Reunion Chapter 34
The girl trotted up the hill. By the time she passed through the entrance towards the garden, she was huffing and puffing loud enough to hear. I raised my turtleneck to my chin with Poongjak in my arms. The girl stopped in front of me catching her breath.
The girl who barely uttered a proper word, glanced at me several times. I also looked at the girl, thinking about which family she belonged to among the various employees. Her young face did not match someone who would be in high school. A school uniform with generously big for her, neat clips adorning her hair, and thick glasses that made her eyes look big. As soon as I decided that the girl would be quite gentle, unexpected words sprang out of her mouth when she chose to breathe.
“Are you the girl who seduced my Oppa?”
It was a question that I didn’t know where to begin to deny. I wasn’t a woman, I didn’t seduce anyone, and above all, Jang Yoonsung didn’t have a sister. However, I did not argue with the young girl and stood still, blinking my eyes.
“This should not be the case. Do you know how long I have been living with my Oppa? Oppa and uncle too…Huff, they said Oppa will marry someone…”
I thought the weather had gotten pretty chilly but it was still hot to run around. The little girl futtered her clothes and fanned herself. Despite the age difference, she had known Jang Yoonsung for a long time and seemed to be the daughter of someone close to Taewon Group, given the extent to which she talked about Jang Myungsoo. Perhaps, Jang Myungsoo was thinking of this girl to be slow in thinking. I shouldn’t treat Jang Myungsoo roughly for his benefit but I didn’t want to leave the girl who came all the way here alone so I opened my mouth.
“Do you want to go in?”
“I will. But what’s wrong with your voice? Did you catch a cold?”
My throat didn’t get any better after drinking the ginger tea. I carefully used my voice because it was my first time seeing her but rather, a strange voice popped out.
The child rummaged through the front pocket of her bag and put out some cough candies piled up inside some papers. I doubted how many days it had been rolled up like that but I put it in my mouth because of her sincerity. It didn’t seem like my throat was getting better.
“Where is Oppa?”
“Probably in his room.”
I rolled my eyes and replied to the question as we walked. The word “Oppa” irked me for some reason.
When she heard Jang Yoonsung was inside, her legs moved fast.
“What’s your name?”
“…Han Jiyoung. What about you?”
“It’s Seo Hyejin.”
The child was bold and blatant, answering briefly to the question asked, and threw off her shoes as if she was shaking her feet and going inside.
Seo Hyejin. The name that I heard on the call in Seoul.
“Shh. You can’t make a big noise. Grandpa is asleep.”
When I put down Poongjak and whispered, Seo Hyejin closed her mouth and nodded. I thought she was going to continue talking so I guided her to the kitchen far from Chairman Jang’s room and left the living room.
As soon as she sat down at the table, Seo Hyejin looked at me with round eyes as if she was expecting something.
“Is there anything to eat?”
“Are you hungry?”
Seo Hyejin nodded several times but since the helpers were away on their break time, I thought to offer her a drink.
There were only a few side dishes in the refrigerator I opened it, wondering if there was anything to give her. Sseo Hyejin was looking inside the refrigerator as well, popping her head out from behind me and twitching her cheek as if she was disappointed.
“Let’s order jjajangmyeon! It’s on me.”
“There’s no delivery here.”
“Pizza as well?”
Seo Hyejin sat down on the chair, disappointed. I closed the refrigerator door and rummaged through the cupboard because I didn’t have the skill to make food. Most of the things were snacks that Chairman Jang couldn’t eat, such as ramen and canned ham. I caught a rustling bag in my hand, thinking it must be something new.
“Then do you want to have this?”
“Oh, that! Yes! I always wanted to try it.”
It meant she had never tried it. Black bean noodles.
I guess their house isn’t normal either. Seo Hyejin was stamping her feet and waiting for the noodles, while I prepared the bowl and spoon as the water boiled in the pot.
“Unnie, how old are you?”
“Fifteen. But you’re tall. Are you a model? Oppa doesn’t like celebrities.”
At first, I thought I had met a thousand-year-old enemy but she seemed to soften up quickly. So was her simplicity of thinking when she thought I was a model because of my height.
“No. I am not a model.”
“Really? Are you a college student?”
I hesitated for a moment because I thought she would ask what my job was if I said no. The girl, who had a lot of questions, poured them one by one even before hearing my answer.
“Which school do you go to? What’s your major?”
“Well..what do you think?”
I dodged the question vaguely. However, Seo Hyejin easily got caught and agonized with a humming sound. She looked serious as if she could only eat ramen if she guessed my major correctly. Meanwhile, I put the noodles in boiling water and stirred.
After a long thought, she recited terms that were far from me.
“Oh, what is it? What is it? I’m dying out of curiosity!”
While I mixed the soup and noodles, Seo Hyejin recited all the majors she knew. Fortunately, before Seo Hyejin died of curiosity, I succeeded in transferring the noodles to a bowl.
“Just have this for now. I’ll call your Oppa.”
Seo Hyejin hurriedly stuffed her mouth with the noodle and shook her head, letting out a strange sound, and chewed what was in her mouth and swallowed it. She shouted in a hurry.
“Eat some of this! Can’t you call him after you finish this?”
I didn’t know whether it was because I didn’t want to show myself eating in a hurry or that I can’t talk at the same time I would be eating, I sat on the opposite side of her and decided that I was in no hurry to call Jang Yoonsung. But it was a meaningless decision.
“…Seo Hyejin? Why are you here?”
When Jang Yoonsung came into the kitchen, she made a loud sound.
Seo Hyejin gobbed up the noodles in her mouth as if she had been caught stealing something and hardened in her spot. Even while I cooked the ramen, she chatted nonstop and blushed while I rolled my eyes as if at a loss. Nevertheless, Jang Yoonsung asked again in a stern voice.
“Are you here alone? What about school? Does your family know you’re here?”
Without answering, Seo Hyejin put down her chopsticks and looked around. I quickly poured water into the cup and handed it to Seo Hyejin and told Jang Yoosung.
“Ask her one at a time. What if she gets indigestion?”
Probably I didn’t say something wrong, Jang Yoonsung looked at me and screeched out the chair next to me and sat down. Seo Hyejin swallowed the water.
“I think she came here alone, right? I saw her getting out of the taxi alone. I asked her to come in here.”
Seo Hyejin nodded as if I was right and put down the glass of water.
“What about school?”
Jang Yoonsung sighed quietly and asked again. One at a time. Seo Hyejin replied confidently as if there was no problem.
“Today is the school’s anniversary.”
“But why did you wear a school uniform?”
There seemed to be something sharp with his tone that time. She hesitated and then whined.
“I said I was going to school but came here…”
Jang Yoonsung tapped the table and stood up as if he knew that was the case.
“I’ll call your house and tell them to send you a car.”
At that, Seo Hyejin jumped up and chased Jang Yoonsung.
“Oppa! Oppa! I’ll take a taxi! So please can you not tell Mom?”
“You shouldn’t have come if you were afraid of being scolded. How can you take a taxi alone?”
“Oh, Minseok said that you have a girlfriend. You came to Korea and didn’t even call me once!”
Seo Hyejin held onto the hem of Jang Yoonsung’s shirt and pulled him back.
“I don’t want to go home. My aunt is coming home today. I don’t want to go!’
I thought she was a brave girl who came such a long way searching for love but in reality, it seemed like she was a runaway teen. I didn’t know well about such situations because I didn’t have many relatives but I had seen my colleagues from work and a few friends who seemed reluctant to visit their relatives.
However, no matter how much she begged, Jang Yoonsung didn’t have any intention to listen. Seo Hyejin eventually turned to me for help with a somber face.
“Unnie! Please say something! I’ll stay here quietly for one night and go.”
Even if she begged like that, I didn’t have any strength to persuade Jang Yoonsung.
“Say something that makes…”
Jang Yoonsung tried to say something, but Seo Hyejin called me again. Two people looked at me. It was my turn to voice my opinion.
“First you can call…”
Seo Hyejin looked very disappointed when I suggested making a phone call.
“If you get permission then you can sleep here and go?”
This time, Jang Yoonsung frowned and Seo Hyejin was pleased.
“Because I am bored here too.”
“See, see, you are bored. Oppa, please?”
Jang Yoonsung’s eyes stayed on me when I confessed that I was bored. However, those were not empty words. Probably the most conversation I had was with Poongjak the last few weeks after returning from Seoul. I didn’t mean to complain about my boredom. However, I was lonely talking to someone who couldn’t answer my questions and I wanted to repay Seo Hyejin for letting me forget that loneliness for a while.
Jang Yoonsung took Seo Hyejin’s hands off him and turned around. I thought he would send back Seo Hyejin but he called her family politely to explain the situation and asked, “It’s already quite late today so please send a car here tomorrow.”
“Yes. Yes. No.”
Jang Yoonsung repeatedly said, “Yes.”, “No” and “It’s okay” several times before handing over the phone to Seo Hyejin. Seo Hyejin took the phone with a fearful face and put it to her ears as if she was handed a bomb.
When Seo Hyejin carefully spoke into the phone, the voice of an angry woman could be heard as I stood right next to her. Seo Hyejin was asked to come back right away but the latter complained that she didn’t want to.
“No, she is here too! Jang Yoonsung’s girlfriend! I am telling you!”
Seo Hyejin’s mother seemed worried that her daughter was sleeping alone in a place where there were only men. Seo Hyejin recognized me as Jang Yoonsung’s girlfriend when she turned her eyes to me, saying I was someone who lured his Oppa.
The phone went back to its owner. Jang Yoonsung glanced at me.
“Yes, we’re staying together. And my girlfriend…”
Seo Hyejin’s mother would not come to check but I was shocked for no reason. Jang Yoonsung turned his head, removing his eyes from me, and continued to talk.
“I think Hyejin listens to me well. Yes, yes.”
In the end, Seo Hyejin was allowed to stay here overnight.
While eating dinner, Seo Hyejin greeted Chairman Jang. Seo Hyejin seemed to know Chairman Jang but Chairman Jang didn’t recognize her that easily. Only after Jang Yoonsung explained who she was, he nodded as if he had remembered.
“Oh, you’re the grandchild of the Seo family?”
Seo Hyejin must have been determined to run away from the beginning. The next day was a holiday and her bag was full of cosmetics and clothes to change. After dinner, Seo Hyejin asked excitedly as if she was camping, while taking a bag she had thrown away in one corner of the living room.
“Do I have to sleep with you?”
I almost dropped Poongjak, whom I was holding in my arms. There were several guest rooms but I didn’t have the right to give it to her. It was also questionable whether it was cleaned properly.
It was Jang Yoonsung who answered in a determined voice while I was standing there, dumbfounded.
“She is a very scary person. Especially when she sleeps.”
Jang Yoonsung laughed as he recited what I said that day. It was close to ridiculing what I said but it seemed like a long time since I saw Jang Yoonsung smile. Seo Hyejin looked at me strangely.
“Do you have a bad sleeping habit? I’m fine with that…”
“No, you can’t handle that.”
“How do you know her sleeping habits?”
“Her hobby is sleeping with a book open on the sofa. I think I changed the sofa about four times.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous.”
“For real. Anyway, you come with me. I’ve cleaned the room next to mine.”
Seo Hyejin looked at my face and pitted her lips before chasing Jang Yoonsung. After a while, Seo Hyejin sent Jang Yoonsung out because she had to change her clothes and locked the door. I was also about to go back to my room with Poongjak in my arms. Jang Yoonsung, who I thought would ignore me and go back to his room but he opened his mouth.
“Hyejin is the sister of one of my close friends. We’ve known each other since we were young since our families tend to meet up a lot.”
When I answered briefly because I expected it somehow, Jang Yoonsung ruffled his hair as if he was annoyed.
“Well, you don’t even care.”
It was a matter to think about of course. But I wasn’t that nervous because she was a middle school student.
Jang Yoonsung muttered a sigh and entered his room, mumbling something and I followed suit, entering mine.
Who told you that I didn’t care when I first heard the name Hyejin? The door didn’t seem to be tightly closed. I was also annoyed by the situation because I was worried that I would be kicked out if I said something.
If money was not a concern, I would have clung to him and asked until he answered. Why are you doing this to me? What made you angry? Even if I asked those now, he would have answered.
Nevertheless, there was only one reason I couldn’t ask. No matter what he was angry about, I couldn’t do anything for him.
I moved cautiously again. I rather pretend that I was not here.
I came to my room and lay flat on the bed. I didn’t work all day but I didn’t have the energy to change out of my clothes or take off my wig.
Poongjak sniffed around the bed. Finally, a wet nose touched my face. It was an uncomfortable posture to pet him but I stretched out my arms to pet him. The little beast, who couldn’t speak, was comforted by the warmth.
Have I ever been this lonely? I was blankly staring at the ceiling and mulled it before someone knocked on my door. I thought it was Jang Yoonsung bringing ginger tea for me again so I raised my body and answered, “Yes”, and the door opened carefully.
It was Seo Hyejin who popped her head through the gap between the doors. Seo Hyejin, in her pajamas, brought a large pillow and plopped on my bed.
“Can’t I sleep here? Please? Please? Even if you snore and grind your teeth, I’ll keep it a secret and never tell anyone.”
Someone who snored and ground her teeth. Even so, I was someone who slept like a corpse. I didn’t grant her permission but Seo Hyejin went inside the blanket and stuck out her head.
“It was always my dream to chat with someone like this. My mom doesn’t let me sleep at my friend’s house either. It’s annoying. Even though my friend’s family said it was okay.”
It was a simple dream. Seo Hyejin’s mother seemed to be a person who was worried about her daughter. Even the innocent Jang Yoonsung couldn’t be trusted easily so he was only allowed to let her stay for one night, only after hearing that he had his girlfriend with him. Although, it would take some time for her to understand that feeling.
“But can you be this close to me? Even though I’m the one who seduced your Oppa?”
Even though I meant to remind her that it would be ambiguous to sleep together, Seo Hyejin hugged the pillow tightly and laughed silly, “Haha”.
“That’s that and this is different. Jang Yoonsung said that he wouldn’t look at minors anyway. I still have five years to turn 20 so I decided that I would understand if he gets a girlfriend in the meantime.”
“You’re more generous than you look.”
“I’m kind of cool, right? Everyone does that these days. Some people have two or three loves. Even so, one is enough.”
Seo Hyejin claimed that she would overlook Jang Yoonsung’s romantic relationships even though she was the one to fire me those words the moment she saw me from the bottom of the hill.
“How is that cool? It is only cool when you abandon the man who can’t even wait for you for five years.”
“Hey, can Unnie wait? 5 years is almost ⅓ of one’s life?”
It was a long time for me but not for Hyejin. What was I doing five years ago? I remembered that I used to go to school and worked part-time but I couldn’t remember how I felt then or how hard it was. I thought I would feel that way again if I see Jang Yoonsung five years later.
While I was thinking like that, Seo Hyejin changed the subject and complained about her aunt and cousin. Seo Hyejin said that her aunt was supposed to come to brag about her cousin who won a prize in a competition.
I supported my head with my hand and listened to Seo Hyejin’s conversation. At 15, there weren’t many stories that I could relate to, and on top of that, she was a teen girl so all the while I responded with, “Oh you did? I see. Hm, okay.” Seo Hyejin soon fell asleep as she talked even though I only gave her vague answers in return and I thought I would have to lay down Poongjak before sleeping.
I was hanging around the living room and lay down on the sofa first. Either way, I had to wake up earlier than anyone else, whether I slept in Seo Hyejin’s room or on the sofa. I put down my nerves to rest and fell asleep for a while but I wondered how long it had been that I could hear someone’s footsteps approaching me and stopped near.
Jang Yoonsung sat by my bedside and watched me sleep. After that, there was no movement and no words.
I breathed loudly on purpose to pretend to be asleep. At one point, a warm and soft touch brushed my cheeks. Like how he was taking my temperature during the day.
But it didn’t come off as relaxing. The hands slid down my jawline and towards my neck. My breath hitched. When I shrugged off his touch without realizing it, his hands fell off. Instead, Jang Yoonsung’s voice touched my ears.
“Go to Seo Hyejin’s room and sleep.”
He knew I was not sleeping and that I lost my bed to someone else.
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