DING DONG! The doorbell sounded repeatedly.
Tiffany stirred and nudged Taeng sleepily. “Get the door, Taetae.”
After a moment, she lifted her head because he didn’t budge. His eyes were still shut and he was dead to the world. She sighed. He was such a sleepyhead. What had she been thinking, trying to get him to wake up? It was her home anyway. She’d get the door. So she heaved herself off the bed, stuck her feet into her fluffy pink bedroom slippers and slipped on a robe to cover her naked self before heading towards the door.
A little body of manic enthusiasm pounced on her the moment the door was opened, shocking her into speechlessness. She couldn’t even scream.
“FANY UNNIE!!!” the little body shrieked. “IMISSEDYOUSOMUCH!”
“Huh?” replied Tiffany, in a daze. She had a thousand and one questions to ask but before she could say anything else, the little body spoke again.
“Fany unnie, please don’t tell oppa that I’m here. He’s not supposed to know.”
“Why not?” queried Tiffany.
“Hayeon?” A groggy voice that belonged to neither her nor the little body came from behind suddenly.
“OPPA?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!”
“Hayeon, don’t be rude. But yes, I’m interested to know that too.” Yet another voice joined the equation and the foursome stood and stared in surprise, shock and amusement—each feeling a slightly different version of it.
“So are you going to marry oppa? Are you going to be my sister-in-law?” Hayeon asked excitedly.
“Not just yet, Hayeon.” Tiffany smiled at the girl who had grown taller since the last time she saw her.
“Does oppa sleep here often?”
Tiffany felt a blush coming on. It was somewhat awkward to talk to a young girl about these things, especially when it involved the girl’s brother.
“Hayeon, you still haven’t told me why I’m not supposed to know that you’re here,” interrupted Taeng. The sad pout on his face made Tiffany feel like laughing—he looked so comical—but she held it back.
“I’m curious too,” she added. “What’s it about? Jiwoong oppa, can you tell us?”
“Let me explain.” Jiwoong took a deep breath and started. “Hayeon received offers from a few good high schools and she’s here to check out one of them. But she wanted to give Taeng a surprise before that and that’s why she dragged me here to look for you.”
“A surprise?” Taeng blinked in surprise.
“Yeah!” Hayeon chirped.
Tiffany couldn’t help grinning at the siblings’ interactions. It was amusing to see a Taeng look-a-like, albeit, a smaller version, chatting so animatedly with Taeng himself. And for some reason, Taeng felt a little manlier just then. As an older brother, she knew that he would protect Hayeon just like he had protected her. That was Taeng. Caring for his loved ones. Knowing what truly mattered. And in that way, he was very much the mature adult, more so than many other people whom she had met before.
They concluded the conversation with the agreement that they would visit the high school two days later because Tiffany and Taeng had to be at the press conference that was going to be held later that day. Hayeon had insisted on going with them and so that was the plan. They bade Jiwoong goodbye and Tiffany smiled again when the two brothers embraced in a brotherly hug. Jiwoong was a good example for Taeng. He was very much the dependable elder brother. Taeng was lucky that way.
DING DONG! The doorbell sounded repeatedly.
Hyoyeon looked up from her steaming gogumas and walked out to find out who was at the door. Upon seeing Hyun through the peephole, she balked. Normally, welcoming Hyun into her home wouldn’t be a case for such hesitation. However, she wasn’t expecting him to arrive at her apartment until much later and so she was, at the moment, steaming the gogumas that Hyun thought were from a certain uncle who had the weirdest idiosyncrasies with regard to his goguma business.
She had thought about coming clean about the origins of Hyun’s favourite steamed gogumas before. What harm would it do? She ought to tell him. She tried to convince herself but there was just one thing holding her back—a weird kind of embarrassment. She knew that Hyun was under the impression that he was the one who had made the first move on her by making her treat him to gogumas and that she had only fallen for him later on. What he didn’t know was that she had had the hots for him from the very beginning. There was a certain kind of power that she felt in having that knowledge over him—having the man think that he wanted her more than she wanted him. And after playing along with it all this time, it would be rather mortifying for her if the truth were to be exposed.
Her mind worked quickly. Spinning up stories was something that she did well and excelled at. This particular skill had gotten her out of many scrapes and also helped her in many situations. Right now, it was going to get her out of this bit of potential embarrassment as well.
Putting on a wide smile as she opened the door, she greeted Hyun enthusiastically.
“Hyunnie! You’ve come at just the right time!”
Hyun looked a little taken aback by her burst of energy and she wondered for a second if she was being overzealous and therefore a little bit too suspicious. It was best to tone it down a little, she supposed.
“You’ll never guess what I have cooking in the kitchen right now.”
“Gogumas?” Hyun guessed, with inquisitive eyebrows.
“Boo, you’re no fun at all.”
“But it smells familiar. Like that uncle’s gogumas. That’s his special smell.”
“You’re right. It is exactly that.”
Hyun gasped. “That uncle’s gogumas?! Cooking in your kitchen??? How? Why?”
“Don’t ask. I won’t tell.”
Hyun pouted at once.
“Because a lady never kisses and tells.”
“WHAT? Did you kiss him?” He sputtered.
His expression was so incredulous that it set her off laughing. It was much too funny to see stoic Hyun looking like he stepped out from the pages of a manga, what with that gaping mouth and wide open eyes.
“And what if I did?” challenged Hyoyeon, itching for a little naughty dispute.
“I will—I will…I WONT EAT THOSE GOGUMAS EVER AGAIN!” Hyun exploded, teary eyed.
Again, Hyoyeon was reduced to tears by insane bouts of laughter.
“Hyunnie, relax. I’m just joking.”
“So…you didn’t kiss the goguma uncle.”
Hyoyeon laughed some more, shook her head and replied, “There isn’t even a goguma uncle!”
The moment the words left her lips, she knew that she had let slip what she had been trying to keep secret for the longest time. It was a fatal mistake. She groaned inwardly but refrained from palming her face lest she made it too obvious.
Please don’t catch on to me. Please don’t pick up on what I said!
“There isn’t a goguma uncle?” Hyun asked, his eyes widening in surprise.
“I meant there was no kiss.”
“No, no. You said that there isn’t an uncle.”
“Well, I said it wrong.”
“Is that why you can never bring me to see him?” Hyun’s eyes narrowed into slits as he stepped closer to her. “I always did wonder why he has such irregular business hours.”
“No…he exists…” Hyoyeon was prepared to deny the fact that she had lied till the very end.
“But if there’s no uncle…who’s making those gogumas?”
“There’s an uncle I’m telling you! There’s an uncle!”
Hyun gasped. “It’s you! You made the gogumas all along! You!”
“It’s the uncle!”
“Then explain why you have a whole pot of the uncle’s gogumas cooking in your kitchen right now.”
Hyun was right in front of her, towering over her. She was trapped between the concrete wall and the wall of a boyfriend with nowhere to run. What was a girl to do when she was cornered? Maintain her silence, that’s what.
“Why aren’t you answering me?” Hyun’s voice had taken on an amused tone and there was no need to look to know that he was most certainly smiling at the moment. “There’s no uncle, right? You made the gogumas, right?”
Hyoyeon bit her lip and kept quiet.
“But why didn’t you just tell me from the beginning that you made it?”
There was no way she was going to tell him why. No way.
Hyun gasped again and she squeezed her eyes shut. No. She wasn’t going to face the music. No way.
“You. You liked me already. That’s why you didn’t tell me that you made them. You liked me already!”
Hyoyeon kept her eyes shut but they instinctively sprang open when she felt a sudden soft, sweet pressure pressing on her lips followed by warm hands on her hips. Upon realizing that Hyun was, in fact, kissing her, she closed her eyes again and melted into his kiss.
DING DONG! The doorbell sounded repeatedly.
Sunny yawned, stretched and grumbled incoherently about the jarring noise that was disturbing her sleep. Most reluctantly, she opened her eyes and sat up. The doorbell was going off the hook and she swore that she’d get even with the person at the door.
“Sunny bunny!” Yoong jumped into her apartment the moment she opened the door and tried to kiss her.
“Eek! No! I haven’t brushed my teeth yet!” Sunny tried to fend him off while retreating to her bathroom in a hurry. So much for getting even.
He didn’t give up, persevering in his efforts all the way to her bathroom until she finally slammed the door on him.
“Wait for me in the living room! And be good!” she yelled from behind the door where she was finally safe from her slightly manic boyfriend. There was silence and she was sure that he was up to something naughty as usual but she had to brush her teeth before stepping out into loony town again.
Sure enough, he wasn’t out in the living room, waiting for her like an ordinary boyfriend would. No, that wasn’t Yoong’s style. Instead, she stepped out of her bathroom to find him sprawled across her bed in a lazy fashion, sporting an impish grin that did nothing to calm her down.
“What are you up to now?” she rolled her eyes at her impish boyfriend, wondering why she had fallen for a guy like him.
He flashed the widest grin ever and got onto his knees on her bed.
“I present to you, the largest diamond ring in the world,” he whipped out a large, diamond shaped lollipop that looked exactly like a ring and looked at her earnestly, “so will you please be my woman? Forever and a day?”
What was a woman supposed to do with a boyfriend like that? Sunny melted under his lovey dovey eyes and corny act. She walked towards him, yanked the Ring Pop out of his hand and said, “Forever and a day? With a ring like that, you’d be lucky to get a day.”
“But it’s your favourite strawberry flavour!” he whined and pouted.
She pretended to ponder over his rebuttal for a moment before shaking her head solemnly.
“I’ll give you no more than a day.”
She burst into peals of laughter when he made a sad face and flopped about on the bed. Oh dear heavens, he always made her day when he was in the mood to play. A quick tug opened the plastic wrapping and she took the Ring Pop out. She then patted his butt and said, “Help me to put on the largest diamond ring in the world and perhaps I’ll consider giving you another day.”
He turned around at once, grinning like a cheeky monkey and slipped the Ring Pop onto her fourth finger. But instead of letting her go, he held on, his eyes clouding over with a sudden gust of emotion.
“When everything is right, I’ll put a real diamond ring on this finger and you’ll be mine forever.”
Sunny’s heart pounded wildly upon hearing what he said and it was all she could do to say, “I’m already yours. Forever and a day.”
DING DONG! The doorbell sounded repeatedly.
Yoong, Sunny, Hyun and Hyoyeon were crowded around Young’s door. They had agreed to head to the press conference together to give Young support. His reputation was at stake and because he was a Choi, his family would inevitably be affected too. Hence, they felt that he would need his friends to be there, to give him their encouragement to face the pressure coming from the press as well as his own sense of responsibility towards his family.
Young was already all dressed up when he opened the door, looking ready to take over the world in his smart navy blue suit.
“Hyung, you look good today man.” Yoong stepped forward to give Young a brotherly hug.
“We’re here for you, hyung.” Hyun stepped forward and hugged Young as well.
“Thanks guys, and girls.” Young grinned like a Cheshire cat but his friends knew that he must be feeling as though he were walking on thin ice.
“Is your dad going to be there?” asked Yoong.
“That’s good, right?” added Hyun.
“I suppose. He’ll know what to say and what to do.”
“We’ll go for a drink after the press con. My treat.” Sunny gave Young a tight hug and patted his back comfortingly.
“Thanks Sunny. I’ll hold you to that.”
Young smiled at his friends and palmed his chest. “Thanks. You all mean the world to me.”
“This car is bulletproof?” Yoong asked Young as they headed towards the press conference in Young’s Hyundai Equus Limousine.
“Yes, we made an armored version of the Equus Limousine and of course, I had to have one.”
“This is too cool.
“I know, right?”
“But did you get the best interest rate when you bought it?” Hyun asked.
“Hyun, Young doesn’t even have to buy it. He can simply ask for it.”
“Oh, yeah, right. Sorry, I forgot.”
“It’s okay, Hyun.”
“So, back to this beautiful baby. What’s under the hood?”
“A 5.0-liter Tau V8 engine.”
“Young, have you seen Krystal ever since she was discharged from the hospital?” Sunny tried to change the subject. She had no desire to listen to Young and Yoong chat on about how fast the car could go and the works. They could go on for a long time and there’d be no end to it.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Hmm, how are things between the two of you?”
She saw Young shooting a dirty look at Yoong who immediately raised his hands in surrender.
“I’m innocent! She heard some of it from Tiffany who heard it from Jessica and bugged me to tell her what I know.”
“I don’t know how things are.”
“But you do like her.”
“The kind without an expiry date?”
Sunny smiled. “Then go for it, Young. You can’t let her go.”
“But I don’t really know how she feels. Her best friend hinted that she has feelings for me too but I need to be sure. I don’t want to jeopardize our friendship.”
“Mmm, based on what Tiffany heard from Jessica…I’d say there’s a good chance that you’re on a two-way road.”
Sunny smiled when she saw Young’s face alit with hope. She thought he deserved to find that special someone after roaming about aimlessly for so long, just like she did. And she sincerely hoped that his days of being a vagrant lover would be over.
She inhaled as deeply as she possibly could and held her breath for a while before exhaling in a rush. She did that several times, believing in what her teacher had told her…
“Breathe in…hold your breath…and breath out. That’ll get rid of your nerves,” a kind teacher once said to her moments before her presentation started. It was her final project and the presentation played a significant part in securing a good grade for the semester. And it was all thanks to that teacher that she managed to pull off the whole presentation without any hiccups. That was one teacher she’d never forget.
However, breathing in and out didn’t seem to help her this time. Her nerves were anything but gone. In fact, they were ever so present, increasing in quantity by the second. Butterflies, moths and every kind of fluttering insect were giving her stomach a hard time as well. She wasn’t feeling good at all. No siree, she was not.
So it was rather unbelievable when the butterflies and other flying insects in her stomach shifted drastically within. Her nerves too, jumped and turned into something much more pleasant. Her head was still pounding. Her heart was still thumping. But for an entirely different reason. And the cause of that paradigm shift inside her was none other than the tall, lanky man who strode into the waiting room that she was in.
When did his presence have such an effect on her? She had always been happy to see him but never in this way. Never in this soul shifting way. It was almost as though she were reborn. Refreshed. F5. Reloaded. F5. Renewed. F5. For the past few days, she’d been at her computer, pressing the F5 button on her keyboard repeatedly while she waited for him to appear online. When did sending a simple message become so awkward, so difficult? She never had a problem with it before. What had changed?
He walked towards her and she could feel her hands shaking. She held them together in a bid to stop the shaking but it wasn’t working. Never did she ever think that she could be this nervous to see him. Yes, she hadn’t seen him since she left the hospital and she missed him a lot but this was ridiculous. Wasn’t it? Shaking hands? How many days have they not seen each other for? Three days? Four? Was that enough to warrant shaking hands? What in the world was wrong with her?
He stopped right in front of her and she had to look up to see his face.
Gosh, his voice. She wanted to hear more even though it made her feel more nervous than before.
She could barely hear her own voice.
“It’s been a while. How have you been? Are you well?”
He sounded strange. Unfamiliar. Almost like a stranger. Why?
“I’m alright now. It wasn’t that serious to begin with.”
His mouth opened and shut.
What did he want to say? Why couldn’t he say it easily? Was he feeling as nervous as she was? He certainly did not look like his usual self. He was tensed. Very tensed.
“What did you want to say?”
“I…Krystal, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, Young. Fire away.”
The chattering of a few people disturbed the air around them and he jumped away from her instantly. She, too, sat up a little straighter and looked in the direction of the chattering. It was her sister and her future brother-in-law, Yul. They had such impeccable timing. What else could she do but sigh in her heart? She was itching to know what he was about to ask but it would have to wait. Young wasn’t even looking at her anymore.
“Young, it’s great to see you again. What have you been busy with? I haven’t heard from you ever since,” asked Yul who had let Jessica’s hand go to give Young a friendly pat on the back before holding her hand again.
“I’ve been busy with the company and my family. I, er…had some issues to iron out with my parents.”
“What kind of issues, if I may ask?”
Young cleared his throat awkwardly and she looked up at him, curious to know. His eyes were on anything but her. It disappointed her for some reason but what he said next boosted her spirits in quantum leaps.
“Er…well, basically, my engagement to Jade is cancelled. My father was not pleased to hear of my decision, to say the least but my alternative solution made him happy enough to accept it.”
“And what’s your alternative solution?”
“I…can’t say anything about it until I clarify a few things.”
“I see…I’m sorry if I probed too much, but I hope that you’ll find a good way to dissolve the problem. And if you need any help, I’m available.”
His apparent secrecy about his alternative solution piqued her curiosity but before she could dwell on it any further, more people entered the waiting room, filling the small room to the brim with chatter.
She stood up to be introduced to each of them and shook hands with them politely. A cute little smiling woman called Sunny gave her a warm embrace that melted her a little and the warm smiles of the other people made her feel at home. She was glad that she was surrounded by people who cared. It truly made a difference.
The shrill, ear piercing shriek of feedback from an imbalanced sound system made everyone who was present at the press conference jump in their skins. It made goose bumps appear on some, and sent shivers down the spines of others. Nobody liked that kind of sound, just like nobody liked to be under the spotlight as she was. Or not?
Fiddling with her fingers didn’t seem like a nice thing to do so she made herself stop. Her father was addressing the press who had stood up and taken a ton of pictures as they made their way up the stage to their seats. She was seated right in the middle, being the subject of the press conference. Jessica was seated with poise on her left while Young looked absolutely dashing on her right. Her father and Young’s father flanked left and right respectively and together, they made for a picture that would look strangely, very much like a family.
At the back were Yul and her sister’s friends, Tiffany, Tiffany’s boyfriend, Taeng, and Taeng’s sister, Hayeon. She liked Hayeon and her snow white complexion, beautiful double lidded eyes and most of all, her bright spirit. The young girl had given her a big hug and wished her all the best with bright, sincere eyes that reminded her of a very loyal dog. Such a dear she was. Young’s friends, Yoong, Sunny, Hyun and Hyoyeon were also at the back, right next to her sister’s friends. Sunny was the one who gave her that lovely, warm hug. It was nice.
Her sister’s friends were here. Young’s friends were here. But where was her one and only friend? Where was Sulli? Why hadn’t she come? She didn’t even pick up her calls. Where was she?
“Why didn’t you reveal your daughter? Why did you keep her a secret?”
Mr. Jung smiled grimly. “I was wrong. I was not a good husband; neither was I a good father. I cannot make excuses for what I did. I admit to my transgressions and I can only hope to be forgiven.”
Krystal gaped at her father. Who was she to him that he had to bring himself down like that? No, he shouldn’t have said it like that. But she had to wait for her turn to speak. It would be rude to interrupt.
“Miss Krystal Jung, how did you feel? Living as a secret daughter that could never see the light?”
It was a painful question. She had suffered, most definitely. But was she going to reveal all the pain of her past? Why should she? She was no longer in that dark corner. She was in the light now.
“The past is what made me who I am today and I’m happy enough with what I have become. If you were to ask me if my past hurts, I’d like to say that everyone has had their fair share of difficulties. Sure, there were moments, dark moments in my life, but who doesn’t have them too? And I think there are far more unfortunate people than me out there, so I don’t think my difficult moments are even worth talking about. What is more important is that I am loved. My family loves me and I love them.”
“Is it true that you chose not to be recognized as a Jung after coming here from America? If you love them, why did you make that decision?”
“It is true. I was the one who chose not to come out as a Jung. It is not easy to be a Jung and I was selfish. I wanted to lead a peaceful life. A quiet life. Without all the spotlight. But circumstances have led me to this place today.”
“The circumstances that you speak of refer to the scandal?”
Ah, there it was. Inevitably. The topic has finally been approached. The interest in her father’s promiscuity was over. All eyes were on her now. A hand squeezed hers under the table. Jessica was smiling confidently at her and a spurt of strength came from nowhere at that moment. There and then, she knew. She could handle this.
“Yes, I am talking about the scandal that was started by a malicious woman. A jealous woman. Haven’t you all met one, somewhere along the way in your life? I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.”
A few laughs burst out in the sea of reporters and a murmur of agreement spread through the crowd. Yes, malicious and jealous people were everywhere. Almost everyone would have been a victim of one before.
“I would like to state that I have never been in a relationship in my life. And I am not stupid enough to kick off my love life in such a way. Why would I want to snatch her boyfriend from her? I won’t love a man for his money like she did. I want a real romance. One that is based on feelings, not greed.”
From her peripheral view, she caught a slight movement from her right. And it hit her that she might have hurt him with her words. All of his previous relationships were based on fun, not feelings, and thus wasn’t she indirectly criticizing him as well?
“So you are saying that Miss Malina was lying?”
“I’m saying that she was mistaken.”
“She was mistaken? Can you elaborate on that?”
“I won’t deny that I’m close to Mr. Choi. He helped me a lot when I first came here from America. I had some difficulties back then.”
“So you’re saying that Malina thought that you had stolen her boyfriend when you didn’t.”
“Yes. It’s not really her fault either. I don’t blame her for hating me.”
The crowd murmured and buzzed. Did she say something wrong? Or did they not believe her?
“There is no truth to Malina’s words.” Young interjected. “I don’t date my employees.”
“Mr. Choi, we know about you dating one of your new staff recently. Doesn’t that contradict what you have just said?”
“I dated her without the knowledge that she was a staff back then but I stopped seeing her after I found out.”
“Why is she no longer in your company then? We were told that she left the company only recently. Did she leave the company to continue dating you?”
“I am not at liberty to disclose the reason. It was her personal decision and our company gave her our blessings. As of this moment, I am not seeing anyone.”
The crowd murmured again. Krystal didn’t like the murmuring one bit. She didn’t like how people were forming their opinions about them without truly knowing them. It was all based on what was known and heard. But did the crowd truly know them? Why did they have to be judged by strangers? What wrong have they done? And what authority did the crowd have to judge them?
“I hope you’re not as naïve as to believe in the rubbish that they said.”
Everybody turned around. Somebody had spoken loudly and clearly from the back. And the crowd buzzed. Hara Goo was here. Flashes from cameras went off like crazy as photographers sought to capture the drama through their lenses.
“The entire Jung family is trash. Like father, like daughters. Mr. Jung has already admitted to being an unfaithful husband and hiding his illegitimate daughter from everyone. Goodness knows how many more children he’s hiding behind his crooked back. And his legitimate daughter, Jessica Jung. She too, is a loose woman. And now they are trying to clear the name of Krystal Jung who obviously isn’t as simple as she makes herself out to be.”
“Miss Hara Goo, is there something that you know about this? What do you have to say on this matter?”
The reporters were abuzz with frantic excitement, hoping for a sensational scoop that would sell a few extra copies of their paper for the next few days or even, week.
“I am a victim of Jessica Jung’s underhanded ways, just like Malina is a victim of Krystal Jung’s manipulative ways. I cannot remain silent any longer. How many more women are going to have their boyfriends snatched away by these two? I dread to think about it so I will put an end to it today.”
“What do you mean by that? Please elaborate on what they did.”
“Jessica Jung is responsible for snatching five of my boyfriends from me.”
The crowd gasped in shock and the murmuring was significantly louder than before. Indeed, it was a daring statement and very shocking. The accused was Jessica Jung! Daughter of Mr. Jacky Jung, one of the richest, if not, the richest and most powerful men in South Korea. It wasn’t every day that people dared to accuse the Jungs of such things.
“Do you have any proof to back up your claim?”
The reporters knew that they couldn’t publish anything concrete unless there was some kind of proof. Whether the evidence itself was reliable or not, was another issue altogether.
“I have pictures to prove it!”
Hara passed around printed pictures to reporters. The murmuring had increased tenfold by now and Krystal was certain that her sister was on the verge of exploding from pure, unadulterated, red hot, molten anger. A quick glance to her left confirmed her prediction. Jessica was absolutely fuming mad.
“Now, if Jessica Jung is this kind of woman, surely Krystal Jung is no different. They are, after all, half-sisters who share the same father. And just look at their father and the kind of example he has set for them. Is it any wonder why they have turned out to be such immoral women?”
“Excuse me. I would like to speak for Krystal Jung.”
A steady voice spoke up from nowhere, causing everyone to look about in confusion. Who was this other person?
A petite woman stepped out from behind a massive video camera on a tripod
“I am Luna and I work at Mr. Lee’s television station. I would like to state for the record that Krystal is innocent. She was set up by Miss Malina to take the fall. Miss Malina had conspired with Miss Lee Jieun to publicize the scandal in order to raise her own level of exposure and fame.”
“And what proof do you have?”
“I overheard Miss Malina and Miss Lee Jieun’s dispute from one of the rooms at the station. Miss Malina wanted Miss Lee to give her a role in a movie or drama but Miss Lee refused to do so. They were quarrelling over this very loudly and I could hear every word they said, including the part about publicizing the scandal.”
“Why did you decide to speak up only today?”
“I am just an employee in the station. What could I have done? Who would have believed me? Actually, I never intended to speak up at all. I am here today only because I have to film this press con for the station. But after listening to all the accusations, I can’t stay silent any longer! The injustice is too much!”
The situation was getting more and more chaotic by the minute and despite her circumstances, it all seemed very hilarious to Krystal in that moment in time. Was she at some sort of circus act? Or was she thrown into some dramatic Korean television drama serial? How did her life go from nice and quiet to this complete fiasco?
An elbow nudged her and she looked to her right. Young was looking at her inquisitively, waggling his eyebrows at her—his usual way of asking her what was going on without having to say anything. She suppressed her giggles and shook her head.
“Later,” she mouthed silently.
He looked more curious than ever but didn’t push it. She was glad for the nudge though. It almost felt like old times when he nudged her like how sneaky kids would at the back of a classroom while planning something naughty and disobedient. He always gave her this sense of freedom. It was almost as if she could do anything with him around.
“Will everyone just shut their mouths!” Jessica slammed her hands on the table and roared into the microphone without warning.
Krystal was shocked, to say the least. The crowd was silenced at once and they all looked at her, blinking rapidly, trying not to be too intimidated by her well-known icy princess demeanor.
“Are we dummies sitting up on stage or something? While you are discussing about us, you do realize that we’re all seated up here, right?”
She paused to breathe and the crowd flinched, as though bracing themselves for another dose of Jessica Jung.
“It looks like I have no choice but to show you something that will shut all of your mouths once and for all. Especially Hara’s.”
She whisked out a little memory card from her pocket and passed it to one of the crew who was manning the projection of the video onto the big screen behind them before sitting down again.
“To everyone here today, I would like to refute Hara’s claim that I’m the one who has been stealing her boyfriends. She has some cheek, daring to come here today to hurl false accusations on me. She clearly does not know the meaning of ‘let the sleeping dogs lie’.”
Just then, an image was flashed onto the big screen. It showed Hara in a hotel room. And the rest of the video spoke clearly for itself.
Hara paced up and down, waiting impatiently. She turned and faced the door when she heard it opening.
“Donghae! You said you’ll be here in an hour but it’s been one and a half! What took you so long?”
The man grunted and hauled Yul’s limp body to the bed, leaving him sprawled across it. He turned to Hara with an exasperated look.
“I had to find a way to spike a drink and get him to drink it without him suspecting anything. Then I had to haul him all the way up here. Besides, I got him here didn’t I?”
“Fine. You’re right. You got him here. That’s what is important.”
“So I’ll leave you with the love of your life now.”
Donghae turned to leave the room but he stopped in his tracks when he heard her laugh.
“Love of my life? Ha… Ha… Ha… More like the love of my enemy’s life.”
“You don’t love him?”
“Of course not. Why would I?”
“Then… Why do this?!”
“Because I hate Jessica,” Hara stated matter-of-factly.
Donghae gaped in disbelief.
Hara shooed him out of the room.
“I’ve got a man to claim.”
And the video clip ended.
The hall was so quiet that the sound of a pin dropping would have been as loud as a lion’s roar. Or Jessica’s, for that matter.
Krystal noticed her sister nodding at someone in the crowd but she couldn’t see who it was so she made a mental note to ask her sister about it later. She also wanted to know how her sister got her hands on that video but there were more important things to tend to at the moment. The crux of the matter was the complete disintegration of Hara’s accusations. Her claims were no longer trustworthy. The video had revealed the undeniable truth.
“The man in the video that she had abducted is none other than my fiancé, Kwon Yul. He is very good looking and the best man a woman can ever hope to have, so it’s no wonder that Hara is jealous of me. But to try to get him that way? She obviously doesn’t know who she’s messing with.”
Many of the reporters had seen Yul before as he had appeared at functions with Jessica in the past and there were a great many heads nodding in agreement with Jessica. Yul was one heck of a good looking dude indeed. Hara would be jealous. Yes, she would.
“Ladies and gentlemen, at this point, I would also like to invite two colleagues of Krystal to tell us more about what Miss Hara Goo has been up to.”
Mr. Jung snapped his finger and the doors opened to reveal a man and a woman, standing side by side. Camera flashes went off like fireworks during New Year’s as the pair made their way up the stage.
A gasp escaped Krystal’s mouth before she could stop it when she saw who it was and her heart began to pound. What was going on?
“Good evening, everyone. I am Jang Hyunseung. I am Miss Krystal Jung’s colleague. I am here to testify that Miss Hara Goo is indeed a bad apple. She is my best friend’s girlfriend and when she found out who Krystal was, she tried to convince me to woo Krystal and dump her after making full use of her. She said many bad things about Krystal, which I found to be untrue after getting to know Krystal better. So I am here today to apologize to Krystal and also to testify against Hara. I would also like to apologize to my best friend for testifying against his girlfriend. I know that he loves her very much but I mean it when I say, you’re better off with somebody else, my friend.”
“Good evening to one and all, I am Sulli, a colleague of Krystal’s. I would like to thank Mr. Jung for letting me speak. I would like to state for the record that Krystal was very hurt by the scandal and I was one of the people who turned their backs on her after the scandal was reported. I have realized how wrong I was, for not believing in her when she needed someone to believe in her. Please don’t let Malina and Hara get away with what they have done.”
Krystal smiled warmly at Sulli who was looking at her with teary eyes. It was an emotional moment for them as they reaffirmed their everlasting friendship with their eyes.
“And last but not least, the woman who started the scandal, Miss Malina herself.”
Mr. Jung snapped his fingers again and this time, a lone woman stood in the doorway, sporting the highest heels money could buy and a killer dress that accentuated her every curve.
Cameras followed her every step as she ascended the steps to the stage. The crowd of reporters went absolutely wild with the appearance of the woman who started it all. She had gone into hiding and was nowhere to be found, until now. Indeed, only Mr. Jung had the means to find her and get her to make such a high profile appearance. Just how did he do it?
“Good evening everyone. I am Malina Takahashi and I am here to tell you exactly what happened. I was Choi Young’s girlfriend until he broke off with me in a horrible way. As Miss Krystal Jung said, I was under the impression that he had broken up with me for her. I was very angry and decided to confront him at his car show. That’s where Miss Hara Goo approached me and convinced me to take revenge. I roped in Miss Lee Jieun to help us to publicize the scandal and the rest is history. I would like to state for the record that I am very sorry for causing Krystal so much grief but please understand that I was but a woman scorned. I regret doing what I did and I hope that by coming out here today to tell you the truth, I can be forgiven. Thank you.”
That was the climax. Surely it was the climax. The woman who started the scandal had come out to tell the true story! Mr. Jung had apologized publically for his transgressions! Hara Goo was completely obliterated! All kinds of evil schemes coming to light! Holy smokes! That was the most epic press conference ever!
Speaking of which, where was Hara? Where was she?
She was gone.
Fled from the scene like a rat.
And a rat she was.
A real rat.
Finally, it was over. The true villains had been exposed and the truth had come to light. It was a great relief for all. And a hay day for the reporters who were, at the moment, most probably scurrying back to their desks to get their articles written.
Mrs. Jung was waiting with open arms when they re-entered the waiting room. She hugged Krystal as tightly as she could, knowing that the young woman had endured with everything she had. Her tears fell even though she tried to hold them back as strong emotions overwhelmed her from the inside out. She remembered Krystal’s words. It isn’t easy being a Jung. Indeed. She could understand. And her heart went out to this brave young woman who had no choice but to be a Jung. She would give her more love. More love and care.
She stretched her arm towards her own daughter and pulled her in for a hug as well. Her own daughter too had gone through a lot today. It certainly wasn’t easy to go up against someone who hated you so much. Especially when you didn’t even know why. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling—being hated. So she would shower her with more love as well. More love and care.
And as she hugged the young ladies tight, she felt an arm wrapping around her own shoulders and she knew at once who it was. In that timeless moment, everything was suddenly worth it. Every drop of sweat, tear and blood even, was more than worth the pain. For this was what being a family was about. Staying strong through adversity. Sticking together, staying together. Supporting each other. This was her family.
Young was buried by his best friends who hugged him and wouldn’t let go. Yoong hugged him especially tight and whispered sneakily into his ear, “You’d better get your girl after this. You hear me?”
“Yes. You have to. If you don’t, I’m never going to help you out with your accounts again,” stated Hyun very solemnly.
Young grinned. He loved his buddies to death even if the way they showed their love for him was as weird as the moon appearing at noon.
“Daddy, do you know who Luna is? I’d really like to thank her for speaking up for me like that. She might get into trouble for doing it too.”
“Don’t worry, Soojung ah. I’ve got that covered.”
Krystal smiled and her eyes sparkled with a kind of life that he had never seen in her before. It was that kind of joy that knew not of embarrassment or privacy for it had him tearing up instantly.
“Thanks, Daddy. Thanks for teaching me what to do with that video clip. I got my sweet revenge and I feel great!”
“Jung Sooyeon!” gasped Mama Jung. “This isn’t the time to be talking about revenge!”
But Papa Jung threw his head back and roared with laughter as tears streamed down his cheeks. Jessica Jung Sooyeon. His beautiful daughter with her idiosyncrasies. He loved her, no matter what.
“Sulli! I thought you weren’t coming! You sneaky girl, you!”
Krystal laughed and cried as she threw her arms around Sulli.
The other girl did the same and said, “I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t want to add any more pressure and stress on you.”
“But how…how did you…”
“Your father called me yesterday to formally thank me for saving you. That’s when I took the chance to force him to allow me to get up there.”
“Daddy called you?”
“Uh huh. It was funny too. He said to me, ‘I know I thanked you before but I would like to formally give you my thanks for saving my daughter. I owe to you her life. So feel free to come to me if you need anything in future.’ and so what better chance than to make him repay me by allowing me to go up there?” Sulli mimicked is voice as she re-enacted the phone call.
Krystal’s heart was warmed by the knowledge of her father’s love but before she ran off to hug her father again, she had one more question to ask Sulli.
“I want to know why you did it. We’ve already made up. There was no need for you to put yourself in that position.”
“I had to do it, Krystal. I turned my back in your hour of need and I still feel bad about it. I had to speak up for you. I had to voice your suffering to the world. They have to know how badly the scandal affected you.”
“Oh shut up before you make me cry.”
“Babe, you did so good up there.”
“You don’t need any comforting, do you?”
“Of course not. I’m Jessica Jung. Are you kidding me?”
“But I’m going to give you a hug anyway. Come here, you.”
Tiffany opened her arms wide and stepped towards Jessica who stepped forward immediately. They embraced for a while, enjoying the therapeutic effects of the welcomed human touch.
“That video clip was a stroke of brilliance. How did you get it?”
“I found it in my drawer by accident. I was transferring some pictures of Yul and me into it when I saw the video file in a folder. It was from the time I rescued Yul from her evil clutches. I had totally forgotten about it—it was so long ago.”
“Hah! She definitely didn’t see it coming.”
“Did you see her face? I was looking at her all the time. She was completely petrified when the video started. She knew she was a goner then.”
“So are you.”
“That’s why we’re best friends?”
“That’s why we’re best friends.”
And the girls giggled to their hearts’ content.
Hayeon hugged Taeng suddenly, making him jump. Nevertheless, he wrapped his arms around her in return and patted her back gently.
“What’s wrong Hayeon ah?”
“I feel so sad.”
“Why are you sad?”
“Why must that woman be so mean? Why is she so cruel to Jessica unnie and Krystal unnie?”
Taeng was at a loss for words. He didn’t know what to say. Why was Hara so mean? He didn’t know. He couldn’t really understand her mentality either.
“I don’t know, Hayeon ah. Some people are just bad, you know.”
“But it’s so sad.”
“If you’re sad, just let it out and you’ll feel better.”
“I know. That’s what you do with your peas, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“I feel better after hugging you or oppa or appa or omma.”
“Or Fany unnie?”
Hayeon leaned away from Taeng and smiled at Tiffany before hugging her too.
“Or Fany unnie!”
Yoong had his arm around Sunny and was ready to leave when he patted Young’s shoulder and jerked his head towards Krystal.
“My parting words—there’s no better time than now, bro.”
Sunny gave Young a great big hug and said, “You can do it, Young. She likes you too.”
“Alright, alright. You’ve hugged him twice already. In a day.”
Young laughed while Yoong pouted and folded his arms. Sunny giggled and put her arms around Yoong.
“If you’re so unhappy about it, how about I let you suck on my Ring Pop when we get home?”
Young grimaced and covered his ears. “Guys, shut up. Don’t say these things in front of me.”
But he knew that this wasn’t going to be the last of it for Sunny blinked innocently while Yoong sniggered cheekily at him.
Krystal was smiling and saying goodbye to Sulli and Hyunseung when she spotted Young approaching her. Immediately, her heart thumped faster. Was he going to ask that unasked question again? She was dying to know what he had almost asked her. It was her woman’s sixth sense that told her that it was an important question. She could tell. It was a gut feeling. A strong hunch. She was as sure about it as a detective would be after finding the final clue at the end of a mystery story.
The tension was killing her. Partly because of the anticipation of what the question really was. And partly because she wasn’t entirely sure about what her answer would be if he was going to ask what she thought he was going to ask.
As he walked towards her, she had the inane urge to yell, ‘Just ask the darn question already!’ but she didn’t. Instead, she took a few steps forward and met him halfway. And when he was in front of her, her world changed directions and rotated on a different axis. It was that amazing. She had never felt like this before.
“I…I’m…Well, as you know by now…I’m not seeing anyone.”
“Okay…” said Krystal, slowly, “and?”
“And I was wondering if you—”
“Soojung ah! It’s time to go!”
Krystal could have screamed out loud right there and then. Just how many times could a girl be interrupted by her family? First it was her sister and her fiancé. And now…her mother. He’d been so close to asking too. What was the question?!
“Soojung! The car’s at the door already!”
She could only sigh in her heart.
“I’m sorry, I have to go.”
Young nodded understandingly although he looked extremely constipated. It would have been funny if not for her frustration blinding her to the hilarity of his expression.
“I’ll call you?”
Why was he asking instead of simply telling? How odd.
“Yeah, call me. I’ll be waiting.”
Oh. My. Gawd. Did she just say ‘I’ll be waiting’? How needy was that? What was wrong with her brain?!
She was first out of the car and first into the house. What was the hurry? Was she really that eager to talk to Young? Besides, he wouldn’t know that she was already home. It wouldn’t make his call come any earlier. But now that the huge ball of stress was off her shoulders, all she wanted to do was to curl up in bed and talk to him. Did that sound pathetic? Maybe a little bit. But who cared? She certainly didn’t.
“Where is Soojung rushing off to?” asked Jessica. Her sister had disappeared from the car and gone into the house as soon as the car came to a halt.
“Maybe she needs to pee,” suggested Mama Jung.
“Maybe.” Jessica had other ideas about Krystal but Yul was with her and she had some explaining of her own to do.
Yul wasn’t entirely happy about appearing in that video. He didn’t say a word but she was watching him during the video as well. She had had a sneaking suspicion that he wouldn’t like it and a quick glance at his expression had been enough to tell the tale.
She pulled him into her room and shut the door before turning around to face him.
“Are you unhappy about the video?”
“I understand the need for it to be shown.”
“No. That wasn’t what I asked.”
“Look, that video was what took Hara down. It saved your reputation and Krystal’s. It had to be shown.”
“But you’re not happy about it.”
“I’m not unhappy about being in the video. I’m just not comfortable about not knowing that you planned to show a video of me in such…a state.”
“Daddy wanted me to keep it a secret. I asked him if I could at least tell you but he said no. He said the lesser the better. I wanted to tell you!”
His expression softened a little as his muscles relaxed slightly but his eyes were still displaying that look of displeasure in them.
“I’m sorry, please don’t be mad.”
“I’m not mad. Sica, you don’t have to apologize. Let’s not talk about it, okay? You’ve gone through a lot today and I want to put my unhappiness aside. I want us to enjoy the night.”
“But I can’t enjoy the night if I know that you’re unhappy.”
“Then make me happy.”
“Make you happy?”
“Sica, is your room soundproofed already?” His voice had taken on a different tone than before. It was slightly deeper, and huskier.
“Yes,” was her suddenly hushed reply.
“Good, then you can make me really happy.”
She squealed like a dolphin when he grabbed her and toppled onto the bed with her safely enclosed in his arms.
Alright. She’d do as he said and make him really happy tonight. She had nothing to lose anyway. She’d feel just as happy at the end of the day.