Two months had already passed since Jungah became part of the Woo family. She stayed away from her new family.
Zico wouldn’t give up though. The colder she was to him, the harder he tried to make her feel warm and welcome.
Jungah became a total delinquent.
She got into fights. She ditched class. She got into fights with her mother.
She did everything that she thought her mom would disapprove of, besides follow her biological father’s footsteps by intoxicating her body with alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs.
Jungah landed on the cold tile of the girls’ bathroom.
“, don’t mess with us!” The fierce juniors hissed. “You talk like that to us again, and we’ll throw you off the Hankang!” They spat next to her and walked away.
Tears welled up in Jungah’s eyes, but she refused to let them spill. The truth was, she didn’t know how to fight back. She spat words sharp as glass, and she gave killer glares. However, she didn’t know how to fight, so she always ended up as a mess on the floor. *I’m such a loser.* Jungah closed her eyes as a tear spilled down her cheek.
Zico searched around the entire neighborhood. It was nighttime, and Jungah still hadn’t come home. Ms. Han was worried sick. Zico assured her that he would find her. Zico arrived at Eunkwang Middle School. “JUNGAH! JUNGAH!” He went around calling her name. *Where the hell can she be?*
Zico spun around and halted. Sitting desolately on the bleacher was Jungah. She was just staring at the ground with a forlorn expression.
Relief rushed through his chest. *I found her.* Zico jogged over, “Jungah! How can you be out here when everyone is looking-“
She looked up. He stopped with wide eyes.
Her pretty face had become a complete wreck. Her lips were split and bleeding. There was a black bruise around her left eye, and a gash was on her right cheek. Her uniform was soiled, and several bruises covered her right leg.
Zico softened. *She got into another fight…and she lost again.* His lips pressed into a thin frown. Zico stormed over and grabbed her wrist. He yanked her up and began dragging her away.
“I’m not going home!” Jungah hissed.
“I’m not taking you home! You need to learn a lesson!” Zico snapped back.
“Who do you think you are?! My father?! Let go!” Jungah yelled and hit his arm repeatedly, but he still didn’t loosen his grip on her.
Zico dragged Jungah into a dark room. She yelled and struggled. He switched the lights on. Jungah looked around and stopped thrashing. Her eyes widened. *Why are we in a boxing studio…? Oh God. Is he really going to hit me?*
She stiffened as he dragged her towards a red punching bag. Then he did something surprising. He released her. “Hit it.”
“…What?” Jungah looked at him as if he was out of his mind.
“You heard me.” Zico stepped back and nodded at the punching bag, “Hit it. Give it your best shot.”
Jungah was confused. *Why does he want me to hit the damn bag?*
“Go on.” Zico encouraged.
Jungah faced the bag. She curled her into a fist and socked the bag. It swung a little bit.
“Harder.” He said. Jungah gritted her teeth and put a little more strength into the punch.
“Harder.” Zico instructed.
Jungah pinched her eyebrows together and squeezed her fist. With a yell, she punched the bag once.
Her knuckles collided hard with the bag and pain shot up her arm. “!” She yelled as tears blurred her vision.
“You’re not supposed to punch like that.” Zico appeared behind her. He grabbed her small hand and helped her make a good fist. Her eyes widened at the close contact. For some reason, her cheeks burned and heart fluttered. Jungah stared at Zico. He locked eyes with her.
“This is how you punch.” Zico turned her body towards the punching bag. He grasped her wrist and stretched her arm out. Her knuckles grazed the hard punching bag. “Put all your strength into your hit. Not just in your hand, but in your arm also. Got it?” Zico turned his head to confirm with her.
Jungah in her breath. His face was so close. She felt her face became hot. *What the hell is wrong with me?! Am I blushing?! Damn. He better not notice!*
Zico stepped back and released his hold on her, “Go on. Hit.”
Jungah inhaled and prepared herself. Then when she was ready, she punched the bag. The hit felt more solid than before.
“Good.” Zico nodded in approval. “Keep going.”
Like that, Jungah punched all her stress out. All her resentment, fury, and misery were poured into the bag. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore and collapsed in exhaustion. Jungah dragged herself to the boxing ring and leaned against it.
Zico came over and held out a cold bottle of water, “Good job. I knew you had it in you.”
Jungah took a long gulp of the water. Some of the water dribbled down her chin. She took the bottle off her lips and wiped the extra water off with the back of her hand.
Zico snatched the bottle from her and downed rest of the water.
Jungah curiously gazed at him, “Do you…know how to fight?”
Zico smirked, “Hell yeah. Like you heard before, I’m the jjang.” He gave her a wink and capped the bottle close. “Now if any of those es mess with you, you can actually fight back instead of getting your whooped.”
She frowned. “I didn’t get my whooped.” “Surrre.” He mocked.
Jungah was about to start another argument with him, but Zico scooted closer. He leaned in closely to her face, and her heart started to beat madly.
“W-what?” Jungah stammered.
Zico squinted his eyes and peered closely at her face. He reached out and grazed her cut with his thumb. Jungah winced in pain. “Aigoo, tsk tsk.” Zico clucked his tongue, “Who messed up my sister’s pretty face like this?”
The word ‘sister’ just swept right over her head. Jungah couldn’t stop staring at the handsome face in front of her. Her heart raced faster and harder. She swallowed hard as he gave her a sweet smile while lightly pinching her cheek. “It’s okay. To me, you still look beautiful.”
*Oh God.* Jungah couldn’t stop the somersaults in her stomach.
Zico hugged his knees against his chest and looked up at the ceiling. “Look! One of the lights are broken!”
But Jungah didn’t look up. She continued to gaze at her stepbrother in a new, affectionate way. *I can tell…he sincerely cares for me.*
“…And that’s when I knew I was in deep .” The present Jungah finished as she gazed out at the ocean ahead. “I didn’t know I would fall in love with anyone, especially my own goddamn stepbrother.” Her gaze softened. “But I don’t regret it. Without him, I’m a mess. Trust me. I was far worse than this. Zico was the one who made me open up. No matter what, he was always there for me.” *And I will never forget that. It’s deeply embedded into the core of my heart.* She played with the string on her hood.
Kris observed her. He could tell how much Zico had impacted her life.
“The past doesn’t matter to me. As long as it doesn’t with me in the present, I don’t know why I should pay heed to it.”
*No wonder she told me that. Zico was her stepbrother in the past. And now, at least to her, he’s not. So the fact that he was once related to her doesn’t matter to her at all. That’s how much she loves him.*
Jungah pushed herself away from the fence. “I’m done with the sea breeze. Let’s go home.” She started walking the way they had come from. Kris glanced out at the ocean once then followed her.
By sundown, they were back in Seoul. Kris pulled over in front of her apartment and turned the engine off. Jungah stepped out of the car, and he followed suit. “Thanks for the coffee…although it was my turn to buy it. You know,” She placed her hands on her hips and gave him a look, “I’m starting to think you’re doing this on purpose.”
Kris smirked, “You think?”
Jungah rolled her eyes, but her lips hitched upwards. She gave a careless, yet friendly wave, “Night. Don’t get into an accident on the way home.”
“If I do, I expect to see you at the hospital.” Kris reminded.
Jungah gave him a look, but her eyes were kinder. She disappeared into the building.
Kris went back into his car and turned the engine on. He looked back up at her apartment and softly smiled. *Listening to you ramble about Zico made me realize three things. One, I’m the total opposite of him. Two, I will never be able to replace him in your heart. And three, even knowing all that, I still can’t give you up. I must be insane, but I’ll try my best Han Jungah. In the end, I’ll win your heart.*
Jungah went into her apartment and turned the light on. With a quiet sigh, she ped her jacket. Before she took it off, she checked her pockets to get rid of anything inside there. Jungah felt paper between her fingers and pulled the object out. Her eyes widened at the five-dollar bill. *When did he put this money in my jacket?!* She shook her head in disbelief. Jungah took out her phone and texted him right away.
‘Do you have a problem with my money? Why won’t you let me pay you back?’
Kris smiled at the message and texted back. ‘Then I won’t have an excuse to meet up with you.’
Jungah raised an eyebrow. *What does he mean?*
“It matters to me because the girl that I love may be infatuated with her own goddamn brother!”
She remembered Kris’s outburst, and her eyes rounded. Her heart fluttered at the sudden epiphany.
*Kris…is in love…with me? No…he’s probably bullting. Right…?*
She squeezed the phone in thought.