Five: The One Where Everyone Goes To Jeju

Goo Jun Pyo and So Yi Jeong couldn’t quite picture out what’s wrong. But they both noticed that something was off about Song Woo Bin lately. They had just finished playing golf at Nam Seoul and the guy never budged when he lost for the first time since they were fifteen. His happy disposition was even becoming a concern although he was always the cheerful one among the bunch.

“Hyung, are you sure you’re fine?” Jun Pyo asked as three of them walked back to the parking lot.

“Why? Do I look sick?” Woo Bin replied.

Yi Jeong chuckled. “No, but you’re starting to worry us. You’ve been unusually cheerful for the past few weeks and you just threw a game earlier.”

“No one ever wins against you in golf,” Jun Pyo reminded his friend.

Woo Bin merely laughed at their concerns. “Can’t a person lose even once? Maybe today’s my unlucky day,” he said. As he unlocked the door of his car, he noticed something. “I haven’t seen Ji Hoo around though? Is he still in Seoul?”

Yi Jeong shook his head. “He’s currently in Singapore with Seo Hyun to visit some relatives. You know how the Mins adore Ji Hoo.”

“I see. Well, if he arrives back within the week they can still make it to Jeju.” Yi Jeong cast him a questioning look. “Please don’t tell me you forgot we’re spending it at my place this year?”

Jun Pyo slapped a hand over his forehead. “Darn! It completely slipped my mind. Mianhe, I don’t think Jan Di and I can make it this year.”

“Dude… we all agreed to it.”

“I know.” Jun Pyo looked guilt-stricken. “But we have some last minute wedding preparations to attend to. Monica Lee managed to squeeze us into her busy schedule so we’re flying to California this Friday,” he reasoned out. “Just send our regards to your family, okay?”

“Sure,” Woo Bin said wanly. Jun Pyo felt bad for skipping this annual trip that had been a pact of theirs since they left Shin Hwa. But he knew the guys would understand. The wedding date had been reset since it was announced and they had to get their act together.

“Hey guys, I’ll go ahead if you don’t mind.” They waved him off playfully and Woo Bin got into his car driving off to his apartment for a much needed rest.

~o~

Jae Kyung absent-mindedly pressed the elevator button taking her to her apartment unit. The school activity they had took up most of her energy and all she needed right now was the comfort of her own bed. Kids can be quite a handful yet she realized it felt good doing something productive for a change. She fondly recalled how Ga Eul was a bit hesitant over her sudden decision to volunteer at the pre-school. But she was defiant and told their senior that she was up for the challenge. That was almost a month ago. Everything fell into place after that and now she’s happily adjusted to her new working environment.

“Hey,” someone greeted her. Jae Kyung blinked to assure herself she wasn’t seeing things. Song Woo Bin, still in his business suit, was actually waiting outside her unit.

“Hey yourself,” she replied with a weak smile.

“I’m sorry for dropping by unannounced,” Woo Bin said. “Are you busy?”

“No it’s okay,” Jae Kyung said as she unlocked the door. “You wanna come in?” She had learned to deal with her feelings like a civilized adult. Woo Bin may not see her in the way she wants him too, but at least she has their friendship.

“This will be quick,” he said, stopping her hand from opening the door further.

As she turned to face her guest, Jae Kyung couldn’t help but wonder what brought him here in the first place. It was a weeknight and he usually worked late hours. Woo Bin, on the other hand, was carefully calculating the words he would say next.

“How would you like to spend this weekend at Jeju?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Just a vacation,” he started. “You, me and the rest of the guys at my family’s villa. Ga Eul’s coming too.”

She found it cute how he used Ga Eul’s name as the bargaining chip in the invitation. “Well sure… I could use a break.” She crossed her arms as she looked at Woo Bin amusingly. “You actually came over just to invite me to this trip?”

“Oh, I was just around the neighborhood,” he said nonchalantly, carefully looking sideways.

“I see,” she replied, trying to sound convinced of his answer.

“You wanna grab something to eat?” Woo Bin asked, diverting the topic. “My treat.”

The offer was tempting yet Ha Jae Kyung shook her head saying she was too tired to go out. Seeing the dejected look on his face however prompted a sudden change of heart. “We can order in… if you want,” she compromised.

“Cool,” he said. He took a few easy steps as he followed her inside the unit. He sank into the couch and began dialling the number of the nearest pizza house as Jae Kyung changed into a more comfortable outfit inside her room. Half an hour later, they were seated opposite each other at the dining table, with a box of pizza between them.

“Yi Jeong tells me you’re now working with Ga Eul at the pre-school,” Woo Bin casually mentions.

“Wow, news travels fast among the F4,” she retorted jokingly. “Yes, I am. It’s quite fun actually.”

“You don’t strike me as the pre-school type -”

“Really now? Well I’m happy to prove people wrong -”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah?”

“Why don’t you work for your father? I’m sure the JK Group needs you.” He was helping himself to seconds while she was on her third slice.

“My parents have accepted the fact that I am not interested with the family business,” she answered calmly. “They must be kicking themselves over for not having a son they can entrust the company with.”

Woo Bin looked at Jae Kyung intently and said… “But they’ll get a son-in-law for sure.”

Riiiiggghhhttt, good luck with whoever’s crazy enough to marry me,” she laughed in spite of herself.

“You make it sound like a bad thing,” he commented.

“Why? Do you actually want to marry someone like me?” Jae Kyung asked matter-of-factly.

He fell quiet for a few seconds. “Maybe?”

“Hah! Better watch your words or I might take you up on your offer,” she replied in jest.

Woo Bin merely smiled. For a moment, Jae Kyung wished he sincerely meant every word he said. The rest of the evening was then spent finishing off the entire pizza and watching a few variety shows on television for a good laugh. If she hadn’t yawned unknowingly he wouldn’t have taken a hint and called it a night.

“I’ll see you Saturday?” he said as she walked him to the door.

“Good night, mafia boy.” She nodded as she yawned for the nth time.

“Good night, Princess Ha.”

~o~

By Saturday morning, Jae Kyung and Ga Eul arrived at the Shin Hwa hangar exactly five minutes before the scheduled take-off. They immediately went to find their seats as the crew helped them with their luggage. Ji Hoo and Seo Hyun had made it just in time from Singapore and were currently seated beside each other at the rear part of the jet. Jae Kyung waved to the duo as Ga Eul found Yi Jeong listening to his iPod while reading some magazine. Woo Bin, on the other hand, was seated in a corner and seemed to be staring outside when she took the seat beside him.

“Sorry we’re late,” Jae Kyung said as she fastened her seatbelt.

“You made it -”

“It’s rude to refuse an invitation,” she grinned as her eyes surveyed the surroundings. “Nice jet.”

“Not as fancy as Shin Hwa’s though,” he joked.

She pretended not to hear the last comment. “Speaking of which, the happy couple aren’t joining us?”

He shook his head. “They left for California this morning,” Woo Bin answered. “The wedding’s is in a month and they still have a lot of minor details to iron out.”

Their conversation was cut short when the pilot announced that they were ready for take-off. It was a quick 40 minute plane ride from Seoul to Jeju onboard the Il Shin private jet. By the time they landed, the group dispersed into the F3’s respective cars which were shipped specifically for the occasion.

“Hop in,” Woo Bin called out as his Lotus Elise SC pulled up in front of her.

“What?” Jae Kyung looked around and realized the two couples had disappeared from her sight. She feigned disappointment. “Oh darn, they actually went ahead of us?”

“If you hurry we can still catch up,” he said, helping her load her suitcase into the compartment. “Did you actually pack your entire closet in there?”

She made a face at him as she settled into the front seat. Surprisingly, he didn’t mind. He was only too happy to let her enjoy the sights and ramble on as he drove along the highway leading to the Song family villa.

~o~

Min Seo Hyun happily observed the new arrivals as Woo Bin’s sisters rushed to meet their brother and his companion. Their families became friends when she went to school with the F4 and Jeong Yeon Hwa had come to treat her like a daughter. But there was something special with the way they were taken with Jae Kyung’s presence. The look on the twins’ faces as she alighted from the car said it all.

“You’re people watching again.” She felt a hand over her shoulder.

“Ji Hoo…” Seohyun glanced up to see Yoon Ji Hoo standing beside her. He had changed into a comfortable summer outfit and was suprisingly wearing Birkenstocks.

“The place hasn’t changed much since we were last here,” Ji Hoo noticed. “You up for a swim?”

“Nah, maybe later,” she replied. Her mindset was still on the scene she witnessed earlier. “They make a lovely couple, don’t they?”

Ji Hoo’s eyes followed her train of sight. Woo Bin was showing Jae Kyung around the place although they kept a safe distance from each other while walking. He thought he saw his friend’s fist ball up and open again when he tried and hesitated to take Jae Kyung’s hand. He couldn’t help but grin at their awkward situation.

“Yeah, they do,” he said.

Seohyun coolly sipped her iced tea. “It’s amazing though how Jae Kyung managed to win his family’s affection so quickly. The twins don’t easily warm up to new faces.”

Ji Hoo suddenly recalled an incident from before. “Remember when Ga Eul was first introduced as Yi Jeong’s girlfriend? Hye Jin barely spoke to her for almost a month.” He expressed amusement at the recollection. “The kid resented the fact that her childhood crush was already taken.”

“I remember that,” she replied laughing. “But look at those girls now, soon they’ll be breaking a lot of men’s hearts in a few years time.”

He nodded in earnest as he leaned back and closed his eyes to enjoy the fresh air. They were later joined by Yi Jeong and Ga Eul who were both eager to do some sight seeing as soon as Woo Bin and Jae Kyung were done unpacking their stuff.

~o~

Woo Bin grunted as Yi Jeong and Ji Hoo tried to suppress a sniggering look when the ladies dragged them to the Jeju Teddy Bear Museum later that afternoon. He could never understand the charm it held over people who frequent the place. His friends blame it on the fact that his mother had an obsession with teddy bears while pregnant with the twins. Even their house in Seoul wasn’t spared as she went on a teddy bear-themed decorating spree once every year until the girls were about five. But his mom grew out of that phase and has learned to focus her efforts on more productive ventures such as her current interior design business. He, on the other hand, never outgrew his aversion.

“This isn’t the Twilight Zone.” A female voice had snapped him out of his thoughts. It was Jae Kyung. She went back for him when they noticed he wasn’t following the group

“I’ll just wait at the cafe.”

He was being evasive and childish. She wasn’t having any of the attitude. Not in a place that’s supposed to evoke happy memories.

“C’mon, don’t be a party-pooper. It’ll be fun,” she took his hand and dragged him towards the group.

Woo Bin was taken aback by her reaction. No one had ever insisted on dragging him along to something that he refused. His family and the F4 knew that. What he forgot to factor in was that Jae Kyung knew when to unsheath her claws at the right time. The lady certainly had guts.

Too much guts for his taking that as to how she managed to convince him to pose for a souvenir photo at the museum, Woo Bin himself had no idea. But he found himself smiling when Jae Kyung later handed him their picture amidst the teddy bears in the background.

~o~

“We’ll be quick.” Ga Eul said, leaving the three guys and Seo Hyun at the cafe as she dragged Jae Kyung along to the museum gift shop to buy some souvenirs for their co-teachers back in Seoul.

“So how are things between you and Jae Kyung lately?” Seohyun asked Woo Bin as soon as the two ladies were out of earshot.

“Huh? We’re doing fine,” he answered, sounding suprised at Seohyun’s sudden interest.

“So fine that you couldn’t avoid staring at her all evening?” Yi Jeong teased.

“I wasn’t staring!” Woo Bin’s body tensed. Did he miss the notice that this was “gang-up-on-your-friend” day?

Seo Hyun cozied up to Ji Hoo and both of them were staring at Woo Bin not knowing whether to laugh or be annoyed at his obliviousness.

“You already like her,” she pointed out.

“And what if I do?” Woo Bin defensively shot back.

“Then are you going to do something about it?” Ji Hoo’s tone was patient, slightly patronizing. “Make a move?”

“In case you forgot, she happens to be the ex-fiancee of our friend.”

Yi Jeong snorted. “But that was five years ago! And who orchestrated the engagement? The Dragon Lady herself,” he finished off, the last statement in obvious reference to Jun Pyo’s mother.

“You’re free, she’s free. I don’t see how that’s supposed to be a problem,” Seo Hyun added. “And don’t let her previous involvement with Jun Pyo be an excuse.”

Before Woo Bin could retaliate from the pep talk, the ladies had returned from the gift shop with several bags in tow. He was thankful for the diversion as he couldn’t stand one more moment of being cross-examined. The attention had shifted and no one said anything on the drive back home. When they reached the villa, Woo Bin hurriedly caught up with Jae Kyung as she briskly walked to their rooms to sort through their purchases.

She looked suprised when she realized he was actually following her. The expression then turned to confusion as he  surprisingly held her hand and led her to the garden.

“We need to talk.”

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