Chapter 24

I Is For Irony

Jaejoong fixed his hair in the dance room mirror.

 

“You’re such a narcissist, hyung,” Changmin teased.

 

“What?  I’m going to go visit Lina after this!  And I have to look good.”  He laughed.  “Did I tell you?  We had our first kiss yesterday.”

 

Junsu chuckled, patting Jaejoong’s hair (and purposely messing it up).  “Oh, you’re so cute.”

 

“Yah!  My hair!”  Jaejoong shook his head.  “Anyhow, she said her favorite dessert was birthday cake.  Haha, even though it’s not her birthday, I’m going to buy one for her later.  Isn’t she so simple?  It’s so cute.  You know?  She’s a March baby.”

 

“Ah, what would you do without her?” Yoochun asked.  “She seems so wonderful.”

 

“That’s because she is,” Jaejoong responded.

 

 

*****

 

He hummed a tune as he strolled down the hospital hallway.  Birthday cake in one hand.  Grape juice in the other.  Life was good.

 

He slid the door open.  “Lina!  Look what I have for you!”

 

 

A greeting.  “Hello…” 

 

But it wasn’t the voice he expected.

 

 

“Are you looking for Miss Lina Choi?” the nurse asked, as she straightened out the bed.

 

 

He nodded slowly.

 

 

“She’s in the operating theater.”

 

 

The cake box dropped from his hand.  “Why?”

 

 

 

 

As he was being led to the operating room, everybody couldn’t help but stop and stare at him.  He looked like he had seen a ghost.

 

But upon arriving… it seemed Tae Hee was worse off.  Red, puffy eyes.  And if you looked closely, they were bloodshot.  She was curled up on a plastic chair, staring at the light outside of the room.

 

Jaejoong sat down beside her.  “You’ve been crying?”  He put an arm around her.

 

“Please don’t…” she whispered.  She didn’t deserve this comforting.  Especially not from him.

 

“Lina’s going to be okay, right?” Jaejoong tried asking.

 

Tae Hee was silent.  There were some things that you  knew but just couldn’t bear to say.

 

“Of course, Lina will be okay,” he answered himself.  “How long have you been here?”

 

“Since she went in.  I don’t know how long.  6 hours?  8 hours?” she replied blankly.

 

“Why is she…undergoing surgery?”

 

Tae Hee’s throat choked up.  Lina hadn’t wanted her to know… so should Jaejoong know?  But she could no longer

 

“She had a blood clot in her cerebellum…and so she…”  No more words would come out.  This was all her fault.  Her selfish whim.  She didn’t even have the right to tell Jaejoong what had happened to Lina.

 

“She what?  She what, Tae Hee?” he demanded, holding onto her shoulders.  This was all his fault.  How could he let her explore Korea alone?  Ridiculous.  And now he was paying for his mistake.

 

 

 

 

The light outside the operating room turned off.

 

A solemn looking doctor came out.

 

 

 

Somewhere deep down, Tae Hee knew this would happen, but she didn’t want to hear it.  It didn’t happen, so long as nobody confirmed it.

 

“I’m---“

 

“She’s gone, isn’t she?” Jaejoong asked hollowly, staring blankly at the doors.  Maybe, just maybe if stared hard enough, he’d wake her up.

 

“I’m sorry.  She had the clot in her brain…and it traveled through her blood and clogged an artery in her heart.”

 

Tae Hee clapped her hand over .  This couldn’t be happening.  A rogue tear escaped and trickled down her cheek.  “Oh God…”

 

Jaejoong put his arm around her, pulling her into his embrace. 

 

Her tears soaked through his shirt.

 

“Shh…” he calmed her.

 

She didn’t understand.  Just a few days ago, he had been raving about how he had loved Lina so much.  He had bought all of her favorite foods, drinks, flowers…  And now?  No response whatsoever.  Rather, he was the one calming her.  And it was killing her.

 

 

Maybe if he had cried.  Maybe it would’ve been better.  She could’ve been the one calming him; she could have fulfilled Lina’s last request.

 

 

But here she was.  So weak.  Lina shouldn’t have asked her to do those things; she could never fulfill her wishes.

 

She dug into her bag, sniffling.  “She…she wanted me to give you this.”  Tae Hee handed him an envelope.

 

He accepted the paper with trembling fingers.  “I’m…going to go buy a coffee.  I’ll get you some,” he lied.

 

 

He pulled the plastic chair up besides the empty bed.  Wilted forget-me-nots were on the bedside.  Her clothes were folded neatly in the drawer.  Unneeded clothes now.

 

He unfolded the letter carefully.  You will not cry, you will not cry, you will not cry.

 

Favorite color: Rainbow, because all colors should be loved.

Favorite food: Kimchi fried rice that I can now cook!

Favorite dessert: Birthday cake.

Favorite drink: Grape juice (It tastes a lot better than grape-flavored medicine, I promise.)

Favorite place: THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH!  (which isn’t really happy, but it makes me happy)

Favorite flowers: Forget-me-nots

 

And the list can go on and on.  But I think we’ll have to stop here.  Since you’re reading this, I’ve probably already left…this place…  Or I might just be crazy since this [i]is[/i] supposed to be my goodbye to you.  Either way, you’re going to have to let go of me…

 

…But I’m glad.  I’m really glad.  Having been able to meet you, the heartthrob of so many girls throughout the world.  Having been able to learn from you.  (My cooking improved drastically, thanks to you.)  And having been able to teach you.  It’s alright to be afraid of kids, but I’m glad you aren’t scared of mines anymore, at the very least.

 

Forget-me-nots are nice.  But like the rest of life, they will wilt and die.  Love, no matter how true it is, will eventually die.  I was never worthy of your love; so all I can be is thankful for the time you’ve spent with me.  I wonder if this sounds a little weird, especially when I’m normally so childish and suddenly I’m writing some deep, meaningful letter…  The flowers will die.  And soon, your memories of me will fade one by one.  But despite that, I hope you’ll keep this suggestion in mind…  Tae Hee is a wonderful girl, who still loves you a lot.  If I hadn’t come into your life, you probably would have already married her.  Treasure the opportunities you are given.  Second chances are hard to come by…

 

…Maybe I’m thinking too much.  Maybe I never was anybody important to you.  Maybe this was more of a way for me to let go than you.  In a way, that’d be a good thing…

 

I want to see you keep smiling; I’ll be rooting for you.

 

Goodbye.

Lina

 

 

He wiped his tears away.  He had told himself not to cry; he had prepared himself for this.  A tear dropped on the letter and he hastily dried the area.  These were her last words to him; he couldn’t possibly taint them.  Lina was crazy; how could he possibly forget her?

 

 

 

She bit her lips, forbidding herself to tear up.  The fifth letter.  She had to make sure this one was tear-free.

 

“I love you so much” she wanted to write; but she knew she couldn’t.  She wouldn’t. How could she stand holding onto him when she was dead?  No, he had to find someone else.  Someone who was always there for him.  Someone his fans would approve of.  And Kim Tae Hee was the perfect choice.  Pretty and smart.

 

But most importantly, she wasn’t crippled.

 

 And she broke down into tears again.

 

 

Tae Hee looked at her watch, beginning to worry.  Why wasn’t Jaejoong back yet?  He hadn’t run off and done something silly, had he?

 

She ran down the hallway, searching for him.

 

 

 

Tae Hee opened the door of Lina’s darkened room.

 

“Jaejoong…” she whispered to his back.

­­

“I’m fine,” he sniffled.  He wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve.  Even in the dark, she knew he wasn’t.  “I’m perfectly fine.  It’s all my fault that she died, but I’m perfectly okay.”  His voice choked up.

 

 

She wanted to step forward and hug him.  Comfort him…

 

But she couldn’t.

 

 

The guilt was unbearable.

 

“I did it,” she blurted.

 

 

His head lifted up and slowly turned towards her.

 

“What?”

 

 

“I did it,” she repeated.  “I killed Lina.”

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