The strong beams of sunlight made their way through the loosely drawn curtains and he could hear the sound of birds chirping just outside her room. He opened his eyes, eager to see what he could feel in his arms. Against his chest. The strands of wayward hair that tickled his nose. The warmth that emanated from her body, seeping into his skin, letting him know that she was there. The smoothest skin that rubbed against him as she shifted slightly in her sleep. The softness of her body. The beauty that was his to have and hold.
He chuckled softly to himself. He was killing himself with mushy thoughts. As mushy as marshmallows. Last night was really something. He had felt immensely guilty for imposing his own discomfort on her when she deserved to feel happy and relieved. He didn’t want to ruin her mood but she had seen through him and his façade. So the only remedy for that was to make her happy—by asking her to make him happy.
He had grabbed her and toppled onto the bed with her. And if his memory got it right, he had also tickled her, tackled her, wrestled with her, kissed her, rolled over with her, laughed with her before eventually falling asleep with her in his arms.
Her dolphin shrieks had almost deafened him but he considered that a small price to pay to see her running around the room, trying to escape from his tickling fingers. And when he finally caught her, she’d pleaded for mercy as tears of laughter welled up in her eyes.
“No, please…I can’t…no more tickles…please…I’ll do anything if you stop…stop!”
Jessica had begged as she tried to stop laughing.
“Anything? You’ll do anything?”
He grinned in a sinister way and pounced on her, tackling her and pining her down on the bed under him.
“Since you said that you’ll do anything…” he paused and roved his eyes over her purposefully before continuing, “I’m going to hold you to it.”
“What do you want me to do?” her voice was suddenly as tiny as a mouse. A cute, squeaky little mouse.
“I want you to…”
“I want you to tell me what your sixth and seventh wishes are.”
Jessica looked away shyly but he nudged her back to look at him.
“Red rose and violet wedding. What are they?”
He waited patiently while she tried to get over her shyness. In truth, he enjoyed teasing and making her shy. She looked so precious whenever she was shy. It was at her shiest moments that he would be reminded of how adorable and amusing she really was. Fierce and domineering one moment, shy and cute the next. A chameleon was what she was, possessing the ability to don a myriad of colours as she adapted to the situation in her own way. Jessica Jung style.
She still wasn’t answering so he raised and hovered his fingers above her side, threatening to tickle her again and she shrieked.
“No! Please no! I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you!”
“What is it?”
“It involves some rose petals,” she said softly and whispered the rest of the description into his ear.
He was brought back to the present when she mumbled, “Yul,” sleepily. Was she awakened by him? His question was answered when she turned back onto her back with an arm raised up. That raised arm of hers was a sure fire way of knowing that she was still sleeping. He had noticed that sleeping habit of hers after spending so many nights with her. It was a cute posture. She looked very adorable like that. Much like a student eager to answer a question. Or a student who was being punished. Mmm, on second thought, it was probably the latter. He couldn’t imagine her being eager to answer questions in class at all.
She woke up with her phone by her side. She’d been waiting for his call when she unknowingly fell asleep. Stupid Young. He said he’d call. When was he going to call her? Her phone had not rung at all since she got home and saying that she was disappointed would have been an understatement.
It was irresistible—the urge to scoff at himself.
He was stuck. Unbelievably stuck. Stuck. Stuck? He’d never been stuck. What was stuck? How could he be stuck? He was the smoothest guy out there, with a glib tongue that was capable of opening doors, as well as legs for him. He prided himself in his gift of the gab. He was confident when it came to talking his way through something. So how was it possible that he was stuck when it came to Krystal?
He blinked. Unbelievable. The sun was up. The sun was up!!! He had spent the entire night staring at his phone and its dwindling battery power symbol. And the minutes. And the hours. And a picture of her. Smiling. So happily. So beautifully. He had taken it at a party that they were at. He’d taken it on a whim but it turned out to be beautiful. Her eyes were shining. Sparkling. Full of life. Okay. Granted that they were a little tipsy that night. Her face was practically plastered to his in that picture. A result of being tipsy? Or being friendly?
Sulli had told him that Krystal had feelings for him. So had Sunny. His buddies were all for it. His father had agreed to it. Everything was set. Everything but him. Him? He was stuck.
What was he going to say to her? How was he to say it when he didn’t even know what to say?
“Krystal, I like you. Do you like me too?”
It was easy enough to ask. While looking at a picture of her, sure it was easy. He wasn’t so sure if he’d be able to get it out if she were right there though. He had tried. Twice. And both times, he was interrupted. Was that some sort of a sign? A sign that he wasn’t supposed to ask?
Suddenly, a strong sense of admiration for Yoong and Hyun came over him. How did they do it? Yoong especially. He’d practically badgered Sunny into accepting him. And now they were as sweet as sugar could ever be. Oh that Ring Pop. Naughty Sunny. Lucky Yoong. Well, he was lucky too. He had Krystal. Or did he?
This had to end. If anyone ever found out that it took him a whole night to garner up the courage to ask Krystal a simple question…he’d be mortified. Completely. So he took a deep, deep breath and typed a message on his phone.
Hey, Krys. Can we meet for a while today?
Mmm. It looked okay. Nothing suspicious. He tapped and the message was sent. Sent. Oh gawd. He just sent it!
“Oppa! Good morning, oppa!” chirped Hayeon as she pranced into the kitchen of Taeng’s apartment.
He couldn’t spend the night at Tiffany’s because he had to take care of Hayeon. But it was okay. It was not only his duty to do so but he missed her dearly too. It was a welcomed thought that she would perhaps study at a high school in Seoul. That way, he could take care of her. Taking care of her was something nice. Like preparing breakfast. Cereal, toast and eggs which she liked.
“Hurray! Cereal!” she cheered. “Toast! Eggs! Oh yeah!”
He smiled proudly as she sat down and tucked into the breakfast with gusto. She was one of those people who would show how much they liked something very plainly. On the flip side, she’d also show how much she didn’t like something just as plainly. Well. She was young. Young and innocent. So she could be read like an open book. Quite like him.
His doorbell told him that someone was at the door. Tiffany, most probably. They were going to bring Hayeon out with them today and she said that she would come over for a late breakfast.
“Fany unnie!” Hayeon was already at the door. She had beat him to it! Darn.
So all he could do was to stand behind his little sister and watch as she got to hug Tiffany first. No fair! He wanted to hug Tiffany first! Unfortunately, he had to settle for second and to make himself feel better, he gave Tiffany an extra tight hug after Hayeon was done hugging her. Tiffany hugged him back just as tightly and he was happy again. Happiness was simple. Tiffany was his happiness.
“I’ve got you cereal, toast and eggs.”
“Sounds good, Taeng.”
“It is! Hayeon was totally digging in when you arrived. Would you like some orange juice as well?”
“I’d love some, Taeng.”
He smiled and set about making some immediately. If he could, he’d do it for her every day. If he could.
It turned out that Tiffany had invited Jessica to join them. Reason? She wanted Hayeon to have an all-girl shopping and bonding trip. Jessica had agreed most cheerfully. The press con had served its purpose for her and her family. Hara was shot down to nothing. Her mood had never been better.
“You guys can follow us around. We’ll need help to carry our stuff, you know. And we’ll do our girl stuff with Hayeon. Okay?” instructed Jessica.
“Okay,” Yul and Taeng meekly replied.
The two men looked at each other, both feeling a little cheated in a way that they couldn’t explain. Meanwhile, the girls had already gone off excitedly, and they had to follow. Apparently it was boyfriend slave day today. And the girls had conveniently left out that bit of information.
“So, am I wrong to say that somebody got lucky last night?” Tiffany whispered to Jessica in a conspiratorial tone when they were a distance away from the men who had seated themselves on a couch that the store had provided for people like them.
“I was happy but I didn’t get lucky.”
“Neither you nor Yul actually…? Unbelievable.”
“Hey, we’re not S.C.Ms, alright.”
“What’s S.C.M?” Hayeon asked inquisitively.
“That’s for us big unnies to know.” Jessica giggled. Then she exclaimed suddenly, giving Tiffany and Hayeon a shock. “We should have asked Krystal to come along! Then she and Hayeon can form the little sisters’ club.”
“How’s Krystal, by the way?”
“I don’t know. She was acting weird the entire time.”
“Why was she weird?”
“I don’t know. Little sisters have their own little world, I think. She acted like a hermit after getting home yesterday, locking herself in her room as soon as she got home. Then she was so quiet during breakfast this morning but right after that, I heard a shriek from her room and she dashed out in her pyjamas, looking all excited and stuff, only to run back into her room again. Then she came out again, all changed, and ran out of the house like a madwoman. Please tell me she hasn’t gone mad.”
“She hasn’t gone mad.”
“Now I’m curious about where she went.”
There was a tug on Jessica’s cotton shirt sleeve. “Jessica unnie, Krystal unnie is very kind and pretty. I hope she’s alright.”
Jessica smiled warmly at Hayeon and patted her silky chestnut hair. “Krystal will be alright. I have a feeling she might be seeing Young right now.”
“Young is the reason why she got all excited?” Tiffany grinned.
Jessica nodded. “Mmmhmm. I think so. I think Yul and I walked in on some kind of moment between them yesterday. The two of them jumped so far apart when we entered the room. Completely unnatural, those two. And the more unnatural you are…”
“The more suspicious you seem?” Tiffany finished smoothly.
“Krystal unnie likes Young oppa?” Hayeon asked excitedly.
Jessica and Tiffany nodded and the three of them giggled naughtily.
“Why are they giggling again?” Taeng asked Yul.
But Yul merely shrugged. “We’ll never know. And we’ll never understand.”
“I know what you mean.”
Yul was surprised to hear that from Taeng. It was…unexpectedly downcast.
“Are you okay, Taeng? You sound a little…”
“I’m okay, Yul. But I don’t really know what Tiffany is thinking sometimes. She confuses me sometimes.”
“Taeng, if Tiffany is confusing, try Jessica. That woman is the epitome of confusing.”
“Really? I think she’s a little scary sometimes but I didn’t know that she’s confusing too.”
“You tell me. She gets all excited about her wedding preps and colours and food but she wants me to tell her what I like and make decisions when she clearly has already made her choice. I really, really don’t understand her.”
“I hope your wedding preparation is going well.”
“It is. It is. Thanks to your girlfriend, everything is going well. There’s just that little bit about the price of the food though. Gosh. Have you ever seen five zeroes in the price tag of food?”
“Yeah. Five zeroes. It’s a lot of money, Taeng. I really want to give her the wedding that she wants but I don’t have that much money.”
“What are you going to do, Yul?”
“I’ll have to talk to her about it.”
“Will she get angry?”
“I can’t help it if she does. She has to try to understand my point of view too.”
“YUL! TAENG!” Their girlfriends and Hayeon were standing just outside the fitting rooms, parading pretty dresses. “What do you think?”
Yul and Taeng looked at their girlfriends appreciatively and nodded vigorously.
“Beautiful!” they chorused.
“Hayeon, you look great!” Taeng added.
Taeng scratched his head when they giggled again and disappeared back into the fitting room with Hayeon.
“They giggle so much more when they’re together. I wonder why.”
“I like to see her giggling though,” said Yul.
They looked at each other and grinned. They were happy guys.
Okay. Maybe not so happy. Just how much could their girlfriends buy in a day? Yul looked down at the bags that were in his hand and shuddered. What kind of woman was he about to marry, really? A shopaholic? Or some kind of fashion model? Did a woman really need that many clothes?
Tiffany hadn’t bought as many as Jessica had but Taeng was no better off than him for he was slave to not only Tiffany but also Hayeon. Together, those two bought almost as many things as Jessica did and Taeng had to carry them all.
Perhaps he shouldn’t have looked so appreciatively at Jessica every single time she stepped out in a different outfit. But how could he not?! She looked just plain gorgeous no matter what she wore! It was a curse. Yes it was. A curse to look good in everything. It meant that she had to buy everything. This couldn’t go on. She needed to learn. She was drawing a salary, wasn’t she? She’d have to learn. But it wouldn’t be easy to work it out with her. He needed a plan. A fool proof plan. And he knew just what to do.
Krystal panted as she reached Seventh Heaven. Young had told her to meet him there where he had a VIP area to himself. It was very odd to be asked to go to Seventh Heaven this early in the day but she wasn’t about to question his choice of location. Not when she was happy enough that he finally texted her.
She looked around the place eagerly, hoping to see Young but he was nowhere to be found. Just then, she was approached by a well-groomed woman who was smiling a little too enthusiastically at her.
“Hi, are you Krystal?”
“Er, yes, I am.”
“Let me introduce myself! I am Jin Hye In. I’m a grooming specialist and I’ve been asked by Mr. Choi to pamper you today.”
“Y-Young, asked you…to…to pamper m-me?” stammered Krystal.
“Yes. Now, if you’ll follow me, my entire team is waiting for you in the VIP room.”
“Y-Your entire t-team???” Krystal’s eyes were wide open.
What was this all about?!
To say that Krystal was overwhelmed was an understatement. A beautiful dress that flaunted her slender figure, heels that made her legs look like they went on forever, hair that had been styled into a nice sleek cascading waterfall like look and make up that enhanced her naturally attractive features were lavished on her. She felt very much like a car that had undergone major waxing and polishing works and to be honest, she didn’t like it very much.
Not that she hadn’t tried to get out of it.
“I’m fine in my jeans. Really.”
“But Krystal, Young put you in our hands and we can’t let you leave this place in your jeans.”
“But this dress—”
“This dress is gorgeous! It will look great on you and you will look great in it!”
Krystal couldn’t fend off their manic enthusiasm and relented after a few futile attempts to reject their services. She surrendered herself to them and let them do what they wanted with her. She didn’t want to make things difficult for them. But she was certainly going to question Young’s sanity when she finally got to see him.
The ecstatic feeling that she had when Young texted her was gone. In place of it was a brewing temper. One that was ready to be unleashed when she got to meet the person who had put her through that ordeal.
So as she sat at the table that she had been ushered to by the overly enthusiastic team of stylists, she fumed. She fumed and ran through a list of words that she could hurl at Young when he finally appeared.
Idiot. Stupid. Ass. Insane. Bonkers. Nuts. Maniac…
How could she do that when all that he had done was out of good intentions? One of the things that she had learnt from her mother was gratitude. Even if she didn’t fully appreciate the help…
Perhaps she should ask him why he did it. He ought to have a good reason for doing what he did. He always had a reason. Although it wasn’t always a good reason.
She’d ask him. She’d give him a chance to explain. She’d be understanding.
He appeared shortly after she was seated and walked briskly to her table. She mustered up a smile to greet him and hoped that it wasn’t too unnatural. He didn’t seem to notice, however, as he quickly took his seat and hadn’t even looked at her once. What in the world was wrong with him today?!
Suddenly, he spoke, “Not many people know that Seventh Heaven has a five star chef in its kitchen.”
“I hope you don’t mind having lunch here with me. I know that it’s a little last minute, that’s why I got one of my friend’s friends to dress you up for the occasion.”
“What’s the occasion?”
“What’s the occasion? Er…Well…” Young looked constipated again as his eyes made contact with everything but her. “Lunch.”
“Lunch?” Krystal looked at him incredulously. “You got a whole team of stylists to come over here and brush my hair, paint my nails, change my clothes and heap on a ton of other beauty procedures that I don’t even know the names of, just so that I can have lunch with you?”
“Yeah. You’re my friend and I want to show you a good time.”
“I’m your friend? What kind of friend do you see me as?”
Young started at her question and his eyes made the briefest of contact with hers before darting away again.
“And why won’t you even look at me?”
“What is it, Young? Please, just say it.”
“Will you be my fiancée?”
“Will I what?!”
Krystal couldn’t believe her ears. Fiancée? Had Young lost his mind? Did he think that she was one of those girls whom he could ask to marry at a whim? What possessed him to ask her such a question?!
“Young. Did you seriously just ask me to be your fiancée?”
“Krystal, please. I know it didn’t come out right—”
“You’re darn right it didn’t.”
“Krys… please… hear me out.”
She watched as he looked down at her feet and took a deep breath.
“My father wanted us to get engaged to be married when the scandal was publicized. But I couldn’t agree. I couldn’t put you in such a spot. So I went and got engaged to Jade before my father could do anything.”
“Please, let me say it all. Or I might never find the courage to say it again.”
Krystal was surprised to hear that he was finding it so difficult to talk to her but she simply kept quiet. She’d let him talk.
Young took another deep breath and continued, “So I got engaged to Jade. But…some things changed when you were…when you landed in the hospital. I…I discovered a few things. I knew…I just knew that I couldn’t go on with Jade. So I cancelled the engagement. But it was tricky. Jade…she’s not the kind of girl you can just cancel an engagement with—not that any girl is like that to begin with—and I needed my father’s help. Safe to say, he wasn’t pleased one bit. He was already angered by my haste in getting engaged to Jade and he was close to forcing me to go through with it until I managed to work out another solution with him.”
“And the solution is…?”
“To make you my fiancée.”
“You…are asking me…to be your fiancée because you can’t bring yourself to marry Jade?”
“No! No! That’s not what I meant! I was only trying to explain why I had to propose the engagement!”
Krystal stood up, fuming mad and tossed the napkin that had been laid across her lap onto the table angrily.
“I am not an alternate solution to your philandering problems. I am not like Malina, or Jade, or Kristine, or any of those girls that you know. If you need a fiancée to make your father happy, go and get one of those girls. You’re so unbelievable!!! Oh my gosh! And here I’ve always thought you’re a good man. I believed in you even after I saw how casually you dated all the different women you met and courted. I believed in you even though other people in the office always had something bad to say about your love life. Well, I must have been mistaken then.”
“Shut up! I don’t want to hear anymore! I don’t need your stylists pampering me like that. I’m not like those women who fawn over you because you can give them what they want. I don’t want any of this! I want my jeans back! Give me my jeans back!”
“I-I don’t know where your jeans are!”
“I WANT MY JEANS BACK!!!”
“I’M SORRY! I’M SORRY! I’LL GET YOUR JEANS BACK!”
“NEVER MIND! I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN! YOU CAN KEEP THE CHEAP JEANS!”
Krystal shook with rage and quivered in pain. She couldn’t believe that Young had just treated her like one of those girls. She couldn’t believe that Young could see her in such light. She couldn’t…she couldn’t…she couldn’t face him anymore. All those feelings that she didn’t understand suddenly came to light. She suddenly understood why she was so angry. It was all crystal clear now. She knew why she had been so nervous and eager to see him. She’d never experienced it before and she was unsure about the nature of her feelings but right there and then, she knew why. She finally knew why.
Oh dear, and it was at the worst time too. It was the worst time to finally realize that she loved him unlike any other. It was the worst time to finally realize that she had fallen in love, head over heels in love with the one guy that she had let into her heart unknowingly. But why. Why did her first love have to treat her this way? How could the first man she had ever loved ask her to get engaged with him simply because he didn’t want the other woman? How could he break her heart like this?
She grabbed her phone, turned away and stomped out of the club. Only when she was out of the club, did her tears begin to fall. The level of pain she was in was unprecedented. It was almost more than she could take. And if falling in love was going to hurt like that, she’d pray that she’d never fall in love again.
With tears blinding her vision, she stumbled down the pavement, walking shakily in her sky high heels. Frustrated with her inability to walk in the heels, she kicked them off and walked down the street barefoot. It didn’t matter that the street was dirty. She’d rather dirty her feet than to kill them in those heels that were meant for his sluts. She wasn’t his slut. She felt the urge to rip off the dress as well, but she couldn’t. Not while she was still on the streets.
EEE-ELECTRIC SHOCK! EEE-ELECTRIC SHOCK!
Her phone rang and vibrated in her hand, giving her a little shock. The screen was all blurry with her tears messing with her vision but she managed to tap the green icon that would accept the incoming call.
“Krys, please…please come back….”
It was Young. She had no desire to speak him and her finger was about to tap on the icon that would end the call when he yelled, “DON’T HANG UP!!! PLEASE!!! I LOVE YOU!!! I CAN’T GO ON WITHOUT YOU!!! KRYSTAL!!!”
“What did you say?” Krystal was stunned by three words that he had yelled in the most desperate tone she had ever heard from him.
“Don’t hang up, please, please, please.”
“No, not that. What did you say after that?”
Krystal turned around and ran back. Those were the three words she had wanted to hear. And those were the three words that he’d said. Twice.
Young was on his knees when she re-entered the club. A crowd of bartenders and waiters were patting his back and comforting him as tears streamed down his cheeks like a tap on the loose.
It was unnerving, to say the least. Was he crying so badly because of her? A strange sense of sadness grabbed her heart and twisted it painfully. Was Young crying because she left in anger? What was going on?
A bartender walked towards her, leaned in and said, “Young has never done this for any woman. He has never treated any woman to lunch here before. He has never ever had an entire team of stylists do up any of his dates before. They’d all make themselves pretty for him. He’s never had to lift a finger to get any girl out there but here he is, crying himself silly for screwing up his confession. Based on the number of years I’ve known him since he started coming here, I can assure you that you’re not one of those girls. You’re the girl for him. Do you get it?”
Krystal nodded numbly and felt terrible for losing her temper. Had she misunderstood him? She couldn’t understand her own actions. Why had she been so hot-headed?
“On top of that, it’s his birthday today. So even if you don’t want to be his girl, let him down easy, will you?”
Krystal gasped. She didn’t know that it was his birthday. Oh dear. She felt terrible. Absolutely horrible.
Her feet took unsteady steps towards him and the crowd around him quickly moved away and disappeared behind the closed doors of the kitchen. She could have sworn that they were peeping through the round windows on the doors but she couldn’t have cared less about them at that moment. Her heart and mind had room for Young and Young only.
The sight of his tear stricken face pierced right through her heart and left a big gaping hole in it. It hurt terribly to see him hurting.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I don’t even know what I was thinking. I’m so ashamed of myself.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for losing my temper like that. I—”
Krystal was silenced by his finger on her lips.
His finger was on her lips.
It felt…intimate. Sensual. More. Than. Friends.
She pushed her lips against his finger and kissed it without warning.
He pulled his finger back in surprise; his eyes blinking rapidly. But she simply smiled, and moved her hand towards his cheek to wipe his tears.
His eyes opened even wider than before (if that was even possible) and his lips parted in a gasp as he leaned back, away from her hand. But she wasn’t about to let him avoid her, so she followed his cheek with her hand and suddenly, he had fallen over onto his back and she was somewhat on top of him.
She was electrocuted by the surface area of Young that she came in contact with and jumped in her skin. She’d never been this close to him before. Oh dear, what was she doing?! She scrambled to her feet as quickly as she could and tried not to look at Young as he too, got to his feet.
And it commenced. The single longest and most awkward moment of her life.
“Where are your shoes?” he finally asked in surprise.
She blushed, embarrassed by her completely out-of-character behaviour. She was normally a calm person. She had stayed calm throughout the press conference and yet she had totally lost it with Young and made a complete fool of herself. Argh. She wanted to dig a hole and hide in it right there and then.
“I…th-threw…” her voice trailed off.
“Oh.” He fiddled with his fingers as his eyes scoured the floor for gold. “I…I’ll…call them and get you…your other pair back…”
He held up his phone as he spoke but she didn’t want her old shoes back so she stopped him.
“I don’t need them back. I’m fine on my bare feet.”
She took a step forward and a sudden sharp searing pain shot through her foot right up to the spot behind her eyes.
“Oh my gawd, what’s wrong?” his voice was laced with worry.
Krystal couldn’t speak so she pointed to her foot that was hurting like crazy. She shrieked in shock when he swept her up into his arms and carried her to a couch. He laid her down on her back and covered her legs with his jacket that he quickly shed before looking at her foot.
Horror was written all over his face as he examined the sole of her foot.
“Did you walk all over the streets on your bare feet?”
Krystal nodded contritely and he frowned.
“How could you do that? Do you know that there’s a shard of glass wedged in the sole of your foot?”
She gasped. Glass? A shard of glass? Ouch!
“Stay still. I’ll get it out.”
She nodded meekly and he headed towards the kitchen. He spoke to a young man who nodded and dashed behind another set of closed doors that had no windows in them. The young man reappeared quickly with a small metallic object in his hand and passed it to Young who smiled and patted his shoulder.
Young walked back to where she was and squatted to bring his eyes to her feet’s level. In his hand was a pair of tweezers that he proceeded to use to pull out the shard of glass from her foot. It didn’t hurt as badly as it had when she stepped on it and there was a sense of relief the moment he held up the tweezers triumphantly.
The young man returned with a basin of water and set it on the floor.
“No problem, hyung.”
“Krys, I need you to sit up and put your feet in the basin of water.”
She followed his instructions meekly and a sigh of relief escaped her lips as her feet entered the water. It didn’t hurt. In fact, it was unexpectedly soothing.
“This isn’t just water.”
“It’s water with Epsom salt. It’s good for your feet.”
After a few minutes, the young man reappeared to take the basin of water away as well as to hand a towel to Young. Young wrapped her feet in the towel before carrying her in his arms again.
“Young! I can walk by myself. Please put me down. It’s so embarrassing.”
“No, it’s not, Krys. It’s romantic.”
“What? No, no, no. It’s embarrassing.”
And she buried her face in the crook of his shoulder as he carried her out of the club amidst shrill wolf whistles and loud cheers and applause.
Grandpa Im looked absolutely intimidating in Sunny’s opinion. Did her parents feel the same? Did Yoong feel the same? She couldn’t help but wonder. Judging from their facial expressions, they didn’t seem to be intimidated. Was she the only one then?
“I must say, you have raised a very lovely daughter.”
“You’re flattering us,” replied Mrs. Lee as she blushed.
Her father chuckled and said, “She was quite a rascal when she was a kid but I’m grateful that she grew up alright.”
“I’m afraid that my grandson is not as good as your daughter. He was a rascal and still is a rascal.”
Sunny had to stop herself from laughing out loud at that, especially when she caught Yoong’s appalled expression from the corner of her eye. But fortunately for her, she managed to control herself.
“So I understand completely if you are worried about your daughter. I understand if you’re wondering if your daughter is in good hands. But let me assure you, I will not defend my grandson if he does a wrong. And for as long as I live, I will make sure that he treats your daughter right.”
Suddenly, Mrs. Lee burst into tears and Mr. Lee hastened to pat her back comfortingly. Sunny too, tried to comfort her mother.
“I’m sorry, my wife…she tends to get a little emotional when it comes to Sunny. You see, she’s our youngest girl and there’s a great age difference between her and her elder sisters so she’s somewhat special to us—like a gift that came much later. But now…she’s all grown-up…and she’s found that someone…”
Mr. Lee sniffed. There were tears in his eyes that were threatening to fall.
“Oh Daddy.” Sunny was touched by her father’s love for her. “Mummy, don’t cry. You’re making Daddy cry too.”
Mrs. Lee looked at her husband. “You silly man. You’re supposed to be comforting me but you always end up crying with me instead.”
By this time, Sunny found herself tearing up too. There was nothing like the love of her family to make her cry.
It would appear that the meeting went well. Contrary to her worries, Grandpa Im seemed to actually like her parents and her parents liked Grandpa Im too. They had chatted about random things after that, totally dropping the subject of Yoong and her being together.
Of course, that was after Grandpa Im came clean and admitted to looking up Sunny’s family tree and checking their records. He explained that it was his duty to do so and her parents had stated their understanding even though Yoong was a little riled by him. It seemed as though they had attained some kind of common ground, wherever it was. She was simply glad that everything went well.
Mmm, perhaps not everything. Yoong seemed a little downcast after they waved goodbye to their parents and Grandpa Im. He wasn’t his usual smiling, joking self and it was obvious that he had something on his mind.
“Yoongie, why are you so quiet?” asked Sunny as she got out of his car. She then walked over to him and slipped her hand into his.
“Is it that obvious?”
Yoong sighed. “I’m sorry. I just miss my parents a little, that’s all.”
Ah, so that’s what it was. He must have felt envious when her parents showed their affection for her and her, for them. She had no qualms with talking in a cutesy tone, especially when it was to her parents and they too, would treat her like a baby. She supposed that it was because she was the youngest daughter, born fifteen years later than her eldest sister. She would always be a baby in their eyes.
“When was the last time you saw them?”
“A year ago? Or more?”
“You haven’t seen them since the time before you met me?” Sunny was shocked to say the least.
“Yeah, they…they aren’t around much.”
Sunny felt sorry for him at once. It was unthinkable for her to be deprived from seeing her parents for that long.
“Don’t mind me. I’ll be alright.”
“Do you want to spend the night with me?” asked Sunny as she opened the door of her apartment. “I’ll make you a nice drink and you can talk about it.”
“I want the drink but I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay, just drinking, no talking.”
“What about touching?”
“Lots of touching.”
Yoong grinned and she smiled but her heart felt the pinch as he brushed past her to enter her apartment. Nevertheless, she wasn’t going to push him to talk about it. She would wait for the day that he was willing to share his woes about his family with her.
He whipped out the first aid kit from his car boot and got back into the car. He had placed Krystal on the backseat and instructed her to stay still. Her legs were on the seat, and he lifted them onto his lap so that he could sit down and tend to her wound.
“I’m not so good at this. Pardon me if I get it wrong, okay?”
She remained silent so he looked at her. Her eyes were staring at her fingers that were doing the ‘I-am-nervous” routine of fingernail and skin checks.
“Krys?” he abandoned all fear and grabbed her hand bravely.
She froze so he froze. But much to his disappointment, she pulled her hand away from his and clasped them together.
It was all or nothing. “Krys, do you have feelings for me?”
Her eyes caught his for a moment before looking away quickly.
“Why did you ask me to be your fiancée?”
The woman speaks! She finally speaks!
“I…I have to…” he began, “but there’s no other girl I’d rather be engaged to than you!” he hurriedly explained when he saw her eyes darken. “As I mentioned in the club, the only way to get my father to agree to cancel the engagement with Jade was to promise him that I would get engaged with you.”
“Why did you even have to get engaged with Jade in the first place?”
His heart thumped extra hard upon hearing her question. It was imperative that he said it the right way.
“That was the only way I could think of to stop my father from forcing you to be engaged to me.”
“But isn’t that what you’re doing right now? What’s the difference, Young?”
“The difference is whether you have feelings for me or not. I thought you didn’t have feelings for me. I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. I didn’t want you to have to deal with all this crap. But…but people have been telling me that you have feelings for me. And knowing that changes everything.”
“Do you know that you sound incredibly selfish right now?”
“Oh my goodness. Would you just listen to yourself? Just because I may have feelings for you doesn’t mean that I want to be pushed into an engagement with you!”
“But I love you. And if you love me back, there’s no other option for me. I can’t be engaged to another woman while we love each other. I don’t know how else to make this work.”
This did not sound good at all. His heart was rapidly sinking to the pits of his stomach and he felt like crying again. He couldn’t lose her. Not if she loved him back. Did she love him back?
“Krys,” went his muffled voice from the palms of his hands, “do you have feelings for me? I really need to know.”
There was a pause. A long pause. And the longer the pause went on, the greater the fear became in his heart. It got to the point where he was ready to give up on the whole thing and just drink himself to death, alone. Then, suddenly, she spoke.
His head popped up, spirits a-lifting and blood a-racing as the word ‘yes’ resounded in his ears. It was the most beautiful word he had ever heard in his life. Yes. Krystal’s yes.
And his heart sank again. But? Buts were never good.
“I don’t think we should get engaged just because we like each other.”
Okay. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad. She liked him too, didn’t she? If there was a will, there’d be a way.
“You have feelings for me and that’s all that matters to me right now. If you don’t want to be engaged to me, I’ll find a way to explain it to my father. I…” he said as he bravely held her hand again, “just want to you know that I’m very happy because you like me too.”
And it was the single, giddiest happy moment in his life when she smiled and accepted his hand in hers.
He drove her back to her house after bandaging her foot and she turned to him just before she opened the door.
“Thanks for the new shoes.”
“It’s my fault you don’t have your shoes.”
“Young, I’m sorry for blowing my top at you. I…I shouldn’t have. But I was really angry and hurt when I heard what you said.”
“You don’t have to say anymore. All is forgotten.”
Krystal smiled and took his hand in hers. “Happy Birthday, Young. I’m sorry, I didn’t know so I don’t have a present for you.”
“It’s okay, Krys. I…You already gave me the best present of my life.”
“Mmmhmm. You gave me your hand.”
Oh gosh. She was having trouble with mushy lines like that. It made her gooey all over. What was that about?!
“Er…thanks for sending me home.”
“I’ll call you after I get back.”
“Okay, I’ll be waiting.”
Hyoyeon was wracking her brain over a problem. Gogumas were her problem. She was running out of ideas and it was a huge problem. Just how many different goguma dishes could she whip up before she ran out of options? It was time to do some research. Hyun wouldn’t settle for anything less than an equally healthy alternative. She would have to find something else to expand her repertoire of dishes. And she had a deadline to get it done.
Hyun was reading a book. There was nothing new about him reading a book but his colleagues were tickled pink when they saw the title of the book: How to plan the perfect Valentine’s Day for your girl.
“Let me see this book you’re reading,” said his personal assistant. She snatched the book from him and read the page that he was reading.
“If you want your girl’s heart to melt into a thick gooey substance on Valentine’s Day, be sure to make her feel loved.”
She shook with laughter.
“This is funny stuff. A thick gooey substance?”
She laughed some more.
“But I’d have to agree. Make her feel loved and she’s putty in your hands. Good luck!”
Make her feel loved. It sounded like a tall order. How was he going to make her feel loved?
“Do you know what Tiffany unnie likes?” Hayeon asked Taeng excitedly as they wandered past several shops in the mall.
“I know she likes pink. All things pink. The colour pink makes her happy.”
“You make her happy too.”
Hayeon nodded vigorously and flashed a crooked smile.
“She said so.”
“To Jessica unnie.”
“She said that you make her happy.”
Taeng felt a strange kind of sensation swelling up in his chest. It was an unusually good sensation.
“Oppa! Maybe you should be the present.”
“Me? The present?” Taeng blinked in surprise.
Hayeon nodded. “Uh huh. And deliver yourself to her doorstep. Give her a surprise!”
Taeng chuckled. “You love giving people surprises so much. Why don’t you help me then?”
“Okay! I’ll think of a way for you to surprise her.”
Taeng grinned and patted her head.
“Thanks Hayeon ah, you’re the best sister ever.”
“No sweat, oppa. Leave it to me.”
“But first, I need to find the perfect present.”
Sunny grinned. Evilly. It wasn’t the bad kind of evil. It was the naughty kind of evil. Naughty, naughty. Probably the kind that Yoong would like if he were there to see it. Her evil grin grew wider and wider as she browsed through the options that were available to her. Perfect. She had found the perfect one. For the perfect night.
Yoong was out hunting for a bear. No, not a real bear. He’d gladly avoid the real ones, thank you very much. No, the real bears were scary but the fluffy ones were cute. And he needed the fluffiest, cutest, most adorable one he could find. Because he had a plan. Oh yeah, he did.
Yul was out on the streets, walking towards the courts when a huge, gigantic slab of ‘salmon’ pushed a leaflet into his face.
It said: VALENTINE’S DAY SPECIAL! ROMANTIC DINNER FOR TWO AT DOWNTOWN’S MOST LUXURIOUS SEAFOOD RESTAURANT! AT A SPECIAL PRICE OF $299! May the two of you be together for a long, long time!
“When is Valentine’s Day?” he asked the ‘salmon’ after reading the print and looking at the mouth-watering picture of a steaming slab of salmon that had a melting piece of butter on top.
A muffled voice answered, “Next Thursday, dude. Good grief. You mean you didn’t know? If you have a girlfriend, you’d better get started on planning a nice date. I’ve already reserved two seats at this restaurant for Thursday night! I get a special discount because I work for them. How great is that!”
“Oh, I see. Well, thank you for telling me.”
“Dude! You don’t seem very enthusiastic about V day at all, huh? No girlfriend?”
“Actually, I have a girlfriend.”
“Then you should be all hyped up about it, dude! V day is like the best chance you have to set things up for a wild night in bed, dude! I’m all prepared to lose my mind on Thursday night!”
The ‘salmon’ slapped his back in a friendly manner and he smiled. He didn’t have the heart to tell the ‘salmon’ that he didn’t actually need such a day to have his mind blown by Jessica.
“Er…thanks. I hope you’ll have the best time of your life, come Thursday.”
“Thanks dude! And remember, we have the best seafood in town, yo! Order some oysters. That’s my tip to you.”
Yul waved goodbye to the ‘salmon’ and continued down the street with the leaflet in his hand. The ‘salmon’ had been mistaken by his apparent lack of enthusiasm. He was in fact making plans as they spoke. He hadn’t realized that Valentine’s Day was just around the corner but now that he knew, it made his plans even better.
The ultimate plan to make Jessica an offer she could not refuse. Valentine’s Day was going to make it work even better.