Monday, February 22, 2010

A Beautiful Mess

A Beautiful Mess

Few are the moments when Keun Suk would like to kick himself in the gut. Today is one of those. The moment his sleepy eyes land on the clock on his bedroom wall, he knows he is a dead man. 7:00 PM! He bolts up from his bed and immediately looks for his cellphone. Didn’t he set up the phone’s alarm to 4:00 in the afternoon before he took his nap?

The dead phone staring at him blankly gives the answer to his stupid question. Shin Hye’s face crosses his mind immediately and he curses himself loudly. Replacing the discharged battery, he dials Shin Hye’s number.

An operator’s voice picks up after several rings directing him to her voice mail. Great.  

He quickly runs to the bathroom and fixes himself up. He knows it is a futile case but as he brushes his teeth and splashes water on his face, he prays, hopes and begs that the hands on the clock are lying and that he is not just about to face up the dumbest mistake he has ever pulled through in recent memory. But when he overhears his omma calling out “Dinner!” from the kitchen, he knows his luck has run out for today.

Grabbing his car keys, an extra phone battery and his phone, he runs past his omma setting up the dining table. “I’m heading out, omma!” he calls out, dashing for the door.


Shin Hye shuts her phone off as she climbs in her brother’s car. She checks the time on her watch. 7:00 PM. Two hours of waiting is too much. The first hour was to give him the benefit of the doubt. It has been snowing all day after all and road traffic has been congested and tight. The second hour? It was just to satisfy her insatiable masochistic tendencies, she tells herself sarcastically.

And the jerk even has the nerve to turn his phone off! She can feel her heart starts to palpitate with annoyance, recalling how she repeatedly called him up when the clock struck 5:30 only to be greeted with a recorded voice saying his phone is either off or out of coverage. The little Pollyanna voice in her tries to remind her that maybe he was caught in a bind and that he has the perfect excuse why he didn’t show up but she brushes it off. This was his freaking idea! And it’s the eve of my birthday, for crying out loud! Her brain just can’t comprehend how he would just stood her up on  a cold, snowy, gloomy, day like this. And her heart, for once, is on her brain’s side with this. This is just too much for her pride and heart to handle on the eve of her birthday.

“What’s with the long face?” her brother asks. She has thanked her lucky stars that he has just finished his guitar rehearsals and was just near the area when she called him, asking for a ride home.

“I’m just tired,” she mumbles, trying to act nonchalant for her brother’s sake.
“Tired from drinking coffee? Was that a meeting you just had in there? But your manager’s not with you.”

She rolls her eyes at her brother. “There you go again, oppa. Answering your own questions,” she teases, sneaking a glance at him. “No, it was not a meeting. I was just… well, I just wanted to be alone for a few hours, by myself,” she explains. There is no need to tell him she just got stood up, right?

Her brother laughs. “Thinking about why you are getting older and older every year? Don’t worry, the wrinkles won’t show just yet. Wait until you’re omma’s age.”

She gives him a weak smile. On ordinary days, she would have loved to banter with her brother some more but right now, she is just not in the mood to trade jokes with anyone, even with him. She just had been stood up by Mr. Nice Guy and her blood boils at the mere thought of him. She feels awful, her pride is crushed, she feels like an idiot and she swears she could kill him with her bare hands if he shows up his face just now.

All she wants to do now is to treat herself to a hot bath, listen to music, curl up in bed and wait for this day and tomorrow to be over. Screw the happy in birthdays!


Keun Suk knows she won’t be in the coffee shop waiting for him this late but he just doesn’t know where to start looking for her. So he walks in, orders a cup, sits in a corner table and dials her number for the nth time.

Her phone is still off. She’s definitely angry with me now. He combs his fingers through his hair and reprimands himself for being too careless today. He was the one who asked for this date. When he learned that she would be working at an event on the 18th, he immediately made plans to celebrate her 21st on the eve of her birthday. “Just be with me when the clock strikes 12 at midnight then,” he has proposed. He wanted to make her day special for her. After all it would be the first time she is celebrating it with him. They agreed to start their date with coffee at her favourite coffee shop then drive to a seafood restaurant at the outskirts of Seoul for dinner afterwards. The waiting for the midnight part he has carefully planned, too, but kept it a secret for her. He wanted to surprise her with it. But now… he laughs at the irony of it all. She really got her surprise alright. I just stood her up.

He cringes at the thought of her thinking just what a jackass he is for not showing up at the designated hour. He got here two hours late. Two hours! Even he himself would not have the patience to wait for two hours for a date. So why would she?

Where would she probably be right now? He wonders. Probably at home, he surmises. He entertains the idea of going after her but he decides to just let her anger simmer for the time being. He just has to plot what to do to appease her. If only he didn’t have to be so stupid to trust his tired body to wake up from a quick nap, he wouldn’t be in this mess. But he just came from a 6-hour taping for a show that morning and decided to go home at the last minute to pick his car and the stuff he wanted to use for his surprise gift. When he saw his bed however, he thought a 30-minute nap wouldn’t hurt and the next thing he knew he already missed their date.

He looks outside the coffee shop and sees the snow falling incessantly. He sighs anxiously. Will it going to be a long, cold night for the both of them? He certainly doesn’t hope so.


The long, hot bath managed to melt away the anger Shin Hye felt earlier that night but it certainly doesn’t diminish the annoyance she still feels towards him. She looks at herself in the mirror and she sees a sad looking girl on the eve of her birthday. So much for expecting this year to be a better one, she muses. The birthday blues, she still has it. She has been feeling it when February set in. And the fact that she has not been seeing Keun Suk as much as she wanted to has further dampened her spirits these past few days. She knows he is busy with his own schedule but she was expecting that he would at least make some time to see her more. Am I expecting too much? Am I starting to grow the ugly head of a nagging girlfriend? She asks herself. But darn it, today she has a perfect excuse to be mad. She got stood up.

She looks at her dead phone and checks the alarm clock on her bedside table. It has been two hours since she got home. Did he really just forget our date just like that? She turns her phone on to find the answer.

Six messages come in one after the other. One is from her manager asking why she is out of reach and the rest are from Keun Suk.

I took a nap and I overslept. I am sorry but I am on my way to the coffee shop. I’ve been calling you but your phone is off.

We can still have dinner if you want. Please turn on your phone, Shin Hye. I know you’re angry and my reason is lame but it’s the truth.

Are you home? I’m thinking of coming over at your house but if you’re mad…please, I want to make it up to you.

I’m stuck here at the coffee shop. I can’t move my car, snow on the pavement is too thick. I had to ask my manager to pick me up with his bigger car. Where are you?

I just talked to your manager. He said he can’t reach you either. If you really don’t want to see me now, just get home safely, okay? But I will still wait for your reply. Our date still stands.

Shin Hye snorts at the last message. Date, what date? He overslept. That was such a lame excuse to be a lie, she thought and feel her anger simmering a little. She knows how precious sleep time is to entertainers/actors like themselves. It is like water to a weary desert traveller. And on better days, she could totally forgive that kind of slight. But not today. Not that fast. Is this all you can do to appease me? Five text messages and you expect me to smile and go on with our date like nothing happened? Try harder.
Then a call from Keun Suk comes in. She picks up at the fifth ring.

“Shin Hye,” his distinct voice greets her. She hears a little meekness in the way he speaks her name but she dismisses it, refusing to be swayed.

“Two hours. I waited for two hours,” she tells him, her voice curt and her tone very formal.

He winces on the other line. When Shin Hye speaks to him formally and drops the ‘oppa’ in her speech, he knows she is awfully pissed at him and just trying her darnest best to be civil.

Mianhe. I really am. I want to see you tonight. Please let me make up to you. We still got time,” he says, ignoring her tone. “I can pick you up right now. I’m still on the road anyway.”

“I’m tired. I just want to sleep. You know I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.” I will be working on my birthday, you idiot. I hope you remembered that before you fell asleep. She wants to see him, too but her pride is telling her she ought to make him struggle more, prove his sincerity more. This is just the perfect time to see how far he would go to make her feel important. She is not keeping her hopes up that much but hell, after being late for two hours on a date, he can’t really expect her to be won that easily, right?

She hears him sigh on the other line. “Can I see you first thing in the morning, then? Have breakfast with me. Please.”

She arches her brow at his request. “You just stood me up because you overslept. Do you think I would risk being stood up again in the morning of my birthday? Aniyo. No way.”

“I won’t miss this for the life of me. I’ll pick you up at 7. Or wait, let me give you a wake-up call at 6. Then I’ll pick you up an hour after. Fair enough?” He bargains, using his meekest voice. He can’t stand pleading desperately and repeatedly like this to anyone, much less to a girl, but he knows he did an awful mistake. And it is her birthday, after all, he reasons out to soothe his blistering ego.

Shin Hye remains skeptical at his idea but her curiosity and the eagerness to spend her birthday with him ultimately won over her better judgment. “Ahrasso. Do whatever you like. Walk your talk,” she warns him and hangs up.


At exactly six o’clock the following morning Shin Hye hears her phone ring. She lets out a smile when she sees Keun Suk’s name on her screen. “Hello,” she greets sleepily, keeping her voice low and unaffected like it is an everyday occurrence that he wakes her up in the morning.

“Happy Birthday to you,” he sings on the other line. Shin Hye smiles wider while she listens to his rich, manly voice singing to her at 6 in the morning. Wow, I could get used to this, she hears herself exclaiming silently.

“Thank you,” she says with a smile after the song.

“I’ll pick you up in an hour?” Keun Suk asks, happy to hear that the coldness in her voice last night is no longer there.

“Got it,” she replies warmly and hangs up. Happy maybe a little late but her birthday doesn’t really mind.


She looks at his sunken eyes and she suddenly feels guilty for being angry at him about last night. “You look tired, oppa,” she says worriedly, instinctively reaching out to touch his face with her gloved hand. The early morning is postcard-pretty enough to take her breath away on her very own birthday. Her neighbourhood is covered with snow and the guy she most wants to spend her birthday with is standing in front of her, holding a bouquet of red roses and a cup of her favourite brand of coffee.

“I just need to sleep but that can wait,” he says dismissively, handing her the bouquet and the coffee. “What matters is I didn’t make you wait, again.” He gives her the smile that could thaw the whole snow-covered pavements in her street.

She shakes her head in disbelief. “That smile won’t work for me today,” she wiggles her forefinger at him, keeping a straight face. “Try harder.”

He laughs. “I know. I’m just warming up.”

“So where you taking me for breakfast?” Shin Hye asks, sipping her coffee as he navigates the slippery road towards downtown Seoul.

“Somewhere special,” he quips, throwing her a sheepish smile. ‘But first, I have to show you something at the office.”

She scrunches her nose in curiosity. “Your agency’s office? At this hour? Why?”

He nods. “You’ll see when we get there. It won’t take us long.”

She looks at his face, catches the little mischievous glint in his eyes and sips her coffee some more. This better be good, she tells him silently, hopefully.


It is the first time that Shin Hye has ever stepped in Keun Suk’s agency’s office. The office is still closed and deserted at this early hour but Keun Suk seems to be keeping his own key as he deftly unlocks the door to the office and leads her in.
He ushers her towards a small room. “This is where we brainstorm ideas for my projects and stuff,” he tells her as he turns on the lights and switches the TV on. “Make yourself comfortable while I set up this thing, okay?” he instructs, motioning her to sit in one of the chairs. She waits with bated breath as he inserts a disc in the DVD player and turns the lights off.

Standing at the doorway, behind where she is seated, she hears him heave out a nervous sigh, “This is what has kept me awake all night.” He then turns the remote on and presses the play button.

“Shin Hye, annyeong,” the Keun Suk that flickers to life on the TV screen begins. “By the time you watch this I hope you are no longer angry with me. I know it was so inconsiderate of me to have missed our date because I did not wake up on time from an unplanned nap. But I did not do it on purpose. I am really sorry. I know I have not been treating you so well lately. We hardly see each other because of our busy schedules and then I still had the gall to make you wait for two hours, on a supposed birthday date. That is just unforgivable. I can give you valid reasons for acting like a total jerk but I know they will never justify the frustrations and the disappointment you feel right now.”

Keun Suk’s eyes are on Shin Hye as she stays glued on the screen. He wishes she could read her expression but with her back at him, he cannot see her face. He can only see how she tilts her head to the side and bites on her thumb as the video continues.

“I have actually made some plans for my birthday treat for you. After coffee, I would have driven you to a seafood restaurant outside Seoul for dinner. I also planned to be with you until midnight so we can do a countdown for your birthday together. But as you can see, I just blew up my own plans. I am not good in making apologies or begging forgiveness. I couldn’t even tell you all of these in person but what I do know is that I do want to always know what you feel, what is in your heart. I may not always make you happy but I don’t want to always be the reason why you are sad. What we have between us is important to me and I really want to make it work. I’m sorry for making you sad. For not being beside you when you need my presence. But we expected this, right? We knew it would be a bumpy ride somehow given our circumstances. But as long as you want to hold my hand, I will always enjoy the ride with you. Happy Birthday, Shin Hye.”

The screen has gone blank but Shin Hye is still sitting still, with her back at him. Keun Suk moves to stand behind her.

“I read what you wrote last night in your mini-hompy, just before you took it down,” he says, stroking her hair gently. “That’s why I decided to make this video message. I will always have a lot of things to apologize for to you, Shin Hye. When people will ask me who I want to date among female celebrities, I will always give other names. When they ask for my ideal type, the qualities I will enumerate may always not describe you. I will never be able to say I like you in public or let the whole world know that we are seeing each other or that you are the one making me happy these days. And for these things, I will always be sorry to you. But one thing I will never be sorry for are my feelings for you. They are real, not scripted. They don’t last for sixteen short episodes or get axed because of bad ratings,” he jokes, bowing to plant a kiss on her head. “It’s real, it’s mine and it’s for you.”

Shin Hye reaches out for his right hand, bringing it closer to her face. Resting her right cheek on the palm of his hand, she starts to speak. “This is the most meaningful birthday I ever had so far, Oppa,” she whispers in the darkened room. “I guess I have to thank you for oversleeping last night.”

He can feel the dampness on her cheek and he knows he has been forgiven for his sins. “I was so afraid I would oversleep again this morning so I stayed up the whole night doing just about everything to stay awake,” he confesses which makes her laugh in disbelief.

Cinchia?” she asks, facing him with skeptical eyes.

“I have witnesses. Ask my fans. I was chatting with them until six in the morning. I wish I could tell them you were the reason why they had me for themselves at such an ungodly hour.”

“You tell them,” she dares him, teasingly.

Reaching out to pinch her nose playfully, he nods, calling her bluff. “In time.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Nameless Days

Nameless Days

Hong Ki looks at the three soju glasses lined up in front of Shin Hye and shoots an inquiring glance at Yong Hwa. What is this?

Yong Hwa shrugs innocently, clearly at a loss, too, of what is exactly happening. Seeing Shin Hye alone in a bar with soju bottles for company is certainly not one he expected to see when he agreed to meet her here, in a little shabu-shabu bar in the middle of Seoul, at 10 o'clock in the evening.

He didn't even know Hong Ki was coming. Receiving a call from Shin Hye after such a long time of not seeing each other has been a welcome surprise. It has been months since he last saw her at Hong Ki's birthday party in March. It is now July. The months had passed by in a blur. Since his band debuted in January, life has really been a roller coaster ride for him and his band. But this summer, after finishing all the promotions for their album, and after gracing every TV and radio show in Korea, he and his band are finally slowing down with their activities. Just gearing up actually, preparing for their comeback in the fall, but at least he gets some free time to meet friends now. Friends he has never seen for a while like the girl in front of him, who has been in a trance since he arrived, and Hong Ki, who looks like he just got out of bed.

"Let me guess, she called you up, too?" Hong Ki asks him as he inspects the two bottles of soju on the table. One is empty and the other is half-full.

Yong Hwa nods. "Oppa, I need someone to talk to," he mimics Shin Hye's sad voice. "And when this girl calls me oppa, I know she needs help badly. Pronto."

Hong Ki looks at Shin Hye who keeps arranging the three glasses of soju like they are soldiers in a formation.  Then in one swift move, Shin Hye starts to down the three glasses one after the other, in one breath. He and Hong Ki exchange shocked glances, their jaws dropping on the floor.

"Whoa! Down girl, down!" Hong Ki is the first to recover from their shock. He wrestles the bottle away from SHin Hye as she attempts to pour soju in the three glasses again.

Yong Hwa picks up the two empty soju glasses in front of Shin Hye, gives one to Hong Ki and keeps one to himself. "You don't have to drink all of these. Share."

Hong Ki pats Shin Hye's back and asks gently, "What's wrong?"

Shin Hye tries to fake a smile. "I just want to see you guys again. It's been a long while, right? I missed you both," she blabs, then blinks as a tear escapes her left eye.

Yong Hwa sighs loudly. "Nice adlib. That tear falling just now was not on the script, right?"

"Ahjumma, two more sojus here please!" Hong Ki yells, opening their cubicle's door to give his order. "You dragged me out of bed, robbing me out of precious sleep time," he points his finger accusingly at Shin Hye.

"You interrupted me in the middle of writing a potential hit song," Yong Hwa chimes in.

"Let's get you drunk!" the two of them yell in unison.


Earlier that day…

It has been one of those TV guestings he must do to promote his upcoming drama. One of those variety programs where they have to ask interesting personal questions about his life to generate excitement for the fans and a little gossip fodder for the tabloids.

"Keun Suk-shi, when was the last time you went out on a date?" the program host asks him, reading from a list of questions culled from the fans.

Shin Hye sees him hesitates for a nano-second before he answers, "It has been a long time that I can not remember anymore. Maybe two, three years ago. With my ex-gf."

"So are you saying you are not dating anyone right now?" was the follow-up question.

He smiles charmingly at the camera. "Not dating anyone. I don't have a girlfriend right now."

Shin Hye grips tightly at the remote. But did we just spend last Sunday together? Her silly heart asks.

"What kind of girl is Keun Suk-shi's ideal?" the female host asks him amidst frantic shouts and giggles from the fans in the studio.

Keun Suk flashes his famous disarming smile and quips, "Someone like Yoon Eun Hye noona. Beautiful, sophisticated, talented."

Shin Hye feels the familiar pangs of jealousy creeping at her heart. So now it's no longer Soo Ae sunbae, huh? Those netizens are right. You really do change your 'ideal woman' every year.

Then there was the unexpected question from an enterprising fan. "Do you still keep in touch with Park Shin Hye-ssi?"

Shin Hye watches intently as Keun Suk prepares to answer the question. He smiles politely. The he answers the question calmly and dismissively. "Not anymore. She's busy with her drama. I am also busy with my own projects. I have never seen her in a while."

She did not expect him to admit the truth that they still keep in touch. She understands how management strategies work for hot staples like Keun Suk. But she never expected that he would tell a blatant lie. "Never seen her in a while?" My foot! The irrational part of her brain expected him at least to say “I never had the chance to keep in touch with her lately but we are friends so I hope to bump into her one of these days.” Was that too much to ask?

A little voice inside her keeps saying that the Keun Suk on TV just now is just the actor everybody expects to see. Of course, he would not tell the truth about his own personal life. She should know better.

But her bruised heart knows just one thing. Keun Suk hates to lie, even on TV. And he was actually telling the truth when he said he does not have a girlfriend right now.

He did say an outright lie, though. They do more than keep in touch these days. They see each other frequently whenever their schedule permits. They call and text each other between shoots and schedules. They have been going out on clandestine dates for God's sake. They have even shared a few kisses already. They do what normal couples do. Except that to him, maybe they are not a couple yet.

They have been seeing each other for 120 days. And today is the 120th. Yes, she has been counting the days like a lovesick schoolgirl. But she bets her life her Romeo doesn’t even know the exact day of their first date.

These past 120 days since they started going out, he never did refer to her as his girlfriend. He never asked him to be his girl. He never said he likes her or loves her. He never said they were going out on dates. He just asks her out whenever he wants to and she just stupidly agrees. She knows what she feels for him but she is clueless about what he really feels towards her.

She doesn't know how she stands in his life. She is a nameless, label-less girl next to Keun Suk. These past 120 days have been just like that, ordinary nameless days.

What am I to you? She cries out loud at the TV screen and the tears flow unbridled on her face.


"So let's hear out your sob story," Hong Ki nudges Shin Hye playfully as he pours Yong Hwa another glass of soju.

Seeing the soju glass in Yong Hwa's hands, she snatches it and drinks it in one shot.

"Yah! That's it! You're not drinking anymore," Yong Hwa snatches the glass away from her. "You should see your face just now. You look like one hell of a mess! And just so you know, I didn't come here just to see you cry silently and drown yourself in soju," he tells her tenderly, wiping the tears that streak her pretty face after she gulped down the soju.

Hong Ki holds a fork up in front of her. "Shin Hye-ah, tell us what's wrong. Who's making you cry like this?" Then he looks around, his eyes searching for a hidden camera somewhere. "This is not some prank from a stupid show, right? I am not wearing any make-up! I just got out of bed!" He wails, self-consciously smoothing his hair.

Yong Hwa laughs in disbelief. "It's not, stupid. Or is it?" he asks, suddenly unsure as he checks the room for hidden cameras, too. Shin Hye giggles at the two idols' stupid antics despite her tears.

"I wouldn't get drunk and cry my eyes out like this for a stupid show, you idiots!"

Hong Ki looks at her for a moment, studying her face. "What?" Shin Hye asks him self-consciously, sniffing.

He lets out a knowing grin. "She's having a guy problem," he motions to Yong Hwa. "No doubt."

Yong Hwa smirks. "It took you this long to figure that out? Pabo. I knew it's a guy the moment I saw her with these soju bottles. My question is 'who'?"

It's Hong Ki's turn to smirk. "I know who."

Yong Hwa throws an inquisitive look at Hong Ki and frowns. "But...have they...are you..." he turns to Shin Hye, "I thought you..." then back at Hong Ki, "are you sure?"

Shin Hye growls at the two boys in front of her. "Ya! Will you stop talking about me like I'm not here? Yes, I'm crying over a guy. But I'm not telling you who!"

Hong Ki and Yong Hwa exchange knowing glances and smiles. "Ahrasso. Fine by us," Hong Ki tells her.

"So what did this bastard do to you? Tell oppa," Yong Hwa says in a straight face which makes Hong Ki chokes on his kimchi.

"Yeah, tell it to that oppa from Busan who knows how to win a fight with style," he tells Shin Hye, poking fun at Yong Hwa. He just can't imagine how Keun Suk would react if he hears how Yong Hwa had just called him. A bastard, eh? This punk can really deliver the most shocking one-liners sometimes.

Shin Hye nods her head, absently toying with her fork. "Yeah, he is a bastard. But it's my fault that I am hurting this much. I let him. I was stupid to trust my feelings," she utters softly, almost to herself.

Hong Ki stares at Shin Hye and opens his mouth, about to speak, when Yong Hwa, who sits facing the door, abruptly stands up and bows. "Keun Suk-hyung!"

Hong Ki notices how Shin Hye's hands on the table shake a little and he gulps down his soju before turning to greet the late-comer. "About time you got here, Hyung."


If looks could kill, Hong Ki knows Shin Hye has already committed multiple murders against him in the last five minutes. But he had to do what needs to be done. He is tired listening to Keun Suk's endless dilemma on his feelings with Shin Hye and he is done putting up with his excuses of cowardice. "What's wrong in owning up to your feelings? You're dating her anyway," he has told Keun Suk numerous times whenever his hyung would ask him about what to do about Shin Hye.

Hong Ki knows the two have been seeing each other for the past few months. He was the one who told Keun Suk to just ask her out and deal with the consequences later. But he never thought that Keun Suk would stay undecided this long. The minute he saw Shin Hye downed the three soju glasses successively earlier, he knew Keun Suk must have been responsible for the heartbreak written all over her face.

"Did you ever see her touch a glass of soju before?" he has hissed over the phone at Keun Suk. He stepped out to make the call while Yong Hwa was trying to make lame jokes to get Shin Hye's eyes off the soju bottles.

"Huh?" Keun Suk asked in surprise.

"Exactly. You made this mess, I'm not going to clean it up for you, hyung. Get your ass here."

"Yong Hwa-oppa," Shin Hye's strained voice cuts through the awkward silence in the room since Keun Suk arrived, "I want to go home. Can you drive me home tonight?" She throws him her car keys, standing up carefully, trying not to wobble.

"I came here to do just that," Keun Suk says curtly. He walks over to Shin Hye and picks up her purse.

Shin Hye wrestles the purse away from his hands. "Aniyo. I am asking Yong Hwa a favor. Please," she eyes Yong Hwa with pleading eyes.

Yong Hwa looks at Keun Suk first, whose eyes remain transfixed at Shin Hye,  then to Hong Ki, for help. What to do? He is not even sure how he gets here but he sure knows he and Hong Ki are in the middle of a couple's quarrel right now. A quarrel between two friends he did not even have the idea were dating. "Mianhe, Shin Hye, I'm not sober enough to drive. Let hyung drive you home," he says, handing her back the keys. Shin Hye's wrath he could stand but Keun Suk's? No, he has much respect for the guy. Besides, it's true, he has downed several glasses tonight. He's not exactly fit enough to drive a drunken Shin Hye home.

Hong Ki puts a hand on Shin Hye's shoulder. "I called Keun Suk hyung for the rescue because he's the only one I know who can beat that three-glasses-in-a-row you just pulled in front of us," he says jokingly but whispers softly, "Mianhe, you'll thank me for this when you’re sober."

She throws him another dagger look. "You punk!" she hisses angrily and starts to walk off.

Keun Suk grabs her wrist gently and pulls her close to him, wrapping his arms around her shoulders as they walk out of the room. “I got this, guys. I’ll call you both later,” he calls out at the two.


“You don’t have to bring me home,” Shin Hye tells Keun Suk in a formal tone. She doesn’t know how to drive herself home in her current state of mind but she sure knows she can’t be with him tonight without breaking down.

He tilts his head towards her bowed head, adjusting the driver’s seat. “So we are speaking formally, now?” he asks, informally.

She bites her lower lip and nods. “We are in public.”

He forces a laugh. “The hell we are. I’m not bringing you home, by the way. Not until you are sober enough to walk straight.”

He revs up the engine and starts to manoeuvre the car. Shin Hye fishes her cellphone in her purse.

“Who are you calling?” Keun Suk asks.

“My brother,” she says and starts to dial. Keun Suk hastily reaches out and snatches the phone from her. He shuts it off and shoves it into his jacket’s pocket.

“Please. Stop making it difficult for me. I just want to go home,” she pleads quietly, her voice cracking.

Keun Suk’s eyes are on the road. “I will bring you home later. But first, I think we have a lot of things to talk about tonight.”

Shin Hye turns her head away from him as a tear starts to fall on her right cheek. She looks at the window as Keun Suk drives the car past the busy downtown. Her head is hazy and her heart is heavy but his presence tonight has been a balm to her troubled feelings. She has missed him these past few days and though her insecurities about their relationship have been nagging at her the whole day, she knows she could never win a fight with him tonight. She can never walk away, this fact her heart knows to be true. She has been in this too deep. And even though she knows it makes her look stupid even to her very eyes, she can handle the pain for now.

Keun Suk watches her wipe away a tear from the side mirror and clenches his jaw. He knows he is responsible for the pain in her eyes but he just doesn’t know how he inflicted it. Is she giving up on me? He asks himself and a corner of his mind says ‘Possibly.’ He knows he has yet to make a formal proposal for Shin Hye to ask her to be his girlfriend but what guy on his right mind actually pops the question “Can you be my girlfriend?” That’s not his style. Even with his past girlfriends, he just played it cool and let things flow their natural course. They would just date and hang out and before they knew it, they were already doing couple things together and started referring to each other as bf/gf. That’s how he knows this thing works.

But then again, this thing with Shin Hye is different because they don’t get to date out in the open, unlike his past relationships. But surely she knows he just wants to protect her for now, right? And didn’t they both agree that dating out openly would mean death to their privacy and personal lives? Only a few people know he is seeing her – his manager, his parents, his best friend and Hong Ki. But even those people do not know how he really feels about this girl. Because he wants her to know first-hand what he really feels inside. He was just waiting for the courage and the perfect time to say it verbally.

But right now, the rate things are going, he thinks the perfect time just isn’t coming at all.


He opens the passenger seat and offers his hand. “Steady,” he says, holding her hand as Shin Hye eases out of the car.

“I’m fine,” she quips, avoiding his gaze. She breathes in the cool, night air, filling her intoxicated lungs. She feels her head breathes a little. It is a beautiful night. From their vantage point at the scenic Bukak Skyway, they could see the twinkling lights of Seoul below merging with the stars above. A breathtaking view. An inappropriate place to stage a fight, Shin Hye muses sadly.

“Drink this first,” Keun Suk says, offering her the cup of coffee he bought earlier on their way here. She takes the cup and drinks from it, eager to do something to break the awkward silence between them.

Keun Suk watches her drink the coffee and heaves a deep sigh. “Mianhe,” he begins.

Shin Hye cradles the coffee cup with both hands and bows her head. “For what?”

He shoves both his hands in his pants’ pockets. “I don’t know what I did or didn’t do but I know I am the reason for those soju bottles and the tears.”

Hearing this, Shin Hye feels guilty for being angry at him. He sounds like he is really at a loss on what is happening and this pierces her heart more. A part of her doesn’t want to explain her anger, her frustration and her tears to him. If he truly cares for her, he should know it without any explanation from her. But another part of her laments at the thought that she is punishing him unfairly for something he is not even aware of. She just wants him to pacify her insecurities but how would he do it when he doesn’t know they even exist?

She feels the tears flowing before she starts to speak. “Today I saw you on TV,” she starts, her voice breaking. “They were asking you about your ideal type. And of course it wasn’t me,” she forces a laugh to hide her embarrassment and wipes her tears away. “But that’s not it. They asked you about me and you said we are not keeping in touch anymore. And I was like “Liar! We just met this weekend!”

With his head bowed, Keun Suk smiles sheepishly at her last retort. But he keeps silent, wanting her to go on. He knows there are a lot more she wants to say.

She breathes in a lungful of air before she continues. “But that’s not what made me cry. Because I know we could never tell such truth about us in public. I understand that. Perfectly,” she tells him. “But when you said ‘No, I’m not dating anyone right now. I don’t have a gf right now…” That’s when it hit me. Hey, he’s telling the truth. He’s not lying. Because we are not really dating right?” Shin Hye’s voice breaks down at this point and her tears keep flowing, blurring her vision. “I’m not really his gf, right? I kept telling myself after that. And you know what, Oppa? That hurts a lot.”

He hands her his hanky as she starts to wipe her tear-stricken face with her hands yet again. “I would hate myself in the morning for breaking down like this in front of you,” she confesses, composing herself, “But you asked for it.”

He looks at her face steadily. “And I deserve to know the sins I committed.”

He inches his way nearer to where she stands and holds her hand, slowly intertwining his fingers with hers. He sees her closing her eyes at this and takes it as a good sign. He doesn’t know how to begin but he knows he must say his piece. Even just this once.

“Did you know that asking you out for the first time was one of the most difficult things I ever did so far? I was debating with myself for months before I decided to do it. It was a risk I had to take not only because we are both celebrities but also because I knew I might be doing the same mistakes I did with my exes again and hurt you eventually,” his eyes are fixed on the sight below them as he speaks. Beside him, he can feel Shin Hye breathing evenly now. Her tears are gone and her nearness strengthens him to go on with his unplanned speech.

“But I told myself that you’re worth the risk because I like you a lot and I will just have to deal with the consequences later. The important thing was to see you as much as I want to, as often as I would like. You make me happy and being with you is as natural as breathing,” he says softly, his eyes on her. “That’s what girlfriends do, right? So how could you ever think that you’re not my girlfriend?” He touches her cheek with his free hand.

He feels her cheek burn at his touch and letting go of her hand, he cups her face with her two hands. “How can you think that we are not dating? What do you call this? I don’t know about you but I don’t spend my free time doing silly things like singing Japanese nursery songs with just anyone if that’s the only way to be with her. And,” he mockingly glares at her, “I don’t fake being sick to skip a radio appearance just because Hong Ki says a certain girl I know is drinking her heartache away with soju. I don’t do that to just about any girl I know, Shin Hye.”

Ahrasso,” is all Shin Hye can muster to say. She blinks back tears as her heart swells with unexplained joy at his words.

“There’s just one thing I want to get straight from you, though and I want an honest answer,” Keun Suk remembers to ask, his arm drape casually around her shoulders, holding her close.

“What?” she dares to ask.

“Just when did you start drinking soju like a pro?”

She snickers. “Heartaches make you do a lot of things you don’t normally do,” she quips and stands on tiptoes to kiss him softly on his lips just to shut him up.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 18

February 18

10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1! The clock strikes 12:00 AM. February 18.

Happy Birthday to me!

Shin Hye closes her eyes for a moment and listens to her heart's wish. I hope love will always find me.

In the soft lamp-lit sanctuary that is her room, she gives her sweetest smile to her reflection on her dresser. She's now 21 and she has never felt more alive and happy in her life.

She has a lot to be thankful for this past year, she muses. A drama, a series of CFs with Korea's hottest heartthrobs, meeting new friends, a year-end award, and finding opportunities not only to hone her craft and passion but also to give back and share her blessings to other people… She couldn't have asked for a better year.

And she found her own piece of personal happiness.

Her heart skips a beat at the thought. Yes, her happiness has a name. And a face.

A very beautiful face that could send a thousand fangirls (including me) sighing collectively with just one smile, her heart swells at the thought.

Her cellphone's message alert tone cuts off her reverie.

A beautiful life.
A peaceful mind.
And a heart that is always happy.
These are my wishes for you on your birthday, Shin Hye.

Keun Suk sent the message.

Shin Hye stares at her cellphone's LCD for an eternity, memorizing the message.

Yes, her heart is indeed happy right now.

“I’m getting old,” she types back. Maybe you should start noticing it and stop regarding me like a kid.

“I’m still older. I’m getting older myself this year.”

She pouts at his reply. “Technically, I’m Hong Ki’s noona now.” Aren’t you guys so fixated with noonas?

“Haha. You should tell him that. But I think calling you noona will be pushing it too far for him. Hahaha.”

She imagines Hong Ki throwing a fit if she tells him to call her noona and laughs. Yeah, that would be absurd. “But I think it’s cool to be called noona. I heard guys love noonas a lot these days.” Including you.

“Hey, noona! You can still be cool even if you’re not a noona. Ya, what’s this talk about noonas all of a sudden?”

“Someone told me a noona understands a guy better. Loves better. Cares better. Is that true, Oppa?”

“No. That’s an outrageous lie. Love doesn’t depend on age.”

Then why do you prefer noonas? “Is it, Oppa?”

“A love you feel at 18 is as true as a love you feel at 25 or 35. Hey, do you really want to be a noona just because of that wrong information?”
She feels her cheeks grow hot in embarrassment. “Ani. I’m just curious why noonas look cooler to guys.”

“Then just for today, I’ll call you noona. Happy Birthday, noona!

Shin Hye laughs out loud. Her heart bursts in delight. “Komawoyo, Keun Suk-ssi.”

Thank You (JGS POV on Two is Better than One)

Thank You

Keun Suk has never spent a Valentine’s Day alone. Not in his 23 years of existence. If not with a girlfriend, he spends it with his noona cousins or girl friends. Just never alone.  It’s too precious a day to spend it alone. And this would not be the first time, he vows to himself as he toys with his phone.

He has been lying in bed for the past hour, deliberating if he should call Shin Hye or not. He knows he could pull a cute act or a joke over the phone but he wants more than to hear her voice or receive a text message from her today. He wants to see her, and no, not over a video call, please. He wants to be with her today, tonight. It’s a special day and he wants to spend it with her. But he, Keun Suk, does not know how to ask without scaring the hell out of both of them.

He has been cursing himself for the past hour. Hell, I’m not even gonna ask her to date me so what am I worrying about? Korean guys have the right to ask for chocolates and candies on Valentine’s day, right? So I will just ask her about it. Then, greet her “Happy New Year” while I’m at it. Keun Suk tries to reason to himself, holding his phone. A ready message has in fact been blinking on his phone for the past 30 minutes. He just doesn’t have the balls to send it, he taunts himself.

It’s not like I’m going to propose, darn it! I’m just going to ask for some freaking chocolates. He lets out a scream.

Without thinking, he hits Send.

Screw reason.


He looks at Shin Hye’s shy smile and startled gaze and he can’t help but smile, too. He wishes he could explain to her how it felt so natural to reach out and pick the snowflake from her lashes but he knows that would only startle her more. It was never his intention to make her feel embarrassed although he enjoys how her eyes dance anxiously whenever she feels flustered over something he does. Looking at her all bundled up, standing on the snowy pavement, cheeks flushed from the chilly wind, he feels a familiar instinct to hug her and shelter her from the cold. She looks like a child, he tells himself silently. A child you would like to hug and kiss.

He notices her bare hands and fights the urge to shove them in his pocket for warmth. “Aren’t you cold without any gloves?” If he could only envelop them with his own hands, he would.

Shin Hye looks down at her naked hands and laughs. “Cold,” she shoves her hands in her jacket’s pockets. “I just forgot to wear them on my way out. My mind was on those chocolates, Oppa,” she teases.

He shakes his head. “So now you’re making me feel guilty.” Putting down the box of chocolates on his car’s hood, he takes off his gloves and gives them to her. “Here, wear these.”

She shakes her head laughing. “No way! I’m okay, really. Besides, it’s nice to make you feel guilty sometimes.”

He looks at her seriously, grabbing her hand and shoving his gloves in them, without any trace of smile on his face. “Wear these. You can give it back to me later when I’m done with these chocolates.”

Shin Hye nods her head slowly taken aback by his serious tone. She diligently wears his gloves as told. “Okay. Thanks,” she mumbles shyly.

Keun Suk nods at her in approval. “Good girl.”

He picks the chocolate box in the car’s hood and opens the door to driver’s seat.

"What's gonna happen on the 18th?" Keun Suk asks, a little smile forming on his lips. He has put the chocolate box in the car and is now holding a small paper bag in his hand.

Shin Hye feigns ignorance at the question, eyes on the bag in his hand. "I'm having a photoshoot for a magazine on the 18th, I think," she lies, striking a thoughtful pose.

Keun Suk raises his left brow, smirking. "Really? Then can my little friend here come with you?" He asks and lifts up a small dwaeji-tokki, a miniature of the stuff toy from the drama, around 30-cm in size, from the bag. "He can be a little annoying though," he warns, pinching the pig-like nose which prompts the toy to jerk its hands and say "Go Mi Nam!" in Hwang Tae Kyung's voice.

Shin Hye shrieks in delight at the sight of it and hearing Tae Kyung's voice sends her into a giggling fit. "Oppa! Where did you get this?"

Eyes crinkling in equal delight at her reaction, he hands her the Go-Mi-Nam-talking toy. "That's a trade secret. Happy Birthday, Go Mi Nam!"

Shin Hye's eyes sparkle and dance brightly on her face as she inspects her gift, laughing excitedly as she listens repeatedly to Tae Kyung's voice shouting "Go Mi Nam!"

"I got the recording from the fans. Remember, the one we listened to online before? And I think they are actually selling smaller pig-rabbit toys like this already. I just asked an ahjussi at the toy shop to customize this for me," Keun Suk explains, happily watching Shin Hye tinkering with the toy. “Mianhe. I’m not good with gifts. This is not very original but I thought the daweji-tokki prettily defines us, you know…I mean, our characters in the drama. So I figured you’d like this. It’s a lazy gift…” he trails on, belatedly realizing that he is starting to blab incoherently.

“Oppa, I like it,” Shin Hye answers him, voice filled with gratefulness. “This is just ‘Wow!’ That's a lot of work, Oppa. Remembering my birthday would have been enough," Shin Hye says.

"A lot of people remember your birthday, Shin Hye. I just want to be a little different." He searches her face, memorizing the delightful expression on it, cherishing this moment when the world seems to be rotating around its axis ever so slowly and gently, giving him time to spend the night with her some more.

Shin Hye beams at her, gratefulness evident in her eyes. "I should have given you an extra chocolate box for this," she jokes. "Komawoyo, oppa."

Keun Suk bows his head in acknowledgment. "Ani. I should be the one thanking you." Then in his best Tae Kyung voice, he whispers into the night air, barely audible for Shin Hye's ears but loud enough for the words to resonate in her heart. "Thank you for being born."

Shin Hye smiles. “That’s my line.”

Keun Suk pouts at her, mockingly. “I’m just borrowing it. I told you I have run out of originality these days.” He opens his arms wide and gestures for a hug. “C’mon, let me give you an advance birthday hug before I get out of here.”

Shin Hye laughs, her eyes dancing like starlights on a winter night. “Thank you, Oppa,” she whispers as she moves towards his waiting arms.

Not bad a move, man, says a voice inside Keun Suk’s head and he smiles silently. Nice move, indeed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two is Better than One

Two is Better than One

“Where are my chocolates?”

Shin Hye giggles at the text message as she wraps the last box of chocolates from her drawer. It’s the Lunar New Year but these guys just won’t let go of Valentine’s Day. It is the 2nd time an idol is asking her for chocolates today. And it would definitely be the last, she laughs, since Hong Ki and Yong Hwa are really just the two idols she’s friends with.

“Ya! I’ll give you one if you promise to give me those signed CDs I have been asking you for ages. My friends are starting to doubt if you are really friends with me!” she texts Yong Hwa back.

Mianhe. You know I could barely catch a decent sleep nowadays with our tight schedule. The CDs have been ready since you asked for it. I just don’t have time to give it to you personally,” Yong Hwa’s replies back.

“You’re busy but you’re not forgetting your chocolates, huh? Mine would probably be just a junk compared to what you are receiving from your fans today!”

“Well, Hong Ki says you’re giving him one so I ought to have one, too, right?” Yong Hwa quips back.

Shin Hye laughs at his reply. Those two guys have really been inseparable these days, being in the same company and moving within the same industry. She even catches them guesting in the same variety shows and radio programs sometimes. It’s no wonder then that they even seem to be sharing her text messages.

Ahrasso. I’ll have it delivered them today then. Yours and Hong Ki,” she texts back. She figures she would just send those boxes to their company address. This is the first time she will be giving chocolates boxes to guys she works with – to idols, even – and she still feels silly at the thought but these guys have really been close to her this past year. And what better way to show her appreciation to them than to give them chocolates on Valentine’s Day!

Her eyes fall on the third box on the table and sighs. That is something she has been debating over with herself since yesterday when she made the chocolates. How on earth would she give that to Keun Suk without making a big fuss out of it? Or without being guilty like I am committing a heinous crime?

Hong Ki and Yong Hwa are just different. Even if they did not ask for it first, she would really send those chocolates to them. No big deal.

But Keun Suk? Why does it feel like it’s not normal for her to give him chocolates today. Why?

She bites her lips in anxiety.


The clock strikes 7 in the evening already and the lone chocolate box on her table is still staring at Shin Hye, taunting her, daring her. Come on, send me to him already, Shin Hye hears the red and brown box screams at her. It’s Valentine’s Day, for God’s sake. You have the perfect excuse!

She grips tightly at her phone and heaves a deep sigh. No, call me a coward but I cannot do it!

She startles at the vibrating of her phone. A new message. From Keun Suk.

“Enjoying the seollal so far? Are you in Seoul for the holiday? By the way, where are my chocolates?

Her lips twitch in a little smile at the message. She looks at the little box of chocolate on the table. “You’ve been praying really hard, haven’t you?” She asks the box incredulously.

“Oppa, I’m in Seoul for the new year. Your chocolates are just waiting to be picked up.

Cincha? Then can I pick it up in an hour then?”

She hears her heart beat a “yes” before her fingers could even type the words.


“Happy Valentine’s Day and hope you’ll have a more fruitful year ahead, oppa,” Shin Hye greets Keun Suk as she hands him the chocolates.

“And you really do have something for me!” Keun Suk’s eyes lit up at the sight of the box, a playful smile on his lips.

“Well you asked for it so I just picked something up from the convenience store at the corner,” she jokes. The wind is a little chilly and snow showers are falling at the little park outside her home but Keun Suk’s presence seems to make the cold bearable. Besides, she welcomes the opportunity to be outside and enjoy the snowy night. She loves snow.

Leaning on his car, he opens the box excitedly and eats a piece of chocolate. “You know I don’t say no to chocolates especially on days like this.”

Shin Hye laughs. “Oppa, that’s probably just one of the hundreds of chocolates you have received today. Don’t pull my leg.”

He frowns. “But I like the taste of this one. Dark and a little bitter.”

She beams amidst the cold. “I like my chocolates that way, too.” It has taken her half of the afternoon the day before to make the chocolates with her cousin, a yearly tradition between them on Valentine’s day. She never really had specific guys in mind to give chocolates to before but this year, the three guys she had forged a bond with came to mind while she was baking the chocolates. She never thought she would actually give them to Keun Suk, though. As in personally.

“Did you know that I always spend Valentine’s day with a girl?” Keun Suk asks, still munching a chocolate.


“Since I was 15, when I started dating. Since then, even when I was not seeing someone, I really make it a point to spend this day with a girl.” He catches her gaze, eager to know her reaction.

She blinks at him. “Whoa. That’s a trivia,” she manages to quip before she sees him reaching out his hand to her face. She feels her heart starts to panic.

“Wait, there’s a snowflake on your lashes,” he says, prompting her to close her eyes for a moment.

“There. It’s gone,” Keun Suk’s warm breath gently touches her face as she flutters her eyes open. He steps back from her and smiles.

“Thanks,” she mumbles. Wanting to keep her mind off the unexpected proximity between them, she pokes fun at him. “I think you just want a yearly supply of free chocolates, Oppa.”

He shakes his head. “Seriously? No. I just find it lonely to spend this day alone. My parents spend it together. Everybody is spending it with someone else. It’s not a day meant to be spent alone, all by yourself. Last year, I spend it with my cousin who broke up with her bf. Two is always better than one when this special day comes along, you know.”

Her eyes crinkle in a smile at the thought. “That’s sweet. And this year?”

He looks at her in a poker face. “I’m spending it with these delicious, dark, bitter chocolates in a snowy, cold night. They’ve been convincing me all night long that they are girls.” He gets a piece of chocolate in the box and holds it up in the dark. “What do you think?”

Shin Hye’s chin dimples start to dance on her face. “I think they are. No one but a girl can taste bitter but still have a sweet aftertaste.”

He laughs, hanging his head back. “That’s true.” He holds her gaze and smiles sheepishly, quietly. “It takes a girl to know one.”

Shin Hye feels a snow flake grazes her cheek but his gaze keeps her eyes rooted on his.

Keun Suk bows his head. “Thank you for these ‘girls’. And for spending this night with me.”

Shin Hye bows in return. “Anytime, Oppa.”

And thank you, too for having me as the girl you spend this Valentine with, her heart whispers in the dark, snowy night.