Chapter 8

I Is For Irony

Jaejoong opened his eyes and saw pink.  Pink walls.  Pink bedspreads.  Pink pillows.  He smiled to himself.  So this was how it looked like.  This room could only be the one and only.  Choi Lina’s room.

 

He stepped out into the hallway and smelled food.  Good food.  Liar, he thought.  You [i]can[/i] cook.

 

“Oh you’re up?”  She smiled at him.  Jaejoong didn’t know why, but her smile made him feel like smiling too.  “Since you made breakfast for me yesterday, I thought it’d only be fair if I made breakfast for you.”

 

 

But I don’t eat breakfast, I thought I told you that, he thought.

 

 

“And I know you don’t eat breakfast, so...think of this as a brunch!  Okay?”  She gently dragged him to the kitchen table.  “As you obviously found out, I’m not much of a Korean.  So I decided to get the generic Asian dish.  Fried rice!  And I added some of your leftover Kimchi from yesterday.  It’s amazing I didn’t burn it.”

 

 

“So you can cook.”

 

Lina responded bashfully, “No, I bought the fried rice and stirred in the Kimchi.”

 

 

Jaejoong bellowed in laughter.  This Lina was very smart and very resourceful.  “Well I want to try it anyway.”  He took a spoonful and swallowed it.

 

 

Silence.

Lina looked anxious.

 

 

“It’s...not that bad.”

 

She sighed in relief.

 

“But you know, Lina, that was the first breakfast I’ve had in years.  Thank you.”

 

And again, she flashed that smile Jaejoong liked.

 

“Don’t thank me just yet.  This is just the beginning.  I’m inspired to learn to cook!” she squealed happily. 

“And YOU’RE going to be my guinea pig”

 

 

He gulped.  Maybe he shouldn’t have complimented her.

 

 

 

Over the days, it became a routine.  Every morning, Lina would cook a dish for him to try.  But she’d never make him a dessert; after all, Jaejoong didn’t eat sweets.  Sometimes he’d spit the food slyly into his napkin while she wasn’t looking.  Other times he’d eat every morsel on the plate.  Then they’d go to her work together where he enjoyed playing with the children.  (And surprisingly there were no crazed fangirls.)  And in the evening, she’d go to cooking classes. 

 

It was fun and relaxing.  It was the break Jaejoong had needed.

 

 

No longer did he have to rely on make-up to make him appear awake.

 

No longer did he have to force himself to smile.

 

 

Over the past few days, it was obvious that Jaejoong had changed.  Sure he still loved his Tae Hee.  Sure he still longed for his Tae Hee.  But it no longer hurt.

 

 

“I never told you about Tae Hee, did I?” Jaejoong said one day. 

 

Lina stiffened and stopped chopping the carrots.

Don’t tell me about her.  I don’t want to know how great she is...it’ll just make me feel worse.

 

“No,” she whispered quietly.  Why did it make her feel so awkward...to talk about his lover?

 

“We were high school lovers.  But it ended when she left for schooling over here---in America.”

 

 

Lina exhaled.  That was it?  Two sentences of his relationship with this Tae Hee.  It couldn’t have been that simple.  “Is that why you came here?”

 

 

“I’m still looking for her.”

 

 

Lina’s heart dropped.  “Kim Tae Hee,” she murmured.  “What was she like?”

 

 

Totally ignoring her question, Jaejoong continued, “I’ve stayed here for too long.  I know it’s time for me to leave soon.  But Lina, as a friend, could you help me with a favor?”

 

 As a friend.  Right, Lina told herself half-heartedly, that’s what you’re supposed to be.  “Yeah?”

 

 

“Can you help me find her?”

 

*****

 

Upon being introduced to Tae Hee’s life-wrecker, Laura gave Jaejoong a formidable glare.  This was her lover?  Perhaps it was her bias, but he looked like a girl.

 

 

“Laura, so uh, do you know where she went?” Lina asked.

 

“Tae Hee left for Korea,” Laura replied calmly as she flipped through the clipboard.

 

“What?” Jaejoong exclaimed.  He had come all the way to America to find she HAD LEFT FOR KOREA.  WHAT IN THE WORLD.

 

“She needed a break.  So our head doctor gave her a vacation, four months.  And she left for Korea last night.”

 

Jaejoong tugged at Lina’s arm.  “Let’s go,” he replied quietly.

 

*****

 

With Jaejoong missing for close to a week, Song Hye Gyo, their manager, was in deep trouble.  Fangirls weren’t stupid.  Her excuse that Jaejoong had injured his leg and had to stay in America for recovery had been proven false.  Pictures of him and an unknown girl began surfacing.  Now they were demanding answers.

 

“Hye Gyo, I hired you because I thought you’d be able to control these boys,” declared Lee Soo Man.

 

“I know, sir.”

 

 

“But you’ve failed me.  You let Jaejoong go missing.  HOW COULD YOU.  Do you realize how many angry fans there are?  Do you know how much that’s going to cost us?”

 

 

Hye Gyo nodded lugubriously.  She was going to get fired, wasn’t she?

 

 

“No, I’m not going to fire you.”

 

Oh gosh, this was even worse.  If he wasn’t going to fire her, what else did he have in mind?  You couldn’t expect anything pleasant from this man.

 

“In fact, I’m going to give you another chance... to redeem yourself.”

 

Did she hear correctly?  Lee Soo Man just said he’d give her another chance.  That was just...unbelievable.

 

“And if you fail, you shall be thrown out of the entertainment industry forever.  And you know I’m capable of that, Hye Gyo.”  He turned and handed her a picture.  “I’m sure you’ve seen her, Kim Tae Hee.  Jaejoong’s girlfriend.  Keep an eye on this one.  I have a feeling she’s going to come back.  And keep the boys in order.”

 

 

A traitor, that’s what she was.  Hye Gyo reprimanded herself as she hustled through the hallway.  How could you be so obedient?  She was basically helping Soo Man catch Jaejoong.  After all, if Tae Hee came back, Jaejoong would obviously follow suit. 

 

Maybe she should’ve quit.  Maybe things wouldn’t turn out like this.  But then the boys would be in even more danger.  A new manager would be even worse for them.

 

 

She glanced at the picture in her hand.  Kim Tae Hee.  “So we’re going to meet again, huh?”

 

*****

 

Lina opened the front door with the key.  That was odd, Jaejoong always opened the door for her.

 

“Jaejoong?” She set her cake down on the kitchen table.  After all those cooking classes, she finally had the courage to ask her teacher to teacher her how to make a dessert.  Not too sweet though.  After all, Jaejoong didn’t eat sweets, and she wanted him to taste this.  Maybe it’d change his perspective.

 

“Jaejoong?” she called down the hallway and headed towards the guest room, currently known as “Joongie’s room”.  Cautiously, she turned the doorknob, and the door opened with a creak.

 

 

The bed was made.  Pillows were fluffed.  The sheets were folded.  And on top of the covers...was a note.

 

Lina picked up the paper gingerly.  Did this mean what she thought it meant?  A goodbye.

 

 

Dearest Lina,

By the time you read this, you’ve probably come back from your cooking class with food for me to try.  I’m your guinea pig, after all.  ^^  And as your official test subject, I’m pleased to say your cooking’s improved --- DRASTICALLY. 

 

But...I don’t think I’ll be able to eat your improvements anymore.  It’s been almost 3 weeks since I ran away from the band.  3 weeks since I met you.  Even without going on those fangirl forums, I know all the fangirls are getting suspicious.  So to save them, but more importantly, to save you from harm, I’ve decided to leave.

 

But before I go, I want you to know I am ever thankful.  You took me in even though you hardly knew me, when I had nowhere else to go.  And as cliché as it may sound, you’ve truly changed me.  Whenever you come to Korea, give me a call.  You should know my number.  I’ll take you in no matter what.  I owe you.  ^^

 

So I guess this is a goodbye.

Your friend, Jaejoong

 

P.S. I don’t know how you’re going to break this to Peggy, but good luck!

 

 

Lina smiled as she read the last sentence.  Peggy was her preschool student who had almost automatically taken a liking to Jaejoong.  After spending a school day with him, she had declared him as her “hubby”.  Jaejoong, playing along, bought her a plastic ring.  And ever since then, Peggy was inseparable from Jaejoong.

 

 

She sighed and looked at the ceiling, the note still in her hands.  Ah, how did she know this was too good to be true.  She had expected it; so even though he left without a real goodbye, it didn’t really hurt.  She had been preparing for this event.  Too good to be true, she shook her head.

 

 

She trudged to her room.  Opening the door, she found a bouquet of forget-me-nots on her dresser.  And another note.

 

 

I know I probably shouldn’t have even come in here, but I’ve never done a “treasure hunt” goodbye, so I wanted to try.  Even if you try forgetting me, you’ll have to find all my notes first.  ^^ They’re your favorite flowers, right?

 

P.S. I suggest you go to the garden next.

 

 

Lina ran out of the door, searching for the next note.  Hidden between freshly planted forget-me-nots was her prize.

 

Now I’m really wondering if I’m going too far.  I know I don’t have any right to plant these for you, but these are your favorite after all.  Remember when I first met you?  You were crying over the wilted flowers.  So think of this as starting afresh.  You don’t need that ex-boyfriend of yours.

 

 

She laughed.  He really didn’t have the right to plant those flowers.  Didn’t he remember?  Forget-me-nots meant hope, remembrance, memories, and TRUE LOVE.  He shouldn’t have given these flowers to her; he should’ve given it to that Tae Hee of his. 

 

Suddenly fatigued, she didn’t feel like searching for these goodbyes anymore.  Wasn’t one enough?  Why was he trying to do this to her? 

 

She crumpled in front of her house, crying, sobbing, bawling.

 

 

His departure had finally hit her.

 

Kim Jaejoong had left.  Kim Jaejoong had healed her broken heart.  Stitched it up.  Made sure it was still working.  He had helped her recover from her break up.  But ironically, he single-handedly ripped it into pieces now.

 

 

 

He was gone.

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