Loveboat in 서울

Double Trouble Couple

A pair of guards in crips blue swing open wrought-iron gates onto a wide driveway. Our driver pulls through, touching his fingertips to his brow in salute.

Sohee was not exaggerating. The Jung residence sits in the heart of Gangnam, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Seoul. Along the stone walls, baby-pink rosebushes—"imported from the United Kingdom," Sohee says—rustle in a breeze. Ivy flagstones and English grass carpet the grounds all the way to a two-story building of white stucco and modern black frames of windows and doors.

"Hey, Sohee, I need to tell you something." For the fourth time, I try to catch her attention. Joohyuk and I have been trying to update her and Kang on the change in our dating status since we hit the road, but between giving Kang the scoop on her family and now, the mansion, she hasn't paused for breath.

Our van stops at the foot of a stone stairwell the width of an estuary. A butler opens Sohee's door and she flies out like a sunbeam, squealing. "Aunty Yumi! We're here!"

The update will have to wait. Two barking poodles, along with two black-haired kids around five and six, hurl themselves at Joohyuk. The boy yells basketball stats in English. The girl, despite her picture-perfect rose-print dress cries and babbles—apparently her mother just informed her she's too young to marry Joohyuk.

"Hey, Ace! You've been doing research?" Joohyuk swings the boy onto his shoulder and spins, making him yell. He tugs on the girl's pigtails. "Annie, you don't want to marry an ugly old troll like me."

"Yes, I do!" Annie lisps; she's lost two front teeth. I laugh. Joohyuk will be a great dad—um, wrong road!—it's not as though I really an his girlfriend, assessing his potential life-mate qualities. Aish!

Eager to put space between us, I follow Sohee up the steps into a high-ceilinged foyer of while marble tiles and pillars, man-sized vases, a large tree, a curved staircase—all sparkling with light from a chandelier the size of a grand piano. A Japanese-style pond, build with flat stones into the floor, swims with Koi fishes.

"Aunty Yumi!" Sohee whoops down on a petite, pregnant woman and plants a kiss on each cheek. Then she thread her arm through Kang's. "This is Song Kang."

"Welcome!" Aunty Yumi, swelling belly and all, is stunning in her tailored cream dress and string of emeralds. She bestows the same queenly greeting on Kang, then on Joohyuk, still bent double with Annie and Ace clinging like monkeys to his back and neck. Joohyuk detaches himself from his cousins, grabs my hand, and pulls me forward.

"And this is Bae Suzy." Joohyuk's tone is even, but he somehow sounds ... proud. As if he's created me himself. "My girlfriend."

A stunned silence follows. I can't look at Sohee or Kang.

Then Annie screams and runs upstairs, wailing. Aunty Yumi's eyes grow wide. I'm terrified she's about to scold Joohyuk. How dare you bring such a mouse home when your cousin brings the Heir to the Song empire?!

Then her arms go around me. Jasmine perfume fills my nostrils.

"Omooo!" she cries. My goodness! "Sohee, you should have warned me!" She holds me at arms' length and drinks me down with gorgeous eyes. "Joohyuk, you should have warned me! Suzy, sweetie, my home is yours. Do you have any favorite dishes? I'll send my maid to the market."

"No, no." I find my voice. "No. Anything is great." And where with all her enthusiasm go when I dump her darling nephew? Sohee frowns and I feel another stab of guilt.

Then Joohyuk's arm encircles my waist, warm and possessive. "I knew you'd like her."

"I'm giving you the Eleanor suite," Aunty Yumi says to me. She starts up the stairs, then turns back. "Joohyuk!" she cries, exasperated. "Carry her bag!"

As Aunty Yumi heads deeeper into her mansion, I snatch my body as well as bag from Joohyuk. My heart pounds in my throat. His hand and warm have branded themselves through the fabric of my clothes into my skin.

"We're just pretending, remember?" I poke him in the stomach with my bag, earning an oof. The guard chokes with a laugh.

"Mainhae," Joohyuk whispers, sheepishly. "Wanted to look convincing—everything will hit the faily emergency phone tree by tonight. Won't happen again."

"Better not," I snap, then march after Aunty Yumi to the largest suite in her museum mansion.

ʕु-̫͡-ʔुྉ*ᴸᵒᵛᵉᵇᵒᵃᵗ✲゚ⁱⁿ*。⋆ 서울。⋆ *

Besides a porcelain Jacuzzi, my room is decorated by a gold-trimmed mahogany box: a bed fit for an empress, heaped with a floral duvet, walled in on three sides by wooden rails carved with vines, dragons, lotus flowers, and topped by a lattice canopy. Amethyst curtain drapes flank tall windows that overlook a sparkling pool. By the door, I run my hand along a shuttered slot designed for room service.

Sohee darts in and shuts the door behind her. As her eyes take in the royal bed, I bite my lip. Was this room supposed to go to Kang on her behalf? Now the benefit is wasted on me—and Joohyuk and I have upstaged her weekend plans.

"What's going on?" she hisses.

"Joohyuk wouldn't come at first." I try to explain how we came to be fake-dating, but Sohee shakes her head.

"How does he expect this not to get back to Rosie?"

I frown. "He said no one would tell her?"

"This family gossips like there's no tomorrow."

My stomach dips. "He seemed sure." It's Joohyuk's problem. But I'm so distracted that I have a knot and reknot the ribbons on my pointe shoes twice before I  succeed in hanging them from the canopy to remind myself of Sunday's audition.

If his family doesn't like Rosie, there'd no reason to talk to her about his new girlfriend, right? I just need to double down supporting Sohee's plans, which means laying low, not getting outed, and making her-and-Kang look good.

"How are things with Kang?" I ask carefully.

A tic pulses in her eyes and she touches it with her fingertips, stilling it. Then she smiles.

"Great! They're totally great," she says.

Downstairs, the doorbell chimes.

ʕु-̫͡-ʔुྉ*ᴸᵒᵛᵉᵇᵒᵃᵗ✲゚ⁱⁿ*。⋆ 서울。⋆ *

The family and Kang have gathered in a spacious living room with the most intricate ceiling: dark square latticework framing panels painted with Korean mythology. Jade sculptures populate the room: Gumihos and Dragons. A five-mast ship that Appa would love, sailing through clouds. A jade-and-cypress screen, softened by strips of sunlight pushing through the kind of white wooden blinds Eomma's always wanted.

Joohyuk grasps my hand, whispering, "Aunty Yumi put out a call to the entire clan. I'm so sorry about this."

"About what?" I try not to fixate on the grip of his hand as he pulls me forward a collection of velvet settes. Then the doorbell chimes again and our afternoon spins out of control.

Aunts and uncles pour in as Aunty Yumi's maids bring out porcelain tea sets etched with ancient Korean landscapes. She has a collection of over a hundred teas, but we don't get a choice: her maid pours Korean Red Ginseng Tea.

"Oh, wow," I say as a gray-haired uncle, Oxford polo shirt so crisply ironed he could slice cheese with it, seizes Joohyuk's hand. "Joohyuk! And you must be Suzy!" He pumps my hand. I should have changed into a nicer outfit. A skirt instead of shorts. "Have you visited the National Palace Museum? Do you believe those wonderful treasures belong to Seoul or Korea?"

"I, uh—"

"Don't embroil her in your politics, Jaewook," Aunty Yumi calls as she heads to answer another chime of the door.

"And Sohee!" Jaewook embraces Sohee. "On your way to Dartmouth for your MRS, I hear?"

Sohee laughs and kisses his cheek. "Exactly, Samchon. But let me introduce you to Kang ..."

Dozens more cousins, aunts, uncles, and great-aunts and great-uncles gather around us, each new arrival an interruption of introductions, handshakes, hair-tousling for Joohyuk, who takes it all with good humor. Two elegant grandmothers chat in Mandarin and everyone else speaks Korean at light speed. I catch a few words: pretty, too skinny, y! Joohyuk grins at me—more amused than apologetic. No wonder he didn't want to deal with his family's Rosie bashing—every single uber-educated person has an opinion, down to little Annie, playing with a frog: "Too cold," declares flatly. In English, for my benefit.

"I can't speak Korean," I murmur to Joohyuk. Can they tell I don't come from money? I feel strangely anxious, wanting their approval. "Will they hold that against me? You?"

"Don't worry." He squeezes my arm reassuringly, sending an unwanted pulse of pleasure through me. His affection feels out of character with the brooding, gruff Wonder Boy. I almost tug free, until I remember the entire family is watching. Like hawks. How did I get myself into this mess when, until a week ago, I would have happily shoved Joohyuk off a cliff?

On the couch, Sohee snuggles against Kang, who remains upright, so they look more like a cat leaned against a pillar than a couple. He slips his hand from hers to reach for his teacup—deliberately? She  bites her lip, then turns to hug a cousin: Sooyoung, who's visiting from California with her financé, Henry, a violinist champion in a black leather jacket.

"We met on Loveboat, too!" Stephanie pulls me into a hug that squeezes all air from my lungs. "We're getting married next year!"

"Sohee mentioned you," I gasp. "Congratulations!"

As I find my seat again, Kang's eyes meet mine—cool and sardonic. "Looks like we're both in the hot seat," he murmurs.

"Seems so." I take my own cup of tea and blow on its surface. I want to ask why he came. He knows Korea better than I do—he must have suspected the family would react like this. I hope he believes Joohyuk and I are together, even more reason for him to keep his painter-fingers off my likeness.

But somehow, I doubt it.

"And what are your plans for your future, young man?" Uncle Gongyoo, a well-dressed man in his forties, refills Kang's teacup. He's Aunty Yumi's husband, and though he didn't speak particularly loudly, all conversation suddenly ceases. Everyone leans in to listen.

Kang sets his cup on the coffee table. "I don't know."

Uncle Gongyoo frowns. He scratches his neck. I don't know, clearly, is not an answer on the approved list.

"Kang can do anything," Sohee interjects. "He could be a banker. Or a lawyer. A doctor. It just depends on what he wants."

"I've met your father." Uncle Gongyoo lifts his glass of wine. "Real estate. Electronics. Smart cars. The Songs have their fingers in every key in Asia." He's not smiling. I can hear Sohee's lungs screaming for air, waiting for his judgement to fall. Then Uncle Gongyoo tips his glass at Kang. "They're brilliant. I imagine you'll follow right in their footsteps."

Sohee smiles. The fabulous Song empire trumps all. Uncle Gongyoo's insider knowledge makes Kang's family sound even more glamorous than what Sohee told me.

But at the mention of his father, Kang's head had snapped up. "Wouldn't count on it," he says. "Seeing how this Song isn't evening going to college."

A ripple of surprise cascades through the uber-educated cousins. Sohee, too. I would have laughed, but the truth is, for better or worse, Yonsei is a selective program and every kid is college-bound—I'd assumed Kang was, too. So why not? Is this related to his dad calling him an idiot, to the fight I happened to witness?

"Kang follows his own path," Sohee puts in. "He has so many options, it's about picking the right one, not locking in too early."

Uncle Gongyoo laughs. "Straight to work first? I approve—the boy inheriting the family business doesn't need to waste time with fancy degrees. At least not yet."

Kang's eyes flicker to Sohee's. She's surprised him, in a good way. "Something like that." She's covering for him, so smoothly I doubt her family noticed. She'd seriously make an amazing ambassador.

"So, what about you, Suzy? Have your parents lived in Korea long?" Aunty Yumi turns to me. She's not more than ten years older than us. I can see why Sohee described her as the beautiful aunt she looks up to. And at her question, the entire clan grows toward me like flowers to the sun. Kang smirks—it's my turn now.

"My family's not from Korea." My face warms under their scrutiny as I explain how my parents migrated from Gwangju to Singapore, then to the States.

"We're all human beings" Aunty Yumi waves all distinctions away. "But your parents must be so brave and smart, like Joohyuk's and Sohee's. Usually only the top students from here can go to the United States. It's why all you kids turned out so well. It's in your genes and upbringing."

"Kangjoon tells everyone his dad drives a taxi, and he got into Princeton," Joohyuk says, but Aunty Yumi shushes him, waiting on me.

Do I downplay with Korean modesty, or is that disrespectful to my parents, and a sign of bad upbringing? I split the baby with a hm—cough. Either way, she's moving too close to the sacrifice I've heard about my whole life. If my parents had stayed in Asia, they'd be surrounded by family like this, instead of us living as an isolated four in Arizona. Respected, blended in, no risk of the occasional go back to China! in the parking lot, like an arrow out of nowhere. If they'd stayed, Appa would still be a doctor. I know. God, I know—but being here makes it real.

To my relief, a housemaid interrupts with a platter of yellow mango halves, scored into cubes and inverted into easy-to-eat turtle shells. Jaewook brings up a fistfight between rival legislators in Korea's parliament—apparently a regular thing—and the clan breaks into a finger-shaking debate in Korean and English, verging on mango-throwing.

I laugh, but Joohyuk grimaces. "Sorry, they're so obnoxious," he whispers.

"They're not." I'm half in love with his family already—even Annie—so energetic, physical, and rambunctious in a way my family isn't.

"Enough of this, we're boring Suzy." Aunty Yumi  daintily crosses her legs under her dress. "So tell us, Suzy. I knew I'd marry Uncle Gongyoo the moment I laid eyes on him, but you young people these days don't seem to be in a hurry. Out of all those eligible boys on Yonsei, how did you decide on our Joohyuk?"

Joohyuk drops his mango half. "Oh, we just—"

"Ani, ani, Joohyuk-ah." She puts a hand on his knee. "I want to hear from Suzy."

"Well ..." Sticking to as much truth as possible is probably the safest route. "Joohyuk was the first guy I met."


Her smile droops a little, so I take another stab. "Well, honestly, I've known Joohyuk my entire life. And I hated him at first."

"Really? How's that?"

"My appa reads the World Journal religiously. Every year or so, an article came out about this ... amazing boy." Joohyuk groans as Aunty Yumi and the cousins murmur with approval. "I used to find articles about Nam Joohyuk on my pillow. My parents had a fatter file on Joohyuk than on me."

"No kidding?" Joohyuk murmurs.

I meet his gaze and smile. "I called him Wonder Boy."

"I knew it." A cousin punches Joohyuk in the arm. "We call him Basketball Boy."

"Shut up," Joohyuk says and everyone laughs. At the least, I can entertain his family about the legend of Nam Joohyuk in the good old USA. "National spelling bee champ. Piano. Yale. Joohyuk Nam was the yardstick no kid could measure up to—me included." Joohyuk makes strangling noises. But he's benefiting the most from this charade, so let him squirm. "Of course, every Korean parent in the States wants their daughter to marry Joohyuk," I add for good measure. He told me so himself.

"You wouldn't believe the phone calls I get, asking me to set up this and that daughter with my nephew." Aunty Yumi beams. And he's chosen you. The whole setup, the overwhelming family attention, is designed to woo me on Joohyuk Nam's behalf. And it's working a little too much.

I hastily press on. "But when I got off the plane and recognized him, all that resentment fell away. Why beat him when you can join him?"

As Joohyuk squirms, I smirk. Serves him right for taking me up on this ridiculous plan.

Then a wicked glint comes into his eyes. He takes my hand and folds his fingers through mine, sending a shiver through my body.

"I had no idea you felt that way," he murmurs husikly. I try to pull free, but his grip is firm. Warmth rushes to my face. I silently curse him. His mouth quirks with a smirk I've never seen on his face before. I send him death-threats with my eyes.

Aunty Yumi sighs, toying with her wedding band. "Joohyuk, I'm so thrilled."

"Finally," says a cousin.

Joohyuk stiffens. His fingers loosen around mine, though he doesn't let go. Rosie's name hangs in the air. And good riddance. Aunty Yumi and cousins have no choice but to love me because ANY GIRL IS BETTER THAN ROSIE.

Why are they so allergic to her?

"And what are your plans for next year?" Aunty Yumi intervenes.

I open my mouth to tell her about University of Arizona.

But what comes out is, "I'm going to dance school."

Why not? None of this is real anyways.

I brace for disappointment. Instead, Aunty Yumi clasps Uncle Gongyoo's hand. "Oh, how lovely! Gongyoo sits on the board of the National Theater here in Seoul."

"Really? Where The Nutcracker played?" I seen some flyers.

"Yes, and many others. The Mariinsky Ballet—it was the Imperial Russian Ballet in the eighteenth century. The Suzuki Company of Incheon, Joongki Korean Opera—you probably don't know these, oh, Yoon Doowon." She snaps her fingers. "The American cellist. We don't possess an ounce of talent, but we love to watch, machi, Gongyoo?"

Her husband kisses , a public display of affection I've never seen between my parents at home, let alone before strangers. "We're at the theater every other weekend."

"You're patrons of the arts," Sohee declares.

Aunty Yumi flutters a modest hand, but I shift to the edge of my seat. "Oh, wow." I've never met a family like this. "That's amazing."

"How did you choose dance? What are your plans?" Under Aunty Yumi's barrage of questions, I tell everyone about Tisch. The chance to learn from choreographers and teachers who've performed with dance companies around the world. I feel Joohyuk's eyes on me, my gesturing hands. "I've been arranging routines for my school squad for years. One day, I hope I'll get to choreograph something amazing—like a musical on Broadway."

"Well, I hope we have a chance to see you dance."

"You could," I say before I can censure myself. "I'm dancing in Swan Lake in August."

"We'll be there." Aunty Yumi's eyes shine. "Your parents must be so proud."

ʕु-̫͡-ʔुྉ*ᴸᵒᵛᵉᵇᵒᵃᵗ✲゚ⁱⁿ*。⋆ 서울。⋆ *

I expel a breath when we finally break to view Aunty Yumi's latest acquisition, a Matisse-inspired painting she bought at an auction in London. Are my parents proud of me? They wouldn't be if they knew how I've been spending my summer.

Trying to push them aside, I drift from the group to admire Aunty Yumi's painting of Korean tigers, Spanish cathedrals, Chinese landscapes, and French children—East and West mixed together. I like them juxtaposed. I bring my nose to the blushing blossom on a jade-and-carnelian tree. It smells like jasmine. A sixth sense makes me glance up. I meet Kang's eyes across the room, where he's standing with Sohee and her cousins, a glass of wine in hand. I frown at him in warning—I'd better not find a sketch of me with my nose in these blossoms.

"You've picked my favorite, I see." Aunty Yumi presses a tissue-wrapped package into my hand. "Just a small gift."

"Oh, no, I couldn't." I try to hand it back. I feels like a scarf or other soft cloth.

"Please. Joohyuk is my oppa, Insung's son—my eldest brother. With their family in the States, I don't get to dote on Joohyuk as much as I would like." She tucks my hand under her arm. "You know, dear, I meant what I said. I felt so lucky when Gongyoo found me. Even in those early days when he was still a stranger, I knew everything was about to change. I'm so glad Joohyuk met you."

An irrational part of me wants to wrap her enthusiasm around my shoulders like a cozy blanket. But the dominant, rational part still can't believe how ready they are to embrace me as the One for Joohyuk. They really are as traditional as the dynasties.

And here is where I subtly champion Joohyuk's cause.

"I really can't believe it myself," I say. "I know Joohyuk's last girlfriend was super smart. Comes from a terrific family. Pretty, too," I add, though now my mouth tastes like sand.

"I don't like to speak poorly of other girls. But you should know. Joohyuk is like the giving tree in that American children's book. He gives and gives. He drove her everywhere. Talked to her until three in the morning about her worries, stayed up until morning to finish his homework afterward. Love should be between equals. Equal sharing, equal give-and-take. I don't know if Joohyuk's told you, but he's trying to transfer to Williams. He says it's his idea, but Joohyuk's parents are certain Rosie is insisting on it."

"He's withdrawing from Yale?" He's never even hinted at that. Or has he? I remember the edge to his voice when he told Dohyun what college you went to didn't matter. Come to think of it, he's never brought up Yale himself—Sohee did, and then everyone else.

Is this why his family hates Rosie? Ivy league snobbery? A pox on their shallow houses! He's willing to buck all family expectations, not to mention the far less important World Journal readership, for love.

"Are you monopolizing Suzy?" Joohyuk's hand ghosts against the small of my back, then it's gone, leaving behind a strange flutter of disappointment. But he's being respectful Joohyuk, doing exactly what I asked him to do. Why would I feel disappointed?

"Girl talk." Aunty Yumi lays a fond hand on my cheek.

"Well, if you don't mind, I'm hoping to give her a tour. I came here so often as a kid, it feels like my second home."

"This is your home, darling." Aunty Yumi kisses his cheek. "Go right ahead."

"Sorry about that." Joohyuk pulls me by the hand into the hallway.

"It's okay, I like her." I really don't think we need to hold hands all weekend, do we? I want to ask him about Yale and Williams, but now doesn't feel like the time. "She's so gracious. So positive." The intimacy of her taking my arm, touching my cheek, talking about the give-and-take in relationships—such a contrast  to arms-length Eomma. "I love your whole family."

"Do you? Rosie says they're loud and obnoxious." He flushes. "Sorry. I—Shouldn't have said that."

Because he's comparing us?

"They are, I guess," he adds. Protecting Rosie again.

"What are you playing at, Joohyuk?" Sohee snaps. She's coming from the living room, Kang in tow. is pinched. I pull my hand from Joohyuk, who blinks with surprise but thankfully doesn't press the charade.

"I couldn't take another Rosie-bashing weekend," Joohyuk confesses. "Suzy's helping me out." The gratitude in his glance makes me feel like he's taking my hand back. "I owe you."

"They adore you," I say. "Of course they'll come around. You don't need me to do this."

Sohee pushes open the doors, leading us to the sparkling blue pool surrounded by white lounge chairs. "They worship Joohyuk. Hence the Rosie-bashing. You just saw the whole clan in universal agreement. Imagine the entire clan yelling obscenities and that gives you a picture of last summer. But this"—she pinches Aunty Yumi's package under my arm—"she bought this for her own wedding."

"Oh, please take it—" I shove it into her hands, but Joohyuk's already speaking.

"I didn't expect her to take it so seriously. Or invite the whole clan—"

"You're the only Nam boy! Of course she would!"

"—but when Suzy dumps me for a better man, the family will back off Rosie. They can't say I didn't try on Loveboat." He smiles at me, unfazed—everything's going according to plan.

Except that I can't imagine that better man.

"So Suzy's doing the dirty work because Joohyuk doesn't have the balls to stand up to his family." Kang flips a quarter through his fingers. "Why am I not surprised?"

Joohyuk's eyes flash. "No one asked you—"

"It was my idea," I interject. "I'm happy to help."

Kang catches his quarter. I brace for a barb, but he just pockets his coin and turns to Sohee. "Henry wants to show me his motorcycle."

"Oh, not that stupid bike." She weaves her arm through his. "I still need to show you the roof terrace—"

"Kang, you coming?" Henry pokes his head through a gate at the deck's other end.

Sohee bites her lip as Kang peels free. He saunters over with his hand in his pocket, as if he's perfected a languid stroll out of defiance against those who've tried to hurry him along his whole life. I still don't understand why he's here.

Sohee gives a small shake of her head, then tosses Aunty Yumi's package at Joohyuk. "You better hope Rosie doesn't hear about this. Not if you don't want another—"

"We're in Korea. No one will tell her." He presses the package back into my hands before I can protest further. "Aunty Yumi wanted you to have it."

"I wouldn't put it past Rosie to hire a private investigator," Sohee says.

"Don't even start." The growl in his voice has leaped five points on the Richter scale.

"Start what? Talking about how whipped you are?"

"Just because I try not to jerk my girlfriend around."

"Her insisting on a postcard and phone call a day is the very definition of—"

"Shut up, Sohee! Just shut up and leave her alone for once! I'm sick of taking your crap."

Joohyuk's hands are in fists. Opposing linemen would have cowered from that glare, but Sohee swings her hair to her back, defiant. "And I'm sick of you coddling her like she'll break if you sneeze!"

I cling to my package, desperately wishing I could follow Kang. But I'm with Sohee—why is Joohyuk, so confident and self-assured in every other area of his life, the opposite with Rosie?

Because he's in love with her.

Joohyuk's eyes stray to mine. His lips purse. He's forgotten I'm even here.

"You don't know anything, Sohee." He storms toward the mansion, nearly colliding with Aunty Yumi, coming out with a tray of fruit smoothies. He ducks around her and vanishes inside.

"You children all right?" Aunty Yumi sets the tray on a stone bench.

Sohee swats at a mosquito on her arm. "You now us."

"Then you leave poor Joohyuk alone." Aunty Yumi places a hand on her swollen belly, uncharacteristically stern. "You keep giving young men a hard time like you do—" She glances around and lowers her voice. "And no one good will want you, Sohee-ah."

Ouch. Even my parents wouldn't go that far. She's joking, of course.

But the transformation that befalls Sohhee is shocking.

She lowers her eyes. Two red spots burn on her cheeks while the rest of her fire goes out, as if Aunty Yumi has sprayed her with an extinguisher.

Aunty Yumi's not joking.

Neither was the uncle about Sohee earning her MRS at Dartmouth.

My family is controlling, but never talking about boys meant they'd never asked me please them either. Sohee's family is nontraditional in some ways, but uber-traditional in others, especially when it comes to marriage. No wonder Sohee's so obsessed with finding a guy—for the first time, I feel a stir of pity for my glamorous roommate.

"Why don't you girls come help with dinner?" Aunty Yumi squeezes my arm. "Would you like to call your family first, dear?"

"I called them this morning," I lie, taking one of her shakes. God, I miss Sihyeon. I owe her an email. "But thank you."

"Sweet girl." Aunty Yumi my hair with a fond hand as I fall into step behind Sohee, and it's all I can do not to duck guiltily.

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