I’m at Seoul alone, but I know what I need to do first. I search through my cell phone for the right number at a local park; it’s Jikyung’s home phone. I know I just have to press that green phone button, yet my hand is trembling. I’m being the coward now. I can’t face her. What do I say? Will she forgive me? What if she doesn’t pick up?


Fuck.


Press.


I hear the phone ringing, ringing, and ringing until a woman answers, “Hello? Who’s calling please?”


It’s not Jikyung, and I panic. “I-I-Is Jikyung there?” I stutter like a pathetic middle school boy.


“No, Jikyung doesn’t live with us anymore,” the lady grumbles before hanging up on me.


Shit. I dial again.


“Hello? Who are you?” she snaps at me, and I know she has caller ID.


“I-I-I think . . . I’m Junghoon,” I stammer hastily.


“Junghoon? Do you mean . . . Lee Junghoon?” Her voice grows sterner and nastier. Oh god, I gulp. She’s going to bitch slap me over the phone.


I confirm in a mutter, “Yes.”


“Wow, and you have the guts to call.”


“Y-you must be Jikyung’s older sister, Jina,” I croak.


“Oh, so you remember me?”


How could I not? Kim Jina, the scariest sibling I’ve met. Kim Jina, the one who really, really hated me after seeing my face for the first time. Kim Jina, the woman that’d always have something bad to say about me. Kim Jina, probably the only reason that I’d consider breaking up with Jikyung.


“Of, of course,” I answer.


“Because you’re scared of me?” she threatens. “Oh, don’t worry. I won’t do anything to you unless you want to date my little sister again!”


Uncontrollably, I correct her, “I actually want to marry her.”


“What?” I hear that piercing shriek. “What?”


I take a deep breath, and inform her, “All right, I know I hurt her before, but I was stupid then. I wanted to make Jikyung jealous, and I know what all you girls think. You think players don’t change, and you’re right. There’s a chance that I might have flings here and there, but I can assure you that I will look after her. I can also tell you that I know her very well, so I can actually take care of her.”


“How well do you know her?” Jina tests me. “What’s her favourite colour?”


That question is too easy for me. She told me that when we were passing by a tree. It was one of her did-I-ever-tell-you moments. She’d always start with, “Did I ever tell you that . . . Oh no, I didn’t, right?” Then, I’d agree, and she go on saying, “Well, this is what happened.” And in this case, she told me that her favourite colour was green.


“Green,” I answer proudly, “but not neon green.”


“Okay, and what about her favourite drink?” she tries me again.


Luckily, I remembered that time Jikyung and I were passing by a convenience store. She was taking forever to choose a drink, and I was tempted to just pick one for her. It turned out that she was debating between passion fruit green tea and lemon green tea. Really . . . what was the difference? Seeing through my thoughts, she scolded, “This is very important to me. I like to try out new drinks! A little change in flavour changes everything, but . . . there is that Kirin lemon tea that I love. Should I get my favourite drink then?”


I recount the story to Jina, who immediately hands me another question. “If Jikyung were upset, what would you say to her?”


That’s a tough question.     


She was never really upset. It was more like she was frustrated or angered by problems. Even then, she was never really mad, though, most people would disagree. Most people, however, didn’t know her like I did. They didn’t understand that she used the word “hate” very loosely. She hated raw tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and brussel sprouts. She hated people who were uptight, and anal. She hated smokers who smoked in front of her. She hated the colour purple. She hated lilies because they made her sneeze.
Most people also didn’t understand that the more she complained, the less severe the matters were. I remembered how she’d go off ranting to me every day about some silly things, and then she’d add a foolish yet humorous act that she did. And she started all that after we started dating.


I was waiting for her outside of her class. After all, we had agreed to get to know each other over coffee. Of course, she only said yes because she told me she’d give me a chance and that she needed a boyfriend too. Apparently, her family had been pressuring her to the point that her mother even believed that Jikyung may have swung the other way for love. 


“What’s so funny?” Jikyung harked as I stood by the door.


I teased, “That you’re not into girls.”


“Great,” she threw her arms in the air, and growled, “is that all you got out of what I said that day?”


I purposely lied, “Yup.”


“See? I don’t get why I agreed to this in the first place,” she started to complain while we walked to exit from the building. “I think we should—“


“Not call the coffee date off.”


“You know, this reminds me of this student in my accounting class,” she groaned. “He keeps interrupting the professor with some stupid question. Argh, thinking of him is already making me mad. God, I hate him.”


“Hate? Wow, that’s pretty harsh,” I muttered.


“Well, it’s like how I hate slushy snow,” she explained. “Speaking of which, there was a time when I was skiing, and you know there are different levels right? Well, I thought black diamond was the easiest, and I was a beginner, but then . . .”


To be honest, I don’t remember her whole story, but I know it’s funny, and that she never really meant the harsh words that’d slip from her mouth. It was what she didn’t say that she really meant.  It was when she grew silent that people had to be concerned. When she was calm, and quiet, then she had either made a firm decision, was truly disappointed, or was saddened. She’d never tell me why she actually wanted to break away from Taeyang. That, I think, I would never know.


“So, Junghoon,” I snap back to reality once I hear Jina’s looming voice, “what’s your answer? What would you do if Jikyung were upset?”


I’m picturing her disgruntled, distressed face, and I can only try to guess what it’s like for she has never shed a tear in front of me. I know she cries though. I know too well from the way her eyes become puffy or red. I asked her once what happened, and she told me that it was just allergies. But, that’s a lie. Why? The day after we watched a sad chick flick together, her eyes were exactly like that: swollen and bloodshot.  If she cries, then that means that she hides to cry by herself. Maybe, she’s too embarrassed how she’d look, but I don’t think that’s the main reason.


“You just don’t get it,” I remembered Jikyung declaring to me one day.


What exactly we were fighting about, I forget, but I’ll never forget that look on her face. It was as if she had put yet another barrier on her feelings, barring me from ever thinking of entering it again. Why? She was hurt, and I had disappointed her. 


I suddenly answer to Jina, “I’d tell her that she can tell me everything because I’ll be here. She can hide at my place if she wants to cry. I’ll be there for her whenever she needs me.”


Jina doesn’t say anything to me at first, but I know she hasn’t hung up yet. I can hear her breaths over the phone, and a few minutes later, she utters, “You know why . . . Jikyung can’t seem to settle down? She just broke up with her boyfriend, Raewon, by the way.”


“Oh.”


“Jikyung,” Jina sighs, “Jikyung has always been afraid to fall in love, and after what happened between Taeyang and her, she’s even more scared of being in love. I’m pretty sure you know what I mean. You have dated her before.”


“I know,” I murmur, “that she’s very protective of herself.”


“And there’s a reason that she’s like that,” Jina continues to clarify. “Her father, actually, our father cheated on our mom several times before she called it quits. Our father has never cared about us. He doesn’t remember our birthdays. He doesn’t know what we like and don’t like. He doesn’t worry when we’re sick. He simply just never cares.”


“I’m sorry to hear that,” I find that that’s the only thing I can say.


“It’s okay. It’s the truth.” Jina states coldly. “In fact, he didn’t even provide for the family, and once my business started to get going, he started to treat me better for money.”


“I-I-I can understand why Jikyung . . .”


Jina coughs over the phone before adding, “I’m glad you understand her now, and I hope that unlike Taeyang, you’ll actually be there for her.”


“W-w-wait, you mean, Taeyang knew about all this?” I couldn’t help, but ask.


“Jikyung decided to tell him because she really had no one else to consult,” Jina releases a sigh. “But who knew that he’d be such a bad friend? Leaving her for no reason.”


“Y-y-yeah,” I stutter hopelessly, thinking that I shouldn’t be happy that Jikyung lost a close friend. Taeyang was gone forever now. They’d never be able to contact each other anymore, but even then, her thoughts would be with him as they had when we were together.


Jina then remarks in a stern tone, “I really hope that if you’re going to go for Jikyung again, that you’d be there to stay. My baby sister isn’t the type that needs someone around her 24/7, but she does need someone to be there when she’s at her weakest. You can’t just tell her to let something go.”


“I know,” I agree. “I’ll be there for her.”


“I believe in you this time, but I don’t know if she will,” Jina reminds me. “Maybe there’s something you could do to convince her otherwise.”


That’s how our phone call ends. I’m left with a suggestion that I’m supposed to follow. I know it’s true that girls are happy when they receive gifts. Heck, anyone is happy in that case, but for Jikyung, a gift won’t do. She’ll be happy, but she won’t forgive nor forget. Since it’d be from me, she’d even question why I would be giving her something.


Now, I’m just sitting on a bench hoping for a miracle. Maybe, I’ll become inspired by the view, but I’m no artist or writer. There’s an old couple across from me; they’re having coffee at a bench. I hear the old man grumbling to his wife, “I think you should use a different soy sauce. You changed the brand, am I correct?”


“Kikkoman wasn’t on sale, so I just bought Pearl River,” the elderly lady utters.  


“Change it back then! This one is putrid.” 


“I don’t see what the difference between those two soy sauces. You are being childish.”


“Childish? Since when was improving your culinary skills childish?”


“And you have knowledge in cooking when you have not stepped in a kitchen for all your life?”


“But my taste buds are immaculate.”


“More like picky.”


“Picky?” the old man stands up pointing his finger at her. “I believe you are the one unwilling to be better! See, Hara, you are always like this. Insanely stubborn.”


“And you are not?” She glares at him. “And if you think you are so noble, then what of those things you have promised to do? You said you would try gardening with me, but all you do is read the newspapers!”


The man is about to shout at her, but he closes his mouth too abruptly, and sits back down onto the bench. She is too quiet and calm, reminding me of Jikyung. Jikyung, however, would never directly voice her thoughts to me. She’d drop more hints and leave me to solve her mystery. But, I know what one of her mysteries is now. She cares about promises because her father has broken too many of them. She was enraged when I was late and didn’t warn her ahead of time. She was disappointed when I promised to call, but fell asleep instead. What other promises did I break then?


“I’m sorry,” the aged man declares out of the blue.


The woman scoffs and crosses her legs, “If you’re sorry, then what are you going to do to compensate me?”


“Whatever you would like me to do.”


I jump out of my seat immediately, and bolt for the main street. I wave my hand for a taxi, and hop into one once it stops by the roadside.


“Where are you off to, sir?” a man in his early twenties asks me.
"I"m on my way to . . ."
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