Chapter 3:


“Get in.”   


I turned my head to look around in case anyone was watching, but he was acting like he didn’t care who was watching.


I opened my mouth to say something but shut it when he insisted that if I didn’t get in, he would get out of the car and force me to.   


“You want me to get out and pick you up?” he asked. 


I shook my head as he tried to get out of the car. Then I shifted my heavy feet. As I walked away, I thought: Why was he so angry?


Was it because I didn’t go to the underground parking garage? Was my very presence upsetting him? My eyes sank deep into my head.


My head, which had been throbbing since morning, felt like it was going to explode.  As soon as I got in the car, it moved. The car was silent.


If anything, the silence felt like a stranglehold on my throat. If only I could hear a loud song, then I wouldn’t have to swallow as uncomfortably as I was. No, this discomfort was entirely of my own making.


I stare at him as he drives away without saying a word, acting as if he’s going to force me into the car.  His eyes, which had been staring straight ahead, moved slowly, and our eyes met. 


My heart sank at the emotionless stare, like a stone being hit on the street. But I couldn’t show it. I bit the inside of my cheek. I looked at him as if I had no emotions either. 


I watched him stare at me with an impassive expression that didn’t have the slightest tremor, and then he coldly turned his head away. 


His face, much sharper than before, was like that of a wild beast that had just emerged from a thorny vine, and my heart ached. 


I felt like an idiot for worrying about him in the midst of all this.


“……Why did you want to see me?”


He stopped the car at Hangang Park, a place we had visited together before.   


“You quit your job.”


“You’re ……?”


I blink in disbelief. Narrowing his eyes, he slowly scans me from head to toe. Everything his slow gaze touches flushes red, and I don’t know why I’m ashamed.


For a moment, his gaze stops on my hair, my fingernails clutching an old bag. I quickly cover my hands, comparing them to my old hands that used to love to wear nail polish.   


“Stop fidgeting in front of me.”   


My mouth fell open, unable to form words.   


“Not with what you’re doing.”   


I could smell him faintly beneath the cologne that stung my nostrils. It was the same scent I’d smelled from the moment I’d gotten into the car, the one I’d never forgotten.


I wanted to ask him how he’d changed so much when he still smelled the same, but I didn’t deserve to, so I stared at the gleaming metal watch on his left wrist. 


As if he didn’t like my silence, he sighed. He didn’t bother to hide it, but the loud sigh cut through my body.   


“If you want money, I’ll give it to you.”


The sound of money jolted me awake.   


“Stop it.”


“Why, is Mr. Han paying me?”


my voice shook. I could feel the pain in my throat as if it were being ripped out. I had a ghostly sense that if my voice dropped even a little, I was in a bad mood.   


“You’re obsessed with money.”




But when I saw him again, he didn’t seem to care if I was in pain or not. He acted like he was trying to hurt me on purpose.   


“…I don’t need it.” 


“Why? You do. You look like you need a lot of money.”


I bit my lip so hard that it burst and I tasted blood.   


“Isn’t money all you need?”




“You’re the one who’d die for money.”


I couldn’t listen anymore. I felt like I was going to burst into tears.   


“I’m leaving.”   


I tried to open the car door, but he was faster. I glared at him as he locked the door.   


“We’re not done talking, and you didn’t give me the answer I wanted to hear.”   


His words were so cold it felt like the car was freezing. Goosebumps rose on my forearms.


“I can’t understand you when you repeat yourself.”


For some reason, I didn’t feel like I should hear the second part. I tried to open the car door, but it wouldn’t budge. My breath caught in my throat.


My body felt heavy, like a drowning man.   


“I’m just feeling kind of shitty for being treated like that right in front of the person I’m belly-to-belly with.”


I didn’t think I’d be surprised anymore. I was stunned and speechless. He never used to use such hurtful words. My eyes fluttered like thin branches in the wind.   


“If you don’t want to make me feel bad, quit right now. It’s not like you’re the kind of person I need to keep the place warm.”


He closed his gaping mouth and swallowed, which meant he was telling me to get lost, now.   


“It’s my job, don’t tell me what to do.” 


“You look like shit, and you have a job. Did you lose your house or something?”




“You never even bothered to put your old clothes back on.” Instead of saying,


“Why, that’s the way it is now,”


he flicks his well-groomed hair back in annoyance.  I know the feel of that hair. I used to love his fine hair. No, I used to love it. And his long fingers, too.


My heart was pounding in and out of my chest.   


“……don’t pay attention to me.”   


Good job, I said it coldly and without trembling. I took a deep breath and spoke as bluntly as I could.   


“I don’t want you to pretend to know me like this in the future. Like Han Se-hyuk said, we… No, Han Se-hyuk and I, we don’t have that kind of relationship.” His mouth twisted.   


“So don’t tell me what to do.”


I watched as he gritted his teeth. I didn’t look away from his gaze. I took it in.  I thought I was being punished for abandoning him, for leaving him hanging, crying.


“…… I’ll be there.”   


I had a lot of work to do. She had to go to the high school and visit her father. Oh yeah, I told Miho I’d make dinner.


“You want to be treated like that? Get a job somewhere else.”


“Never mind, I told him not to bother.”   


I hold back my rising voice as best I can. I wonder if he realizes I’m holding it back. He opens his mouth to speak, then closes it.   


“I’m going to …….”   


I shake my head at his offer to drop me off. Very calmly.   


“I’ll get off.”


It was hard to even be in the same room with him. I couldn’t hide my expression anymore, so I stormed out of the room. 


As I walked to the bus stop, I got angrier and angrier.  I didn’t know whether to be angry at him or me. Why did I live like this?


I should have lived better, or at least not embarrassed myself in front of him.  The image of him saying hurtful things to me with a blank face and a cold voice kept coming back to me. It was as if he was scolding me.


My breathing was ragged from holding back tears.  The older I get, the more tears I have to hold back.


I wonder how many more tears I’ll have to hold back in the future, and sometimes I wonder if I’ll be able to hold them in so tightly that they’ll burst out like tears from broken gallows.


But I learned a long time ago that crying on the street doesn’t make a difference.  Today, I have to hold back my tears.  I board the bus to go to my dad’s doctor’s appointment. 


I swipe my card and take my seat, but then I stop. I saw people with their eyes closed, people on their cell phones, people staring blankly out the window…….


People on their way home from work looked very tired.  I sat down and looked out the window. They must have had many days where they held back the urge to cry.


They comforted people whose faces they didn’t even know. It seemed like the least……. I felt like I had to.  I went to visit my dad and then went to Gosowon, but it was well past dinner time.   


“Hey, Cha Soo-yeon, I thought you were making dinner!”


“Sorry, sorry!”


Miho yelled as soon as the door opened and slapped me hard on the head. I rub my hands together and apologize, and she jerks away with a grunt. Despite the pain in my head, my mouth watered at the savory smell of miso stew.


“Are you upset? Tomorrow, I’ll make you something delicious. I’m sorry, okay?”


I poke Miho in the side and she squirms away from the tickle.   


“Do you want a beer?”


“Eat your food!”


I rubbed my cheek against Miho’s forearm, who whined that she hadn’t eaten because she was waiting.   


“Well, how about we drink while we eat?”


“You know that doesn’t work on me, right?”


“I know.”


“Well, then, grant me a wish.”


“What wish?”


Freshly cooked rice on the table, side dishes from Miho’s mother, and a delicious stew.   


“I’ll tell you after we finish eating.”




Miho scolded me for eating without washing my hands, but it was a good scolding.   


“What’s your wish?”


I finished eating and washed the dishes. I was about to wash them when Miho sat down on the couch and motioned for me to come over.   


“I’ll dye your hair.”




“Yeah. I just shot a commercial for hair dye. They told me to take the leftovers, so I brought a lot.”


She taps her foot on the floor, motioning for me to sit down. I do as Miho says and plop down on the floor.   


“Is this your wish?”


“I can do it thirty times, so leave your hair to me.”   


I giggle when Miho says she’s finished brushing it out. If Miho wasn’t there, I didn’t want to even think about it.


“Miho, should I marry you?”


Miho’s hands tightened around my neck as she tied the clear bag from the hair dye box around my neck.   


“Breathe, you’re choking!”


“I’m an imposter. You know that, right?”


“I don’t like you either.”


Miho had an old lover in the United States.   


“I don’t give a shit if you’re naked and on top of me, I don’t, I can’t. You know?”


 She crossed her arms over her chest and punched Miho’s arm as she turned her head away.   


“I’m the same way, you know?”


She dyes her hair, and her touch is meticulous. The touch of her hair helped me fall asleep.






“……No, it’s nothing.”


Running an irritated hand through her hair, she remembered him and started to tell Miho, but then closed her mouth.


A friend since middle school, Miho knew him, and she was the only one who knew the whole story of why they broke up.   


“Is something wrong?”


“Nope. Nothing.”


“If you want to talk, you can. Just don’t keep it to yourself.”




she said, deliberately raising her voice in case she worried her friend unnecessarily.   


“Today I’m shooting an ad for a cosmetics magazine.”   


Miho, a photographer, was becoming famous enough to be featured as an up-and-coming artist. Her dream of earning money and going to the U.S. doesn’t seem to be far off.   


“I brought some cosmetics, so you can use them.”


“…Thank you.”   


I know he brought them on purpose for me.


“I’ll put it to good use.”


“Yeah. Take a picture of your ugly face or something and put it on.”   


I get up to slap Miho, but she grabs my wrist.   


“Time’s up, wash your hair. You’re going to break it.”


I had to wash my hair before I could hit Miho.   


* * * * * * * *


 After washing my face, I look in the mirror and my face looks very white. I didn’t wipe my face, so water dripped from my chin. I stared at the water droplets that fell from the end of my chin and wet the sink.


I thought my face was a mess. I wiped my wet face with a towel.  Last night, Miho and I argued about sleeping on the couch, and we even drank beer.


I didn’t fall asleep until after 2 a.m. ……I sewed Miho’s room, and my heart felt heavy.  Miho lived in a small apartment with one room, a living room, and a kitchen.


She slept on the couch, and when I woke up, I didn’t know if she’d gone to work first.


There was bean curd soup on the table to soothe her stomach.   


“That’s a new colorful poem.”


I chuckled, remembering my friend who had turned her head away yesterday when I told her I was going to marry her, and I had been feeling so sorry for her since the morning.


As if I didn’t owe her enough, I slept in her bed. She even cooked me a meal……. After all, I should go to the high school.


I didn’t want to be indebted to her anymore.  After I ate and washed the dishes, I stared at the cosmetics Miho had placed in my hand.


If it weren’t for what she’d said yesterday, she wouldn’t have thought to put on makeup.  I hadn’t even thought about wearing makeup after Mr. Kim’s pointed remark about how rude I was for walking around the company naked.


I could hear his voice echoing in my head,


It’s like you’re wearing it. I could feel my heart sinking in my chest. Eventually, I opened the lid of my makeup.


My hands were sweaty from the nervousness of applying makeup for the first time in a long time.


Six years ago, I loved to wear makeup and my vanity was overflowing with cosmetics. Suddenly, I remembered his kindness in bed, whispering to me that he liked me better naked than made up.


I could still see the warmth in his eyes, the way he waited impatiently when I cuddled into his chest and didn’t show him my face. Now it seems like an unnecessary memory that I should let go of.


He seemed to hate me beyond anger.  His eyes told me so. I can’t get used to that cold, killing stare.  A long sigh escaped my lips.


I arrived at the office and stood in front of the door for a while, unable to enter.  It’s been so long since I’ve worn makeup that I don’t know if it’s working, but I can’t stand in front of the door forever, so I open it. 


I put my head down and walked in, but for some reason, I felt more stares today. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn makeup. As soon as I sat down, I wiped my lips with a tissue. 


When Ms. Kim asked for coffee, other people also asked for coffee. I took the order and went into the restroom, and Mr. Park followed me in.


He was slightly surprised but didn’t show it. After a moment of hesitation, Mr. Park smiled awkwardly and said.   


“Ms. Su-yeon, you seem to be in a different mood today.” 


“Oh……. Really?”


Scratching his head, as if he had something to say, Gu sipped his coffee, pretending not to know Mr. Park.   


“I see. By the way, Su-yeon, did you say you have a boyfriend?”


“……? Ah…. No.”   


Even though she wished she didn’t have to talk, she was starting to feel uncomfortable with Mr. Park, who kept talking to her, and the more she talked, the faster she drank her coffee.   


“Let me help you, give it to me.” 


“That’s okay. Do you want coffee too?”


“Yes. Then I’ll have something hot, please.” 




When you’re done, you leave the restroom. I stiffened as Mr. Park poured water into a paper cup, offering to help me make coffee.


She stood next to me, stirring the coffee and saying things like,


“It’s a nice day, what are you having for lunch?”


I didn’t want to answer, so I closed my mouth and concentrated on making coffee. Then, I slowly turned my head to face a piercing gaze.   




When did he get here? My eyes locked with his. His face was harder than it had been a moment ago, and his cold eyes lingered on my face for a long moment. 


With a predatory stare, he moved his eyes to Mr. Park. Ms. Park, who had noticed his arrival late, smiled awkwardly and bowed. 


He watched him turn and walk away without saying goodbye, then grabbed a tray of coffee and headed out the door. 


She stares after him as he walks into Soo-yin’s room, wondering if he’s here to talk to her.


Through the open doorway, I caught a glimpse of Sooyin’s happy face, and then it was gone.  I know it’s because of work, but just being alone with her makes me feel sick. 


I don’t know what makes me deserve this, or why it hurts.  I remember the man’s face yesterday in the car, so angry that I wanted to rip him to shreds.


Should I quit my job like he said? I snap my head out of its slumped position. No. It’s not like getting a job is easy.


I remind myself to think of him. He needs more speech and physical therapy, and I can’t afford it.  I thought of him, and my face softened.


I can’t get the look out of my eyes as he stands in the doorway of the restroom for a moment. I think it stuck in my chest.


If I’m not mistaken, he looked very angry. Was it because he asked me to quit and I didn’t?  I don’t know. I suddenly remembered that he was staring at my face, and I raised my hand to touch my cheek. 


I headed to the bathroom and took a closer look in the mirror, wondering if I looked too weird.   


“I’m fine……?”


Why did he look at me like that? My makeup wasn’t heavy. I stood in front of the mirror for a while, scratching my head.  After lunch, I headed to the roof to avoid the crowds. 


I was tired.  There were a lot of people talking to me today. I had about half an hour to clear my head.  The people at the architectural office don’t pay much attention to the rooftop.


With my uncle’s permission, I planted flowers behind their backs. I took care of it whenever I had time, and it became a beautiful space for me. 


I’ve loved flowers and trees since I was a kid. At one point, I wanted to be a tree doctor.


I watered the flowers and pulled the weeds. I could feel summer was just around the corner. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and sat down on a chair. 


The rooftop of the architectural office overlooks the forest park. Looking at the trees that grew upright as if they could pierce the sky, my complicated mind seemed to unravel a little.


I could feel the corners of my mouth go up and up.  Trees and flowers like this make me feel good.  I leaned back in my chair and tilted my head to look up at the blue sky. 


I slowly closed my eyes. A gentle breeze rustled my hair, making its way across my face.  I loved the feel of my hair whipping through my fingers, wishing I didn’t have to work so hard anymore.


…… But then, slowly, I opened my eyes.  I don’t know why, but it’s like the frightening calm before the storm, and suddenly, I have a premonition.   


* * * * * * * *


 Suddenly, a dinner party was scheduled. I had even texted Miho that I would make her a delicious dinner tonight.


On your way to the meeting, you call Miho to apologize. Miho told me that she was near the meeting place and that she would pick me up after work and we could go home together. 


Miho nagged me not to drink too much because I can’t answer when I’m drunk.  I hate drinking parties.  I can’t stand to be around people who are pouring me drinks. 


I wonder if it’s different.  From the moment Ms. Park sat down in front of me, I knew I was in for a rough night, and I wasn’t wrong.


“Have a drink, Su-yeon.”    I was embarrassed by Ms. Park, who kept pouring me drinks every time I asked for one. I was drinking half a glass each, but my face was flushed with alcohol.


It was getting sloppy.  Then I turned my head and stared at the person sitting at the head table.  As he laughed and whispered about what he was enjoying with Sooyin, I watched wordlessly and downed my drink.  The drink was sweet, sweet.


in the center of the room.  His eyes kept falling on her.   


“Your glass is empty, isn’t it?”


She glanced at Ms. Park.   


“I, uh, I’m done.”   


I didn’t feel like drinking anymore. I thought about sitting down and sneaking out, but she kept pouring me drinks and talking to me, so I lost my timing.   


“Oh, just one more drink.” 


“…No. I can’t drink.”   


I said in a loud voice to Ms. Park, who kept pouring me drinks even though I refused once or twice. Suddenly, the atmosphere became quiet.   


“Just drink it. What are you missing?”




“It’s not funny.”


I blush at the sound of Ms. Kim’s voice, sitting next to me.   


“Ugh, Ms. Kim. You’ve been drinking too much.”   


Ms. Park laughed and turned away, but Ms. Kim raised her eyes and glared at me. All eyes turned to us.   


“Would you drink if I paid you?”




“You’ll do anything for money.”   


I raise my drink as I watch Ms. Kim pull her wallet out of her bag. Her dry gaze sticks to my face and then drops.   


“Sorry, I’ll drink.”   


I felt the atmosphere getting weird, so I drank. Ms. Park didn’t offer me any more drinks.   


“Can you use that restroom…….”


No one wondered, but she said she had to go to the restroom and got up from her seat. As I got up, I stole a glance at him. Our eyes meet for a moment. 


He looks at me, not sure what he’s thinking, and then turns his head to look at Sooyin. His eyes slowly closed and opened.  The drunken voices were getting louder and louder.


It was so loud that it hurt my ears, but I couldn’t see anything. I felt like a foreign object and quickly left the room.  I called Miho to pick me up as I stood some distance away from the party. 


I felt a little hot from the alcohol. I moved my arm to take off my cardigan and stopped.  I smelled cigarettes too close and turned my head.   




When I got there, he was standing next to me, burning a cigarette. I couldn’t believe the cigarette was between his long fingers. She hated the smell of cigarettes.


He stared me in the face and blew out the smoke.  The way the white smoke scattered the sky was a lie.  I thought he would never burn a cigarette, but the sight of him in his form-fitting black suit looked so familiar that I took a step to the side.


Every time he brought a cigarette to his mouth, I caught a glimpse of a metal watch on his wrist.

I swallowed dryly as he stared at me, burning his cigarette, wondering if I was doing this on purpose.


I averted my gaze.  I hung my head, unable to look at him, unable to look at a man who had become so different.

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