Four: The One with the Family Dinner

Woo Bin managed to haul himself off to work that day as if nothing had happened. He had to keep himself busy and it helped that he had a lot of reports to review since the chairman was arriving from Taiwan expecting progress on MyungDok’s construction.

A buzz on the intercom interrupted his concentration. “Yes, Kyung Su?”

“Sir, your mother is on line two.”

Woo Bin sighed. His ever-efficient assistant sucked at making excuses on his behalf when it came to his mother.

“Put her through,” he ordered. “Ommuni?”

Thankfully, no lecture of sorts was given. The phone call was mainly to remind him about dinner tomorrow with the entire family.

“I shall expect you at 7 o’clock sharp, okay?” Yeon Hwa told her son. “Do not be late as you know your father hates that.”

He smiled. Mothers tend to worry too much. He was actually looking forward to this dinner since their individual schedules rarely coincide these days.

“I’ll be there, I promise,” he assured her.

~ o ~

“Hey, you mind?” So Yi Jeong inquired, popping his head around the door of Woo Bin’s office. It was already late in the afternoon and the latter was too engrossed with his paperwork that he barely even noticed his friend come in.

“Hey man,” Woo Bin replied with a tired smile. “You are just the distraction that I needed. What brings you here to my humble workspace?”

“Can’t I check on a friend?” Yi Jeong chuckled, seating himself in a leather armchair. “I wanted to see how you were doing. If you got home safely the other day,” he continued. “Or if Jae Kyung decided to drop you off in a ditch somewhere.”

Woo Bin chuckled. He knew Yi Jeong only meant it as a joke, but he had to throw in something for Jae Kyung’s sake.

“Hey, she’s not that bad,” he said in her defense.

“Oh wow, concerned much?” his friend responded swiftly, fixing Woo Bin with his piercing brown eyes.

“What?!?” Woo Bin wondered, holding his hands in mock surrender. “I was merely stating a fact.”

“Right,” Yi Jeong said, sounding totally unconvinced. “Since when have the two of you started looking out for each other?”

He was becoming more and more puzzled with Yi Jeong’s cryptic statements. It was as if implying that he and Jae Kyung had something going on which was absolutely untrue. He, however, appreciated the fact that she came to check on him the day after he got himself drunk over a juvenile heartbreak.

“You read too much into everything, man.”

“Maybe. But even Jun Pyo and Ji Hoo share the same observations,” Yi Jeong shared. “Now wait a minute! Why are we talking about that? I came here so that you and I can check out the new firing range at the country club.”

Woo Bin laughed and stood up. “Well I’m in. I could use a little exercise after seating here the whole day.”

Yi Jeong took it as a good sign. “Great! I’ll call the others on our way there.”

~o~

On Friday morning, Jae Kyung started the day running her usual errands. Her mother had emailed yesterday saying her father was seriously considering giving her the reins of their Seoul office. She begged off saying she was not ready yet. But she promised that she will join JK Group in time, on her own terms. She was on her way out of the bank when her cellphone beeped. Fishing the mobile from her handbag, an unfamiliar number flashed onscreen with the message:

Hi Unni! Can you please meet us later at Shin Hwa High? 4PM. We’ll be expecting you. – Song Hye Rin
From: +011821071356410

Clicking the phone shut, she couldn’t help but smile. They had kept her phone number after all. The fact is, she was looking forward to seeing the girls again. She just had to apologize for bolting so quick the last time they met. Plus, she could use some company since Jan Di and Ga Eul were both busy with work these days.

~o~

What was supposed to be an hour of conversations over coffee stretched into three hours with shopping trips on the side. Jae Kyung was being her generous self and had bought the twins two outfits each of their choice. She would have wanted them to have dinner together had it not been for the fact that the girls were running late for an earlier appointment.

“I cannot contact Mr. Jang!” Hye Rin said frantically as they reached Jae Kyung’s car. The family chauffer was supposed to meet them at the mall’s parking lot but they couldn’t spot the car. School was out by 4PM and it was now seven thirty. They had earlier promised Mr. Jang it’ll only take them an hour to catch up with a friend but they lost track of time.

“Ahbeoji will be mad,” Hye Jin replied, trying to remain calm. “We’ve never missed a family dinner before.”

“Hey,” Jae Kyung offered. “I can drive you home if you want. Just give me the directions and I’ll get you there safely.” Both girls rushed over to Jae Kyung’s side to give her a hug, grateful that someone was kind enough to spare them them from the possible wrath of their parents for sneaking out without their permission.

She smiled nervously. “It’s the least I can do since I got you into this mess in the first place.”

~ o ~

By home, the sisters actually meant a 45 minute drive to a plush subdivision in the suburbs. Jae Kyung had never been to any of the F4’s houses aside from Goo Jun Pyo’s but she was impressed as soon as the car entered the Song estate’s driveway. The family’s reputation as one of the pioneers of real estate and architecture in Korea was evident in the details invested on the manor’s design.

A slew of bodyguards stood by the main door when they got off the car and she quietly followed the sisters down the hall to explain to the elders why they got home late. As they neared the foyer, a familiar face descended down the grand staircase.

“Girls! What took you so long?”

“Ommuni!” The girls ran to their mother. “We’re sorry, we lost track of time.” Hye Jin answered.

‘Madam Jeong?’ Jae Kyung said to herself. No wonder she felt weird while driving up here. This was Woo Bin’s mother? How did an F4 end up with one that had some sense of normalcy in her?

“This is our friend, Ha Jae Kyung.” Hye Rin introduced her. “She was kind enough to drive us all the way here. Please don’t be mad, ommuni?”

It was only then that Madam Jeong recognized their guest. “Miss Ha? What a pleasant suprise!” she greeted, giving Jae Kyung a warm hug. “I didn’t know you were friends with my daughters.”

She was left speechless that Hye Jin spoke on her behalf. “Jae Kyung is a friend of Oppa,” the teen corrected. “We met at his apartment.”

Before the conversation could go anywhere they were interrupted by a looming figure descending the staircase right after Madam Jeong. He was a tall, well-built man in his fifties who never looked his age aside from the salt and pepper hairstyle he sported. Woo Bin’s father. Jae Kyung mentally chided herself for picturing the Song patriarch as someone like Marlon Brando in The Godfather.

“And who do we have here?” he asked, curious as to the identity of their guest.

“My name is Ha Jae Kyung, sir.” Jae Kyung introduced herself. “I was with your daughters earlier and I apologize if I got them home later than expected.”

“Please, call me Song Woo Taek,” he replied, meeting her outstretched hand. “And you arrived here safely with my girls, that’s all that matters.”

“Hyeobo, I never even knew she was friends with our son,” Yeon Hwa added, sounding pleased at the knowledge.

“Is that so? Well why don’t you stay for dinner then, Jae Kyung?” Mr. Song offered. “Woo Bin will be joining us later and I’m sure he’ll be glad to see a friend.”

Jae Kyung suddenly felt butterflies in her stomach. She didn’t want Woo Bin to think she was trying to ingratiate herself into his family. ‘Since when did his opinion ever matter to me anyways’, she thought. Brushing any negative thoughts aside, she followed the family to the foyer where they await the butler’s notice for dinner to be served. The Songs were such gracious hosts that she felt it was rude to refuse an invitation.

~o~

They were halfway through the main course when Woo Bin realized Jae Kyung barely said a word to him since he arrived. She merely lifted her chin when he sat down and resumed eating her food. When their eyes finally met, he gave her a brief nod and a smile as a way of making her feel welcome. He thought she actually looked pretty with her hair tied back in a ponytail.

“How’s the food, sweetheart? Are you enjoying yourself?” Yeon Hwa asked Jae Kyung, who was quietly eating a dumpling. She had nodded in agreement which prompted his mother to offer second helpings.

Woo Bin shook his head in amusement. His mother always loved it whenever he had friends around. But when she was being particularly attentive towards Jae Kyung, he thought there was something more to it. Hye Jin then filled him in on the details regarding both being on the same flight from New York to Seoul almost two weeks ago. Putting two and two together, he realized Jae Kyung was the girl his mom wanted him to take to Jun Pyo’s wedding.

“Ahdeul, how’s the construction progress so far on MyungDok?” his father asked. He was quite thankful for the diversion.

“We’re running right on schedule, ahbeoji,” he replied. “The architect is requesting for a meeting next week to run by us some minor revisions on the building’s lay-out.”

“Good, good. Just keep me updated.”

“Hyeobo, I thought we agreed that work shall not be discussed over dinner?” Yeon Hwa told her husband.

Woo Taek looked his wife in the eye. “Just for now, hyeobo. And besides, aren’t you proud how your son is turning out to be quite the savvy business executive?”

Woo Bin thought he saw Jae Kyung smile at that compliment his father gave him.

Later that evening, if not for the torrential downpour which resulted to zero visibility on the road from the subdivision to the city, Jae Kyung would have insisted on driving home right after dinner. But Madam Jeong’s persuasive ability came in handy as she requested that Jae Kyung stay for the night. She relented, much to the delight of the twins who immediately raced upstairs and supervised some maids in preparing the guest room.

The funny thing was, Woo Bin was actually glad she agreed to stay.

~o~

Jae Kyung had been up all night thinking how she had bitten off more than she could chew. The guest room in the manor was more than comfortable but she didn’t feel like sleeping. After tossing and turning for almost fifteen minutes, she quietly slipped out of her bedroom and headed downstairs.

“Can’t sleep?”

She turned around to see Woo Bin coming out of the kitchen, in his pyjamas, with a glass of milk on one hand. His usually swept up hair was now a bit tousled as he looked like he just woke from a deep slumber. A half-smile was all she could manage as she welcomed the company. She never realized how adorable he looked even in the simplest sleepwear.

“Yeah, that’s more like,” she reasoned out. “How about you?” She nodded towards the glass he was holding.

“Childhood habit,” he replied.

“Oh that’s cute.”

They both let out a nervous laugh. Woo Bin seated himself beside Jae Kyung who was now lounging comfortably on the couch. Suddenly aware of their proximity, she began tapping her fingers nervously on the throw pillow. A reaction that did not escape his attention.

“Do I make you uncomfortable?”

“What?” she sounded surprised at the question. “No! Of course not.”

“Then why are you edging farther and farther away from me since I sat down?” Woo Bin noted.

He was right as they were now seated at opposite ends of the couch. She felt like sinking to the ground in embarassment. He, on the other hand, was quite amused. Jae Kyung had always struck him as someone with a bold personality. Seeing her act painfully awkward needed sometime of getting used to.

Mianhe, I didn’t mean to,” she stood up to excuse herself. “I should go to my room now.”

But Woo Bin was quick. He grabbed her hand before she could slip away.

“Wait!” he added. “I never meant for it to sound that way.” She merely gave him a calculating look. “Please, have a seat. I actually wanted to tell you something.”

“I’m not exactly sure what you mean -”

“Thank you -”

She blinked. “For what?”

“Because you were concerned enough about me,” he said. “Thank you for driving me home safely the other night.”

“Well, you’re welcome… again,” Jae Kyung replied with a smile. “You already thanked me when I went to your apartment,” she corrected him.

“Oh, right,” he laughed at his goof. “Memory gap, sorry.”

They were finally talking. It was a start. Yet Jae Kyung couldn’t resist asking about one topic she knew might hit quite a nerve.

“That incident… it was about… Taeran, right?” she asked.

He fell silent for a minute. Then with a deep sigh, he actually answered the question. “Yes,” he admitted. “And it was a stupid thing on my part.”

“You still love her?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can you say you don’t know?” she insisted, surprised at the sudden tone of her voice. She felt her heart drop, but she was still looking at his expression earnestly.

“I don’t even know if I loved her that much,” he said wistfully. “The reason why I got myself drunk was because I realized how stupid I was to fall for someone who made me choose between her and my friends. Yi Jeong was right. She isn’t worth it.”

Jae Kyung was at a loss for words. She almost became that person when she was still Jun Pyo’s fiancee but the group welcomed her back with open arms. Not knowing how to comfort Woo Bin, she instinctively rested her head over his shoulder and they lasted a good ten minutes just sitting there in total silence.

Although surprised, he never flinched when she did that. It was comforting enough to know that she understood his situation and was now someone he could count on.

~o~

The next morning, the atmosphere had changed from being awkward to slightly friendly between the two. Jae Kyung said her goodbyes right after breakfast and promised to be back next weekend while Woo Bin discretely made his exit a few seconds later saying he had a golf match to catch. Within minutes, both cars were cruising along the road back to the city.

As they neared the city proper, Woo Bin called her from his car saying he’ll go ahead and that it was nice hanging out with her. Jae Kyung, unsure of what she felt after the phone call, skidded to a stop right in front of the Ga Eul’s house minutes later.

“I was supposed to sleep in until noon,” Ga Eul grumbled as she opened the door. Jae Kyung’s sudden arrival apparently woke her up and she was still trying to thumb sleep out of her system. “It’s the weekend, unni.”

“And isn’t it a perfect day to rise and shine?”

“You sound unusually chirpy,” she said to her visitor. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” Jae Kyung backpedalled.

Ga Eul made a face. “There is something you’re not telling.”

“He told me about Taeran -”

“Who? Oh no… Woo Bin-sunbae?”

Jae Kyung nodded.

“And you’re happy because?”

“That he’s finally getting over her?”

Ga Eul looked at her friend testily. “Are you sure you’re okay?”, she wondered. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you actually have a crush on the guy.”

“What? No!”

“You’re blushing -”

“You’re insinuating -”

“Fine,” Ga Eul conceded. “But unni, don’t you think you’re a little too involved? Why the obsession on his past with Taeran?”

“I don’t know,” Jae Kyung admitted. “Maybe I just want him to be happy, that’s all.”

Ga Eul squinted at Jae Kyung uncertainly. “Yeah, I believe you,” she finally said after a few seconds, patting her friend’s back. “But wouldn’t it be great if you and Woo Bin-sunbae get together?”

Jae Kyung laughs a bit uncomfortably. Ga Eul was still the hopeless romantic who believed in soulmates. “Riiiigggghhhhtttt…,” she trails off. “Ga Eul-yang, do you know what you’re talking about? I’m not even his type.”

“Ohhh… that,” she pauses. “Well you don’t even know if it’s true. What do you say I ask Yi Jeong to snoop around?” She smiles with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

“Chu Ga Eul!” Jae Kyung protests, flailing her arms in panic. “Please don’t?” she pleads.

“You’re funny when you have a crush on someone, did you know that?”

“I feel stupid -”

“Hey, it happens to all of us,” Ga Eul assured her.

“Just promise me you won’t tell anyone about this,” Jae Kyung requested. “Not for now, at least.”

“You secret is safe, unni.”

“Thank you, Ga Eul-yang.”

Jae Kyung sighed. She didn’t know when or how it happened. But Ga Eul was right. She was starting to feel something for Woo Bin and it scared her. Not only because he was one of her former fiance’s bestfriends, but also because she wasn’t even sure of how he really felt about her. It was as if she was fated to be drawn to the F4 no matter what happened in the past.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: