Reunion Chapter 2

Author: Lee Coin

At the villa, as much as I had to put up with endless time, it was also relaxing. After graduating from school, I never had time for leisure. Since I was a kid then, I couldn’t find jobs so I asked the dealer there to distribute flyers. It was a given that I got busier as I got older. Even at that place, although I was receiving money for staying there,  I often asked myself if it was okay to relax that much. If I exclude the time that I spent with Chairman Jang, most of the time I would lazily lounge in the unfamiliar idleness.

 

That day wasn’t different. After conversing with Chairman Jang over lunch, with a tired face he went back to have a nap. The sun was harshly bright outside, and luckily the inside of the villa was pleasant. Inside the villa, I took out a book that would be easy to read and sat on the sofa, glancing at my surroundings.

 

After gouging the living room and seeing that there was no one, I lay down on the sofa. Even though I thought of reading for a long time, the pleasant air and the drowsiness after lunch, tried caving me in. Resting the book on my face, I blinked my eyes closed.

 

“Is it you?”

 

I opened my eyes in surprise, at an unfamiliar voice that sounded unwelcomed.

 

“Was it you who said that you would marry a man whom you’ve never even seen before?”

 

The book that was covering my eyes disappeared and a face obstructed my view instead. It was a face I’d never seen before personally, but I could recognize it. The first impression that I received when I saw him was that he was not the type who liked being photographed. He seemed cold and I blinked my eyes several times before slowly rising off the sofa.

 

I was too much at ease. Why was I so relieved that he wouldn’t be traveling from the USA and coming here? No matter how much Jang Myeongsoo could sew others’ lips shit, he could never shut his own father up. On that note, the vague reply, “I’ll think about it.” had delivered the impression as if I had accepted it. That’s why he flew here at once.

 

“No, that’s…”

 

I had to solve the misunderstanding but I was worried about where should I start and what I should resolve. Should I reject there and there, by saying I don’t intend to do so? I had to seek Jang Myeongsoo’s approval regarding that matter.

 

“I don’t know how you fooled grandpa but you can’t fool me. You are a fake, right? No matter how much you fool someone but he is an old man…”

 

Jang Yoosung continued to press me without sparing me the chance to answer. But he said nothing wrong. As I continued listening to him, I checked if my wig was still in place from laying down earlier. I was deliberating whether I should pretend to cry as if I was really in trouble. I had to stall the time until Jang Myeongsoo or at least Chairman Jang appeared.

 

“Jang Yoonsung!”

 

“What, why is it noisy…is it Jang Yoonsung?”

 

Luckily, all problem solvers came at once. After hearing his son’s homecoming, Jang Myeongsoo hurriedly ran towards the living room, and simultaneously from the corner of the living room, the door to the main room opened.

 

Chairman Jang, when he discovered Jang Yoosung, tried to confirm whether it really was his grandchild who flew from overseas was real or a dream, with widened eyes.

 

“Jang Yoosung! Did you really come to see me?”

 

As assumed, the root of the situation was Chairman Jang. He must have sent the news over the call and his grandson, who was instigated, came to Korea boarding a plane. It must have been unpleasant, that his future was being decided by others. Rightfully so. Unexpectedly, it was obvious that Jang Myeongsoo did not give a hint to his second son about the situation in advance. No matter how different he was from the first son, wouldn’t it have been better to at least persuade him from before? It was not that we were getting married for real.

 

When Chairman Jang asked if Jang Yoosung really came to see him, the latter grumbled and replied.

 

“Uh, but what is this? You can see it’s a fake. Grandpa, you were fooled once but you are being fooled again.”

 

“Which woman in their right mind would say that they wanted to get married in this way? How did you describe me to her, grandpa? It is obvious that you must have said that I was a jerk. Even after hearing that, is it possible for a person to marry me? If she was really Han Jiyoung, why would she be doing that? Even if she didn’t get married, she would be getting her part in the fortune.”

 

Jang Yoosung figured everything out as if his excellent skills weren’t just for show. Even if I wanted to clap for him, I suppressed the urge and continued to survey the situation, sitting on the sofa.

 

“I didn’t say it to that extent. I only said that you were handsome. Firstly, come in. You surprised Jiiyoung.”

 

Chairman Jang beckoned him to his room quickly. Jang Yoosung looked at me again and I reciprocated with surprised rabbit-like eyes.

 

“What do you mean surprised, she must have been feeling guilty.”

 

“Jang Yoosung!”

 

“I’m coming, I’m coming.”

 

At Chairman Jang’s call, Jang Yoosung reluctantly went inside the room. Jang Myeongsoo who confirmed that the door was closed, made a gesture with his chin to follow him. As usual, he kept his Secretary standing outside the door but it was clear that he was worried, judging from his face. It was unfair to push the blame on my behavior, but I didn’t have the right to complain.

 

Jang Myengsoo scanned me as Jang Yoosung did earlier. As if he was scrutinizing from head to toe.

 

“Can you fool Jang Yoosung?”

 

“I can pretend to be Jiyoung but won’t he recognize that I am a man in an instant?”

 

Even if Chairman Jang’s eyes were blurry and the people who worked at the house didn’t care enough, Jang Yoosung thought of me as a fake. If there was anything suspicious, he would try to dig it up.

 

“It’s fine. You look more plausible than I thought. He is not rude enough to strip you bare just because he was suspicious.”

 

I remembered my first meeting with Jang Yoosung. The act of him taking the book off my face with his impatient hands. It seemed to me that Jang Yoosung might be ruder than Jang Myeongsoo made him out to be.

 

“Should I reject the marriage proposal properly?”

 

“No, I’ll come up with something to persuade him. For now, just continue doing your job as a fake properly.”

 

Easy to say. I could fool Chairman Jang because he secretly hoped that I would be the real Han Jiyoung. The walls that surrounded his heart seemed high and sturdy but with a few knocks, it all crumbled down. However, Jang Yoosung wasn’t like that.

 

Jang Yoosung, after having his private conversation with Chairman Jang, came out to talk with Jang Myeongsoo for a while. I didn’t know how Jang Myengsoo convinced Jang Yoosung, but he did not call me fake after that. But his eyes clouded in doubt only becoming more piercing.

 

Even after making such a fierce fuss, the relationship between Chairman Jang and Jang Yoosung looked good. Even though he grumbled under his breath, he took a walk outside with Chairman Jang when the weather was just right, and chatted about what happened when he was studying abroad and would have lunch, the three of us together. I didn’t even realize that I was growing to hate to keep fooling Chairman Jang.

 

“Yoonsung, stop and eat.”

 

“I said I’m eating.”

 

At the table, where the three of us were sitting together, Jang Yoosung was staring at me while putting rice into his mouth. If anything was to come out of his eyes, it would have already burnt me to ashes. Honestly, I wanted to avoid meeting his eyes but I had my own reasons.

 

Protecting myself and my family was burdening enough, so I couldn’t bother about other people. Even if fooling Chairman Jang was not an honest task, I shamelessly tried to succeed in it. I watched Chairman Jang pick up the eggplant and opened his mouth. I hoped that Jang Yoosung could keep watching.

 

“Grandfather, do you like eggplant? My grandmother dislikes eggplant.”

 

“Right, right, she did. I liked eggplant so much, she purposely asked the working people then that I wanted to eat eggplant. I was so thankful.”

 

Chairman Jang responded as he reminisced. I wanted Jang Yoosung to affirm that I was really Han Jiyoung. It was already a situation that repeated several times before. The memories about Han Jiyoung, I dragged it out until there were more stories tailing it continuously. As I endured the heat of Jang Yoosung’s eyes, I organized my thoughts. If I stopped it then, he would be more suspicious however his expression turned sour.

 

Why was it so? Why was he so sure that I was fake? Was it because I felt awkward being dressed as a woman and discovered as a man? Was it suspicious that I didn’t reject the marriage proposal at once?  Or was it…I didn’t even want to think that knew that there was a possibility that he knew about Han Jiyoung’s death. If that was the case, there was no way I could escape from this.

 

Jang Yoosung was quiet for a few weeks, but that suspicion heavy and awkward atmosphere did not last for long.

 

Similar to the time when Jang Yoosung found me last time when the house was the quietest in the afternoon, I, who was bored, went to the 2nd floor’s library and took out a book before climbing downstairs.

 

Jang Yoosung was waiting at the part of the stairs where the stairs took a turn. I wanted to avoid meeting him when grandfather was away. There was more than one disadvantage when there were no people by my side.

I stood in front of him and wore the calmest face I could. He stared at me as if I would disappear if he turned away. This time too, he continued staring at me. However, whether it was his intention or not, he talked to me in an impassive voice. His eyes were full of contempt.

 

“This time we have a really bad con man.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“All the fakes that came until now seemed to have some guilty conscience. You don’t seem guilty in the least.”

 

Guilty conscience? It only makes you hesitate no matter what you do. Those fakes felt that way because they were really fakes. A boy who was brought up as well as you, could live by worrying about others. To be honest, I could have done more than this.

 

“There’s no reason to be.”

 

Even though I felt I was really at a loss, I persistently pretended to be the real Han Jiyoung. I was hoping that he was simply looking at me, so I tried to keep calm. But Jang Yoosung laughed as if he was pitying me.

 

“I don’t know if you realize it, but I am aware.”

 

“Of what?”

 

“What happened to the real Han Jiyoung.”

 

Don’t tell me. I bit my lips. I was debating whether I should be more insisting  or should I try asking him about it. Jang Yoosung, as if there was no need for my deliberations, continued talking.

 

“What you are doing right now is pathetically pretending to be a dead girl and scamming other people.”

 

There was no need to ask more. Jang Yoosung knew exactly that Han Jiyoung was dead. Jang Myeongsoo, who desperately needed to hide the truth, managed his surroundings. He carved it to match the strict taste of his father. However, in reality, Jang Myeongsoo tried to carry out business under that excuse, without the permission of his father.

 

“Grandfather still doesn’t know that far. I don’t want him to know. So just say that you’re fake and go back”

 

After he was done talking, he turned his body. As if he was going to call Chairman Jang right away.

 

I grabbed his arm in a hurry.

 

“Wait. Even though I am not of a blood relation, I am not totally fake.”

 

“So are you a half-fake?”

 

Jang Yoonsung answered unemotionally.

 

“I know what grandfather thinks about Jiyoung’s fortune. But I don’t want any of it. I just want your father’s reward, I just came here to tell your grandfather about Jinyoung’s grandmother.”

 

It was clear that Chairman Jang wanted to give his benefactor’s blood relative a significant reward. But I didn’t want to receive anything from Chairman Jang in the least. When Jang Yoosung yanked his arm from my grip, I caught on to it again.

 

“I am not a blood relative but I’ve known Jiyoung for a long time. Since Jiyoung’s family became that way, among the people that are alive, most probably I know them the best so that’s why I came. As you said, it’s not proper to pretend to be Jiyoung or fool your grandfather. But I don’t think I am doing harm to anyone.”

 

“Fooling people?”

 

“You are fooling him too.”

 

Even though Jang Yoosung knew about Jiyoung’s death, he was not bothered to inform Chairman Jang about it. On top of it, he had already been disappointed by several fakes before. Jang Yoosung was silent, and opened his mouth again, settling on his thoughts.

 

“Right, I should tell him the truth this time. It would be better than letting it repeat the same way again.”

 

You filthy, honest bastard. I didn’t speak up but I cursed him inwardly many times.

 

“Prepare your luggage in advance or whatever.”

 

I had my meal with Chairman Jang that evening. Jang Yppsung was doing something in his room so he didn’t show up. Anyway, I was caught and that work would end soon and it was time to move on even if I didn’t want to. I might have been a fake but the stories I told him were all true. Just for comfort, I wanted to tell Chairman Jang as many stories as I could. We didn’t spend a long time together but I became attached to the old man who treated me well.

 

The second time I packed my luggage, it took longer than the first time. It was because I thought I would be spending my summer leisurely. Hence, I pulled all the contents from the luggage.

 

The next day Jang Yoosung appeared at the dining table. He ate his meal as if it were grains of sand, but he did not open the seal off his mouth. I didn’t know if he was giving me the time to sort out my belongings; however, it was a useless consideration. Since I didn’t fulfill the task given by Jang Myeongsoo till the end, I would be sent away with minimal remuneration. It would be better to look for a job the instant I leave from there.

 

“Jiyoung, you were full of energy yesterday and today too. Aren’t you bored of talking with grandfather?”

 

Still, I tried to spend the time spared by Jang Yoosung to the fullest. After having breakfast, I pestered my grandfather to take a walk in the garden while I told him tidbits from here and there. Even if he didn’t remember stories about Jiyoung’s grandmother and the stories were pitiful, I still told him about Jiyoung’s mother and about Jiyoung.

 

“The summer will end soon. So I am doing everything before that.”

 

It might seem better to take my leave early in anyone’s eyes, but I didn’t want to bow out so quickly. As if Chairman Jang had suspected something, he asked me regretfully.

 

“Didn’t you say there was still a month left? Don’t tell me you are thinking of leaving early.”

 

“Not at all. I am just saying that the time I’m spending with my grandfather is going by quickly.”

 

“Just say things that are good to hear…let’s go for now. It’s getting warm already.”

 

“Sure.”

 

Chairman Jang asked for Secretary Kim and he wheeled him inside. I looked at the empty garden once again. The tree and grass were clearly trimmed as if they were boasting how fresh they were, but it seemed like a boring atmosphere for an old man to live in. Looking at the heartbroken old man’s back, I slowly walked towards the door. I saw a familiar man standing, resting against the ajar door.

 

Jang Yoosung stood, with his figure crooked. How long was he standing there?

 

From the start, he wasn’t someone who would get along with me. But after having that conversation at the stairs, he didn’t look me in the eyes. Then again, when that pierced his gaze on me, I passively let him know I was ready to leave.

 

“I prepared my luggage. Inform me in advance when you are going to tell grandfather.”

 

“Right.”

 

He answered as if he was sighing. Was he hesitating? So I opened my mouth again.

 

“Think whatever you want of me but I still…no, that’s not it. I want you to do it as soon as possible. I am a busy person.”

 

Actually, I still couldn’t figure it out. Was it really okay to tell the truth? Chairman Jang, who trusted me as Han Jiyoung, was then active and energetic as a sole tree standing in the rain. There are no people in this world who would be hurt by hiding their feelings. Perhaps, Jang Yoosung was in conflict. He must have taken a break after surveilling me for a few weeks. However, Jang Yoosung then closed and opened his eyes again, as if he made a decision.

 

“I’m going to tell him this afternoon.”

 

As if Chairman Jang had predicted something inauspicious, he took a long nap after lunch. That evening, once the house grew quieter I parked my luggage in the living room before pacing around. During the time I lived in the villa I was comfortable however, there was not a time when my mind was at peace. It wasn’t because I would be caught or uncomfortable dressing up as a woman, but because I couldn’t forget the reality.

 

The disease was still spreading in my mother’s body and my younger brother was worried like me. However, if I knew that I would be leaving so soon, I should have closed my eyes and made the best of that opportunity. My eyes full of regret, looked around the villa once.

 

If I thought of the villa as a home it was too big to be one, however, it wasn’t too desolate. The interior was relatively comfortable and there were decorations spread here and there. I would never be able to forget the soft sofa on which I often rested. On one side of the living room was the kitchen and on the other, was Chairman Jang’s own room. I stayed in the room on the 2nd floor, where I could see the villa overlooking the reservoir. There was a piano underneath the stairs that led to it.

 

Come to think of it, I had a doubt when I first saw it. Would the piano play a sound? It would be strange if it wasn’t as if it was like a mere object in the background. I wanted to hear its sound at least once before leaving.

 

Ding-

 

I liked the sound of a piano to the point I would perk my ears if I happened to hear it, however, I didn’t know how to play it. The kids in that shabby neighborhood we used to live in, sometimes went to piano school. After pestering Jiyoung for weeks, she barely ended up going to piano school and she bragged about it to me and Geonwoo. Good for you, I used to answer, however, I wasn’t really jealous.

 

Young Geonwoo, after seeing Jiyoung brag about it, thought it was something great and went to mother and said, “Jiyoung goes to piano school.” That time, mother glanced at me and then said, “Geonwoo wants to play piano too?” Mother wanted to fulfill at least one of her son’s desires because our living situation was also difficult. When my mother saw me shake my head, she said, “Why? Our Hakyung would be great at playing the piano because you’ve slender and long fingers.” She suggested once again. But I shook my head with determination because I knew how much a piano costs.

 

Even if I went to piano school, I knew it wouldn’t last. There would be no way that the house would be having a piano and it would be a useless thing to work for. But the thing I was most afraid of was that I might end up enjoying playing the piano so much that it would be difficult to give up afterward. There was no way I could admit myself to a school, given my family situation. I could live by not knowing how to play the piano.

 

That was what I used to think. I need to give those things quickly, the ones I don’t need and can’t get. The attachment to those only made life difficult.

 

Ding! Ding! Ding! I listened to the sound as I pressed each key. I wanted a loud sound enough to make an outsider like me to be notice. But I didn’t know how. Now that I think of it, I was in awe of a musician’s skills because I could never differentiate between the bad and good parts of an instrument. If I thought about it that way, it was a meaningless act. As I gradually lost interest, I stood up.

 

“Piano, you can try playing it.”

 

Jang Yoosung was leaning on the stair railings and was looking at me. He talked to me as if he was being kind. The guy had a talent for popping out of nowhere without a sound. Jang Yoosung seemed to think I was hesitating when I was just being careful.

 

“I don’t know how to.”

 

“Then what are you trying to do?”

 

“Just, I was curious about how it sounds.”

 

When I was about to say that I wondered what was so different about a grand piano, Jang Yoosung came down the stairs and sat down next to me.

 

“Should I play it for you?”

 

He asked while staring at my hand which was still on the keyboard. It wasn’t that rough looking although a girl’s finger would look different. I quickly drew back my hand.

 

“Do you know how to play it?”

 

“This is mine. Since I don’t play it much, I bought it here.”

 

While I put my finger on the piano, that man’s eyes followed my fingers with persistence. As if my cover would get revealed, I shrunk back my hand. I didn’t want him to discover even my worst. If I get caught as a man, it would be more ridiculous, I thought. He must have thought that I was the worst swindler. Once I hid my hands under the fluttering skirt, only then Jang Yoosung darted his eyes away.

 

Once his face turned to the piano, only then his fingers started to move. Jang Yoosung’s fingers were long and beautiful as if they were a decoration. The fingers that seemed to hover over the keyboard, produced the sounds in that note. The clean sound tickled my ears.

 

“You are really not just a fake?”

 

“Huh?”

 

Even though his fingers were moving fast on the piano, he continued talking. It was a nonsensical question. When I wanted to ask what he meant, he continued pressing the keys and kept moving his mouth.

 

“The fake that appeared before you was actor Ji Mangsaeng. Since my father can’t just bring anyone, so he bought someone who could at least pretend. But you…”

 

Jang Yoosung hesitated for a moment and then continued talking after rolling his eyes.

 

“Your hands don’t look like someone who is preparing to be an actor.”

 

“Ah.”

 

But what Jang Yoosung noticed was not how big or of what shape my hand was, but the scar that was left on it. That time when I grasped at any work, I was hurt by doing something I was not used to. It was a common incident not to be conscious of and I didn’t care because the scar would faint over time.

 

Now that he mentioned being “just a fake’, Jang Yoosung didn’t believe it before that I wasn’t someone close to Jiyoung. He was only convinced when he saw my hand. Did I look like someone who was preparing to be an actor? It was so dumbfounding that I almost laughed.

 

“Why are you laughing?”

 

“No, because I thinking if you would let me stay because I am not ‘just a fake’”

 

That time, Jang Yoosung laughed. As if he was saying, “No chance!”

 

“Even if I am a fake, the stories I told Grandfather are all true. I am Jiyoung’s…”

 

Fortunately, I stopped talking before I could say that I was her neighbor. I was confused for a moment. Rather than saying that I was her neighbor, it would be better to say I was her friend.

 

Jang Yoosung turned as if he was curious about what I was about to say next. Suddenly his eyelashes came into view, I thought they were long. The sound didn’t stop even though our eyes met. The loud sound that lingered in the rim of my ears, kept hitting my heart.

 

Ah, a good piano makes these kinds of sounds.

 

When I felt that I was losing my composure, the surroundings suddenly went quiet. It was because the fingers that were moving elegantly, stopped.

 

I wonder what I was so distracted by. I couldn’t even remember whether Jang Yoosung ended his performance properly or stopped in the middle.

 

The bright afternoon’s light reached the place where we were sitting. I wondered if the face that often looked cold looked different because of that. I didn’t know it was because of the half-sympathy that settled into his heart.

 

Jang Yoosung asked me with a soft and warm voice.

 

“What is your real name?”

 

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