Son Jii presses on the doorbell. She waits for a while in front of the black metal door. A few minutes later, the intercom turns on, “Hello?” says an unfamiliar female voice. It must be the helper.
“Hi, I’m Park Son Jii. I’m here to pick up the things Mr. Choi wants to give to my family”, she answers. The door buzzes, indicating that it is opened from the inside. She enters the mansion and welcomed by a long and well-groomed garden. The last time Son Jii visited the house was 5 years ago when Mrs. Choi passed away.
The house had been renovated, but it still resembles its original shape. It is apparently much more organized but… emptier.
A helper opens the house door for her, welcomes her in, “Welcome Ms. Son Jii, please wait inside. Mr. Choi will be joining you in a minute”. Son Jii nods politely and lets herself in. A similar size living room as hers is presented in front of her, but the colour scheme is black and grey. Everything is neat and sleek. Perhaps the motive behind the organizing is to put out as less stuff as possible. No wonder it looks so empty and spacious.
She sits on the long grey sofa, looking around at the big house. From every corner, she tries to collect as many nostalgic memories as possible until she lands her eyes on Min Ho who is walking down the stairs and is only wrapped by a bathing robe. His bare chest is slightly showing and his hair is drenched from the fresh bath.
“Hi”, Son Jii greets him quickly and quickly too, she looks away. Min Ho’s face clearly shows that he is confused by her presence. “Erm, may I help you?”, he asks. “Yes, I’m waiting for Mr. Choi. He said he has something for me”, Son Jii answers without looking at Min Ho.
Min Ho approaches closer and stands in front of Son Jii, his face is clearly still in confusion. “Are you sure about that?” he frowns, showing his perfect facial lines. Son Jii looks up to him and says, “Yes, my mother told me to. The helper also said that Mr. Choi is joining in a minute”. Although her eyes have met his beautiful round eyes, the corner of her eyes is exploring his bare chest. She can picture him being topless just like the first time she saw him.
A silence enters, leaving the room full of questions. Still standing there, Min Ho finally chuckles, “Ahh, you mean me?”, he points himself. Now, Son Jii is the one bewildered. “I’m Mr. Choi too”, he continues and widens his eyes, expecting Son Jii to understand faster. Omo, what the helper meant by Mr. Choi is Min Ho.
“My uncle is away. He’ll be back before dinner”, Min Ho replies and sits across her. This is such a wrong timing. Why didn’t my mother tell me?, Son Jii curses in her heart. Son Jii peeks at a clock behind Min Ho. It is still 12 PM. ‘Before dinner’ is frankly a vague time indication. It means she needs to wait for 30 minutes? 1 hour? 3 hours? 5 hours? Nobody can really tell.
Son Jii clears and says, “Then I should go back after dinner”. Before she can even stand up, Min Ho intervenes, “You can stay, if you want” and shrugs his shoulder. He stands up first and is about to leave the room. He seems like he does not care what Son Jii will do or even if she is there. She can only freeze because she does not know what to do or say.
“Have you eaten?”, Min Ho turns around. “Erm, no”, Son Jii answers, too quickly. It’s true, how could she have lunch when Ah Roo had occupied her? Min Ho tilts his head, signing Son Jii to join him to the kitchen. Like a dog, Son Jii just follows what he orders.
The kitchen is connected to the dining room, similar to the layout of her house. The dining table is empty, with no lunch served at all. Seeing that, Son Jii wonders if the helpers at her house had the lunch prepared for her. If they had, which is likely, it would be unfortunate since she will not be spending lunch at home.
Son Jii keeps tailing on Min Ho as he goes into the kitchen. He grabs a pan and put it on the stove. Then, he takes out an aluminium bowl and a whisker. Seeing him preparing, Son Jii feels the urge to contribute, “Do you need any help?”. Min Ho shakes his head and remains focused on the stuff he’s been doing. Neither saying anything nor telling Son Jii to take a seat.
It is awkward to just stand there, beside him, being helpless. Son Jii then takes a seat on a barstool at the kitchen island. She watches Min Ho from behind, with his broad shoulder, cooking skilfully. It is obvious that he cooks often. He can do multiple things at one go; preheat the oven, preheat the pan, whisking the egg, etc.
Son Jii hates the awkwardness. She tries to break the silence by saying, “Don’t you need to change clothes first though? The robe will catch on the food’s smell”. Min Ho is startled by a sudden and blunt question, but he does not turn to face Son Jii. “I always do it this way”, he says calmly and adds, “Or do you just want to see me change?”. Son Jii tries to process the answer and finally realizes that it sounds wrong. She does hope she understands it wrong.
“Erm, no”, she answers quietly. Yes, I better be quiet, she thought. Making a conversation won’t work for Son Jii today.
20 minutes is the approximate time he took to finish the cooking. Min Ho turns to the kitchen island and starts plating the meal. He throws an even number of baked potatoes into two plates and later on, puts in the omelettes. Lastly, he garnishes them with salad on the side. Classic.
The plate looks too perfect for a homemade meal. Son Jii still doesn’t understand why he would cook when he got the helpers. “I hope you don’t mind breakfast for lunch”, Min Ho says as he passes the plate to her.
“Not at all. I like omelettes”, she answers. The only exists in the room is the clinking sound of the forks and knives. Min Ho keeps on standing across her as she eats. The room, once again, is filled with uncomfortable silence. Nonetheless, Min Ho does not seem to be bothered with it.
When the first bite of omelette enters Son Jii’s mouth, she can’t help but groan inside. The softness and the savour of the egg are too perfect for a home cook. Perhaps, this is another chance for Son Jii to break the ice, “How did you learn to cook so well?”
“Hmm.. by myself?”, he answers while looking up to Son Jii, pierces her right through his eyes. “I taught myself to be a chef when I was 17. Quit school and started working right away”, he continues. Son Jii was intrigued and, this time, looks at him in the eye, “How did your family respond? I mean, it’s a bold choice to quit school, isn’t it?”
Min Ho stays quiet and looks down at his food. After a while, a smirk appears on the corner of his lips and he turns to Son Jii, “What happens if I tell you they didn’t agree? Would you be inspired to turn against your parents too?”
His words are confusing but painful at the same time. Min Ho sees right through Son Jii. He notices how Son Jii’s life and dream is suppressed, just in one meeting. No matter how much true are Min Ho’s words, she doesn’t like being confronted like that. It isn’t fair for him to say those things to her when they barely know about each other.
Speechless, Son Jii can only stagger, “What d-do you mean-“ “Aren’t you here because your mother told you to?”, he continues. Min Ho doesn’t seem to care a bit how his words would make Son Jii feels.
Hearing him out makes Son Jii fuming red. She is embarrassed but also annoyed by his rudeness. How dare he. Son Jii drops her cutleries on the plate, stands up and faces Min Ho without a flinch. “That’s very rude for you to say. You don’t know me”, she answers sternly.
Min Ho doesn’t back down. He replies, “Am I saying anything wrong, lady? Tell me”. He then stands up, picks up his plates and turns to his back while dumping his dish to the sink. “Oh, Min Ho, I’m sorry that not everybody is as lucky as you, as free as you”, Son Jii says sarcastically.
He keeps on washing his dishes, not giving Son Jii another word to burn. Seeing him grows quiet, Son Jii drives into frustration. “Oh, you know what. I should’ve waited for your uncle at home”, her final words say. Then, she storms off the house.
Meanwhile, Min Ho, sinks into silence.