“ALREADY?” Tae Hee exclaimed. This was way too fast. She hadn’t prepared at all.
“Tae Hee, I thought you’d understand...” Jaejoong responded slowly. This wouldn’t work out, would it?
“But Hye Gyo’s been our manager for so long. She’s been so good to us. And what have we done? Because of us, she’s lost her job.”
“I know Jaejoong. It’s just that I didn’t expect this to be so sudden.” With hesitation, she continued, “Don’t worry, I understand.”
He embraced her happily. Tae Hee smiled back...half-heartedly.
A piano played softly in the distance as the grandfather clock struck ten. Two hours late. She sighed. She knew this would happen. Throwing a twenty dollar bill on the table, she rose to leave.
“Uh, miss? Are you sure you don’t want me to pack any of that up for you?”
She shook her head and walked out of the café.
The waiter stared at the disappearing figure and then at the untouched food.
Tae Hee pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and hesitated. Should she call to ask where he was? If he was okay?
There she went again. Fretting over little things. So what if he didn’t show up? So what if she waited two hours. She’d done the same when they first met.
Her cell phone vibrated. She answered it quickly.
She frowned. It wasn’t him. “Hello?”
“Tae Hee, it’s Umma. I haven’t heard from you for so long...”
“Sorry...” Tae Hee lied.
“I heard you’re still seeing that Jaejoong.”
“I know you’re still mad at me for forgiving Ji Hwan.”
She grunted. How could she even compare Jaejoong with him.
“You’ve only dated once, Tae Hee. I had only dated once before too. And then we decided to get married. Look at what happened to me.”
“Umma, you and I. We’re different. He and Jaejoong are different.”
She sighed. “I know, I know. I’m just saying. Maybe this isn’t love.”
“So then why are you back with him?” Tae Hee retorted angrily. She had no time for this. She wanted Jaejoong to call her; to reassure her that he still cared for her.
“Umma, I think I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”
She shut her phone and trembled. She didn’t want their relationship to be jinxed. This had to be love. What else could it be? She refused to believe that their relationship could end. Just like her mom’s.
“Oh I knew you’d understand Tae Hee!” He kissed her on the forehead.
‘Why didn’t you show up yesterday?’ she wanted to ask. But she didn’t want him to frown. She didn’t want to risk losing him with a simple question.
She hated to admit it...
...but she was insecure.
Ever since she had moved to America for schooling, it’d always been nagging at her. What if their love wasn’t strong enough? What if somehow, he fell for someone else? And forgot all about her? And then Lina Choi happened to pop up, her worst nightmare come true.
So she forgave him, just like that. Because she wanted to take whatever chance she was given. No arguments, no yelling. Quick and easy acceptance. As if nothing had happened. Even thought everything did.
She raised her phone to her ear.
“Hello, I’m not here right now. If you could leave you name and number after the beep, we’ll get back to you. BEEP.”
“Umma... I just wanted to tell you that... Jaejoong said he’d make us official...” She let her words linger. She had to say it. She had to let her mom know she was going to be loved. Jaejoong loved her.
She wasn’t going to end up like her mother. Dejected and desperate.
She hadn’t heard from Jaejoong ever since he had told her they would soon be official.
He was busy, she told herself.
You can’t blame him....
...So she could only blame herself.
You’re not being a good enough girlfriend. That’s why he’s not paying attention to you.
Tae Hee sighed. Why was she so insecure? So uncertain that she was willing to visit his apartment in the wee hours of the morning. But she rang the doorbell anyway.
He gasped, unable to believe his eyes. “Tae Hee?” To her disappointment, it was Yoochun.
“Morning,” she greeted.
It took him a while for the shock to settle. “Oh. Tae Hee. Come in, come in.”
She sat down stiffly on their leather coach.
Yoochun ruffled his hair, sharing the same discomfort. Just the two of them together sent shivers down his spine. What if he couldn’t stop himself? What if he accidentally confessed? “The other guys are out. Junsu’s working on a new ANYBAND song. Yunho’s practicing dances. Changmin’s out buying food. And Jaejoong...he’s filming with Han Hyo Joo...” He paused. Their kissing scene was today. That would surely disturb Tae Hee...and perhaps ruin her relationship with Jaejoong. No. He shook his head. He couldn’t. “Want anything to drink?”
“Huh?” She had spaced out. Jaejoong and the hot Hyo Joo... the possibilities.
“Want anything to drink?” he repeated kindly.
“Water would be fine...”
He handed her a water bottle. And with one sip, the tension was released.
Tae Hee smiled. “So what’re you up to, oppa?”
“Nothing really. Composing. Eating. Sleeping. It’s not that bad of a schedule...now that our manager is kind of missing...”
Her head jerked up. “What happened to Hye Gyo?”
“Soo Man fired her. He wasn’t so happy about her leniency with us---especially the whole dating thing. That’s why we’re holding the press conference---” he cut off, realizing he had said too much. He hoped Tae Hee hadn’t noticed.
But she had. Within seconds, she was already interrogating him. “What press conference? The one where I’m going to be introduced as Jaejoong’s girlfriend? Was this all a scheme to get back Hye Gyo’s job? You’re kidding, right?”
“Uh... I think I woke up too early. I’m going to go....take a nap. Help yourself to the fridge and watch whatever TV you want. Sorry I couldn’t talk to you more...” Yoochun fled for refuge in his room. But Tae Hee followed. She slid into the room just as he closed the door. She blocked the door so he couldn’t escape.
“What’s with the press conference? Was this all a scheme? If Hye Gyo wasn’t fired, it wouldn’t be taking place? Jaejoong and I wouldn’t be official? He doesn’t love me?”
Yoochun sighed. This would’ve been the perfect time to tell the most perfect lie. He doesn’t love you anymore, Tae Hee. And then all he’d have to do was watch her break down, offer her his shoulder, and they’d be the perfect couple---better than she and Jaejoong could ever be.
“Ah Tae Hee...” I love you, he wanted to finish.