I’m on my way to meet a few girlfriends in Seoul. I decide that I’ll tell them second. The first people to know were my mother and my sister, Jina. My mother is rather surprised because she doesn’t know who Junghoon is. She knows he was one of my ex-boyfriends, but she never met him. I didn’t want her to meet all of my boyfriends since I knew I probably wouldn’t marry them. My mother really only knew about Raewon. I truly believed that I would have eventually married him if he had not dumped me. I’m glad I didn’t marry him though. I’m sort of glad how everything unraveled by itself. My mother, though, is definitely not pleased. She thinks I’m rushing through with everything and that I have fallen head over heels with a man who will break my heart. I think she is just scared that I’ll suffer the same fate as her. A cheating husband. A liar. An irresponsible father.

I’m not sure, but I want to try and so, the next time Junghoon visits me, my mother wants to see and interrogate him. The next time actually means this weekend. Junghoon has used a family emergency to come back; I hope he has many fake uncles and aunts that we can use as excuses for him to fly over. It’ll probably take more than one meeting to convince my mother that he is suitable for me. I have already warned him over the phone that she has scared several of my sister’s boyfriends away. Junghoon just laughed at me, saying that I shouldn’t worry. He said he has dealt with crazier women before that my mother shouldn’t be that bad. Still, I emphasized that I had warned him.
Now, I’m turning the corner to the restaurant. I notice the guy ahead of me is wearing a pair of white Adidas sneakers with three blue streaks running across the sides, a pair of worn-out jeans, a grey zip-up jacket, and a slim, black backpack. I feel my heart pounding loudly now. My mouth goes dry, and I think I’m hallucinating. I feel that it’s him: Taeyang. But, that’s impossible. Taeyang is gone. Still, I feel nostalgic. Taeyang used to wear clothes like this boy in high school. This boy even has the same body shape as Taeyang. The way his steps angles outwards reminds me of Taeyang once more. I sense my strides become faster and wider. I want to see. I want to see if it’s really Taeyang. Could it be?
Luckily, just as he is crossing the street, I am able to catch up to him because he is waiting for the other light to change like me. I’m only a few inches away from him now and when I look up to confirm his face, I realize that this boy isn’t Taeyang at all. His skin is coloured lighter, and his eyes are much larger. He is even wearing glasses. That’s when I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s not him. It’s just someone who dresses like him.
Yes, Taeyang is dead. I can’t say that he is dead in my heart, but I can say that I’ll no longer feel thoroughly sad about him. He won’t make me cry anymore. He’ll just remind me of the past and shake my heart just a bit. I know I can’t tell Junghoon these things. He’ll be upset and believe that I haven’t completely moved on. The truth is that I have moved on. I rarely think of Taeyang. The trivial things in life don’t trigger my memories of him. It’s just the occasional thought that one would have about his or her first love.
The light changes now, and the boy crosses before I do. I watch him leave, and I purposely miss this light. I don’t want to be chasing after the unattainable. I can pass this opportunity. I no longer need you anymore. I’ll let you be even when I think you’re just playing with me, playing a prank to make sure that I won’t forget about you.
And it starts to lightly drizzle, so I open up my red, Hello Kitty umbrella. I think it was raining when we first hung out too. You wore the same clothing as this boy. I had a pink, Sanrio umbrella. I kept asking if you were okay being drenched in the rain, and you kept answering that it was okay. I remembered asking if you wanted to share. You kept saying no. When we arrived at the restaurant, I had trouble closing the umbrella because I had to fold the pieces together and roll it into a baton. You laughed at me struggling, but still offered to help.
"Here," you gently said, "I'll do it for you." Then, you complained, "I can't believe you can't do something so simple! Even elementary kids can--"
"Shush!" I raised my fist at you, about to hit your arm.
"Oh, you're gonna hit me? Oh, I dare you!"
"Whatever," I ended up folding my arms together and open the door for myself.
"But seriously, you should know how to do these things," you advise me in a stern tone.
"Nah, it's too hard for me. Plus, I'll just get someone else to do it for me!"
"What? You're looking at me as if I'm supposed to be the one to do that."
Now, I snap the umbrella shut once I see the restaurant's logo. I push the handle inwards to shrink the umbrella,and then I curl the fabric together and use the strip to button the umbrella in place. I reach into my purse for the umbrella's cover and slip it on. Then, I push open the door, thinking that I really don't need to rely on you, Taeyang, anymore.
I can close my own umbrella now.
----
All of my girlfriends are dying to find out how Junghoon proposed to me. I only decided to tell people about my engagement to Junghoon after he and I bought the ring. We spent a good few months going to all these different boutiques, and in the end, I settled for the Bvlgari Corona. He said it was fit for my queenly attitude, and I agreed.
So there, the women grab ahold of my fingers and shriek. They’re way too excited, and I’m probably too calm in their eyes. They’re probably all secretly wondering if I just married Junghoon for his money once I tell them about his occupation before they can ask about it. Rest assured, I make just as much as him and sometimes even more with my bonuses. It’s just that I’ll be moving to New York now; my boss has wanted to relocate me to the company’s headquarters for a while now. So, it makes sense that I’m moving for my career and for Junghoon. Not to mention, I did lose all three of the coin tosses.
“So, so, so, tell me all the details!” Heejin squeals. “Where did he propose?”
I take a sip of ice cold water mixed with slices of fresh lemon before replying, “We were at the Museum of Sex in New York.”
There I see the other girls’ shoulders slump downwards while Heejin mutters, “Oh . . . but did he surprise you or like do something crazy?”
I’m thinking about it for a bit, wondering if I should lie. Nah, I think and put my glass down. Then, I say, “Nope. He didn’t even get down on one knee. He just said, ‘Let’s get married.’ And I said okay.”
“That . . . that’s really . . .” Yoobin murmurs. “That’s really . . .”
“Awkward? Unconventional? Boring?” I laugh at their shocked expressions and slice through the last piece of my steak. I have been eating way faster than them, probably because I don’t want to stay for too long. Women tend to gossip for hours and hours, and I don’t really want them to ask for more details about Junghoon and possibly Taeyang. “Yeah, Junghoon and I aren’t romantic,” I remark coldly.
I kind of scoff inside my head. Junghoon is probably super romantic to other girls or was. I don’t go off wondering if he’s cheating on me. I think it’s kind of stupid to be insecure. Either way, he knows that romantic gestures will not win me over. Honesty would, and did make me say yes.
 
“But . . . didn’t he cheat on you, Jikyung?” Ara whispers almost too quietly. “You’re—“
I cut her off, clarifying, “I’ve looked past it now, and who knows if he will cheat in the future? I don’t know, but I know that he won’t give up on us. We’ve written a pre-nup too, so if we ever divorce, it’ll be clean.”
Junghoon comes to pick me up just on time. I told him before that I only needed an hour and fifteen minutes here. All the girls are staring at him awkwardly as he approaches our table. I’m sure I have to explain to him why they’re reacting to him this way. They probably think he’s a horrible guy and that I’m making the worst decision in my life. However, I like that I’m seeing the normal him and not some idealized version before marriage.
Now, Junghoon leans in to kiss my cheek, and I stand up to give him a light hug. He teases in a raspy whisper, “You’re rather touchy today.”
“What?” I snicker. “You don’t like it?”
He lets his hand trail to my bottom and purposely gives it a squeeze, which makes one of the girls gasp. “Actually, I’m quite enjoying it,” he teases.
“Thanks, you naughty perv.” I do the same to him so that we’re fair game. I don’t think my bottom should be harassed while his is free. That’s rather unfair.
“Like you’re so innocent yourself,” he cackles.
Then, I turn around to end the hug and to give my friends a smile plus a wave. “So, everyone, this is Lee Junghoon,” I introduce properly. “Junghoon, this is Ara, Yoobin, and Heejin. They’re going to be my bridesmaids.” Junghoon goes to every single one and shakes their hands. After he finishes, I announce, “I’m sorry for cutting things short, but Junghoon and I have to go pick out a dress now. I’ll see you guys then!”
Once we exit the restaurant, Junghoon notes, “What a liar. You purposely told me to pick you up here because you didn’t want to answer their questions huh?”
“Yeah, you guessed it right,” I affirm, “but I do think that we should go dress shopping.”
“Don’t you need an appointment?”
“Oh Junghoon, use your womanizing skills for once, all right?”
Junghoon stays silent for a moment before declaring, “Actually . . . I think I had an ex that designed wedding gowns.”
“Ugh, I don’t want your ex to be designing my dress,” I mope. “What if she puts some curse—“
“Wait . . . you’re jealous!” Junghoon steps right in front of me, forcing me to abruptly halt in high heels. He even points a finger at me to make this bold statement.
“As if,” I scoff and go around him.
Chasing after me, he chants, “Then what’s wrong with an ex of mine making your dress?”
“Well, I’ve been dreaming about wearing a Vera Wang gown after I went to loads of shops with my sister for her wedding,” I explain casually.
“But you said something about the possibility of my ex cursing you . . .” Junghoon’s voice dwindles away with the light breeze.
I swing my hair behind my ear while informing him as we wait to cross the street, “Can we just . . . give it a rest?”
“No,” Junghoon insists childishly. “You rarely show that you’re jealous. This is a rare moment that can’t be looked over.”
“Whatever,” I mumble and look away.
Twisting my chin to face him, Junghoon states, “Nope. You’re not going to get away that easily. You always say whatever when you’re trying to brush off something.”
“Let go,” I insist even when my cheeks are firmly pressed together. I swear I probably look like a flounder at this point. So idiotic.
“No, I’m not letting go unless you admit it.”
“Admit what?” I holler.
“Admit that you were jealous or at least that you care about my past relationships.”
“What?” I continue to question. “So now we’re going to go over your long list of exes?”
“We could if you want,” Junghoon remarks.
“That’s stupid. It’ll break relationships.”
I see a wide, genuine smile form from Junghoon’s lips. Then, he releases me before capturing  me once more, but this time, with a tight embrace. “I thought you’d never care,” he whispered almost too gently. I almost wanted to shriek to let go because this was embarrassing in public. Everyone was going to watch us, but Junghoon adds, “I was getting worried that you’d never fall for me.”
“Nonsense!” I push him away and frown bitterly at him. He stumbles a bit backwards, but manages to regain his balance in time. Then, I shouted, “If I didn’t even like you, then why would I even marry you?”
“But . . . sometimes . . . I still wonder, Jikyung.” Junghoon stares at me like a helpless orphan. “I wonder if . . . you still love him or if I’m just a rebound.”
I feel a sudden burst of anger erupt in my chest. “You’re not a rebound okay?” I yell boldly. “Why would I even marry a rebound guy? I might as well have just had a few one night stands in that case.”
Surprisingly, Junghoon doesn’t continue this argument. Instead, he walks over to me and holds onto both of my hands. With a tender smile, he asks, “So, do you want to know about my exes?”
“No. The past shouldn’t be important.”
I cast my attention to the ground now, hoping that he won’t catch me being indecisive. Unfortunately, Junghoon verifies, “You sure? You’re not even curious at all? You know, I thought you were always someone that couldn’t stand spoilers. You’d even read the entire plot summary of a novel or a movie before reading or watching any of them. I guess—“
“Okay, okay,” I cut him off. “I . . . do want to know, but . . .”
“But?”
I don’t know how to voice my own words. But what? What’s stopping me from knowing more about his past love life? I mean, it’s just the past. I shouldn’t be . . . afraid . . . right? Yet someone, I’m not strong enough to listen. Maybe I am just scared. I’m scared that I’m the rebound. I’m scared that he’s playing with me, so I’d rather act like I don’t care at all. It’s not like me to say these things aloud. I find it embarrassing to even have these thoughts. I feel so immature.
“But what?” Junghoon instead asks again. “You’re scared that I’ll still be thinking of one of them?” Unable to look at him, I keep my head low and just nod. I feel Junghoon grasp my hands tighter in a reassuring way that I raise my head to confront him once more.

Unexpectedly, he has this cheeky smile that makes me feel even more foolish. Then, he lulls me to his side to give me a warm hug. I feel his chin rest on my head. He likes to do this a lot because of our height difference. He likes to say that I’m his perfect chin rest, and I like to tell him that he’s going to make me shrink. Then, he usually laughs. This time, he uses a different line: “Don’t worry. You’re the only one that I’d ever want to imprison in the house.”
“Huh?” I gaze up at him with my hands pressed on his chest. “You want me to be a housewife?”
“No.” He chuckles and reveals his dimples. “You wouldn’t be happy that way, but . . . sometimes I wish I could take you everywhere with me and stop guys from checking you out.”
“What? Guys don’t check me out!”
“Oh, they do,” Junghoon corrects me. “And trust me, I know because I’m a guy. I know how guys look at girls, and it’s even worse for you because you wear the trendiest outfits.”
“What? Is that a bad thing?”
“No, I won’t stop you from wearing what you like to wear,” Junghoon reassures me. “It’s just I wish that sometimes I could hide you away from so they don’t know how cute you are, but I know . . . that I’m just being greedy and selfish and that you wouldn’t be happy. You like to be free, and I respect that.”
I see Junghoon giving me a shy glance. His cheeks are even reddening this time. I guess it is rather humiliating to have to voice your deepest thoughts in public. I commend him for being so brave, so I decide to ask, “Umm . .  . about . . . that ex of yours . . . h-h-how’d you even meet a wedding dress designer in the first place?”
I think this is the first time I have seen Junghoon smile this greatly. I know he smiles quite frequently, but I’m pretty sure some of those were just out of courtesy. He does laugh at me quite often. He knows how bad I am with housework. That sort of laughter is different from this type. I think he feels at ease now that I admitted that I cared about his past relationships. Even though all the relationship books say never to ask about ex-girlfriends, I think it’s better to know everything before discovering some secret life of his. I’m pretty sure Junghoon is too imperfect to even hide some double life. Nevertheless, we spend the afternoon at a local café before the dinner with my mother, and he recounts from the beginning of his first love.
He was in high school, and she was in university. It was from this relationship that he realized that it was much easier to date around than to be committed. He told me that she, Nami, was too serious. She had visions of their getting married. Ironically, she was the insecure one.
“I really didn’t want any emotional baggage,” Junghoon told me. “I already had enough problems back home.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Dad wanted me to major in finance to take over his company, but I didn’t want anything to do with business. Seemed . . . boring.”
“And medicine was better?”
“As cheesy as this sounds, I do want to help others and well, it sounded cool to be a surgeon.” He cackled before sipping on his latte. I have no idea why he likes lattes. They’re so milky, but never mind that. He probably doesn’t understand why I like tea so much either.
“So . . . you break up with her?” I wondered.
“No. She dumped me because she caught me in bed with a close friend of hers.”
“Wow . . . you’re really . . .”
“Yeah, I didn’t have morals, and I didn’t care much about them either.”
“Okay . . . and after her?”
“Dated a few of my classmates. They were all pretty short relationships. Then in university, I fooled around some more and then you came along. I felt weird even when I was doing what I had always been doing. I sort of . . . felt guilty?”
“And then after me?”
“My cousin got married, so I met the wedding gown designer. She was already married, but we still had an affair. It worked with me too. I mean, nothing had to be serious.”
“And how did that end?”
“Her husband was starting to find out, so we both decided to call it quits. Then, I thought I’d try a younger university student. She was too stupid for me to handle. Luckily, I decided to go to New York.”
“Why?” I pondered. “Why . . . to New York?”
“Oh, I just didn’t really fit in with the culture here. I’m still more used to of the States.”
“Yeah . . . I guess I can understand how you feel,” I mutter.
I can’t help but remember what Taeyang told me a while ago, about how he was unable to fit in with his classmates and how he missed the States. I didn’t understand until I came back to work. I wasn’t used to people’s attitudes, and sometimes, I wanted to go back, but I wasn’t . . . courageous enough to leave behind my family. I didn’t feel comfortable being selfish like that. Junghoon, though, has never seemed to care about others.  He acts for himself most of the time, but somehow, from his tone, I feel like he left to escape something.
“Yeah . . .”
Now, usually if this were just a friend or even Taeyang, I’d leave it at that, but since Junghoon he’d reveal the past, then I should ask more. Plus, I really don’t want to discover some shockingly disturbing details during marriage, and that’s pretty much why I guess, “Was it because of family?”
I know Junghoon doesn’t get along well with his family. He never mentions his parents or his two brothers. To be honest, I’m not even sure how big their family is, and I never bothered wondering about his family life. However, because I’m supposed to meet them the next week, I should at least know what’s wrong.
“I guess you could put it that way,” Junghoon mumbles and takes a sip from his latte. He stares out the window, probably lost in his thoughts of the past. That really makes me wonder what’s wrong. What happened before?
“Is your father still mad at you for not taking over the family business?” I ask.
“No. My younger brother will be doing that.” Junghoon gives a weak smile masked by a scoff. “He has a brain for numbers and an attitude perfect for the business world.”
“Then . . . what’s wrong?”
“Nothing much.”
“Oh, come on Junghoon!” I urge. “We’re getting married, and I’m not allowed to know about your family?”
Junghoon still insists, “It’s nothing that’ll affect you.”
“But it’ll be awkward when I visit. I can just imagine those awkward silences,” I argue.
Junghoon now shifts his stern gaze at me to announce, “That’s why I told you that we shouldn’t visit before getting married. We’d just be making things worse.”
“So you’re not going to tell me anything more?”
Junghoon glances at his wrist before finishing his drink in one big gulp. He wipes the leftover liquid at the edge of his mouth with the back of his hand, and then answers confidently, “Nope. It’s trivial anyways.” Reaching into his wallet, he finds a few bills and places them on our table. “Come on, we don’t want to be late now to see your mother.” He extends his hand out towards me, and I ignore him by standing up by myself. “What?” he asks. “Now you’re mad at me for not spilling my family life to you?”
“Well you know about mine,” I grumble. “I don’t see what you can hide. My family is pretty messed up already.”
“And even if I don’t tell you, you’ll end up figuring it out sooner or later,” he utters as we walk out of the café together.
“And you’d rather it happen that way? It bugs you that much that you can’t even talk about it?”
“Yes,” he states. “I’d rather you ask around.”
“You know,” I utter as he opens the door for me, “I thought you’d be happy that I wanted to know more about you.”
“But that’s not about me. That’s about my family,” he revises my wording.
“And your family will always be related to you somehow, so it is about you after all,” I remind him and hasten my steps. Then, I turn at my heel to tell him, “Don’t worry, I won’t pressure you to tell me anything. I’m not like that, but . . . I’m not going to ignore this and pretend that everything is okay. Just like you said, I’ll figure it out somehow.”
For the first time, he walks towards me and pats me on the shoulder. “Then have fun,” he chirps with a smirk. He doesn’t wait for me and starts marching towards the direction of my family’s apartment. I end up having to chase after him. I’ve never seen him so stubborn before. I feel like I’m dealing with Taeyang now, and I have an aching stomach, which makes me worry about Junghoon. What if . . . he becomes like Taeyang and pushes aside his concerns?
No.
I can’t let Junghoon go on the same path as Taeyang. I can’t let Junghoon slowly die. I can’t . . . let him go like that.
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