“You’re running late today.” His dad remarked when he walked in.
“Sorry.” Jongin apologized.
The dinner table was set. The family was waiting for him. Walking over he put down his briefcase and joined them.
“He was probably spending time with his girlfriend.” Sahyeon cocked a grin.
In fact, he had not. He’d hidden around a bakery, waited, peeked back toward the entrance to the underground subway and watched until the girl in the gown came up, turn every which way in search of him. Assuming he was gone, she grabbed a cab and disappeared. She had huffed. Was worked up, cheeks blown to colors ranging deep pink and light red. Her hair was tousled. She looked haywired, in a daze. Maybe she was a loony on drugs.
But his mom repeated, “Girlfriend?”
A sound emanated from his father’s throat.
“She better be better than the last one,” his mother commented with an edge.
Heat rose up the back of his neck. Jongin hated this. Put on the spot. The blame landing on him.
“Mom, enough.” His older brother came to his defense.
“Well, he should know. Why can’t he be like you when it comes to women.” his mother continued. “For a prosecutor, you’d think Jongin’s foresight would be sharp. He should be able to read who’s good and who’s bad. But he made such a mistake and look at the outcome.”
The atmosphere thickened uncomfortably.
Driven now, his mother’s motors kept running. “Take Nagyeom for example. She’s smart and intelligent. Her choice of career has benefitted her and Jeonghun. When she decides on something, she’s careful about weighing consequences before diving into it. But Aeri? She couldn’t even stay in law school! Getting pregnant so young! Her life won’t take her anywhere. She won’t amount to much. Her husband will have to work three times as hard to provide for the child, her, and then himself. You’re lucky there, Jongin. So you should stop being impulsive when it comes down to finding a woman attractive. She wasn’t even pretty.”
Taking a moment’s breather, she continued spitting, “Look at your Aunt Bora’s son. He dated on and off. No stable relationship. Now he’s not even married and asks for money every month. Don’t be like him. Do you hear me?”
Jongin was sick of it. The continuous comparison. Next week it might be Uncle Jae’s oldest son who had a stable relationship lasting over five years, happy children. Having dated a girl for a decade. Waited until they both had steady jobs before tying the knot. Be like him. Think about how good he has it the next time you want to crash into a relationship.
Sighing as he folded his blazer over the back of his desk chair, Jongin’s head rose when the door creaked open.
“Hey.” It was Sahyeon. “You ok?”
Jongin reached up to his shirt. “I’m fine.”
“Don’t take it too roughly.” He comforted.
“I won’t. Thanks.” Jongin smiled and listened to the door close. Taking a breather as his hands dropped. Just when he thought about sitting down the door opened again. This time it was Jeonghun.
“Shouldn’t you be getting ready for bed?” Jongin wondered. Married man his brother was, after a tedious day at work he’d want to spend the rest of the evening with his wife. Wasn’t it like that?
“Mind if I sit?” he asked.
Born five odd years before Jongin, his brother took more after his mother. Horoscope, same birth month, and all that superstitious belief. He got along with mom. He got along with dad. He did everything they wanted or maybe it was everything he did they liked, because he was their firstborn. Perhaps being the first child had its own clicks.
It shouldn’t matter. This was his brother. Jeonghun had always looked out for him even though they were never in the same school at the same time. Being older, Jeonghun graduated way before Jongin got promoted to the next class.
Their relationship held a balance. Where Jongin lacked, his brother was ready to swoop in any time of day. He was a leader and probably the next foundation of the family after their father passed.
Except for the blood that ran in the stream of their veins, they looked nothing alike. Jeonghun had rougher edges to his egg-shaped face. Cheeks not so profound, so he appeared kind of glum in a handsome way. Most likely because of those lips that seemed to smile even if he wasn’t smiling. Kim Jeonghun was charming.
Gesturing toward the bed, Jongin said, “Help yourself.” then took the desk chair.
“Don’t take mom’s words to heart. You know that’s just how she is.” His older brother assured. “Once she starts, she has to keep going.”
Nodding to the next room, Jongin told, “Sahyeon just pretty much already said that.”
“Growing up with mom, I’m pretty sure he’s had the same kind of treatment.” Jeonghun grinned, which elevated Jongin’s mood a bit. “Regardless what mom thinks, I want you to know I think Aeri was a fine girl. What others think shouldn’t be a reflection of what you feel. Ok?”
“I know.” Jongin answered. “I just hate how she talks about it as if it was yesterday.”
Jeonghun crookedly smiled understanding. “Anyway, how’s work been?”
That was when he finally recalled the cuckoo he’d met. “Uh…well…nothing I can’t handle.”
But the next day, she was there. Waiting for him at the front of the courthouse. Jongin almost backpedaled when she spotted him.
Her entire existence yesterday had caught him off guard. Never noticing her before. He was befuddled, unsure how to react.
A sly smile drew the corner of her lip up toward the wayside of her left ear creepily. Today she was in jeans and a dull yellow t-shirt, her coat open in the frigid freeze.
A loony, he thought again.
With no warning she hastily sprinted toward him, footsteps loudly thudding against concrete. Screaming at the top of her lungs, “Prosecutor!”
Jongin debated calling security for help. Too late, she reached slapping her palms across his trench coat. His frozen breath flushed out of his lips in surprise.
Shaking her off he fell three steps backward. “Are you out of your mind, lady?!”
Pressing a hand beneath her collar bone, eyes as wide as the earth, she asked happily flummoxed, “You remember me?”