By the time they drove back into the heart of Seoul, the rain had begun pouring. Lina traced her finger on the car’s frosted window. The silence was surprisingly comfortable.
Jaejoong turned towards her. “Do you still want to go to the zoo?”
“The animals are probably seeking shelter from the rain.”
“Oh you’re so clever Jaejoong. But no, I want to go.” She looked at him slyly and teased, “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of animals too.”
Jaejoong’s cheeks flushed red as he turned his attention back to the road. “No, they just smell,” he tried to defend himself.
The rain was pounding heavily. But Lina didn’t care; she was jumping in the puddles with the kids. Every time water splashed her, she shrieked with amusement.
Jaejoong watched her from underneath his umbrella. She was different from Tae Hee.
“Let’s go look at the flamingoes!” Lina shouted happily, running towards the exhibit
She leaned over the metal railing. “Do you know why they’re pink?”
He shook his head. Why would he want to know that?
“It’s because of the shrimp they eat. Good to know, right?” She sneezed.
“I should’ve known not to let you play in the rain.” Jaejoong patted her head. Taking off his jacket, he put it around her shoulders. He led her into the Reptile Building, away from the rain.
Lina mumbled to herself. “Why am I always sneezing and why are you always giving me your jacket.”
She continued, “Do you know why dogs always pant with their tongue out?”
“Because that’s where their sweat gland is. Their tongue and paws.”
“And do you know why…” she hesitated.
“Why I like you?”
Jaejoong froze. Shouldn’t he have seen this coming?
She chuckled to herself. “I don’t really know either.” She handed the jacket back to him. “Stop being so nice to me. You already have a girlfriend,” she whispered. She wanted to run away like in those dramas, but she had to see his reaction.
“HEY!” He held onto her arm. “Do you know why I’m out here, hanging out with you instead of her?”
“Because…because maybe… Maybe I don’t like her anymore.”
“Here, put this around you first.” He wrapped his jacket around her again. “I… got into a fight with her the other night. Our first fight… and it was about you. And it got me thinking. Why would we fight about you unless… unless I actually did like you.”
They stood there awkwardly. What to do now?
Jaejoong’s phone rang, piercing the uncomfortable silence.
“Oh man. I forgot I had dance practice today.” He looked at Lina apologetically. “I’ll bring you home, first.”
She shook her head. “Work is more important. I can hail a taxi.”
“Well… I should be done by dinnertime. You want to…go out tonight?”
She nodded shyly.
“Come on, let’s go, then.”
He motioned for her to join him underneath the umbrella.
And as they exited the zoo, they were holding hands.
Jaejoong sauntered into the dance room with a silly grin. “Guys, I have something to announce.”
His band members looked up from their stretches.
“What’s up? Do you need to borrow money?” Changmin asked matter-of-factly.
Jaejoong chuckled. “No. I think…I’ve fallen in love.”
They groaned. “No duh. You’ve finally realized?”
“But she’s not Tae Hee.”
They all gasped in disbelief.
“What is this?” Yunho demanded. She was supposed to be Jaejoong’s soulmate. “Four years. That’s how long you had been away from her. And in those four years, you suffered from the withdrawal---we all suffered. And then when you finally met up with her again, you were once again the Jaejoong we knew. And now what? Not even half a year. And you’ve broken up with her?”
Not once did Jaejoong’s smile falter. “Have you ever read [i]The Great Gatsby[/i], hyung? I read it in high school.”
Changmin nodded excitedly.
“I did love Tae Hee. I was madly in love with her. And when we separated, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I built her up. Four years. In my dreams, she was the perfect lover. But…when we finally met, she wasn’t what I had expected.
“We had our first fight yesterday. And that was it. The end of our relationship.”
Junsu stared at him, dumbfounded. “You only had your first fight. My parents have been in zillions, and they’re still together. One fight isn’t supposed to break you guys up like that…”
Jaejoong shook his head. “Why are you guys so insistent. There’s no written law that I’m supposed to be with Tae Hee forever and ever.”
“It’s just that…” Changmin hesitated. “What about Tae Hee? She came all the way back here…to be dumped? Isn’t that a bit---” He cut off his sentence as the door opened.
Yoochun walked into the room with Tae Hee. He whispered something into her ear and she smiled a bit.
They were all lost for words. Just a few moments ago, they’d all been defending Tae Hee. And now? All confidence was lost in her.
“Hey hyung. I see you’ve been busy,” Jaejoong laughed. His eyes met with Tae Hee’s, and their smiles faltered.
“Yoochun. Can I talk to you?” Yunho asked sternly.
“Hm? Why don’t we just say it here? It’s not like anybody’s a stranger.”
Yunho hesitated. “Alright then. Yoochun, what’s with you and Tae Hee.”
“We’re dating,” he responded cheerfully. Tae Hee glanced down at the floor, trying not to make eye contact with anybody.
“Yoochun…” Junsu whispered. Yoochun was so blatantly stabbing Jaejoong’s back, and it seemed like he didn’t feel any guilt.
“Guys,” Jaejoong sighed. “It’s over between us two. This is getting annoying, all the attention we’re putting on something that’s passed. Let’s start practicing.”
Tae Hee looked like she wanted to die. Jaejoong was over her, for sure now, wasn’t he? “I need to go…” she muttered.
“Oh yeah,” Jaejoong spoke up. She froze in her steps. “Yoochun, Tae Hee. Lina and I are going on a dinner date tonight. It’d be awesome if you guys came along too.”
Tae Hee opened to turn down the offer. But Yoochun beat her to it. “Sure. Sounds fun.”
The final blow.
Tae Hee knew she wasn’t over Jaejoong. Thinking of him. Dreaming of him… Missing him… It drove her crazy. And now, just watching him look at Lina, something inside her broke. She wasn’t over him; but he, apparently, was over her.
“So this is Choi Lina, the love of my life,” Jaejoong introduced. “Lina, this is Yoochun and Tae Hee.”
“It’s nice to finally meet my cousin’s good friend.” Lina extended her hand in a friendly gesture, but Tae Hee couldn’t bring herself to shake it. Yoochun nudged her in the side, but she still didn’t move. Shaking it would mean accepting her defeat.
“Uh… how about we start ordering?” Jaejoong suggested, sensing the stiffness.
“So how’re you liking Korea, Lina?” Yoochun asked casually over dinner.
She smiled brightly. “It’s wonderful, especially thanks to my tour guide.” She glanced over to Jaejoong and blushed.
“Anything for my love,” Jaejoong laughed, holding her hand.
Tae Hee stood up abruptly. “Excuse me. I’m going to the restroom.” She couldn’t take it anymore. All that nauseating lovey-dovey stuff? She knew she wouldn’t be able to handle it much longer. She turned towards the exit and ran.
“She doesn’t like me much, does she?” Lina whispered. “Is it because we’re dating?”
Jaejoong shook his head. “Don’t mind her. She’s always like that. Always been stubborn. She’ll accept us eventually.”
Yoochun glanced at his watch. She had been gone for quite a while already. “I’m going to go check up on her…”
“Hey miss? Did you happen to see anybody in there?” he asked, concerned. She shook her head. Yoochun held his breath; she couldn’t have just left, could she?
He ran to the park at full speed, not allowing himself to stop despite his sore legs. She had to be there, she had to be there waiting for him to comfort her. But Tae Hee had once again deceived him. Just when Yoochun thought he finally understood her, she threw a curve ball at him.
Perhaps there were some things they could never share together.