He groaned when he got up from his bed. His whole body was aching, some parts were worse than the others. Maybe going to the gym after you just got better from a fever when you’re back from overseas was not such a good idea.
Singapore was beautiful. Good food, good people, good place and -can you believe it?- it’s summer all year round there. His five days business trip there were magical. After working hours, he went out with shorts and muscle tee everywhere. Even Manager Yoo who went with him for this business trip, tagged along and they went everywhere together like a couple of besties.
He might’ve enjoyed it a bit too much, so much so that he forgot it’s autumn back home. The difference in temperature made him collapsed, forcing him to stay in bed for two days straight after touched down, and at home even longer, even though he missed his office, he missed everyone in the office, and he missed someone in particular more.
Someone, who didn’t contact him at all while he’s gone. Someone, who he pretty sure knew he’s sick but didn’t bother to check up on him. Someone, who he wanted to call so bad to tell her that the place he visited was awesome and he wished she’d be there with him but he didn’t because his last sense of pride wouldn’t let him.
And the fact that she didn’t have any social media account for him to follow (read: stalk) drove him to the brink of insanity. He couldn’t check on her, on what she’d been doing, on what even happened to her for a whole week and he had to swallow it bitterly.
He knew that she’s not the type of person who would be in contact with anyone all the time. He knew that she loves her own quiet time. He knew that she loves her peace of mind and that’s the reason why she wasn’t really into the idea of internet and virtual networking.
Still, she could’ve just text him. Just one text, just “you’re back?” or “are you okay” or “how you’ve been” or “i heard you’re sick? Get well soon, oppa” or “i miss you”. He might never receive the last one, ever, but a simple “hey” would’ve made his day. It would’ve made him better faster, for sure. But, nothing. Not even their ‘secret code’ cloud emoji.
This weekend felt lonely, he spent almost the whole day going to gym, doing his routine and burning down all the fats from the food he inhaled during his trip. Oh, it sure felt lonely, alright, especially after he had been spending all his weekends last month with her.
After the first weekend they spent hiking (and hugging when she was crying) and going crazy in the shooting range, the very next Tuesday, he went and sat on her table shamelessly.
“What is this?” She asked, holding up the pamphlet he put on her table.
“You said you wanted to beat me when we used the punching machine in the arcade, so I’m taking you to a boxing class.”
She snorted in disbelief. She slumped on her chair, scamming through the pamphlet and then looked at him. “Pretty sure I said ‘how could I beat that?’ that day.”
“This,” he replied, pointing at the pamphlet on her hand, “this is how you could beat-“ he pointed at his fist, “this.”
She pursed her lips, doubting on his statement without saying anything.
“And I did remember you wanted to shoot someone and I said that it’s illegal. But this-“
“I’m pretty sure beating someone up is illegal too.”
“Eh-“ he shrugged his shoulders, “-slightly less illegal.”
“Of course you would say that! You beat some one every single day.” Her laughter filled the air between them, causing his lips to form a smile as well.
“How did I do that, you might ask-“
“I never ask.”
“—well, this is how.” He touched pamphlet again.
She didn’t reply, swinging her chair left and right while looking at the pamphlet with a smile that he knew too well that needed just a little bit more convincing words from him.
“It’s a private lesson. It’ll be just me, you and a coach. And I know the coach personally-and he’s good. I promise.”
She said nothing after that, which was not a definitive ‘no’ to him, so on Sunday afternoon, he picked her up. The coach, one of his oldest and closest friend, the one who actually taught him to box, Gap-jin, waited at the front door to greet them.
“This is the one, huh?” Gap-jin pushed his shoulder lightly as they both walked in. He sent a murderous glare at him and that man shut up instantly, putting both of his hands up, backing away slowly.
She looked at him in wonder of Gap-jin’s words, but he managed to distract her by showing her around the room. It’s fortunate that she was easily distracted, went around with awe in her eyes, looking at every single thing Gap-jin presented to her.
Without any delay, Gap-jin picked boxing gloves for her and ask them to enter the ring. He brought her a helmet, but didn’t ask her to put it on, as it was “smelly with old men sweat” according to him and their session today didn’t require her to wear one.
“I suggest you buy your own shoes- boxing shoes- if you’re actually thinking to be into this. Shoes are important, ya know, cause it gives your support. Boxing requires speed, agility and of course, power. To support your body perfectly, you need good shoes.” Gap-jin explained. “But, of course, before you buy it, you must know which type of fighter you are. Speed or power. Then, you can choose which shoes to support you better.”
She glanced at both of large build men in front of her, a little intimidated to say the least and said, almost wearily, “pretty sure I’m neither.”
Gap-jin laughed, giving a look of “oh she got humour” to him, but he ignored him.
“What about him? What type of fighter is he?” She pointed at him suddenly.
“Oh, our Jong-kook?” Gap-jin smirked. “What do you think he is?” He threw the question back at her.
“I really want to say neither too but I saw him throwing punches before and it’s just— I’d say, power.”
“Eh, maybe, but he’s out of the game for so long, never really come down here anymore-“
“Oh, come on, I’m busy!” He punched Gap-jin on the shoulder playfully.
“—so I don’t know. Maybe you’re right. Maybe he’s neither.”
She laughed, nodding her head a few times but at the same time, quickly defended him, “he’s right. He’s busy.”
“Busy with you?”
Gap-jin’s out-of-nowhere question stunned her. Panicking, he nearly threw a punch at that man for real tbut she chuckled, casually replied to him. “No. With his work. He got promoted so he’s busy all the time.”
“Ah, our Jong-kook never change.” Gap-jin turned to him. “This is why you’re still single, ya know?”
“Stop it, you—“ he pushed him hard this time. Gap-jin only laughed and not long after that, her training began.
Gap-jin was the coach. Gap-jin was supposed to be her coach, but somehow, he was the one who said the most. He was the one who put his hands on her shoulder to straighten it up. He was the one who pushed her legs opened so that she would know the most stable stance.
“Your feet must be one feet and half or two feet apart all the time or just a little wider from your shoulder. Knees a little bent.” He instructed, “both of hands up.” She followed. “Dominant hand in the rear. Chin tucked-“ he pushed her chin slightly, without any resistance from her and he ended it with a casual tone, saying, “beautiful.”
She glanced at Gap-jin who raised his shoulder.
“What? I’m right, right? This is how it is.” He noticed the exchanged looks between them.
“No, yeah, of course it’s right.” Gap-jin convinced him. “I was just thinking that maybe next time I should just leave this place open so you can do this with just the two of you.”
He rolled his eyes while she giggled.
“No, honestly, though, I’m- I’m thinking about retiring for so long but I couldn’t because I don’t have any replacement. Now, however, I could just leave it to you and retired and travel around Europe with my wife!”
“Ooh—part time job for you, oppa!” She played along. Gap-jin’s smile widened and they high-fived, succeeded in annoying him.
“Okay, okay, I got it. You’re the teacher.” He backed away. “You take it away, then.”
“Sensitive, isn’t he?” Gap-jin asked while moving towards her, taking the lead now. He moved to the side, watching them.
“He’s old.” She shrugged her shoulders. “He got cranky if you wouldn’t let him nag.”
“Does he now-“
“Back to the training now, people!” He half-shouted at them, feeling annoyed that they talked about him as if he wasn’t there and a little jealous that they seemed to get close fast, just by taunting him. He pretty sure she said she’s awkward around stranger, once. Look at her now, sharing a laugh with Gap-jin.
Nevertheless, the training continued. Gap-jin’s instruction were pretty much the same as his, but more detailed. “Imagine like you’re a puppet and you’re bound by strings. When you left hand moves, your left foot moves as well. We call it, stepping in.”
She nodded, moving her left and right limbs one at the time.
“Can you try punching me?” Gap-jin put both his hands up. “Your left to my left hand, right to my right hand.”
“Jab cross.” She whispered, maybe to herself, but Gap-jin could hear her.
“Jab cross, that’s right!” He praised her. “Now, try.”
She did, hesitating and a little wobbly.
“That’s good. More power this time.”
Second try, still wobbly, so he stepped in. “You have to put your weight at the front of your foot, not the heel.”
“Oh, like this?” She lifted her heels slightly. “Like wearing heels?”
“You don’t have to lift them up. Just put your weight on the balls of your feet, not your heel. Because if you’re on your heel, you’re not stable. Your opponent can just dodge then push you to the ground.”
“Okay, okay.” She tried again without any cue from Gap-jin.
“Perfect!” Gap-jin cheered, while he settled with, “see? Much better?”
She grinned widely at both at them, satisfied.
“Then,” he continued speaking obliviously, “you have to do it together with your feet. You throw you left hand and your left foot must move from the ground at the same time. The jab must lands together with the foot.”
“Jab lands with foot. Got it!” She repeated, quickly trying a few times.
“Oh, it hurts now,” Gap-jin let out a whimper, a little too dramatically in his eyes, but he saw her excitement beaming from her eyes so he kept his mouth shut.
“You wanna try with gloves?”
She nodded happily at Gap-jin’s suggestion. She put it on with his help while Gap-jin watched with amusement. “Try it with Jong-kook,” he said. So, they did.
It did sting a little, receiving her jabs. Not much, but it can be felt. Standing there, in front of her, watching her coming towards him again and again, with eyes full of determination, he couldn’t help but to feel amazed. Everything she does amazed him, but today, on this particular evening, her doing one of his favourite activities, rendered him speechless. He’s impressed. He’s moved. He’s stirred. He’s inspired. He’s in love.
She probably saw his smiles got bigger every punch she threw, or Gap-jin hinted something at her, because all of the sudden, she ducked and punched his stomach. It didn’t hurt that much, but he was taken by surprise, causing him to be on his knees.
“Are you crazy?” He yelled while she cheered loudly to herself. Gap-jin roared a laugh too, clapping his hands like a seal watching his mighty student got knocked down by a girl.
“What?! What?! You wanna go?!” She challenged him, throwing her jabs to the air. Gap-jin laughed even harder, but quickly moved between them as he got back on his feet, leaping to her.
“Come on, man, you can’t hit your girl friend!” Gap-jin said as he pushed him away from her.
He was joking, of course. He was actually amused by her antics. Her sudden attack only proved to him that she indeed was something else. And, her playfulness, it made him wanted to smile even wider. Seeing her this happy, he felt content. He felt full.
Still, he wanted to amuse her even more by being angry. “You’re dead meat when I catch you, Ji-hyo.” He warned from behind Gap-jin. She stuck her tongue out at him.
Gap-jin then taught her how to duck and weave. She’s having a little hard time to follow so Gap-jin asked him to demonstrate it together. They did a couple of rounds, but it turned to actual fight quickly, as he was pumped and Gap-jin was always ready for a show-down with him.
She actually ran out of ring almost fast, gasping, yelping as if she was the one receiving hits, and sometimes cheering for them. Her eyes were wide, realising how strong he actually was and Gap-jin wasn’t any less. Gap-jin was the man of the match, of course, ending the fight between them, somehow holding him in a head lock. Smugly, as Gap-jin released his lock, he yelled, “you’re right, Ms. Ji-hyo. He’s neither now.”
She clapped, not at all looking at him like he’s weak for losing, but rather with admiration. “You’re both good.”
Gap-jin then asked her to try. He got up after catching his breath and moved to the side once again, watching her did a few times, looking more stable and fast this time. He’s proud.
They continued for the next hour and stopped when they’re all drenched in sweat, panting. Gap-jin offered them energising drinks that they drank with all their might, relieving their quenching thirst. They talked while they rest, but it was Gap-jin who talked more, often telling her embarrassing stories about when they were younger. He cursed at him multiple times, causing both Gap-jin and her to laugh out loud.
She pointed at the punching machine at the corner of the room, similar to the one they played in the arcade before. “Is it here as a joke?” She asked.
“Not really. Sometimes, it’s fun to see how motivating it can be for people when they know their actual score. It isn’t that accurate but it’s better than me telling them their punches are good, you know?” Gap-jin stood up suddenly. “You wanna try?”
She blinked, exhilarated. She got up too, followed closely by him, and went to the machine with Gap-jin. “I bet it’ll be different after just