It was already fall. Time flees easily as I barely caught up with it. A great year passed by but my life is still the same. I hoped this summer would be like its previous, but apparently I was too greedy.
I always found autumn fascinating. Though everything is left unfinished, we have to find some time to admire the leaves turn. That day - it was early September; I offered it to my mind, expecting Mother Nature to surprise me. Instead, fate surprised me.
I took a sit on a bench in Dosan Park, the trees were covered in red and gold leaves. The days grew colder as a cold breeze touched my face and played with some strays of my hair. I was lost in my memories: having a wonderful summer due to a stranger, improving in my career and developing in my personal life but turning to my previous life before that magical summer.
Indeed I had a failed relationship that I come to appreciate as a good experiment that through it, met a new friend Jung Joon Young. He’s a photographer and a really fun and easy person to be around. I also got closer to Park Eun Ji a sunbae that I grew fond of.
A little boy caught my eyes; he was jumping trying to catch the falling leaves. He suddenly fell and started crying. I stood to go check on him but a young man beat me to it.
I froze, at the sight of the guy. He gently checked the boy’s knees blowing on it, and then lifted him in his arms with a bright smile. I followed him with my eyes. How long has it been? A year and two months! Sure time flees.
I laid down in my bed, what is happening to me? I thought I got over him and he was just an interesting journey I lived.
Two weeks past. I convinced myself that I turned the page once I left. How did he take it? I was curious but contented with the fact that he was taken. What if he wasn’t? It was a headache.
“We have guests today.” Announced the director, I was expecting a celebrity or a politician. I was peeking through the door with Eun Ji. Seeing kids walking in was kind of choking.
“We’re babysitting today.” She looked at me confused, and after pushing me see, she turned with her hand covering .
“You have to see their teacher; I don’t mind babysitting with him.” I rolled my eyes, her and her thoughts.
I wasn’t curious to see the teacher, I already knew one. And when I say he is the dream teacher to any innocent child or woman.
I was memorizing my weather presentation. The director walked in catching our attention. Little kids walked after in pairs smiling. They stopped and bowed.
"Third degree in Shin Hak Elementary school. Thank you for having us." I and all the females there giggled, they seemed well mannered.
"Moon Chae Won-sshi" the director caught my attention. "This little girl will feature in your weather broadcast." she walked to me and bowed. "Good evening. I'm Lee Hyeri, nice to meet you unnie."
"Her teacher will help her memorizing her lines, just keep her company while we show the others the station." I didn’t know why she was left with me while he others left, I felt kind of burdened but she was really polite. She surprised me though when she told me she has a boyfriend.
"I’ll introduce u to him unnie. But don't fall for him!"
"Arrasseo, unnie won't steal him." I giggled imagining myself with a seven years old boy. Man I can be his mother.
"My oppa is really tall. He's sweet and really caring. Whenever I had troubles and cry, he hugs me and gives me a piggyback ride and cheers me up." Damn that little girl was making me seriously jealous.
I dozed of laying my head on the table. I had 2 hours till my presentation is filmed and then I was free to go. Hyeri was playing with my laptop. I heard her jumping from her sit "oppa" she cheered running to a man who kneeled to her level opening his arms for her. I froze at his figure.
She took his arm as he stood, our eyes locked. I was shaking and my heart beat so fast. I read in his face indifference. He walked to me with a fake smile. “Hi, I’m Lee Seung Gi. the teacher.” He put his hand for a shake.
“Hi, I’m Moon Chae Won.” I took his hand, it was warm like him. He pulled it off and I shook my head. “Please have a sit.”
I gave him the lines Hyeri was supposed to say. I watched from my desk as he was helping her memorizing, he has a special way which made him more charming. Around children, he’s another person, quite faithful to himself, but way sweeter.
“Good evening dear viewers, for today’s weather we have a special guest. Please welcome Lee Hyeri.”
I noticed she was nervous; she stood still for a minute. I smiled to her to reassure her. She looked the other way looking for Seung Gi. His wide smile gave her strength as she smiled and attacked her lines with confidence.
After the filming she ran to him, her classmates clapped and cheered for her. She hugged him as he lifted her. Before they left –no, I could have left before but waited instead- Hyeri came to bid me farwell.
“What do you think of my boyfriend?” I was confused by her question. “You hid him, how was I supposed to know who he was.” She blushed and looked down. “It’s Seung Gi oppa.” My laugh stopped mid-way, Eun Ji who was next to me burst in laugher. “She has a good taste.”
“Unnie, I’ll ask Seung Gi oppa to bring me here often. Is that okay with you?” She took me by surprise, but I’d love to see both of them again. I nodded and she jumped outside.
I knew Eun Ji love gossips, she probably know everything about ‘our’ guests. I approached her with an innocent smile. “So, what did you learn today?” I asked her quietly. “What do you mean?” she blinked her eyes hiding a smirk, I tapped her shoulder. “Tell me, hurry up, spill it out.”
“So Lee Hyeri is our director’s niece; she has cancer and is pursuing chemotherapy.” My jaw dropped, I never expected such a bright little girl to be suffering. “Her dream job is to be a weather broadcaster; I heard you’re her role model.” Though I was flattered, I felt angry for not knowing, I could have given her a better experiment.
“Her teacher is still single.” She caught my attention. “They say a man looks much better with a pet or kids. I wonder how he looks with a puppy.” I left her to her daydream.
It was chilly; I lifted my jacket’s collar and walked outside the building. It was a nice day; I figured some walk would be nice.
“Chae Won-sshi.” I heard my name and turned, a little pain attacked my stomach as I saw who it was. “Can we have a little talk?” I nodded and he guided me to a small café.
It was a cozy and warm place, suited his personality to the perfection. We sat at a table in the corner. I didn’t know what to say or how to break the ice. His stares pulled a hole in my face, I just kept gazing down.
“How have you been?” I looked up; he was the same nice guy. “Good, thank you. How about you?” he nodded and gave me the menu. We ordered a hot coffee and waited in silence.
After our order came, I dared opening a conversation. “I thought I would never meet you again.” He quietly took a sip of his coffee. “I’m sorry for doing what I did, I was a coward.”
“Telling me you have a week and leaving only behind a letter instead of bidding me farewell?” I sensed sarcasm in his voice, I looked down not knowing what to do or say.
“Why did you kiss me?” my face turned red, I kept gazing down.
"I couldn't face you." I intertwined my two hands to prevent them from shaking; he was sipping his coffee comfortably. He had a girlfriend anyway.
"You didn't answer my question. Why did you kiss me?" his eyes were deep, they reflected hope and despair. "It was the circumferences that led to it. It didn't mean anything." I bit my lower lip. I was an excellent liar next to him. "I see."
Silence reigned. It was awkward and uncomfortable.
"Can we still be friends?" I was surprised by his question. "If you don't know, Hyeri is my closest friend's little sister." he continued. "It was her dream to ..."
"I know." I cut him. "How can I help you?" I was disappointed he waited for me because he had a favor to ask. But I found his act sincere.
"Can I ... have a way to contact you?" He stuttered. I smiled happy to know I have an effect on him. I asked for his phone and miscalled my number.
He walked with me till the bus stop and waited with me. He thanked me for today and waved goodbye as the bus pulled to a stop.
"Call me! We should meet up … for Hyeri." I shouted through the window. He smiled and made an okay sign. I fanned my face in the bus.
Two weeks of continuous work. I didn't receive any call or text from Seung Gi. I kept my spirit high waiting for his news.
I was preparing to go home when my phone rang; I looked at the caller’s ID and panicked. I took a long breath than answered as calm as ever. "Hello."
"Hi, Chae Won-sshi. I was wondering if you have a free time this week end." My heart raced, I was almost out of breath.
"Yes I do. Why?" I anticipated his answer. "The kids want to have a little travel to the mountain ... Hyeri insisted I should call you." I sensed his nervousness. I calmed myself than accepted as calm as ever. He told me where to meet and when.
D-day, it was a one day trip thus needed to go early. I found the kids well stuffed in their coats Hyeri ran and hugged me while Seung Gi was having a talk with an ahjusshi. He walked to me and greeted me. He signaled the kids to get in and assisted them. He land me his hand that I took to climb the high stair, he went in after me.
Under Hyeri's command, we sat at the back of the bus. She was in between me and Seung Gi, and I was facing the window while Seung Gi had another little girl next to him.
The ride was fun. The kids started singing then urged their teacher to sing. I realized he has a sweet and lovely voice.
After an hour and a half we arrived in Deokpung Ravine (in Samcheok, Gangwon Province). Hyeri held my hand and Seung Gi’s as we toured around, the other kids walked in pairs. There are three basins made by small waterfalls, one takes two hours round trip, the second four and the third much more.
It was a walk alongside the Ravine, fresh and clean water running down the valley that reflected our figures. Sometimes it was an easy way, sometimes it was rocks, and Seung Gi made sure to help the kids and me not to trip and fall. We didn’t play with water, it was freezing and we knew it from Seung Gi’s continuous blows on his hand after he touched the water.
We went back to a small local restaurant for a late lunch. I had my first experiment of helping little girls in the bathroom. Indeed when a small girl tucked on my coat with her puppy eyes, I felt uneasy. My face sure reflected my feelings. It wasn’t to the extent I imagined – thank god, I just helped her fixing her clothes after she was done.
I caught Seung Gi giggling when girls made a line for me. I gave him a glare and walked proudly with two holding my hands. He himself was busy with the boys, I felt like we were the parents looking after their children. It scared me, yes. But I plan on having two to three kids only.
The way back was quieter, the children had fallen asleep. The bus was warm, in contrast to the cold outside. Winter was knocking on the doors.
I was sitting next to Seung Gi this time, far from the rest of the kids. He looked happy staring proudly at the sleeping children, and so was I.
“Did you have a good time?” he whispered. I nodded. “Maybe more fun than Jeju.” He made a face. “That’s how you thank me?” I chuckled.
“How is Ga In-sshi?” Are you single? I wanted to ask. “I don’t know.” I turned to him, I wanted more but he kept quiet. “Did you break up?” He turned to me. “Yes, you didn’t know?” I blinked my eyes. “How am I supposed to know? We haven’t met since last summer.”
“Exactly.” His answer confused me. I took a deep breath daring to ask more. “Did you kiss me thinking I have a girlfriend, then thought I’m a cheater and ran away?” My jaw dropped, so he was single back then! And his question about how long I was staying … did he like me back then? I couldn’t talk anymore; I gazed outside and lost myself in my thoughts. I was brought back to present by the bus pulling next to what looked like Shin Hak Elementary school.
I looked around me: children are zipping their coats and fixing their hats. They walked one after another outside. Their parents had been waiting for them.
I waited as Seung Gi had a talk with some parents. He waved to the kids as they went each in his direction.
“Thank you for today. Your presence was a joy to the kids, I appreciate it.” I smiled, he wasn’t mad maybe. I was afraid he would be since I kept silent. “I should thank you for inviting me. It was a pleasure.” He looked around touching the back of his head probably nervous.
“I should go. I hope I can join you in your future trips.” I was about to go, he held my wrist. I looked at his hand; he pulled it and looked away. “I’ll give you a ride.” I watched him running somewhere. I didn’t wait long; he pulled next to me and opened the door for me.
Silence reigned again. The only discussion we held was him asking for my address and me giving it to him. I thanked him for the ride and walked inside my building.
It’s early November, it’s getting colder day after another. Though I knew that day was warmer than the ones following, it’s coldness hit me the most.
Eun Ji dragged me shopping. We spent the entire day spinning in every store and malls. I liked shopping –I’m a woman too, but I’m not a shopaholic, while Eun Ji is.
“It’s the last one. Please, please.” I sighed, it was the last time I accompany her shopping. The last store! It was a two floor little mall especially for formal clothes such as dresses and tuxedos. I left her in the dressing room while I wondered around. It had been a long time I hadn’t bought a dress. The designs were tempting. I didn’t pay attention as I walked until I bumped to someone.
“I’m really sorry I wasn’t looking.” The man apologized. We both froze when our sights locked. “Chae … Chae Won-sshi.” I smiled happy to see him. He seemed surprised by my presence. "Hey, what are you doing here?” It was a stupid question; I chuckled signaling the shopping bags in my hand. He nodded laughing awkwardly.
"I'm here with someone." He said touching the bridge of his nose. "Me too." I added.
"So how have you been?"
"Fine, how about you and Hyeri?" His face changed. "I'm fine, but Hyeri is in hospital." My smile faded. "What happened?"
"She's following her treatment, and since the drug has many side effects, she's kept in hospital." I was going to ask for the address but got cut by an irritating voice.
"Here you are! I waited decades for you in front of the changing room." I saw Miss, Girlfriend Ga In. Her eyes widened seeing me.
"Huh, what a weird fate! We're meeting again." she was wearing a wedding dress. I looked her up and down, trying to compose myself.
"It's seems you're getting married, congratulation." I faked a smile. "I should leave now; my friend is waiting for me." I pulled myself out feeling a knot forming down my throat. What a liar? I couldn't believe I bought his lies! What's with the innocent eyes and sweet smile he was giving?
I found Eun Ji and walked away with her. She kept talking while I just nodded. She understood something went wrong thus drove me home in silence.
I was debating with myself for a week. Should I call him? Text him? At least I should know which hospital Hyeri was admitted to, I also wanted to punch his innocent face. Why does he keep giving me butterflies in my stomach? I hate you Lee Seung Gi.
It was an ordinary day at work. The director called me in his office. "Miss. Moon, I dare asking a favor." I widened my ears. "Do you remember Lee Hyeri, my niece?” I remembered she was his relative, damn this head of mine. It totally slipped from me. I nodded.
"She's receiving treatment in hospital. She asked me to bring you with me. Do you mind?" I shook my head. "Not at all, it's my pleasure meeting such a courageous and bright girl." We agreed to meet after work.
The director walked in first, after kissing her and giving her a stuffed puppy, he told her she has a guest. “Who is it?” She was excited. I knocked on the door and peeked inside. I saw her closing her book and sitting up. A smile curved down her face the minute she saw me. “Unnie, you came to visit!” I walked in giving her a bucket of flowers with chocolate box. “How have you been? Unnie is worried about you.” I patted her shoulder. “I’m fine unnie, how about you?” I swallowed, she lost her hair along with so much weight, she was only bones but keeps on smiling and fighting. “I’m fine thank you.”
We passed a good hour. She wanted to learn some basics about my job which I explained heartedly. We had some laughers and serious discussion.
“How is your boyfriend?” I wanted to see whether she knew he was getting married. “He’s cheating on me.” She pouted, I confirmed it. “He’s getting married?” I asked. “Married? With who? He didn’t get my permission. I only allowed him to love that woman. Without my permission he won’t marry anyone.” She crossed her arms. “Is it so?” I laughed, feeling bad for the shock she would receive.
My days were the same, work-home. Sometimes, I pay a visit to Hyeri. She was getting thinner but doctors said her conditions were improving.
Another week passed, it was already mid November, 19th November to be exact. People in Seoul are already expecting the first snow. It was week-end; Joon Young invited me to a drink. “I want you to meet my two best friends.” He complained I wasn’t giving him much of my time.
I told you I met Joon Young from my previous relationship? Not exactly, he wasn’t an acquaintance to the man I dated, but more to the woman that bastard cheated on me with. He was her boyfriend, and we both took a drink when we discovered it and broke up on the same day.
He knows everything about me, and I also know him too well. He always kept on talking about his two bestfreinds: a girl who is childish but independent and responsible, and a guy who is too nice and falls in love easily but end up being hurt each time. He was the type of cool, cold at first sight but really nice and caring person. Weird combination, isn’t it?
We were supposed to meet at a cozy and small bar. I made myself pretty, and wore a long and warm coat. I put a long scarf around my neck. I checked myself for the last time before heading out.
The day was much colder. I could sense it through the layers of clothes I was wearing. It rained a bit earlier, the streets were almost empty. Winter was making his appearance.
The bar was warmer compared to outside. I hang my coat and looked around searching for Joon Young. My eyes fell on him sitting across a guy I couldn't see the face-since his back was facing me- and beside him a beautiful young girl. Thinking about it, they made a beautiful couple, isn't it?
"I told you don't give too much to women, they are all the same." he reasoned with his friend that I saw nodding. "Oppa, I'm right here and you're talking rubbish about women!" I chuckled, they didn't notice me. "Who's the woman? You?" She hit his shoulder pouting. They were a good match.
I cleared my throat. Everyone turned to me. I smiled as my eyes wandered from Joon Young, the girl than ... My smile faded.
"You're here." Joon Young cheered standing up. I saw Seung Gi's mouth forming an O.
"Guys, this is the friend I told to you about, Moon Chae Won." I smiled to them greeting them.
"Hi, I'm Lizzy. Nice to meet you." Her smile turned to a glare after staring a lot at my face. “I think I saw you before.” She mumbled.
Again, Seung Gi introduced himself like a stranger. "Moon Chae Won." I added sarcasm to my tone. I took a sit beside him.
"I find it ironic how your ex boyfriend cheated on your with his ex girlfiend." Lizzy was an easy drunk girl, her words made Joon Young and I blushing since she pointed to us. Seung Gi kept his gaze on his glass. "The funny thing is how both of you fell for someone you just met in holidays." Great! She pointed to me and Seung Gi. I looked at him who was looking back. We both turned the other way.
"Lizzy, I told you not to drink. Should I take you home?" Joon Young said again, addressing Lizzy.
"So you fell for a stranger, Chae Won-sshi?" Seung Gi asked. I was kind of angry he was using it against me. "Not anymore, it was an interesting adventure." I smiled after I gulped down my glass. "How about you?"
He scoffed. "I did, I fell hard for her. The funny thing, she told me she had another week but just left, leaving behind a letter." I was having butterflies in my stomach ... Again.
"He had a girlfriend; I didn't want to come in between them." I defended myself.
"Oh, you already went between them by kissing him." He smirked seeing my annoyed face. "I always felt sorry for acting selfish, he shouldn't have kissed me knowing he has a girl."
The other two fell in silence trying to catch up with us.
"He was single." He gulped another glass. "What?" I widened my eyes. "The girlfriend asked for some space ... apparently, I gave her too much again."
"Why are you marrying her then?" Without hesitation, I asked the question that hunted me. "Marriage?" The three shouted. "Like wedding?" They burst in laughers.
"Oppa is getting married, congratulation." Lizzy shouted. "Will you marry me?" she started humming. Joon Young excused himself and took her in his arms begging her to keep quiet.
"From where did you get that silly idea?" We were left alone. No matter how much he drank, he was still sober. I couldn’t answer him. He filled his glass brushing his question off.
"So did you like that man?" He continued looking straight to my eyes. "I don't know." I answered, I was having a mix of feelings: I felt angry, guilty, stupid but still ... I knew for sure I have a thing for this man. I was waiting for him to make any move but he didn't.
"You don't know?" he laughed. "I ... I don't know what to say anymore."
"Why were you with Ga In last time?" I was ashamed I asked. He enjoyed it so much. "Why can't I?"
"She broke up on you, but you're still following her and pleasing her!" Wake-up! Was what I meant. He misunderstood. He stood, gave me a side look. “So to women, I’m like a dog.” He walked away. I followed after him running. "Seung Gi, it's not what I meant."
"You're the same, playing with me." He stopped after reaching an empty street. It was 11 p.m, people must be asleep.
"Is it funny? Do I not deserve to receive the same as I give? I always gave my all for what? A rejection after another." I put my hand over his shoulder patting it. He grabbed my wrist. "You too!" He tightened his grab. "You think the same of me, don’t you?" I froze not knowing what to do.
"I ... I only wanted to give you wonderful moments. I wanted to make your experiment worthy. I ... I wanted to be a man you consider." I sensed him swallowing his tears. "What have I done to be ignored?" His stare passed through my soul. I lost control of my beating heart, I lost control of my actions, and I lost control of my words.
"I love you; I had a crush on you since the first day you saved me. I was a coward and acted selfishly … I know." I shouted. "I'm sorry I screwed your life. I'm sorry I was a burden to you." I was tearing up, my nose red from cold.
"I'm sorry I made you suffer. Just forget we met." I turned to leave and took some steps away. I was spun around and pinned to a wall. His right hand grabbed my wrist while his left rested on my face adjusting it. He crushed his lips on mine and I closed my eyes. His right hand moved from my wrist to my hand holding it.
He pulled away; he caressed my cheek as he rested his forehead on mine. His hand was warming mine on that cool weather. Our happiness shone through the smiles that radiated the night’s street.
He walked away from me dragging me by my hand. The streets were empty, only enlightened by some lamplights, the surrounding stores half closed. With a gesture, he pulled me to his arms. He put both his arms around my back. His left hand travelled to my hair patting it.
“I love you too.” I heard him whispering. “I never stopped loving you.” I smiled feeling strangely warm.
We stayed in that position for quite a long time. Each absorbed by the other’s presence. Some flakes, silver and dark, started falling obliquely against the lamplights.
Snow was falling, our souls swooned slowly as we heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of our misunderstanding, upon our young beating hearts, and fresh but hot love was growing.
The day of the first snow means all your lies are forgiven. People say you can’t go back and have a new beginning. But you can keep going on and have another ending, right?