| CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE |
T H R E E Y E A R S L A T E R
A flustered smile formed on Baekhyun’s lips as he took the banana toy from the toddler, Seojun. Kyungsoo who was helping Haneul with her homework smiled in amusement. “He wants you to eat it.” Kyungsoo whispered while wiggling his eyebrows. Baekhyun hesitantly lifted the banana to his mouth and awkwardly fake-ate it, even making the chewing sound.
Seojun giggled hard while clapping his tiny hands together. “Wow, I don’t know why he finds that satisfying but sure.” Baekhyun dropped the banana to the floor again before leaning on the couch, taking a gulp on his soda. “He’s two, uncle. He finds everything funny.” Haneul laughed, earning a pat on her head from Kyungsoo.
Baekhyun made a face making the young lady laugh even more. “Fine, you’re right. What a smart girl.” He reached for her head and ruffled her hair. “Anyway, is Hara done yet with that Skype meeting or whatever? Let’s go, I’m so hungry.” He looked at his watch to check the time. He had been waiting for at least an hour. They all agreed to go for sushi to celebrate Kyungsoo’s birthday. They didn’t hold any party anymore so a simple dinner with Baekhyun was enough.
Kyungsoo looked over to the closed door of their home office. “I don’t know, she said it wasn’t going to take a while. It’s just almost eight, we should be fine.”
Seojun’s nanny then came out from the kitchen and took the toddler. “Time for bed?” Baekhyun looked up at the kid who was now cradled in the woman’s arms. “He needs to take a bath and then he will go to bed, sir.” The nanny answered shyly, hesitantly meeting Baekhyun’s eyes. “Okay, that’s good. Bye buddy.” Baekhyun playfully shook the toddler’s foot before looking down to meet his friend, Kyungsoo’s eyes.
The nanny and Seojun left and a chuckle came out of Kyungsoo. “Oh my god, she really likes you. Hara and I always about it. She’s too obvious, isn’t she? You should ask her out, she’s probably only waiting for you. She’s like twenty-five, not too young.” He suggested. Baekhyun only shrugged his shoulders before taking his phone out. “Come on, she’s really good with kids. She cooks. She’s very smart too. She’s a wife material for you, Baekhyun.” Kyungsoo insisted.
Baekhyun rolled his eyes. “She’s pretty but I’m not interested.”
Surprisingly, Haneul stood up, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Uncle, you’re as old as Appa. Right? Wait, one year older? Appa turned thirty today. That means you’re thirty-one, right?” She asked as a matter of fact. Baekhyun scoffed and tapped the young girl’s cheek. “Yes and you’re eleven. Get back to your homework, young lady. Don’t into our conversation, that’s not nice.” He softly lectured the kid before pushing her back to the coffee table.
Kyungsoo laughed. “Good job at making him feel very old, Haneul.”
Finally, Hara came out of the office while stretching her arms. “Sorry, guys. I’m done. It took longer than I intended to. I can get ready now.” She announced making Baekhyun stand up. “Wait, hold up. You’re not ready yet? You’re wearing a glittery GUCCI mini dress and red stilettos; I think you’re fine.” He protested right away. “Be quiet and wait. I just received a new set from Balenciaga and I want to use it tonight” Hara hissed before walking upstairs to get ready and changed.
Haneul stood up. “I want to change too!” She followed her mother up.
Kyungsoo and Baekhyun looked at each other then down to their very casual attires. “We’re having sushi, we’re not going to a party.” The birthday boy muffled. “Oh well. Not my wife, not my problem.” Baekhyun collapsed back to the couch and threw his legs down the empty space of the coffee table.
“Anyway.” Kyungsoo sighed as he started clearing up the coffee table, putting Haneul’s school stuff aside. “How’s your studio doing? Busy? It’s probably not the busiest season for you though, right?” He asked. Baekhyun nodded and leaned his nape against the head of the couch. “I mean, it’s fine. It’s not too slow, it’s doing okay. We just have less events, just more commercial photoshoots. Today, we did a Halloween themed photoshoot for a Calendar special with this agency. So, it took two whole days, they had like four girl groups and two boy groups.” He stretched his arms wide across the couch to relax his whole body down.
Kyungsoo smiled. “Good for you. See, I told you, you can do it on your own. I’m happy for you. Jihoon told me when he visited me at work once, you’re doing good as their boss.” He complimented.
It hadn’t been a long time since Baekhyun decided to part ways with Park & Co. and officially open up his own independent studio. So far, so good. “Well, that’s good he’s saying that or else, he’s dead meat.” He replied earning a laugh from his friend.
“Honey? Can you come up here, one sec?” Hara called from upstairs.
Kyungsoo stood up and gestured Baekhyun to wait. “I swear to god if you guys did a quickie, I am going to freak the out.” Baekhyun warned before lying down completely on the couch. “I’m starving.” He groaned while rubbing his abdomen.
Arriving in their room, Kyungsoo followed Hara into their walk-in closet. “What’s that, sweetie?” He asked and leaned on the entrance. “I had the Skype call with Jihwan. The owner of Free People in Canada?” She spoke while buttoning her skirt. “Okay, what about it? How was it?” Kyungsoo asked while folding his arms, waiting for the story patiently.
Hara sighed and looked at him with a serious gaze. “Jihwan. Im Jihwan. You don’t remember him?” She asked in disbelief. A brief silence filled the room before Kyungsoo cleared his throat. “I remember him being the owner of Free People? Your father and I have discussed things regarding this right? Of course, I know him. Aren’t we all set to partner soon? Mr. Im had come here for a visit a month ago, hadn’t he?” He answered, not knowing exactly why his wife was asking it in such way.
Hara closed her eyes and turned away, chuckling weakly. “I’m not talking about the old guy. I’m talking about the old guy’s son, Im Jihwan. Oh my god, fine. It just hit me today too, it’s hilarious. But I guess it makes sense, we only met him like once or twice before.”
Kyungsoo raised an eyebrow. “We’ve met him before?”
Hara nodded, meeting his eyes again. “He’s uh … Kim Jiwon’s best friend. Remember? In our photoshoot, at the beach? The one who visited? The one Baekhyun got mad jealous over?” Kyungsoo’s mouth dropped in realization. “Oh.” His lips then formed an O as he nodded slowly. “This is, ugh, I don’t know sweetie. Jiwon just … disappeared. She said she would still keep in touch but she just cut me off completely even if I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t know what to feel but it’s too late. I don’t want to be unprofessional and say I’m upset, right?” She leaned in one of the closets and sighed.
Kyungsoo walked over to her. “Well.” He pulled her by the waist, helping her button the last piece of her skirt. “We don’t really know the full story until now. Maybe she had a reason why she had to cut us off. After all … we’re still a part of Baekhyun’s life.” Being the reasonable one, he said. “But it doesn’t matter, we’re just working with her best friend. Who knows if they’re still even friends, right? It has nothing to do with her so don’t worry too much.” He added.
Hara laughed weakly. “Yeah that—” She scratched her neck. “—it does have something to do with her. She owns Free People too. She’s coming here as the main representative. I don't know when but soon. It's making me nervous?”
Jiwon laughed nervously as he scanned the set of designs. She wasn’t relatively fond of them at the moment. Was she going to be honest about her op