The state of mind I’m in made it seem like a good idea to call Kai and let him know I didn’t appreciate what he did today. But when the question came out like word vomit, I realize it’s too late to undo this.
“I mean, why do you think you can just ask me out?” I don’t think that question was any better than the last. His attempt to ask me out is bothering me more than I realized. I mean, enough to go out of my way to call.
I hear what I think sounds like a smile at the other end of this phone call. “I didn’t think I can? That’s why I asked if I could because I’d like to get to know you.”
I raise both eyebrows and warn him. “You don’t want to know me.”
“Is it because you think I can’t handle this strong demeanor you feel like you have to keep?”
“Don’t do that, don’t act like you know what you’re talking about.” My voice is stern.
“I’m sorry. It’s just, I can see it and hear it. A beautiful woman like you had to go through something to show a strong exterior to the outside world.” He defends himself. “Otherwise, I can’t see any other reason why’d you react the way you did when I asked for your time.”
“See,” I point in mid air at nothing. “That right there. Your ability to be this cocky self absorbed man who feels like can say whatever and do anything.”
He lightly chuckles. “How am I self absorbed when I didn’t care about my car and wanted to make sure you’re okay?”
Once he said that out loud it made me rethink why I thought he was self absorbed and when I take notice that he made his point, I defend myself because I won’t admit my wrongs to him.
“You’re a player, you’d go to any lengths to make sure you have girls falling for it.” I smile proudly as I’m able to redeem myself.
His voice is soft and kind. “I’m a player now?” He sounds amused and not at all upset. “I was more into my studies than girls back in my days. I never imagined I would get labeled this way.” He chuckles. “So, my plan came across like I’m this big shot then?”
My eyebrows pull down as I try to make sense to how he’s...very easy going about all this. It causes me to loosen up from being so tense and my whole purpose to why I needed to make this call is no longer significant. Actually, there truly wasn’t a point to this.
“I don’t know? Just forget I even called.” I’m about to hang up but he quickly gets his words in.
“Yeji, I don’t know what you’ve been through and no one can ever dictate your process of healing except yourself. Once you decide to be free, you will find the old part of yourself or maybe even a better version. I know it’s terrifying to try to allow yourself to truly be happy again but it’s possible. One moment, just one moment in time will reassure you of that. I just want you to know that.”
A while ago I was head strong about giving him hell but after hearing his words, as much as I don’t want to believe in just words...I actually felt sincerity in his voice that it caused my buzz to come down. I can’t deny it to myself but I wouldn’t admit it to him. I wouldn’t want to admit what I went through with someone I barely know, actually to someone I don’t know.
“You sound so sure.” I say quietly.
“Everything is going to be okay. No one will love or be there for you more than yourself. That’s why you have to face your fears and not project them onto people. Not everyone is out to hurt you and that’s something you have to overcome on your own. To be free from always having to protect yourself.” He pauses. “Of course it’s smart to not trust right away but shutting everyone out can be exhausting at times, always having to be a certain way and not your true self.”
Again. It’s not only what he says but how he says it to somehow bring it into perspective for me. I never talked about these things, let alone allow someone to read me this well. We’re complete strangers but he managed to reach over the highest walls I’ve built to make me engage in this conversation.
I exhale out and say, “So, you learn to trust and get hurt again, what happens then?”
He responds, “There isn’t a right answer. It will be what you want it to be, it will be your choice how you react.”
I accidentally snort. “That easy?”
He lightly laughs and replies, “No but not impossible.”
There’s a long pause between us but it’s not awkward. It’s been a while since I’ve had this type of positivity in my life. I used to be such a positive person who had a different outlook on life, everything seemed reachable and possible. But that was the old me and I buried that girl deep, deep, deep inside that I lost her.
“I don’t want to end it like this but I do have to get going. I mean when I say this, if you need to talk or slam phones on someone again, you can call me. I’m willing to listen if you allow me.”
I nod even though he can’t see. I appreciate his insight although I wasn’t expecting it to go this way.
He continues. “Even if you had a couple glasses of wine to call me with determination to destroy me.”
I’m amused of his way to know things just like that. “I haven’t...okay, I did have a couple.” I didn’t feel the need to lie. “Fine, a bottle.”
His small laugh is pleasant and to my surprise I’m able to tolerate him as a person after all. I do realize I’m getting a bit soft and even though I no longer see him as a threat, I stop myself from revealing too much. He already got a lot out of me than I would ever allow myself to do.
“Thank you.” I don’t have to say much for him to quickly catch my reference.
“Take care Yeji.” The way he says my name is with such care unless I’m imaging it. I shake the thought. I’m sure I’m imagining it.
“Goodbye.” After hanging up, I place my phone near my chin and gently bite my lip having an internal debate to what’s next. I can’t believe I did that.
Walking back downstairs I hear everyone’s voices in the great room as they’ve moved on from dinner to enjoy their coffee and desserts near our large fireplace. My family smiles at me and the main jokester of the Seo’s speaks first.
“Did the toilet survive?” Chanyeol’s huge smile is contagious and influences the second jokester to start with me.
“Dropped the kids off at the pool?” Sehun casually takes a bite of his macaroon.
“Gross Sehun.” My mother gently pinches the baby as she contains her laugh.
I roll my eyes and walk up to both of them, placing each one of my palms on their faces and slide it down to make a wiping gesture.
“The kids say hi!”
I laugh as they pull away taking in my joke but still feeling grossed out even if my hands are clean. I take a seat next to Sehun feeling satisfied that I got them back. After being served my coffee, I decide to share what I had my mind made up on upstairs.
“I’ll do it.” I look at Sehun. “I’ll do the date.”
Everyone is staring at me, mostly in shock and surprised for so many reasons. I’m starting to wonder if what I’m about to do is even a good idea, but the thing is, I want to try. I’m not trying to go on this date because I want to suddenly open up. I’m doing this date because I want to face my fears and see if my internal strong dislike for men can be put away.
Sehun clears his throat, “Okay.” He his lips. “Can you do Saturday night?”
I stare at him in confusion. “That’s tomorrow!” I didn’t expect it to happen that fast.
“Or whatever day works best for you?” He immediately suggests worried I’ll change my mind.
I nod. “Tomorrow is fine.”
I feel like the sooner I get this over with the faster I can see how much work I have to do within myself. This date will be a test run. I will see it more like a business meeting. So far, my mentality is already not to a good start as I’m calling this date a business meeting.
“.” Chanyeol puts his hand over his heart and squints his face in pain. “Sehun is your favorite brother.”
My mother gasps, “Oh Chanyeol!” She gently nudges him for exaggerating his feelings and causing a fake scare. “Always being so dramatic!”
He defends himself. “Am I? She’s always easy on him but if I tried to set her up, you’d have a murder case.”
I laugh. “Imagine how much more peace and quiet we’d get without your loud here.”
He smiles widely and shakes his head. “Do you see this?”
Chanyeol stares at our mother and we all just laugh at his reaction, he gives jabs but he gets all sensitive when jokes turn on him.
As we start to banter amongst each other, I do notice how I’m laughing and joking with my family once again. I’m not sure if it’s because Sehun is here and he gives us a reason to all get together and be like this, but this moment right now is what I’ve missed. I smile and stare at the three most important people to me. Their presence and love gives me a sense of hope that things are going to be like before. I take a sip of my coffee as it dawned on me that perhaps this is what Kai was talking about, this is true happiness.
The acoustic music playing through the speakers in my penthouse fills the quiet new home. I grab my hair to tie in a ponytail and take a look around as I tell myself I’m half way done, just a little more to go to feel like I’ve officially moved in.
Thankfully all the boxes were in one corner where I can easily go through and unpack. There’s a box that’s half my size I’ve been avoiding because that means there’s a lot of crap in that one. I sigh as I decide to cut it open to just get it out of the way and when I do, I wasn’t prepared to find what was inside.
My wedding dress...and inside that same box there’s a fitted box that has photo albums, lose photos, letters, and my journal.
My heart races as I’m face to face with my past. I feel like I’m drowning in this large room and I’m suffocating with this aching feeling in my chest. My eyes stare back at the gown and I have the quickest flashback of all my nights crying and every morning feeling numb.
I’m finally able to move and I quickly close it back shut. I swallow terrified how this is all here, following me. I never knew what happened to these things since I had my mother take care of it to make it disappear. If I knew this box of painful memories was stored away, I would have made sure it didn’t get sent here.
I panic but I try to compose myself. I look for my phone and once I have it in my hands, I make a call to Jinah. I get her voicemail.
“Hi,” I clear my throat. “I know it’s your day off but I have this box that needs to go back to storage, today. Please make the arrangements. Thank you.”
When I end the call, I just stare at the stupid box as I protect myself from the pain I can feel resurfacing. I take a deep breath and tell myself to not allow the negative thoughts to come in. I’m not going to let it find its way back in, it controlled my life for a year and I don’t want that misery, I don’t want to be put back there. I force myself to walk away to go get ready for tonight.
Sitting at the table waiting for this person is making me second guess a lot and I’m thinking of leaving. The waiter passes by and I order Soju. Once he arrives with a bottle and pours my glass, I wait for him to dismiss himself to shoot it down my throat immediately to calm my unsettling nerves.
I’m not nervous about meeting this male my brother somehow thought to introduce us, it’s more about having to go through with this. I need insight and I just think about one person. Strangely. I dial Kai and I feel relieved when he answers.
“Hello?” The background is loud where ever he’s at and I realize I’m silly for calling.
“Oh, you’re busy. I shouldn’t have called, I’m sorry. I’ll let you go.”
“Yeji?” He recognized my voice. “No, it’s fine. I have time to talk.”
“Do you? I don’t know how much time I have and if you’re busy I don’t want to interrupt.”
“Please, tell me.” His voice is gentle.
“So, I agreed to this date. Long story but I’m at the place waiting to meet this person and I don’t know what to do? I decided to face my fears and now I’m...ugh, I hate saying this but I’m panicking.”
I play with the little ribbon tied around the silverware set up on the table as I wait to hear what he has to say.
“The important thing is that you were willing. Sorry, wait just one second.” He pauses. “Now, how about you tell me this in person?”
I see a figure take a seat in front of me and when I look straight up, I see a familiar face.
Kai smiles ending the call. “Now I can hear you better.”
I look at him confused. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m this person you’re waiting on.” He shyly smiles. “I can explain.”
“Yes, you do.” I can tell my eyebrows are frowning from being so confused.
“The day you crashed into me, I was leaving the restaurant because Sehun messaged me last minute to not show up, so I left. He then called to let me know I won’t be meeting you at all so when you called last night, I didn’t see the point to tell you I was supposed to go on a date with you.”
“You knew me already before meeting me?” I have so many questions. “But, Sehun was with me when I called you Kai, why didn’t he say anything or that he knew you?”
He nods. “He knows me as Jongin, all students and colleagues do because no one calls me Kai except my family. I wasn’t sure if your brother told me to leave that day because he mentioned the date to you and you didn’t like the idea, so when I saw you I took the chance on my own.” He hesitates but continues. “Sehun showed me your picture at the end of class one evening because he wanted to make sure you are my type and if I’d be genuinely interested because you’ve been through enough. He wouldn’t forgive himself or me if I wasted your time.”
“I really don’t know what to say right now.” I admit. “I’m not angry but I’m not thrilled.” I sigh. “I guess I’m okay with the fact that it’s you and not some stranger.”
He chuckles. “Thank you?”
“I mean, I just wouldn’t know what to say or do if it was a complete stranger. At least we’ve exchanged words before.” I clarify.
“I did mean what I said last night, I meant every word about doing things for yourself. I wasn’t trying to manipulate you to change your mind about the date. I knew from the moment you slammed that phone on me to respect your decision.” He places his elbows on the table and leans in. “I’m willing to be your friend first over anything, but I’m not going to hide my feelings.”
I’m surprised how open and confident he is right now. I feel a little uncomfortable to his confession because I honestly don’t know how to feel. As I’m sitting here across from Kai, I actually take the time to observe him now. I never took notice of his features and up close he’s a very attractive man. His hair is styled neatly, his attire is full of class and refinement, and he’s been a true gentleman. Wether he’s putting on a show or he’s sincere, I believe his explanation but stay very cautious to his intentions.
We ate our food and had a couple of drinks while we covered the basics but not too personal topics. Everything we discussed felt natural, easy, and flowed nicely. He made it comfortable enough for me to actually enjoy talking to him. There were times my laugh escaped from his jokes or stories but when I caught on how I was slightly letting my guard down, I began to hide my true feelings. I still need to be careful even if he’s been mindful towards me.
“You know,” I politely smile. “For being a junior partner, you’re not so...”
“Uptight, an , a my way or no way mentally kind of guy?” He smirks as I nod shyly. “I never wanted to turn out like them. Imagine taking life that serious, carrying your job 24/7 and not actually enjoying what life has to offer. I can be who I am and still win all my cases.”
I challenge that. “So, you’ve never backed down on an argument or lost one?” He nods modestly to my question. “Great. Then, how many girls have you actually slept with?”
He almost choked on his drink from amusement. “Do you think that’s difficult for me to answer?”
I smile, “Well is it because you avoided the question?”
He smirks, “Is it important to know?”
“That many huh?” I tease. “So, you just backed out of an argument.”
“There was no argument in your question?” He laughs.
“So my question isn’t valid and you still hold your title?”
Kai lifts his glass to salute to himself. “You betcha.”
Betcha. That word just unlocked so many memories of him, of Baek. I freeze as I’m trying to cope with the fact it came out of Kai’s lips. It’s happening, I’m having one of those moments, the one when life enjoys throwing something in my face unexpectedly. I’m trying to come back to my senses but all I want to do is leave.
“I have to go.” I grab my purse and look for my wallet. “Let me pay for half.”
Kai pulls his eyebrows to my sense of urgency to leave. “I’m not going to let you do that. I’ll take care of it. Is everything okay?”
No, I say to myself. “I just need to go.” I leave cash on the table and stand up immediately.
“Yeji, let me take you home.” He stands up.
“Kai, stop.” I quietly snap and it shows that I’ve reached my limit. He quickly catches on and respects that I want to leave.
When the doors to my penthouse open, I see the stupid box is still here. I know it’s Jinah’s day off but she’s still my assistant and she agreed to be on call when needed. It doesn’t matter now, I’m so provoked that I take matters into my own hands. I toss my purse to the side when I open a drawer to take out scissors and walk up to that ing box. I intensely go up to it and rip my dress without even thinking twice, I unleash the pain and I don’t care to destroy it. Any of it.
I start to cry and fight with myself to not allow these tears to escape. I cuss under my breath and grab some pictures to rip them apart and the letters. I get to the journal and for some reason I felt the need to just throw it. My journal goes across the room that it hits a picture frame and knocks it over. When the glass shatters that’s what made me stop, it’s like the sound of the glass breaking made me snap out of my rage. I take a deep breath as I decide to get a broom.
I pick up the frame to take out the picture and place it on the end table for now. I stare at the journal and hesitate to pick it up. It takes me a few minutes before I actually decide to do what I’m about to do. I take a seat and open the page to enter my past, to the very first day I met Baekhyun
| 8 YEARS AGO
It’s the start of a new school year, I’m sitting at one of the tables in the rest area with my journal and pen in my hand. I was going to write in my journal like I normally do but it’s such a beautiful day it’s causing me to space out. The sky is clear blue and the warm sun is hitting my skin. I’m just soaking in this moment as I think about how it’s my third year here and this is the year I graduate, I’ll finally be done with High School.
“Damn, how I wish that skirt could be shorter on the girls' uniforms.” Yieun takes a seat next to me and puts his hand on my leg. “Especially yours Yeji.”
I grab his wrist to push him off but his hand is firm. “When Chanyeol was here you wouldn’t dare to touch me. That’s not going to change simply because he graduated.”
I try to fight him off but he pulls me in closer. He starts laughing at me, almost like he enjoys seeing me squirm in his possession.
“Stop Yieun!” I don’t want to make a scene but he’s giving me no choice. “Let go of me!”
“What’s wrong Yeji, too good for me?” He gets close to my face. “You’re going to be mine again, it’s not over until I say it is.”
I slap him to be freed and it works, I take my chance to get up at the same time quickly gather my things but Yieun yanks them from my hands, he throws it back towards the table as he reaches for my wrist. He grips onto one tightly and pulls me to follow him.
I plant my feet to the ground to add strength to stop him as I try to pull his fingers away from my wrist to break his grip. But he’s strong. “Yieun, let go of me!” I demand.
Suddenly, this guy comes up to us and pulls Yieun from his blazer. “She said to let go.”
That forced Yieun to let go of me so he could get this boy who confronted him.
“ off!” He aggressively pushes the boy. “You don’t want to try it with me.”
“ing betcha!” He sneers and without hesitation punches Yieun.
Yieun loses his balance, most likely from that hit, and goes straight to the ground. Before Yieun can stand up to start throwing his punches, the small crowd who surrounded us are now scattering as they hear campus security making their way towards the scene.
I make eye contact with this person who came to defend me. He looks at me up and down, almost to make sure I’m okay. Seeing whatever he saw from me, he nods and walks away. I go back to the table to grab my things and rush to the mystery boy.
“Hey!” I jog my way and when I reach him, he doesn’t stop walking. So I walk in his pace. “Thank you for that.”
“Whatever.” He replies.
I raise my eyebrow in amusement. “Whatever? Usually when someone says ‘thank you’ there’s a ‘you’re welcome’ after that.” I slightly chuckle.
“You shouldn’t be following me.” He causally turns and I mimic his gesture. I see campus security right behind us trying to get this boy’s attention.
“I’m not going to let you get in trouble for helping. Principal Dasom isn’t an easy lady to deal with. Not speaking from experience, it’s just my older brother learned the hard way.“
“Maybe I want to get in trouble.” He stops his steps and turns around to walk towards security.
I’m speechless, I didn’t expect him to just walk up to the people who will send him to his doom.