It’s just Se-chan.
She sighed loudly for how anticlimactic it was, as soon as she saw that man’s back —and realised it was less superior than her boyfriend’s— when she entered the section.
Se-chan heard her, even noticing her change of expression and pointed it out. “Noona! That’s too harsh—how could you be that disappointed when you see me?!” He put his right hand on his chest, pretending to be hurt by her reaction.
“How much did he pay for you to do this?”
Her indifference made him snort. “I agreed to this without any payment, noona.”
She squinted her eyes to him, jokingly being sceptical. “How far did he threatened you, Se-chan?”
“Nothing much—just a set of glares with a side of a promise to make my life hellish.” Se-chan sighed while she laughed, amused by his apparent humour.
“So...” she held out her hand, palms up, waiting for Se-chan to hand out the next envelope to her.
That man in return only shook his head, telling her that he couldn’t give it just yet because the instructions he received was to let her enjoy her time here first, before saying or passing anything to her.
That’s not surprising at all, she thought, of course he wouldn’t let it be that easy.
Oh, to think that she actually thought he would be here! To think that she actually thought she would finally meet him! To think that she thought they’re gonna spend time here together!
How long is this gonna go, Kim Jong-kook? How far are you gonna stretch this? It’s just an anniversary— you don’t have to balls-deep into this, you jerk—
It’s hard to keep being mad when you’re actually surrounded by this many lively paintings, however, because as she started her stroll after Se-chan nudged her to go first and promised he’ll be right behind, she found herself smiling again.
As she moved from one painting to the next, she kept thinking that this was just actually another nice thing from him— for her to enjoy her time alone considering how crazy her life came to be now, and she knew she just gotta enjoy it, no matter how infuriating it was for her to be thrown into loops of uncertainty of where this day gonna lead her to or where even was he currently.
They said the most important thing when looking at a piece of art is not really understanding the meaning behind it, but rather how you perceive it, because that way, it could change your life.
She tried hard to follow that advice, but forgot all about it not long after, instead pretending to be a rich woman who wanted to purchase arts for her luxurious foyer, muttering “interesting” under her breaths a few times for every painting she got to and chuckled at the end for her own absurdity.
The paintings were interesting actually, the explosion of colours drew her in, some of them made her titling her head in amazement.
Even the right wing itself was some sort of maze, essentially a long, wide corridor, she assumed, parted by walls here and there, creating weird-shaped areas for her to go through. Depending on the size of the painting, some walls have at the very least one painting hanging on it or if there’s none, it’ll be replaced by display of crafts in boxes of glass.
She was baffled when she stumbled upon two walls in the middle of her way, forming an incomplete triangular area with only one painting on the left wall, nothing on the right and a projector on a small table in the middle of it.
Maybe they’re trying to display a moving picture—
Her phone rang, interrupting her thoughts. She didn’t need to think twice before answering after glancing at the name on display.
“Yah—“ she blurted out before he could even say hello to her, “funny how all of these screamed ‘happy anniversary’ to me, but the only one here is Se-chan, and if I remember it correctly—“ she emphasised on her next words to spice up her sarcasm, “—I think he’s not my boyfriend.”
“So you miss me?”
She couldn’t see it, but she heard a smile in his question. Smiling too, she admitted, “a little.”
“What do you think about the game?”
She tried to sound as emotionless as possible when she spoke. “Honestly, I’m just glad you didn’t actually ask me to drive four hours into the mountains just to get a card from Manager Yoo’s villa.”
He laughed softly at the other end of the line, covering from her the fact that he did leave one there just in case she’s actually crazy enough to do that. Diverting the conversation, he asked where she was in the gallery now and exclaimed that the painting on the left was his favourite after she explained it.
“Well, if it’s your favourite painting, why aren’t you here with your favourite person enjoying it?” She got sassy as she moved closer to that said painting.
He chuckled away, probably muttering something dumb as an excuse under his breath but she couldn’t focus, missing out on a chance to get snarky at him again because she’s distracted by the portray in front of her.
It’s a painting of sunset, with small yet visible brush —reminding her of Claude Monet or maybe a less rough van Gogh style of paintings, impressionism was the name of style if she’s not mistaken— prominent with vibrant orange and yellow as the background, and two figures painted in black at the corner, watching the sunset.
Yet, it’s not the beauty of it that stole her attention completely, it’s the unexplainable sense of familiarity and attachment that she felt as she stared at it. It’s almost as if she saw that painting before, but when? Or rather, how? She never came here before and she doubted that it’s a famous picture, how pretty it may be.
He called her name again, pulling her back to reality. She thought he was worried at first, because she said nothing for the last few minutes, but he left no comment on that, instead asking her to open the cover of the projector lens.
“Am I allowed to do that—“ she hesitated, “wait! How in the hell did you know the cover is on?!”
“Who do you think put it on in the first place?!” His laughter at her confusion should bother her, it should annoy the hell out of her, but it didn’t because how strange his reply was.
This is one of his plan too?!
In such disbelief, she hurried to the projector, only now noticing that it was already on and the soft yellow light radiating from behind the lens cover. Inhaling, she took it off, then retreated her step to get a full view of the display.
The first few seconds were blurry. She almost didn’t know what she was watching, but as it got clearer, she realised it’s a video of them —Suk-jin, Dong-hoon, Kwang-soo, a receptionist she forgot what her name was because that woman quit a long time ago, and of course, him and her— playing volleyball during their company Sports Day so many years ago.
She had a vague memory about this, only remembering that they won playing against accounting team in a dramatic fashion, turning the game to their favour at the very last minute and secured victory with only one or two difference in their score.
What she didn’t remember, though, was her running straight to him —into his arms— after he passed the ball to Kwang-soo to deliver the final blow, them hugging tightly and celebrating together, ignoring the others who were still cheering for that winning point before the rest joined them one by one, resulting in a group hug.
The next video was during one of their earliest winter trip. The camera was focusing in on Kwang-soo and Dong-hoon doing a pepero kiss but with a string of ramen noodle as a drunk dare from someone, but out of the focus at the back, was him and her— him busy grilling meat and her feeding him one.
It then transitioned to Se-chan’s welcoming party where all of them were cheering for Se-chan to finish one bottle of beer in one gulp where she excitedly took his arm and put it on her shoulder while watching it. When Se-chan failed and the others booed jokingly, they went back to their seats still latching onto each other, for some reasons letting their touch lingered.
All of these videos only further confirmed Kwang-soo’s words earlier, and although she knew he didn’t lie, the evidences still took her by surprise. Those videos were ancient, and that’s what got her the most.
Were they really close back then? Were they already that touchy since then? Were their relationship was already like that—even before anything happened between them?
Honest to god, she didn’t even notice. Their touch just felt that natural that it never came down to her as unseemly nor unfit to their status. Every time he’s there with her, it just felt that comfortable to be that close to him— it just felt right.
“Oppa, what—“ she inhaled sharp but the movement in the video stopped her from talking, displaying a short clip during one New Year’s party where they were sitting together, her laughing at something while him very clearly checking for her reaction before laughing along too.
Some pictures were displayed after that, throwing her deep into nostalgia— them during one company annual dinner with no gap in between them whatsoever, them linking arms during their weekly dinner, both of them at the shooting range, her trying on the punching bag at Gap-jin’s with him holding it, before another video during their first date at Aqua Planet started, only her in the frame this time and was pissed at him after realising he’s recording.
The next clip started quickly but not before she realised her face now wet with tears she didn’t know had fallen.
It’s a video of them on top of Mount Fuji when they climbed it with Min-young and Junichi last summer. Them celebrating with a kiss was caught on camera but this time he wasn’t as mad as when So-min took it secretly before (although that’s a lie too because she knew he kept the photo from So-min), causing her to smile, reminded how she felt like she’s on top of the world, literally and figuratively, after a long night of climbing to see sunrise with him.
The video turned fast-paced, rewinding much of the pictures, symbolising the progress of their relationship almost 10 years in the making and doubling her sentimental feelings, before ending it with a time-lapse video of a sunset she took years ago during their first hike where he promised he’ll make her happy again.
The screen stopped there and she realised something new. Something that made her covered fast to stop herself from shrieking or screeching or having an actual mental breakdown as she went back and forth between the painting and the screen.
It’s them. The painting—it’s a painting of them.
“Sorry, I can’t turn them all into paintings.” He spoke again after staying silent for so long she forgot he’s still there, probably noticing that she already understood it by now from her gasps and cries.
She got mad for a second.
What apology— sorry for what? Sorry for not turning this entire gallery into his personal exhibition of their relationship? Is he gonna be sorry he can’t reach the sky and grab the stars for her next? Is he gonna be sorry he can’t move mountains with his own hands next? Just—just what kind of person is he?
Even her being in a mess of emotions knew that anger was for being an incompetent, uncreative and boring mediocre person towards him, towards this relationship, and despite of feeling undeserving, she only wanted him more. She only wanted to love him more.
“—I didn’t book the entire wing, you know, just this area and that’s only possible because Dong-hoon pulled some string— hey, even the artist is Dong-hoon’s childhood friend—“
He kept on talking, but she silenced him. “Kim Jong-kook—“ she wiped her tears with the back of her hand, staring longingly at the painting, “come out already. I want to kiss you.”
He let out a low chuckle. “I promise we’ll meet soon. In the meantime, I believe Se-chan have something for you.”
She heard footsteps approaching and saw Se-chan coming towards her as she turned. Her junior brought along a tray with an envelope and a small plate of strawberry pavlova in it —another throwback to their first official dessert— and she nearly threw a tantrum seeing it but he got ahead of her.
“Happy anniversary, Ji-hyo.” He whispered sweetly. “Oh! And, please don’t kiss