Nine years ago…
Gahyun, a 20-year-old who seemed to have just shed the traces of a cheeky high school student and still appeared more like a girl than an adult, smiled broadly towards Taeju.
“When did you come? Did you come to see me?”
Approaching Taeju with enthusiasm, Gahyun spoke.
Contrary to her bashful demeanor, Taeju’s response to Gahyun was calm and tranquil, devoid of any fluctuations in emotion.
“Madam, then I’ll take my leave.”
“No, Taeju. Stay and have dinner at least.”
“I have a prior engagement.”
Politely declining Mrs. Jung’s offer, Taeju stood up. Even though Gahyun followed along, murmuring to herself, he suddenly stopped in his tracks, freezing both his steps and gaze in place.
It felt like a drop in the heart, a sensation that paralyzed every nerve within.
What captivated everything about Taeju was none other than Yeong-eun, who crossed Gahyun’s doorstep with a yellow umbrella in hand. After shaking off the rain from the umbrella, Yeong-eun disappeared into the worn-out annex.
As Taeju turned his head to watch Gahyun after Yeong-eun vanished, it seemed like every part of him was captivated by her.
“Who was that?”
“The person who just entered your house. Who is she?”
“Oh, Mr. Shin’s daughter. We went to the same high school.”
“Are you friends?”
“No, not really friends. Not more than fellow alumni, not less.”
Gahyun, observing Taeju asking about Yeong-eun, felt a growing unease. It didn’t seem like a casual or indifferent inquiry. Biting her lower lip, she scrutinized Taeju’s expression.
From that moment on, Taeju’s prior engagements became scarce, and Gahyun learned the reason for his frequent visits.
The daughter of the chauffeur managed to captivate the man Gahyun desired the most in the blink of an eye. From that day on, Gahyun’s life turned into a living hell.
“Don’t worry. Would Taeju dare attach himself to her? The president and his wife would never allow it.”
Just as Mrs. Jung predicted, Gahyun also believed that such a relationship could never happen between Taeju and Yeong-eun. Their worlds and realities were so vastly different, Gahyun thought there was no way those two could be together.
However, Taeju’s unwavering love compelled not only him but also his parents, including Yeong-eun’s resistance, to yield.
Han Taeju was such a man—once he set his mind on something, he achieved it all. That made him even more charming and valuable.
Jingahyun, who had cherished this man in her heart for a lifetime, couldn’t bear to see someone like Shin Yeong-eun daring to open her precious treasure box.
“I’m going to marry Yeong-eun.”
That sentence cut through Gahyun’s heart. Every day became a struggle for her, as it was challenging to accept Yeong-eun, who smiled brightly by Taeju’s side.
Gahyun, who had wanted to live as a splendid flower, found herself twisted and contorted, experiencing the writhing of jealousy and anger.
Outside the P Hotel.
Though Yeong-eun tried to conceal the wine-stained dress with a long coat, the dampness couldn’t hide the discomfort. Shivering, her friends muttered, “Such a strange girl.”
“Yeah, if she came to congratulate, she should have kept it appropriate. Not like a troublemaker. Why act like that?”
Yeong-eun’s friends commented hastily, their words trailing off as Gahyun had already disappeared.
“She seems quite drunk. Did she get home okay?”
“Who cares, who worries about whom now? Shin Yeong-eun. Are you saying that even after seeing yourself in this state?”
Yeong-eun once again checked her condition, lowering her gaze.
“When you go to meet friends, dress up nicely.”
It was the dress that Taeju had given her. As Yeong-eun sighed deeply, her friend Jimin, who had been standing beside her, stepped forward.
“How are you getting home? Taeju said he’s not coming to pick you up.”
“I’ll take a taxi.”
“Shall I give you a ride? My husband is coming to pick me up.”
“It’s okay! Your place and mine are in completely opposite directions.”
“So what? It’s cold, and if we keep standing here like this, you might catch a cold.”
At that moment, Jimin’s husband arrived at the hotel parking lot, and as Yeong-eun hesitated, Jimin pushed her forward.
“Let’s go together.”
Yeong-eun forcefully opened the passenger seat door and ushered Jimin in.
“Minwoo, long time no see!”
“Haha, Yeong-eun! Congratulations on your marriage!”
“Say that at the wedding venue.”
Yeong-eun chuckled at Jimin’s straightforward remark towards Minwoo. As she observed her friends who had married early, she couldn’t help but wonder how her own married life would turn out.
Waving goodbye to friends who gradually disappeared, Yeong-eun suddenly realized she was left alone. On a weekend night when snowflakes were falling gently, taxis were hard to come by around the P Hotel on the outskirts of Seoul.
“If I knew this would happen, I should have just gone with Jimin.”
Perhaps due to the dampness of her dress, her body shivered even more.
“Hello? I’m here. Where are you located?”
Successfully securing a ride, Yeong-eun sat at the bus stop in front of P Hotel.
[“Because of the snow, I can’t go up to the hill at P Hotel. If you’re across the main road, I’ll come that way.”]
“Okay. Got it!”
Struggling to stand up with her tired body, Yeong-eun began to cross the main road when something caught her attention.
A bright light was rushing towards her from somewhere, and instinctively, she turned her head.
It was a horrifying accident that happened in an instant.
Her slender body collided with the vehicle, and she tumbled to the ground without uttering a single scream.
Like spilled wine on a white dress, Yeong-eun’s blood stained the pristine snowflake-covered field.
Struggling to grasp her fading consciousness, Yeong-eun opened her eyes with difficulty.
What reflected in her sight was the silhouette of someone who had been approaching her.
“Hel… help, please…”
A feeble plea, like a candle flame in the wind or a fading candlelight, escaped her lips.
Yeong-eun, looking down at her faltering figure, was surprised to confirm the presence of someone standing there.
From the sparkling glitter heels to the tight black dress, the face in the gaze that rose up was none other than Gahyun.
Was she dreaming?
Or had she seen a mirage?
There was no strength left to hold onto consciousness. Yeong-eun’s body slumped, and she closed her eyes.
Feeling a parched throat, Yeong-eun blinked and scanned her surroundings, realizing she was in a hospital room.
The evidence of a serious accident was apparent from the numerous hanging IV bags and needles in her wrist.
“Thirsty… Wedding… What about the wedding?”
Her thoughts were consumed by concerns for Taeju and the wedding.
As she looked around, her attention was caught by the sound of the hospital room door opening.
“Oh my! Oh my!”
Noises of exclamation filled the air as a middle-aged woman rushed into the room.
Yeong-eun, puzzled, turned her head towards her.
“Doctor! Doctor! Help!”
The woman, as if she had seen a ghost, hurried out of the room. Medical staff followed, entering the room and beginning a quick examination on Yeong-eun.
With a bewildered expression, she searched for her belongings while wondering about the fate of the wedding.
As the hospital door opened again, she looked in that direction.
“Oh my goodness! Doctor!”
Yeong-eun, confused, observed a middle-aged woman rushing out as if she had seen a miraculous event.
The medical staff continued their work diligently, and beside her stood Mrs. Hong, clasping her hands together in gratitude.
“It seems she has regained clear consciousness, although further tests are needed.”
“Thank you, thank you so much.”
The medical staff left the room with cheerful smiles, leaving Yeong-eun still perplexed about the situation. Mrs. Hong approached her, taking her hands in a reassuring grip.
“Saejin, Mom recognizes you. Do you understand?”
Yeong-eun remained silent, and Mrs. Hong continued expressing her gratitude to God for this unexpected turn of events.
Certainly, Mrs. Hong referred to her as ‘Saejin.’ Stunned by the revelation, Yeong-eun abruptly stood up and headed to the restroom.
In front of the mirror over the sink, she beheld her reflection, her eyes widening in disbelief.
With a loud exclamation, she confirmed her voice and scrutinized the unfamiliar face reflected in the mirror.
“No, no, no!”
She made a distressed sound, verifying her voice and studying the face that did not belong to Shin Yeong-eun. Overwhelmed, she sank back, feeling like she was in a surreal dream.
Uttering another exclamation, she examined her voice and, again, faced the unfamiliar woman in the mirror. The realization hit her: she wasn’t Shin Yeong-eun.
Mrs. Hong rushed to her side, lifting her up. Yeong-eun hesitated, realizing she shouldn’t push herself.
“Come this way.”
Mrs. Hong led Saejin back to the hospital bed with concern.
Hong Yeo-sa led Sae-jin to the hospital bed.
What on earth is going on?
How did this happen?
Is this some kind of possession, like a protagonist in a movie or novel?
Entering the swamp of confusion, Yeong-eun fell into it, now being called Sae-jin.
“Can you lend me your phone?”
This time, Hong Yeo-sa looked puzzled.
She took out her phone from the bag and handed it to Yeong-eun.
[The dialing number is not in service.]
Yeong-eun’s phone number had become invalid.
“Why is that? Sae-jin, who did you call?”
“You shouldn’t overexert yourself. Come on, let’s…”
“2023? Is it really 2023 now?”
Looking at Yeong-eun, who stared blankly at the phone, Hong Yeo-sa took the phone, looked at it intently, and put it back in her bag.
“Yes, you’ve been lying down for a long time.”
“For a whole ten days. Oh, my! I thought your mom’s heart was going to stop!”
Hong Yeo-sa wiped her chest and said,
“Your mom is fine. I’m just a bit overwhelmed.”
Yeong-eun, whose mind felt like a chaotic mess, stared at the hospital ceiling once again.
After the accident, waking up to a world that had passed three years, her reflection in the mirror was that of a completely different person.
She had become a perfect stranger to herself.