Credits to FESHA for the poster!
 I know I should have been more organized. I’m at the department store picking up some last minute presents for my family. I seem to have forgotten about Rina’s gift. What would a kid want anyways these days? Video games? Makeup? The girl is only five. I doubt Jina would want her to wear makeup.

I’ve been roaming all around the mall, and I can’t seem to find anything good. Climbing up the escalators, I push past the people to hurry onto the last floor: the dreaded children’s floor. Maybe, I’ve been too silly by avoiding that area. Children remind me of marriage. Marriage reminds me of love. Love reminds me of my failed relationships. Why is it so hard for me to find someone? Even Nanami, a mundane, average-looking high school classmate of mine, has married a professor of a prestigious university. How’d she snag him? She managed to meet him at a local bar, had a one night stand, and that was the end of the story.

I wish my story could be like that, I think as I grab a stuffed elephant hanging in the store. Elephants are a good choice for children, right? I’m tempted to phone a friend, but I know everyone is too busy on Christmas Eve to answer me. Plus, no one would respond to such a trivial question unless I started to ask about his or her life. Nope, I’d rather not do all the small talk. I’m almost about to dial Junghoon’s number when I feel a few taps on my shoulder.

“Is this Kim Jikyung?” I hear a giggly, chirpy voice asking me.

“Who is this?” I turn to snap.

“It’s me!” the short woman dressed in red and green exclaims. “Choi Hyomin!”

Choi Hyomin.

How can I ever forget her? We were close in high school, and in the early days of university. Even though I went to a different city to study, she and I still kept contact. I would call her almost every other day, and we’d have our share of laughs. My family, though, never really liked her. Like my sister liked to put it, there was something “off” about Hyomin. I’d argue that she didn’t know anything about Hyomin, yet funnily, I’ve discovered that the outsiders can see more, and I liked to be oblivious.

Hyomin was a sweetheart, but she had trouble keeping secrets. She had even admitted to me before that some of her friends got mad at her for “unintentionally” blurting out their secrets. She liked to gossip too much, and she’d love to ask about Taeyang. I was perfectly fine with Taeyang being her friend as well, yet she liked to mention him too often and whenever Taeyang and I hung out, Hyomin wanted to be part of our gathering. What was the last straw was when she informed me that she was keeping contact with him using her newly bought Iphone even though she knew he had cut all ties with me. She even asked, “So, how are you going to contact him now?” Purposely spraying salt onto my wound.

“Oh,” I murmur and try to hide my dismay with a smile, “how is everything going for you?”

“Fine!” she says. “Absolutely great! I’m working as an elementary school teacher in New Jersey.”

“Sounds interesting,” I lie. “What brings you to Seoul then?”

 Her smile turns into a deep frown. “I’m just here for Christmas break actually, and . . .”

“And?” 

She’s still bad at lying. Exactly why she blabs too easily.

“Well, I’m sure you know this, but you know . . . Taeyang . . .”

“What about him?”

I don’t know how I got home, what I really said to Hyomin, and if I did buy the elephant for Rina in the end. I’m just sitting on the couch in a daze. Dazed and confused. I’m rewinding my conversation with Hyomin. How’d she answer me?

Taeyang . . . he’s dead.

What? What are you talking about?

I’m actually here for his funeral.

I feel those tears sliding down my cheeks. My eyes are already sore, which means I have been crying for a while now. How did he even die? I forget to ask now. How is it possible that I had no idea about his death, I’m wondering.

Didn’t you get that notice? It should have been mailed to you.

What notice?

I’m scrambling from my feet, throwing things everywhere. All this is just to find a mere sheet of paper. He couldn’t have forgotten me, but . . . he couldn’t even mail this out. My body is filled with sweat as I’ve been pacing back and forth and searching high and low. He’s gone. He’s really gone. I didn’t even get to say good-bye. I didn’t even get to show him how well I’m living now. He won’t attend my wedding, and I can’t smite him in the face by saying that I’ve met someone better than him. He’ll never be regretful of his choice, of ignoring me.

Slam.

I hit the ground after slipping backwards and landing on my bottom. It hurts, but my heart hurts even more. There’s that thumping in my head, and pounding in my heart. I don’t want to think, yet I’m constantly thinking . . . about him, and about us. All of my memories of him just won’t stop playing. His voice is haunting me as well. 

Why? I keep asking myself. Why did he have to leave? Why can’t he just be a normal guy to me? Why does he have to be so important to me? Why can’t I forget about him?

Wiping my tears off of my face, I stare out at my window. There are lights everywhere flashing for Christmas. There’s even more snow sprinkling the roofs of each building. The world is so happy, yet I’m here, swallowed by sadness, and lament. I’m too stubborn, and . . .

And that’s why I can’t fall for you.

I see my blurry complexion. I look hideous now, I bet. My makeup is a mess. I want to shut my curtains completely so no one will see me here. I’m overreacting. He’ll definitely agree with me that this is nothing big. He’ll also say that I’ll get over it just like how I’d get over my grandfather’s death. 

It’s hard, but you’ll move on. You’ll get over it.

I don’t like what he’ll say or rather, I’ve always hated those words of his. I can’t seem to forgive him. I have tried, yet even now, I want him to apologize by himself. He’ll never take back his words. He never did, and he can’t in the future. I know, I know too well that I need to let this go. I need to let . . . him go, but I’m not like him. I can’t treat this as if nothing has happened.

Still, I dry my tears with my sleeve. I exhale a long breath, and stand firmly on my two feet. The hardwood floor doesn’t seem as cold as before, and I start to walk to the kitchen table. I let out a chuckle, which turns into a fit of laughter. There it is: that white envelope. I’m certain it’s no bill. I can already guess what it’ll say inside, yet my hand trembles before it.

I’m tempted to give him a call, and ask him to be by my side while I read aloud this letter. I would have done that years ago, but it’s impossible now. I know calling Jina will help. She’ll be by my side, yet she’ll want to know more about what happened before this notice. I don’t want to explain. I’m not in the mood for gossip, so I grab my cell phone from my pocket. I find the name I need, and I press call.

Doo . . . doo . . . doo .  . . doo . . . doo . . .

“H-h-h-hello?” His voice is too raspy, almost splintering like the crackling of burning wood. “Wh-wh-who is this?” 

I don’t say anything. I’m not sure where to start. There’s that pause and I understand that he’s waiting for me to answer his question. I do want to rant. I do want to loudly shout. I just don’t know how anymore. Maybe, I let out a tiny whimper, but I’m pretty certain I am too quiet. 

Somehow, he is able to call out, “Ji-Ji-Jikyung? Is that you? Are you crying?”

I finally unlash more than a whimper, probably a wail of anguish. I’m sobbing again. I’m not moving along like I’m supposed to do so. I’m not following his advice at all. Will he be disappointed in me? I slightly grin. He doesn’t care about me at all to even be disappointed. I should not care about him as well. To think I was doing so well at forgetting . . .

Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.

I drag myself to the door to stop the clamour. As soon as I unlock the door, it opens by itself. I’m pulled in by a set of arms. There’s a sudden sense of warmth that’s familiar, yet foreign at the same time. I don’t question anymore nor do I care much. This is exactly what I need right now. A place to hide and to cry.

------  

I’m awakened by the humming of Christmas music. Sitting up from my bed, I wonder how I even got there in the first place. There’s this sizzling sound in the kitchen. How is that even possible? I almost tumble onto the floor, but with a jump, I’m already balanced, and off I rush out of my bedroom.

“You’re up already?” Junghoon turns around to ask. In his right hand is a spatula and in his other is a frying pan. He’s cooking scrambled eggs, and on another plate, I already see the sausages he has fried. I make a frown, and he seems to know what’s about to spill from my mouth. So, he says, “Merry Christmas, and I’m here because you called me at three in the morning.”

“But I don’t think . . .” I murmur.

“You were crying, and I think I know why,” he gently remarks while separating the eggs evenly onto each plate. “And I think I need to clear up some things.”

I make my way to my seat, and inquire, “What do you mean by that?”

“Taeyang—“

“You knew right?” I blurt out, and he looks away. “You knew, yet you didn’t even tell me?” I hear my own voice screeching.

“I can explain.”

He places the plates onto my table, and I glare at him, harking, “You’re only here for his funeral right?” 

“Yes, and no.”
 
I grab his collar, and yell, “Why didn’t you tell me? Why?”

Junghoon is looking at me hopelessly. He knows whatever he says will not be right, but like I expect, he still exclaims, “How could I tell you? You’re clearly still in love with him! How could I break your heart even more?”

“When were you going to tell me this time? Years later, just like how he got married and I never knew?” I shout in his face.

I can see the veins almost bursting in his clenched fists, but he lets go immediately of all of his anger. He lets out a brief, shallow sigh before stating, “I was going to tell you before that day, but how can I . . .”

“You’re still mad at me for tossing your gift in your face?” I holler. “Is that why you’re using this opportunity to smite me?” 

I feel my hand raising. There’s this desire to slap his cheek hard. I know Junghoon has trouble forgiving. I know he believes in “an eye for an eye”, but he has gone too far this time. Now, he grips onto my wrist, almost begging me to hear his excuses.

“Jikyung, listen to me,” Junghoon urges, and strengthens his grasp on my wrist. “I admit I was mad at you, but that’s not why I didn’t tell you about Taeyang. I really didn’t want to hurt you. I can’t stand seeing you—“

“Get out! Get out!” I swing my wrist against him, forcing him to release me. He’s inching closer to me, but I push him away from me.

“Jikyung, don’t do this,” he proclaims. “Just listen to me. Please.”

I point to the door, yelling, “I said get out!”

“Jikyung—“

One of the plates plummets to the floor, and I feel one of the chipped pieces crumble on my foot. Junghoon instantly kneels down to pick up the shattered bits even when I’m still sitting in my chair. My breaths become pants, and I feel my rage elevating to my head, which will explode sooner or later. My palms hit the table so that I don’t fall onto the ground again.

“Please, Junghoon,” I beg of him with a whisper, “just go. Just . . . leave me alone.”

“But there are still—“

“I’ll pick them up myself.” I throw a cold glance at him. “I don’t need your help.”

Junghoon is too obedient. He’s leaving just like that; he’s leaving all the shards behind for me to sweep. I don’t mind. It’s my mess. I’ll figure it out by myself. I always do. Unexpectedly, Junghoon stops at the door. He takes one look at me, and opens his mouth to say, “I’m sorry.”

There the door shuts.

And there’s still a muddle on the floor.

I’ll clean it up. I’ll clean it up somehow.

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