Six: The One Where Good Things Happen in the End

“We need to talk.”

As Jae Kyung stared at Woo Bin’s towering figure, she mentally wracked her brain for anything she might have done to offend him. She tried to let go but he was holding her hand so tight. As if he was afraid she’d bolt. Frantically, she looked around and wondered why no one even bothered to follow them.

“Woo Bin-sshi, is there a problem?” she croaked.

He stopped in his tracks at the sound of her voice and spun around to face her. She, on the other hand, had reflexes quick enough to prevent her from walking straight into his arms when he made the sudden move. But he stood so close she could almost smell his aftershave.

“Nothing,” he whispered. “I just wanted to talk.”

“I don’t understand,” Jae Kyung replied, still confused. “You dragged me all the way here… just to talk?”

She heard a faint laugh as Woo Bin looked at her closely. “I thought we were already past the awkward stage?” He tapped the space next to him as he sank into one of the garden benches. “Have a seat.”

“Is there something bothering you?” Jae Kyung asked, occupying the empty space beside him. “I can tell… you know. Plus you’re acting quite shifty.”

“How is it that you’re always perceptive of the people around you?” Woo Bin said.

“Instinct, I guess,” she shrugged. “This is what I get for being an only child. I get too detail- oriented.”

“You’re weird -”

“Nah,” Jae Kyung waved off the comment. “Just one of a kind.”

With that, a giggle unknowingly worked its way up his throat and Woo Bin burst into laughter the moment Jae Kyung lost it too. They were like two teenage kids having fun, oblivious of their surroundings. Her bubbly personality was infectious; and for a guy who was used to formalities, he found it less stressful whenever she was around. Yet he was quick to admit that sometimes she could be too much to handle.

“So what was it that you wanted to talk to me about?” Jae Kyung followed through.

“Hmmm… it was nothing,” he answered.

“Well if I didn’t know better I’d say you merely wanted to spend some time alone with me,” she grinned mischievously. When Woo Bin looked too stunned to answer, she added… “Hey, I was only joking,” ruffling through his hair playfully.

“Jae Kyung -”

“It’s getting cold,” she stood up and tightly wrapped her coat around her tiny frame. The air was chilly because of the sea breeze and it looked like it was about to rain. “We’d better get inside.”

She was already close to the main house when the downpour started but Woo Bin remained seated on the bench. Not wanting to leave him drenched in the cold, she ambled back only to be dwarfed by his towering frame as he met her halfway.

“What are you doing?” Woo Bin asked, hurriedly taking his coat off and putting it over her head. “You’ll get sick!”

“Look who’s talking!” Jae Kyung answered, her voice rising above the furious pounding of rain water. “I only came back because you never moved an inch from where you were. Fancy dying of hypothermia?”

His mouth curved into a half-smile over the concern for his well-being. It was these little acts of concern that made Woo Bin realize Jae Kyung wasn’t exactly the brat he thought she was five years ago. He realized she was merely misunderstood for being straightforward. He didn’t know how long they stood there in the rain; but without warning, without thinking that anyone might see them, he pulled her closer into a hug.

“Thank you,” he whispered into her hair.

She never made an attempt to break free. It was act of impulse that caught them both by suprise and as her arms collapsed to her sides, she couldn’t believe that this was all happening. She was in a daze and wanted to stay that way forever. Secrets however, have their way of creeping out in the open when you least expected it.

“Oppa?”

The voice broke off the hug and made them jump apart. Jae Kyung then kept her eyes on the ground but the third person didn’t seem mad at what she witnessed. In fact, a look of unmistakeable glee was plastered all over her face. She had with her a huge umbrella that was supposed to be for the two since Ga Eul told her they were both in the garden when it started to rain.

“Are you and unni now together?”

It was Song Hye Jin.

~o~

“Your sister caught you doing what?!?” Yi Jeong asked while Woo Bin was busy toweling his hair dry. He was roaring with laughter as Woo Bin narrated the details on how Hye Jin walked in on the hug and now couldn’t stop calling Jae Kyung as her future sister-in-law.

“It was just a hug, man. Imagine if I kissed her?” Woo Bin said exasperatedly. “My entire family would be planning our wedding at this very moment.”

“And were you?” Ji Hoo asked, not looking up from the book he was reading. “Planning to kiss her, I mean.”

“None of anyone’s business,” Woo Bin replied, aiming a throw pillow jovially at Ji Hoo.

All he wanted was to sleep through the night and have everyone forget what had happened the next morning. But as it turned out, it was hard to keep a secret in that household for long. His entire family had Jae Kyung cornered during breakfast, asking her all sorts of questions. Everything was again awkward as he barely said anything when he sat down to join them, with Seohyun giving him a knowing look before turning a page of the Seoul Times idly. As soon as everyone was done he then set off for the poolside where Jae Kyung conveniently found him minutes later.

“Hey,” she greeted. “I knew I’d find you here.”

“Oh,” Woo Bin looked up and was surprised to see Jae Kyung approaching. “Sorry about my mother and sisters. They get too meddlesome at times.”

“Your mother’s trying to marry you off,” Jae Kyung joked, kicking her flipflops off as she sat down next to him. They both had their feet dipped in the pool as they continued with the conversation. “Did you ever introduce Taeran to them?”

He shook his head with no hint of regret that made Jae Kyung’s heart skip a beat. “She never liked my friends,” he replied. “When we became a couple, it was like I had to choose between her and the F4. My parents were against that kind of attitude so I never made an attempt to introduce her to my family.”

“Forbidden love?”

“More like one-sided love,” Woo Bin corrected. “I guess I was feeling left out at that time with my friends all coupled-up that I pursued the first lady who ever paid attention on me.”

“I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be. It’s all in the past now,” he said cheerfully. “So, did they insist that you were actually my girlfriend?”

“Yeah,” she laughed. “Funny how they refused to believe that I’m not.”

“Would you rather we keep up the act then?”

Jae Kyung paused and looked at Woo Bin with an undetermined expression. “I’m not following…”

“You and me… as a couple,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Not funny,” she said. She spoke disapprovingly of the suggestion that Woo Bin thought she felt slighted he even brought it up. “Are you trying to make a fool of your family? You don’t even like me.”

Woo Bin knew he had to do something as Jae Kyung hurriedly stood up and walked away from him in disappointment. With quick strides, he was able to keep up with her pace and tugged her on the shoulder to keep her still.

“Spare it,” she hissed, turning towards him. “I may actually like you, but I don’t want to force myself on some guy who doesn’t even feel the same way about me.” Realizing she had just blurted her feelings for him without knowing it, she furiously tried to let go of Woo Bin’s grip on her left hand. She succeeded.

The confession left him too dumbfounded to even react. He didn’t know. He was lost in his thoughts that he stood there for what seemed like minutes until Yi Jeong passed by, unmindful of the little tiff that went on earlier, and challenged him to a game of pool. It did nothing to clear his head. Whatever chance he expected of talking to Jae Kyung again seemed bleak as she conveniently avoided the rest of the group for the remainder of the day. They were later told by a housekeeper that Miss Ha requested for a ride to the airport later that afternoon when a family emergency summoned her back to Seoul.

“What could that family emergency be?” Ga Eul asked worriedly as she tried to contact Jae Kyung’s cellphone. “Sunbae, did she say anything to you?”

“No,” Woo Bin replied, although part of him wondered if their argument earlier set off her early departure.

“That’s weird,” Yi Jeong said. “It’s not like her to leave without informing us.”

“I think it’s best if you talk to her once we return to Seoul, Ga Eul.” Seohyun suggested, still eyeing Woo Bin suspiciously.

At that moment, Song Woo Bin suddenly felt he was the biggest screw-up in the world.

~o~

Ha Jae Kyung ran the corridors of Shin Hwa Medical City as fast as her feet would take her. She didn’t mean to leave the group without notice but her mother requested that she return to Seoul as soon as possible. From their conversation, it appeared that too much stress from a recent business deal took its toll on her father’s health and he suffered a mild stroke.

“Ahbeoji…” she whimpered as soon as she reached her father’s hospital suite. She turned the knob and saw her mother sitting by his bedside.

“Jae-yah!” Lee Eun Bi greeted her daughter. “Sweetheart, I’m glad you came. Don’t worry… it’s nothing serious,” she assured Jae Kyung in reference to her husband’s health.

“Ommuni, I’m sorry,” she cried. “I never meant to disappoint you and ahbeoji. All I wanted was to explore my options without the JK name backing me up.” She felt guilty for not being involved with the family business right after university as what her parents had expected. But she knew it was the right thing to do. It would have been unfair for JK Group if she worked there when her heart wasn’t into it.

Eunbi stroked her daughter’s hair affectionately. “I know that, and I’m proud of you. But me and your father aren’t getting any younger. Jae-yah… a rightful successor has to take over JK Group soon.”

“Ommuni…”

“The company needs you,” Ha Yeong Dal added weakly from his hospital bed. Jae Kyung rushed to her father’s bedside and tearfully held his hand. “Come back to us, Jae-yah.”

“Oh, ahbeoji… you know I would do anything for you,” she told her parents earnestly. “But what about the pre-school?”

It took a while before anyone said something. “They will understand,” her mother said with conviction. “Just this favor, sweetheart, is all we’re asking as your parents.”

“Please… don’t hate us for this,” her father said. “I know it’s unfair but this is for your own good too. The Ha legacy must be protected.”

“Ahbeoji, Ommuni… I’m not sure I’m ready,” Jae Kyung spoke of her true feelings. “I’m not trained for this.”

“We are not rushing you,” Madam Lee replied. “Take it at your own pace. Sooner or later you will learn the ropes of the business. Your father and the Board of Directors will guide you through this.”

Jae Kyung sighed, resigned to the fact that she was finally returning to her true heritage. She made a deal with her parents however, that she would return to the States once the Goo wedding is over. In the meantime, she was to handle the Seoul operations of their company. She contemplated on calling Ga Eul regarding the pre-school and to explain what happened in Jeju but decided in the end she’d do it personally once the latter is back in Seoul.

~o~

Woo Bin had probably dialled Jae Kyung’s number over twenty times within the past twenty four hours but she never picked up. He suddenly felt a twinge of annoyance remembering how she walked out on him before he could even explain himself. ‘Some people are just too sensitive’, he thought. As annoyed as he was though, he still missed her presence.

When they arrived from Jeju, he found himself driving by her building on his way home.

He never got off the car.

~o~

A few days days later Woo Bin got a very important phone call from Yi Jeong concerning Ha Jae Kyung.

“Her father was hospitalized?” he promptly reacted, suddenly feeling guilty.

“Apparently that was why she rushed back to Seoul immediately,” Yi Jeong continued. “Ga Eul’s not saying much apart from it was nothing serious.”

He heaved a sigh of relief hearing what Yi Jeong said. “Are you going to pick up Ga Eul from work today?”

“No, we’re meeting at a coffeeshop. Why?”

“Ask if she can take Jae Kyung with her,” he pleaded. “But please don’t say I’m coming.”

“This is juvenile, man,” Yi Jeong laughed. “What are you, in high school?”

“Please?”

“Alright, I’ll call you once we’re there.”

“Thanks, mah bro.”

~o~

“She’s still avoiding me, isn’t she?” Woo Bin told both Yi Jeong and Ga Eul when they met up at the coffeeshop an hour later. The one person he expected to see was not with them.

“What exactly did you argue about in Jeju?” Ga Eul asked. “And for the record, she’s not avoiding you. It’s just that she no longer works at the pre-school.”

“What?” he shot back. “Why? When?” He fired questions in rapid succession.

“Hey, easy on the cross-examination!” Yi Jeong teased.

“It’s okay,” Ga Eul beamed. “Her father’s recent hospitalization prompted her decision to finally work for JK. They’re letting her handle the operations for Seoul,” she continued. “But really, why the tone of concern?”

“I’m not concerned,” he replied defensively. “Just curious, that’s all.”

But Woo Bin knew himself better. He was thankful though that neither Yi Jeong or Ga Eul pressed any further about the argument back in Jeju. If Jae Kyung never told anyone about it, he didn’t see any reason why he should. It was a pretty trivial issue they needed to work out between themselves.

“She’s at Cafe Mou, if you must know,” Ga Eul suddenly blurted. “She’ll know you actually found out from me so please don’t get into another argument, okay?”

“You are an angel, Ga Eul-yang!” Woo Bin exclaimed enthusiastically, hugging her out of gratitude much to Yi Jeong’s surprise. He darted out of the coffeeshop in an instant and started his car towards the restaurant Ga Eul mentioned.

~o~

It was easy to spot her from a distance.

As he stood at the entrance of Cafe Mou, Woo Bin saw Jae Kyung seated at a table by the window flipping pages of a fashion magazine while waiting for her food. The place was packed, so it was easier for him to manage his way to her table without getting noticed.

“Expecting someone?” he asked, as he quietly sank to the seat opposite her.

She appeared startled to see him that she stood up and was about to do walk-out #2.

“Jae Kyung, please… listen to me?” He pleaded, reaching for her hand as he quietly led her to a table outside where there were only a few diners. “I never meant to hurt your feelings back in Jeju. Clearly I am not one who’s great with words. But if you must know, I am terribly sorry for what I did.

She attempted to interrupt but was too caught up with her emotions.

“At first I dismissed it as something brotherly. You were, after all, close to my sisters. But then I got so used to your presence over the weekends that you began spending with us,” he continued. “I don’t know how, I don’t know why… it just happened.”

As Jae Kyung listened on, she felt hot tears springing from her eyes that she sank to the nearest chair. He need not say more. She perfectly understood everything. She had felt the exact same thing and didn’t know quite what to make of it at first.

“You’re crying -” He was half-smiling this time.

“I know,” she laughed in spite of herself. “I’m such a cry-baby.”

“A very pretty one at that,” he added.

She wiped the tears from eyes as she felt the stares from on-lookers at neighboring tables. “I’m sorry. They must think we’re arguing,” she whispered to him.

“Or they thought I just proposed?” He whispered back.

“Would you stop with the couple jokes?” she tapped his hand playfully, happiness written all over her face.

He felt relieved. Things were starting to fall into place between the two of them. Yes, it was a whirlwind thing… but he was happy. “Let’s give this a try,” he held her hand again. “I can’t promise I’ll be perfect, but we’ll make this work.”

Jae Kyung’s hands flew to his upper torso, circling him for a hug as soon as he said those words. “Yes,” she said to him. “We can make this work.”

They’d worry about telling their friends and family about them tomorrow. Right now, the only thing that mattered to Song Woo Bin was spending the entire evening with the woman who had managed to capture the elusive Don Juan’s heart.

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