both of you too long to be together, and he probably knows how upset you may be about what he’s doing. He’s the overthinking type after all and he views things from everyone’s point of view while trying to stay true to himself. Although it’s not always good for him to overthink, it’s, I don’t know… naturally necessary for his heart and mind? Anyway, while it’s important to give him a time to think, it’s also important that you talk to him about it. You both won’t get anywhere good keeping your thoughts from each other.”

      Stephanie nodded her head and decided to do as her best friend advised. But then Jessica said, “In the meantime, why don’t you try asking yourself the same things, too?”

      “Hm? About what?”

      “Why do you love him? What’s your reason? Why are you holding onto him? You know, it just can’t be him questioning these things.”

      “Why do I have to do that? I already know that I love him without a doubt. You know I can’t love anyone else but him.”

      “Yeah, I know, you’re crazy about him since high-school,” Jessica rolled her eyes. “But why do you love him? Is it because of the past? Is it because of Eunji? Is it because you’re getting old and you won’t find anyone else? What’s the reason? You have to think about it carefully, and list it down if you have to. The important thing is you have to be true to yourself. What’s really the thing that’s bringing you to him and is it right to love him that way? If you don’t ask yourself that now, you’ll get yourself in a bind at some point.”

      Stephanie took a deep breath and sighed. She hasn’t really thought of why she loved Jinwon or why she stuck to him. Ever since her heart raced that night singing with him at Xiah Dragon Noodles, she never wanted to let him go ever again. It was a mysterious feeling she couldn’t even understand. It was simply because of love, she thought.

***

      When Eunji arrived home, Jinwon noticed that her youthful spirit still hasn’t come back to her. He was starting to miss her smile the more he saw her tired eyes every single day. Stephanie had been trying to cheer her up, but nothing ever seems to work. And if Stephanie can’t cheer her up, then what more can he do? It was too easy to think that he won’t be able to lift her daughter’s spirits up but too hard to bear seeing her gloomy heart every time he sees her. He sat there on the couch debating whether he should let this slide again or whether he should finally do something. He figured he should try to do something about it now than to wait for Stephanie to take more action. He climbed up the stairs and heaved a big sigh. He leaned on Eunji’s doorway and knocked. Eunji looked up.

      “You okay?” he nervously said. Fortunately, his trembling voice was not obvious.

      “Huh?” Eunji blinked and wondered what he meant by that. She glanced at the mirror from her bed to check if her face showed tiredness or anything that Jinwon might assume was not okay. “Why do you ask?”

      “It’s just… you look exhausted,” Jinwon sighed and crossed his arms.

      “No,” Eunji nonchalantly shook her head. “I’m perfectly fine. I’m not tired,” she smiled.

      “Eunji… what’s wrong with you these days? You don’t seem to be… you,” Jinwon said.

      Eunji paused for a moment thinking of how true his assumption was. However she did not want him to know it and tilted her head. “What makes you say that?”

      “I don’t know… How’s Kibum?”

      Eunji was a bit taken aback at how good he was at guessing the core of her problem. She tried to reply in the most nonchalant way, “Kibum’s alright. He’s going to be released from the hospital finally.”

      “That’s good! How do you feel about all of it?” Jinwon softly asked.

      “Me?”

      “Yeah.”

      “I’m… I’m happy of course,” she said and turned her eyes back to her phone to avoid eye contact. Jinwon could sense how hesitant she was and debated whether or not to continue. But he clenched his fist and took a deep breath. He shouldn’t back out now.

      “Eunji, isn’t it crazy how we’re so alike?” he said. Eunji turned her eyes back to him trying to guess where this conversation was suddenly going.

      “There was a point in my life when a person really close to me hurt me while trying to love me. But since that person claimed it was all because of love, and because I loved that person so much, I couldn’t speak out my grief to anyone. I felt like it would be too childish to admit what I really felt because that person had good intentions. But because I kept all those bitter thoughts inside me, it reflected through my everyday actions and I unintentionally hurt many people because of it. And then one day, I exploded and well… things weren’t pretty.”

      Eunji gulped and was silent for a moment. Then she asked, “Why are you telling me this?”

      “Look, I can feel how troubled you are these days and I just can’t sit around another day seeing you keep all of your feelings in. I can’t continue pretending that you’re fine and happy about Kibum, either. It’s obvious to me that you’re feeling something else than happy,” TaeYeon said and sat beside her.

      Eunji sighed deeply and hesitated to speak. Jinwon waited for a while and then said, “If it’s awkward to you, forget that I’m your father right now. Talk to me like you would to Mr. Kim—like any other friend.”

      Eunji felt overwhelmed by his caring efforts and immediately closed her eyes to hold back tears. Before the hot and deafening sobs overcame her, she tried to calm herself down and organize her thoughts. When she was ready, she began,

      “I’m confused,” Eunji began.

      “Confused?”

      “What I said a while ago—that I was happy for him going out of the hospital—was true by the way. Finally, he’s out and I can spend more time with him and we could be the friends like we were before. But… I don’t know what to feel. Sometimes I feel guilty or ashamed. Kibum is having a really hard time, but those who love him are equally having a hard time, too. I don’t even know who to pity anymore at this point.”

      “Ashamed? What do you mean?” Jinwon wondered.

      “I feel ashamed that Kibum has accepted me and loved me more than his family or his closest friends. I can see that he always complains behinds their back and he even tells me how annoyed he is seeing them, but when he’s with me, it’s the complete opposite. He just loves me even though I put in the least effort out of everyone else. It feels so unfair somehow that out of all these people who knew him more, he just pays attention to me. It’s just… I don’t know,” Eunji sighed. “It just seems wrong to me.”

      “Hm… that does seem unfair,” Jinwon nodded. “It is quite sad that he doesn’t pay attention to those who are putting in more effort, but here’s the thing. Someday, he will see their true intent and will thank them and love them back for it. But while he is still surrounded by all these people who are putting more effort, he will think you are more sincere because you’re not pushing yourself so much on him. It’s like seeing a white ball in a sea of red ones. You, out of everyone who knew him, don’t tell him that he should know this or that. You just visit him to cheer him up and make his life livelier. That probably speaks volume to him.”

      “Still… I just feel like he’s treating them all so badly when he shouldn’t. They don’t deserve it.”

      “Then… teach him.”

      “Huh?”

      “Teach him how to love them,” he said.

      “…How?”

      “You have a good character, Eunji. You have a good heart. You’re so selfless. Do you know how hard it is to be like that—to love like that? Even now I’m learning from you. So if you’re worried about Kibum not treating people right, then tell him. He will listen to you… or maybe you don’t even have to tell him. If he watches how you normally treat others, he will learn from you. He will see for himself what is good and what isn’t and eventually, he will want to make things right in his life.”

      “Be a light to him… I guess I never thought of it that way,” Eunji smiled and felt a little more at ease. “Did you have someone like that when you woke from your coma?”

      “Of course,” Jinwon nodded. “Throughout my life, I’ve had quite a few. But do you know who the very first one was for me?”

      “Who?”

      “Your mom,” Jinwon simply smiled and stood up. “Anyway, good luck on your first day in Xiah Dragon Noodles tomorrow.” He stood up and ruffled her daughter’s hair. He knew he has done more than enough to make her feel better today.

      As he fixed up his jacket, a little pink box fell out of his pockets.

      “Oh? You dropped something.” Eunji noted and dived in to pick it up. The moment the item landed steadily on the floor, she knew it was no ordinary box. Jinwon gasped and panicked. He tried snatching it away, but Eunji was quick to pull it away.

      Eunji snickered and giggled as she slowly opened the box. Jinwon slammed his hand down to the box so that Eunji wouldn’t see anything.

      “I see you bought some jewelry,” Eunji snickered. “When did you buy this?”

      “Last month…” Jinwon snatched the box away and buried it deep in his pockets.

      “Last month?!” Eunji scoffed.

      “Yes, now shush. Don’t mention a thing to your mother, okay?”

      “Hahaha, okay…. Whatever you say, dad,” Eunji snickered. “Wait,” she called out as Jinwon was out of her room. “When are you going to propose?”

      Jinwon avoided eye contact and turned his head away. “Not any time soon.”

      “Why not? What’s there to wait for?”

      “I’m not ready,” Jinwon sighed as he closed his eyes. He couldn’t be nonchalant about it.

      “You’re not? Why?”

      “I’m just not ready,” he said, trying to avoid the question.

      However, Eunji pressed on, “Oh c’mon, there has to be a reason behind it?”

      Jinwon knew she wouldn’t let this topic go if he did not say it now so he admitted it. It only seemed fair since Eunji talked about her feelings, too. “I haven’t done anything to be worthy to be a part of her life—a part of this family.”

      “What makes you say that?” Eunji asked.

      “All I have ever done was get your mother pregnant, left her when she needed me, then almost did the same thing all over again 15 years later.”

      “Wait… are you saying you almost got her pregnant again?” Eunji’s jaw dropped.

      Jinwon bit his lip out of embarrassment and he turned red, “Look, before you start jumping to conclusions, the only sex that happened between us brought life to you, okay!? We never had sex when we met again months ago. We really got our boundaries up!”

      “But you just said… And I mean I even saw you guys…”

      “That was nothing, okay! We did not do it! And how many times have I told you to stop thinking about that!? Anyway, anyway, I’m not talking about this with you,” Jinwon angrily flailed his arms around and continued to head down the stairs.

      “Okay fine, I’ll stop. But anyway, despite whatever you were saying, we’re happy to have you here. You’re happy with us too, aren’t you?” Eunji leaned over her doorway and crossed her arms to her chest.

      “Yes, but… I’m not a good enough man for her. I’m not a good enough father for you, too.”

      “Who said you were not good enough? You seem like an okay dad to me. We get along pretty well. You also understand what I need without me even knowing what I need. The kind of love that you naturally show every day is good enough for me to acknowledge you as my father. To be honest, I don’t even know what having a good father is like. I’m assuming you don’t really know how to be a father or a husband either, so I have no high expectations. Figuring out what it’s like to have you as my father as we live our lives together as a family is the best thing, don’t you think?”

      Jinwon became thoughtful for a moment and said, “But what about your mother?”

      “Oh! Ha!” Eunji scoffed. “What are you worrying about? Being good to her? Being a good husband? Or are you scared of hurting her?”

      “Well… basically all that,” Jinwon nodded.

      “Do you really need to worry so much about those things? Is it not obvious to you how much she’s head over heels for you? Seriously, I’ve been with her all my life and I can basically tell you every habit she has towards guys. But when you came, I was so shocked to see her act like a teenager. It was so new to me. I mean I’ve even set her up on men that seemed better than you, but I’ve never seen her use those lips for any other man than yours, so don’t think you will never be good enough for her.”

      “But is that really alright? I haven’t even done much for this family…”

      “Really? Then let me ask you this, Mr. Kim,” Eunji locked him in the eye. “What’s the one thing that you want to do for us?”

      “I-I…,” Jinwon was startled by her question but quickly answered, “I want to make the both of you happy. I want you both to be happy.”

      “Is that it?” Eunji scoffed.

      “I want what’s best for the both of you,” he added.

      “Can I ask you another question, then?” Eunji pressed and he nodded.

      “Are you keeping any dangerous secrets from us?”

      “No,” Jinwon denied immediately.

      “Okay. Then can I tell you something crazy? You—just by being yourself—already made us happy. So stop saying you haven’t done much. You’ve done a lot. Besides, it’s not about how much things you can do or how great you can do them. Right now, you’re showing how much you love us by saying you want what’s best for us. I don’t know how you see that, but to me that’s a huge thing already. So I don’t think there’s nothing more you need to prove.”

      “R-really?”

      “Yeah! So don’t be scared about what mistakes you can make later. One way or another, it will happen anyway. But perfect love casts out fear, right? Just think about the good that you think you can do now. That’s really all that you should be worrying about. Don’t fear the heights and remember the feeling you guys felt when you made me,” she smirked.

      Jinwon carefully listened to every word his daughter said until it got to the last sentence. “Wait, what?!” His face flushed red and he exploded, “How the hell would you know what we felt at that time?!”

      “Hey, remember, I read Mom’s diary. She’s very informative of that time, you know,” Eunji snickered. “Talking about how conflicted you both were since you both didn’t want to hurt each other since it was both your first time, but when the clock was at 11:11, both of you, so fearlessly out of love, just—ha-ha-ha”

      “OKAY, OKAY. STOP.” Jinwon covered his face out of embarrassment. Of all the examples of courage, she really had to mention that, did she?

      “Anyway, you get what I’m saying, right?”

      “Yeah…,” Jinwon nodded as he recalled all of the things she said. “Thank you, Eunji. You always know the right words to say.”

      “Is that sarcastic?” Eunji laughed.

      “No, no, I really mean it. Everything you said means a lot to me right now… well, everything you said before the thing, at least. Thank you.”

      “Anytime!” she smiled brightly.

      Before he continued down the stairs, he asked, “Any other things you think I should keep in mind?”

      “Hmm… Just please stop dragging me on your byuntae affairs with mom. And if you’re both doing something scandalous, either give a warning so that I can avoid it or just don’t tell me at all. Actually, yeah, never tell me. And do it on your apartment for all I care. I don’t even want to get an idea.”

      “Says the girl who brings up the very thing she doesn’t want to see,” Jinwon scoffed.

      “Hey, I wouldn’t be mentioning it if it was all kept secret from me.”

      “It’s still your fault. What were you even doing with your mom’s diary?”

      “Well why was the door even open when my mom was on top of you that one afternoon? You guys know I come home around that time.”

      Jinwon couldn’t believe his ears and just gave up. He sighed tiredly and argued one last time, “We did not have sex that day, young lady.”

      Jinwon climbed down the stairs to finally escape the conversation. Although their inappropriate conversation bothered him, he was still amused by it. And after all that shenanigans, what really matters was that she was able to tell him things he needed to hear. There was nothing more to prove.

      He was not feeling heavy hearted about that ring anymore. If he had to go down on his knees the moment Stephanie comes home, he would, but that would be too lame. So he quickly decided to get home to plan for the proposal.

      “Hmm, should I call Yohan and Hyungsoo for this? Hmm… maybe Eunji’s help would be nice,” he thought.

      As if on cue, Stephanie’s loud voice echoed through the house from the door, “I’m home!” Jinwon froze as he saw Stephanie. In that moment, he was left breathless at how beautiful she was. She wasn’t wearing any make-up, she wasn’t in any fancy dress, and even her hair wasn’t combed. She was merely a woman in a thick black parka that covered her attracting figure. The scarf around her neck covered almost half of her face, but her eyes still sparkled brightly. Anyone could see that she was a little bit of a mess, but to Jinwon, she had never been prettier. Looking towards her with new eyes, every little detail about her suddenly seemed so fascinating and beautiful.

      “Oh hey,” Jinwon smiled towards him but deep inside her, she still felt scared and awkward to talk to him especially since Jinwon just stood there blankly staring at her without a word.

      “I’m going,” Jinwon managed to say. He could not think of anything else but to propose to her. He had to go somewhere else without her to clear and arrange his thoughts.

      “Huh?” Stephanie blinked. “Where?”

      “Some stuff over Xiah Dragon Noodles…,” he mumbled as he scuttled through to wear his coat. Jinwon sensed that he was keeping something from her and in her mind she argued with herself if it was a good thing or bad thing. She just stared hopelessly at him wondering why he was hurrying or why he looked nervous about something.

      Before Jinwon stepped out of the door, he turned around to look at her one more time. He tried to say in his flattest tone, “I won’t be back for dinner. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

      Stephanie simply nodded her head. She was not able to smile because she felt he wanted to go out on purpose to avoid her. Jinwon noticed how unenthusiastic she was and remembered that they were not in the best terms. To slightly make things better between them, he took one step closer to her and gently raised her chin up.

      “On second thought,” he said and smiled at her, “Could you meet me at the studio tomorrow, around 5 PM?”

      “Hm?” Stephanie’s eyes widened. Jinwon hasn’t been making plans between them for a while so this caught her off guard. “What for?”

      “Let’s go out and get some fresh air.”

      Stephanie wanted to ask why but at the same time, she wanted his reason to remain a mystery. Jinwon has been complaining about how cold it was these days so for him to suddenly suggest on going out seemed so unlike him. He either had a good or bad reason for doing so.

***

      The next day, Kibum was finally released from the rehabilitation center. Although Kibum’s parents wanted him to rest more, they kindly allowed him to hang out with Eunji for a bit. And so, as Eunji promised, she walked with Key to Xiah Dragon Noodles to celebrate his improving health.

      “So, how does it feel being a free man?” Eunji asked as Kibum happily hung his arms on her shoulders.

      “It feels great. You don’t know how much hell this past month was… I felt so stupid most of the time not knowing anything.”

      “You’ve done well,” Eunji brightly smiled at him and ruffled his hair. “I’m sure you’ll get by again quickly.”

      “Thanks! I couldn’t have been so optimistic about recovering without you and Junmyun Hyung.”

      Silence fell for a moment. Kibum hesitated for a bit, but then he asked, “By the way, Suho told me that he and I weren’t really well acquainted back then. But how about you? Who were you from my past? I think you haven’t said anything.”

      “We were just friends who were starting to get to know more about each other,” Eunji said while she staring at the sky. It seemed like it was about to rain.

      “Was that all there was?” Kibum wondered. “I thought…” he trailed off. Fragments of memories about Eunji have been revealing themselves to him day by day. He already somewhat knows that he had a huge crush on her, confessed his feelings, and even kissed her under the rain.

      “You thought what?” Eunji turned her head to him.

      “It’s nothing… just that… we kissed?” He scratched his head for he wasn’t exactly sure.

      “Oh… yeah,” Eunji chuckled timidly and blushed. “Something like that.” Kibum smiled.

      “You know what’s weird… you were the first one I ever remembered,” he said and stopped walking. Eunji was baffled by what she heard and froze the moment he held her hands. “I remember you Eunji. I think I remember everything about you. Things like you playing piano, eating samgyeopsal together, reading beside you, walking home… Everything we did together, I think I remember it all.”

      “Y-you do?” Eunji stuttered, feeling goosebumps run through her body at Kibum’s touch.

      “Yeah,” he nodded. “I remember you, but I still have no idea who I am,” he laughed as if not remembering his own life was a joke. “You’re the only one so real to me,” he said so gently that Eunji became speechless.

      Suddenly, it started to drizzle. They both looked up and felt the soft drops of water on their faces. It reminded Eunji her of her first kiss.

      “We should probably go find some shelter,” Kibum interrupted Eunji who was deep in thought.

      “Oh, yeah. Xiah Dragon Noodles is close. You think you can run?” Eunji said.

      “You bet!” Kibum tightly gripped Eunji’s hands. Eunji’s eye-smile went up and she started running. They merrily sped to the restaurant under the gray sky. It was the first time Eunji felt happy under a rainy day.

***

      Xiah Dragon Noodles started getting filled up since the people heard there was going to be a new performance after Junmyun’s band resigned. In the sea of full tables, Eunji managed to find a comfortable place for Key near the stage. On the same table sat Minjae.

      “Kibum, sit here for a few minutes. I have to do something,” Eunji said.

      “You’re leaving me here by myself?” Kibum pouted.

      “There’s this kid here,” Eunji pointed to Minjae. “He’s nice. You’ll like him. Now I have to go. The people on the stage will kill me.”

      And so, Kibum was left in the care of Minjae as Eunji does her first day on the job. It was only one song that she was going to sing with her friends so it wasn’t much of a problem. It won’t take long.

      “Hi, I’m Minjae,” Minjae introduced himself. He knew Kibum might not remember him.

      “Oh hi, you’re Eunji’s childhood friend, right?” Kibum greeted as he held back from laughing. “I never imagined you’d look very girly.”

      “I have a girlfriend,” Minjae angrily crossed his arms. “Ah… I can see you haven’t changed.”

      “You know me?” Kibum chuckled.

      “Yeah. We used to be really good friends. Oh, and you were actually the one who brought me and my girlfriend together.”

      “Oh really? Who is she?”

      “So Eun, the one with long, straight, black hair on stage.”

      “Ah… I can see both our girlfriends are participating in this performance.”

      “Girlfriend? And who might that be?” Minjae laughed.

      “Yeah… suppose you know Eunji, right?”

      “You guys are officially together?” Minjae’s eyes widened.

      “Haven’t really made any declarations. Even she doesn’t know. But she is my girlfriend,” Kibum smiled.

      “Tch,” Minjae snickered. “Alright then.”

      There on the stage were five girls, Sarang, Bomyi, So Eun, and Na Eun’s friends, Namjoo and Hayoung preparing, Sungyeol with his guitar, and Hyungsoo on drums. Eunji went up the stage and prepared her own mike stand.

      “Yah, where were you?” Sarang whispered angrily. “We were worried you wouldn’t come.”

      “Sorry. I brought over a guest,” Eunji smiled. Sarang turned her head to the audience and saw Kibum. “Omo! He looks great and radiant now!”

      “I know, right?”

      “You guys ready?” Hyungsoo said.

      “Yeah,” the six nodded.

      “Go ahead Sarang, introduce yourselves,” Hyungsoo said.

      And so, Sarang introduced their little group in a very fresh way and everybody in the restaurant applauded.

(Song: Fairytale Love (사랑 동화) – Apink)

Soon, Sungyeol started plucking his guitar.

Eunji started to sing. Kibum’s eye’s filled with excitement hearing her beautiful voice. It was no doubt now that she was the one who sang, who gave him ease during the days he was unconscious.

 

From the beautiful fairytales of my childhood
I learned for the first time
That love was all about the fluttering feelings

I thought that kind of love would come to me too

Need you
I really didn’t know back then
Need you

I thought we’d last forever
I didn’t know how precious you were and only complained every day

Yes, now I finally know
That the pain is greater than that love
Our story has ended like that
Becoming a sad memory, my love

 

So Eun started singing. Minjae became all giddy up in his seat. Kibum found it weird since the song was sad, yet Minjae was so happy.

 

This isn’t the love I used to know
I thought it was like what I dreamed of, in the fairytales

I guess I was too young to know love back then

Need you
I really didn’t know back then
Need you

I thought we’d last forever
I didn’t know how precious you were and only complained every day
My love

Yes, now I finally know
You’re so precious
I finally realized that you’re the love that I learned with my heart

Now I can’t turn things back
It’s too late
You’re not by my side

But our beautiful story is still in my heart, my love

 

The whole time, Kibum was listening closely. Why was this song so sad? Why does he have the feeling that Eunji once felt this way?

      “Who wrote this?” Kibum asked.

      “Eunji and her dad wrote this recently,” Minjae said. “They are really talented.”

      “Any idea as to who it’s directed to?” Kibum asked.

      “I don’t know,” Minjae shrugged.

***

      Stephanie nervously opened the door to the studio and there sat Jinwon in front of the baby-grand piano. She smiled remembering the days when it was only the two of them during Thursday afternoons in this room. Seeing him again in the same setting felt like she traveled back in time when almost nothing troubled them at all. But why did Jinwon call her here? He wouldn’t invite her here at this particular afternoon if he didn’t have anything important to say.

      “Hey…” Stephanie greeted and sat beside Jinwon. “It’s raining outside. It’s awfully freezing, too.”

      “It is? Well then we can spend our time here,” Jinwon said.

      “No fresh air then?” Stephanie chuckled.

      “We won’t need it anyway,” he said.

      “I knew you’d say that,” she snickered.

      “Anyway, do you remember the times when we would just hang out and talk here while waiting for the band members?”

      “Of course I do,” Stephanie smiled. “I just remembered as soon as I came in.”

      “I kept on thinking about it yesterday. We would just talk to each other for about thirty minutes about anything that got into our heads, and it got us closer together. And if we had an argument or something like that, we’d work it out together during this time. I was just thinking that I wanted to revive those kinds of moments, even if it’s just for today. I wanted to just talk with you about what has been going on my mind.”

      “Should I be nervous?”

      “Maybe,” he smiled but that did not ease Stephanie’s anxious heart at all.

      “I remember one particular Thursday, just a week before we made love,” he said and paused. They both turned their eyes to each other at the same time, and they both felt immediately embarrassed to hear those words. Jinwon cleared his throat and tried to continue on with his story, “I was practicing the Chopin Nocturne that I’ve tried so hard to finish learning just for you. I haven’t told you then that if I finish the piece, I’d be assured that you’ll be with me forever, but I was heavily thinking about it. Do you remember that simple Thursday and all the words that we said?”

      Stephanie was silent, trying to recall what he was talking about. “If you’re talking about a week before the… you know…, I think I remember how we made out passionately for the longest time here in the studio. I don’t remember the words that we said though.”

      “Then let me play that Chopin piece for you,” Jinwon smiled. “Maybe it will refresh your memory a bit.”

      Jinwon opened the baby grand. He took a deep breath and started to play.

 

OCTOBER 23, 1997, Thursday

      Forever—again and again, it echoed. Forever. You are my forever. It was a promise that softly waltzed from Jinwon’s heart to Stephanie’s heart as he played Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9 No.2. They were only teenagers, naïve and hasty with their lives as they could be. It was no surprise how their love was like a baby dandelion, so carefree and beautiful, yet so fragile; anything can blow them away from each other. Forever—to stay in-love forever—seemed like an unreachable dream. But the clock in the room has stopped ticking, as if time has stopped for a moment to give them a sense of forever.

      “Silly of you to be playing that piece again,” Stephanie laughed hearing him getting off track from the complicated piano piece. Jinwon laughed at her remark and stopped the metronome to relax the nerves twisting inside of him.

      “Well, I’m just trying to relive the moment that made me want to be with you,” Jinwon smiled as he brushed away the bangs that gloomily hung above her eyes—eyes that hid away all the sorrows of the world. How lovely it was to see them glowing when their eyes meet as if she was the happiest girl in the world.

      “You’re so cheesy,” she hit him and blushed madly remembering the night they first kissed when the same piece lovingly drew them together.

      “This song always refreshes me,” he said as he wiped off some dust on the baby grand’s spruce keys. “When I hear it, our relationship suddenly feels as exciting as the first kiss. But I guess, not even the kiss can beat the emotions I felt when I saw you smile after you cried about how lonely and broken you were at that time. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen… like a rainbow after a storm.”

      Stephanie timidly turned away and wondered how he ever deserved such a sweet boy. He was being really lovey-dovey with his words again. Whether he sincerely meant every word, she never knew. But as a girl craving for love, she believed them without dilemma. It didn’t matter if they only intended to make her blush for his actions truly said much more. He was a boy who loved nothing but music, almost going as far as to claim that his guitar was his beloved wife. The only thing in his mind was trying to get a record deal even at such a young age. He had no opinion or outlook on anything else, but now, she was being cared for. Music was his best friend, but just for her, he learned to love something new. He bought her a dog last year on her birthday, wrote and sang songs for her, and sung her lullabies when she couldn’t sleep. Oh, it was way too obvious how much he loved her.

      “Stephanie,” he called her name almost as silent as a whisper, “Don’t you wish time would stay here forever, when our love is still as fresh as ever? I don’t want to think about time passing without you.”

      “I’ll always be in your heart if you let me. Just us together like this, with music surrounding us while waiting for the others… this heart-to-heart talk we always seem to do before band practice starts—it won’t leave you. I won’t leave you.”

      And there he saw the promise of a forever staring back at him. At 18 years old, he knew, there was going to be no one else but her. Every moment they shared together should not go to waste or be misplaced. If she promises not to leave his heart, so he will do the same. He will hold her hand forever.

      “I love you,” he whispered out of thankfulness and assurance. Before she could reply, he leaned in for a kiss.

 

      When Jinwon finished the Nocturne that had softly waltzed in Stephanie’s heart, he let the silence sink in for a moment. He needed it to calm himself. When his nervousness settled down a bit, he stared deep in Stephanie’s eyes. Stephanie stared at him back, catching onto the fact that Jinwon had something to say.

      “Fany-ah…,” he breathed out as he nervously tried to gain all the confidence he could muster. He began, “The day I play this piece perfectly for you is the day I know we’ll be together forever. I played this for you a few months ago, yet I was so uncertain of how we would actually end. I was confused and in denial. We talked about marriage and I really thought I couldn’t do it. I keep thinking of this and that, and I got tired and letdown by my own standards and my own expectations. I guess part of it has to do with how overwhelmed I really was by how my life has suddenly changed… it’s scary to think of the future, you know? It’s even scarier to think I could lose this precious time I have with you with such bad luck following me around. But now, I’d rather not think, for as you said before, all I need is to look at you, to see that I finally have you, and that I love you with every fiber of my being.

      “Fany-ah…,” he said almost like a whisper as he closed his eyes. “I don’t want to think about a time passing without you.”

      He opened his eyes said, “Do you remember when this Chopin piece particularly became special to us?” He slid his hand inside his pocket waiting to take out the box at the right time.

      “Of course. It was playing when we had our first kiss. That’s how you started to learn it.”

      “That was the start of our relationship, wasn’t it? Now, I’m ready to start something new again, and I’m ready to learn so much more than just a piano piece for you to show you how much I love you,” he said and took out the pink box that stayed too long inside his pockets.

      “Are you ready to do the same? Will you marry me?”

 


CHAPTER 16: Occupied


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