Jungah entered the empty, dark room.
Zico all the lights.
Jungah lifted her head and looked around the boxing studio. It was exactly as she remembered it.
Punching bags. Boxing ring. Weight lifting machines. Ceiling to floor mirrors.
It was a typical boxing studio. Yet, it held special memories for her.
It was the place where she had first fallen in love with Zico, and it was where she had changed into the strong, independent Jungah today.
However, at that moment, she didn’t feel strong at all. She felt like the weakest, most cowardly person on the face of the earth. She needed to be here to remind herself who she was and get back on her feet to be able to protect the two most important men in her life.
“Wow…” Zico roamed around the studio. He rolled his head around as his eyes inspected the studio. “I can’t believe this is still standing. I thought it would have perished long time ago.” Zico lightly punched a red punching bag, and it swung on impact. “How long has it been since we came here? Five years?”
*Seven years.* Jungah remembered. *It’s been that long since I fell in love with Zico. But now, I’m in love with Kris. Back then, it would have been unimaginable to have fallen for someone else.* Her hand glided across the rope of boxing ring. She walked around it and traipsed towards Zico. With an impish grin, he stood behind the punching bag.
Zico grabbed onto it firmly and peeked at her from behind. “Come on, Jungah. Let’s see what you got! Did you get stronger since you were in middle school?”
Jungah rolled her eyes. “Isn’t that obvious? I’m older, which means I’m stronger.”
“Prove it.” Zico dared. Her face fell. “What?”
“Prove it. Prove it that you’re stronger.” He winked.
Her eyes dropped onto the floor as she swallowed hard.
“Prove it. Prove to me that I’m the only man in your life.” Kris’s words came to haunt her.
She shut her eyes and gritted her teeth at the memory.
“Come on, Jungah. I know you can do it~ Show me what you got!” Zico good-naturedly taunted.
Jungah’s eyes flashed open. Her eyes narrowed in determination. *I’ll prove it. I’ll prove it to you that I’m strong. I’m strong enough to beat this obstacle. I’m strong enough to protect you. I’m strong enough to love Kris.* Jungah squeezed her fist together. Her sharp knuckles pointed out from underneath her pale skin. With a deep breath, she punched the bag hard.
“Eh, not bad.” Zico shrugged and gripped onto the bag, “Come on. Do it harder.”
Jungah punched the bag again. “Harder.” He commanded.
Jungah was running out of breath as she continuously punched the bag.
“Put everything into your punch, Jungah. Remember what I taught you. You can do it. Be stronger.” Zico urged.
Jungah mustered all her strength into her petite, sharp fist. With a feral yell, she punched the bag with all her might, causing Zico to lose his balance and stumble back a bit. He blinked at her in surprise then brightly smiled, “Wow. You really did get stronger. Good job!” He held out his hand. Her shoulders moved up and down in shallow breaths as she meekly slapped him a hi-five. “I’m proud of you, Jungie Jungie.” Zico touched her head with a wink. “Now, let’s go.”
Jungah grabbed his arm as he walked by. “Not yet. I’m not ready to go yet.”
Zico tilted his head and gave her a puzzled look. Her eyes fixated on the boxing ring. “Let’s have a match.”
“A match?” He asked quizzically.
Five minutes later, they were standing on the boxing ring with boxing gloves over their hands. Zico thumped his blue gloves together playfully. He swiped the air two times with deft then smirked at her as he bounced up and down, “You ready to go, Jungah? I won’t go easy on you just because you’re precious to me.”
“I’m expecting you not to go easy on me.” She murmured. Before he could ask what she meant, Jungah swung her fist towards him.
Zico ducked just in time and backed away. “Oh, man. You weren’t kidding, were you?”
“Come on, Zico. Hit me.” Jungah meant every word.
Zico still took the matter playfully. “Oh, girl, you do not want that. Trust me. You’ll end up in the hospital with a broken neck.” He chuckled. Zico lightly bumped her chin with his glove. “Pa! Take that! And that!” He pretended to punch her in the stomach.
Jungah whacked him in the head.
“OWOWOW! I SEE STARS!” Zico pretended to sway side to side.
“I’m serious, Zico! Hit me!” Jungah screamed. He stopped acting, and straightened up with a blatant stare. “Jungah…”
Jungah glowered at him as she squeezed her fists inside the red gloves. “This isn’t a game. Pretend your life is at stake.” *Although it’s not just pretend anymore.* “Fight me.” Jungah ordered. His expression softened, “Jungah, what’s going on?”
“I won’t go easy on you, so don’t you dare do the same for me.” With that, she swung her fist at him.
Zico dexterously ducked. She continued to pummel him with her fists. Zico escaped each one. Finally, he locked her right hand between his gloves. Fervently, he searched her eyes for any emotions. All he could find was a cold blank. “Jungah, what is wrong with you? Why are you like this? Tell me if something happened. I could help you.”
From the corner of his eye, he saw her right fist swinging towards him.
Zico dipped out of the way and stepped back with a startled expression.
“I’m telling you. This is a fight. So if you don’t want to get your whipped, I suggest you attack me as well.” Jungah growled in seriousness. She didn’t know why she was taking out her frustration on Zico who had been nothing but good to her. A big part of her wanted him to lose his patience with her. She wanted him to fight back and give her a good punch in the face to wake up.
However, hell would freeze over before Zico would ever hurt Jungah in any kind of way. He kept avoiding her punches. He never hit her back.
“I SAID FIGHT ME, YOU COWARD!” Jungah screamed. *Look who is talking. Wimp, chicken, scaredy-cat, weakling.* With a scream, she lunged her fist at him. Zico grasped her right arm again with a yell in aggravation, “Don’t do this, Jungah! You’ll only hurt yourself! It hasn’t been that long since your arm healed! Do you want it to get broken again?!”
*Everything is already broken in my life, so why not my arm, too? I deserve it for being a cowardly who hurts everyone around me.* Jungah raised her left fist. Before she could swing a mean punch, Zico swung her around so that her back hit his chest and captured her with one strapping arm around her shoulders. “Stop it, Jungah! I mean it!” She struggled. He couldn’t take it any more and yelled, “STOP IT! I WILL NEVER FIGHT YOU! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME HURT YOU, SO QUIT IT! I LOST, OKAY?! SO STOP HURTING YOURSELF!”
Finally, Jungah’s arms fell limp by her sides. Her eyes became a blank stare, and her energy had drained from her body.
When Zico realized that she wouldn’t fight anymore, he released her. Both of them fell onto the ground at once.
Zico used his teeth to unstrap one of the boxer gloves. He slipped both of them off, then yanked Jungah’s gloves off of her hands. “Man, that was one ugly fight.” Zico wiped the sweat off his brows with the sleeve of his black shirt. Without a sound, Jungah lay onto the cold, dirty floor of the ring.
“Jungah, it’s dirty. Get up.” Zico shook her.
Yet, she refused to move. “Aish, forget it. We can take a shower at home anyways.” He lay down next to her.
The blanket of silence comforted them for a while. They couldn’t hear anything but the drumming of their own hearts. Finally, Zico turned his head towards her. He could tell she had a lot on her mind.
“Where did you go this morning?”
“I came pretty early, but you weren’t there. Were you on a jog, or did you go somewhere else?” Zico questioned. *No, I was at Kris’s place…after we ed. . Please don’t ask me anymore questions.* Jungah turned her head to the other direction.
“Or…were you with Kris?” Zico cautiously asked. *. Bull’s eye.* Instead of answering, she squeezed her eyes shut, hoping that he wouldn’t interrogate her anymore. Yet, the questions continued.
“B-Bomb went on a rampage yesterday after you ditched him yesterday.” Zico slipped his arms behind his head and chuckled. He glanced at her, “Was his girlfriend that hideous? Or did he piss you off again?”
*I forgot about B-Bomb. Shoot. I made another mistake.* Jungah remorse.
“Where’d you go after you ditched him like that?” Zico inquired.
*I was supposed to confront him. That was all. But I ended up sleeping with him. What kind of a loser am I? . I disgrace myself.* Jungah couldn’t keep up the pretense any longer. The guilt was eating her. She was going to burst into flames. Tears rapidly streamed down her face. Jungah tried to stifle a sob, but it was too late. She was bawling already. Zico heard her cry and shot up. He stared at her in bewilderment. “Jungah…”
She began to beat her chests in conflict and torment.
“YAH HAN JUNGAH!” Zico grabbed her wrists to prevent her from hitting herself. When she kept twisting and struggling, he pinned her wrists down onto the ring by her head. “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” Zico snarled as he hovered over her. Jungah opened her eyes. Her vision was blurred with tears. She blinked them away, and she was able to see his face full of anxiety. His eyes frantically searched hers. “What’s wrong with you?” Zico whispered uneasily. “What happened? Why do you keep trying to hurt yourself?”
Jungah turned her head and avoided his eye contact.
Zico had enough of her silence. “Get up.” He grabbed her wrists and tugged her up into a sitting position. Zico studied her face carefully. His face was grave. There wasn’t a hint of his usual cheeriness any longer. “Something happened between you and Kris, didn’t it? Tell me. What did he do to you?”
“He didn’t do anything.” Jungah thinly croaked.
“Don’t lie to me. I know when you’re lying.” Zico snapped. He put a hand on her shoulder and looked right into her eyes. “Tell me. I can help you. Don’t you trust me? I’m your Zico. I can do anything for you.”
Her bottom lip trembled with so many contorted emotions. *Yes, you are my Zico. But he’s my Kris, too. You are my everything, but he is my everlasting love. I don’t want to hurt either of you, but right now, I’m harming both of you.* Jungah opened .
Zico’s eyebrows knit together in anticipation. He wanted to know what was bothering her so much. He wanted to fix everything for the one girl he loved.
Jungah wanted to tell him everything. Yet, she couldn’t speak.
By telling Zico about Kris’s true identity would mean that Kris would be in danger. She would be stabbing him in the back, and she couldn’t do that to him after all the pain and suffering she had already put him through. Jungah dropped her gaze with deflated shoulders. *I don’t know what to do anymore. There are so many things happening right now. I wish I could just run away from them. But running away wouldn’t solve anything.*
A fresh tear rolled down her cheek.
Zico’s expression twisted in pain and worry. His heart hurt at the sight of her tears. He reached out and softly wiped it away from her cheek. Jungah lifted up her chin and gazed at him with such desperation that it made him want to weep with her. He wanted to help her, yet, he didn’t know what it was that she needed.
Instead, Zico scooted closer, enveloped his strong arm around her, and embraced her against his warm chest. It had been a while since he had given her such an intimate hug. His warmth made her feel worse. *I’m sorry, Zico. I’m so sorry. Your life is at stake, and I don’t know how I can help. I’m worthless. So useless. Helpless and weak.* Jungah wrapped her arm around him and clung onto him tightly as if her sanity would slip away if she let him go.
Her shoulders shook as she convulsed with another heartwrenching sob.
Zico wrapped his other arm around her and hugged her tightly as possible. *I don’t know what’s going on, but I promise you I will never leave your side. So don’t lose hope, Han Jungah. Woo Jiho is here for you.*