Time passed pretty quickly and suddenly they found themselves already entering their second month of relationship.
He was busy during their first month—both of them were, actually. He was busy teaching—sometimes he had to stay at school until late to finish some works—while she was busy working at her father’s company. They couldn’t meet every day but they managed to use their free time to contact each other through phone calls or texts. He would constantly remind her to take care of her health by not working too hard and she would always remind him not to skip his lunch just because he had piles of students’ assignments to review.
At nights they would have long talks over the phone, talking about what they had for lunch and dinner, the marketing project she was currently handling with her cousin, the new transfer student from Busan with a very thick accent, the recently published novel written by one of her favorite authors, the presentation he was preparing for the parents foundation—basically they talked about everything and they always had something to talk about.
The phone calls were usually ended with an “I miss you” or “I love you” from either one of them—it didn’t matter who initiated it because the feeling was obviously mutual—and Joonmyun’s heart would always burst out in happiness every time those three simple words coming out from her, especially because he never expected her to be bold enough to say it first.
But that wasn’t the only thing Joonmyun learned about his girlfriend from the short period of their togetherness.
Another thing, for example, he found out that Joohyun wasn’t an expert when it came to cooking. She once made him a box full of messy-looking handmade kimbab and omelette for his lunch, delivered directly to his office by her family’s driver. Of course he was overwhelmed and thrilled at first, but then he nearly choked after taking the first bite. The kimbab tasted a bit bland and it seemed like Joohyun put too much salt to the omelette. Suppressing an amused laugh, he went on eating without complaining until there was no more food left in the lunch box. A short while after, while leaning his back against his chair—feeling full and contented—Joonmyun really thought that he wouldn’t mind eating this kind of food for a long time.
Joonmyun also learned that Joohyun loved piano and classical music nearly as much as she loved books and writing.
They were just strolling around on one afternoon, holding hands and happily munching roasted sweet potato when suddenly something caught her attention from an antique shop they had just passed. Turned out it was an old—but very pretty—wooden piano. Joohyun excitedly tugged at his arms and pulled him into the shop to take a closer look. Much to their luck, the owner of the shop allowed them to play the piano and Joohyun couldn’t look any happier. She sat down without hesitation and started playing the piano, making his boyfriend temporarily froze soon after the first gentle note floated from the old instrument. He remembered Joohyun had mentioned once or twice that she often played piano for her father and cousin every weekend but he never thought that she was this good. After she ended her short performance with a shy yet bright smile, Joonmyun just couldn’t help to squeeze her hand and tell her how awesome she was.
On other occasions, he learned that despite of her mature way of thinking, she was still a child at heart who loved stuffed animals and watching cartoons.
Just like most girls her age, she loved malls and amusement parks, but he noticed that she looked even happier when they went to museums and art galleries.
Healthy foods such as fruit and vegetable are her favorites but she loved ice cream and sweet cake as much.
She liked watching movies but she loved watching musicals more.
Her favorite colors are pink, white, and yellow, and she couldn’t decide which one she liked the most.
She listened to others very well but at the same time she was probably one of the most stubborn girls Joonmyun ever met.
Most of her things were arranged neatly and she always carried a notebook everywhere to make sure that everything was organized, and yet—much to Joonmyun’s amusement—she was one clumsy girl who liked to forget or drop things.
Joonmyun was sure that the list would grow even much longer in the future. And he also believed that the growing list—which might be filled with more imperfections than the otherwise—would only make him fall for Seo Joohyun even more.
November 15th, 2013
Joonmyun couldn’t remember what exactly he said to the principle or to his students when he excused himself to leave the school two hours earlier than he should be. He remembered a little how he carelessly shoved things to his bag and how he nearly tripped himself in the school yard for being too hasty. The next thing he knew, he was already sitting in a taxi and asked the driver to take him to Seoul National University Hospital.
His mind was in mess and his lips couldn’t stop muttering, “Please let her be fine, please let her be fine—oh God, please let her be fine!”
An hour before, he finally called Joohyun during break time after the girl in question had not replied to his texts since morning. But instead of her, the one who answered his call was an unfamiliar female voice, claiming herself as Miyoung, Joohyun’s cousin-in-law. The young woman then told him that they were at Seoul National University Hospital and Joohyun was currently in the examination room so she couldn’t answer any phone calls at the moment.
A knot of dread formed in the pit of his stomach.
Hospital? Did something wrong happen to her? Is it her heart again?
Without further ado he hung up and rushed to the principal’s office. He knew he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on teaching that day anymore anyway so there was no point in him staying at school and waiting for some news. All he wanted now was to see her in person and make sure that she was okay.
If there was one thing about Joohyun that still bothered Joonmyun a lot, it was her heart condition. Joohyun had explained to him that she was born with a heart defect and she had her first surgery at the age of ten, only three years after her mother’s death. Her condition had improved after the said operation, but she still had to do a routine check-up every month to make sure that everything was alright. She also had to always maintain her health, avoid excessive physical activities, and make sure not to stress herself. There were also times when her condition suddenly deteriorated thus she had to be hospitalized for a couple of days but fortunately nothing worse happened.
As soon as he arrived in the hospital, he stormed into the lobby and nearly crashed the reception desk. “May I know in which room Seo Joohyun is?”
The nurse checked the computer for a while. “I’m sorry, Sir, but we can’t find her name in our inpatient list.”
“Can you please check it again? I’m sure—”
He heard a familiar voice calling out his name and he turned around to be greeted by a pleasantly confused Joohyun. “What are you doing here?”
“Joohyun! Are you okay?” he ran to her and asked worriedly. “You didn’t reply to my texts and your cousin-in-law told me that you are in this hospital. Is everything alright? Is it—your heart again?”
Joohyun’s eyes widened. “Miyoung unnie told you? But how—?”
“Oh, is he here?”
A burgundy-haired young woman suddenly emerged from behind Joohyun, looking very excited. Her eyes were sparkling brightly as she stepped forward and offered Joonmyun a handshake. “You must be the one and only Kim Joonmyun Seonsaengnim! Hello, I’m Hwang Miyoung, Joohyunnie’s cousin-in-law. We finally meet! Oh, I’ve been waiting for this moment, Joohyun just couldn’t stop talking about you, you know. And you turn out to be much cuter than I imagined! My baby girl has such a great taste—”
“Unnie!” Joohyun’s face turned crimson in embarrassment.
Joonmyun could only stare at both of them, his anxiety was now completely replaced by confusion and for a few seconds he really didn’t know what to say other than, “Uhm, nice to meet you, Miyoung-ssi.”
“Wait, why are you here while it’s still school time—Unnie, what did you tell him that he had to leave his work and come here?!”
“What? I didn’t say anything! I only told him you were being examined so you couldn’t receive his call, that’s all.”
“But still—you should’ve explained to him further that it was just a regular check-up so he didn’t have to worry like this. And it’s pretty cold outside! Now I really feel bad for him and his students.”
“Hey, it’s okay. It was my fault anyway, I barely gave Miyoung-ssi time to explain further since I immediately hung up after hearing the hospital part,” Joonmyun smiled, feeling relieved and slightly embarrassed that he was actually worried for nothing. He glanced at his watch. “Well, if I come back to school now, maybe I can still teach the last class and—”
“I have a better idea,” Miyoung interrupted him, her eyes gleaming. “Joohyun and I are going to this cafe which was located just down the road. It has very delicious cakes and pies and you must try their sweet potato latte, Joohyun’s favorite. Come with us!”
The younger male was dumbfounded. He didn’t expect the sudden invitation at all thus he didn’t know how to respond. Rejecting the invitation would be kind of impolite but then again he wasn’t sure if accepting it was okay either.
Joohyun seemed to know what he was thinking. “Unnie, how could you? You can’t just ask him to ditch his class like that.”
“Oh, please, I know you secretly want him to come with us,” replied Miyoung dismissively. “The weather was getting cold lately and a cup of hot drink would be very nice especially if you enjoy it with your girlfriend.”
But Miyoung was completely ignoring her now and focusing her attention to Joonmyun instead. “So? What do you say, Joonmyun-ssi? Let’s go with us, it will be fun. Besides, Joohyun will be very happy if you say yes.”
It was really hard to say no to her, Joonmyun thought. She wasn’t even pleading, let alone forcing him, but there was something in her eyes and tone that made Joonmyun couldn’t do anything but nod, accepting the invitation.
Miyoung clapped her hands excitedly, looking very satisfied. “Yay! It’s settled, then. Let’s go! Ooh, it’s been a while since the last time I went to that cafe. I remember I used to hang out there frequently when I was still in college—” And she kept babbling cheerfully for the next minutes while leading them to walk out of the hospital.
Joonmyun felt a hand gently squeezing his and he turned to his side to see Joohyun smiling apologetically at him. She didn’t say anything but Joonmyun knew her eyes were silently telling him “I’m sorry for making you come with us. Miyoung unnie can be a little persuasive when she is too excited.”
So he smiled back at her, inwardly assuring her that it was totally fine and he too, was actually happy to spend more time with her. Besides, he also wanted to know her cousin-in-law better since he had never met the older woman in person before.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Miyoung suddenly stopped walking and turned around to face the couple. “My husband, Joohyun’s cousin, will also be there. He called me earlier and said that he would pick us up after he’s done with his work.”
Joohyun gaped. “Siwon oppa is coming?”
“Yes, he is. I thought he already told you earlier?” Minyoung then smiled widely at Joonmyun. “Ever since he heard that his beloved baby cousin had a boyfriend, he was pretty much eager to meet the said guy. I guess now it’s the perfect time, don’t you think?”
Joonmyun gulped. He already knew about Joohyun’s cousin since Joohyun had mentioned him many times before. Growing up as an only child, Joohyun only had one cousin whom she was really close to like an older brother. From her stories, Joonmyun could tell that her cousin doted on her very much and was quite protective of her. And from the way Miyoung spoke just now, he couldn’t help but feeling a bit anxious. Which was kind of silly—he admitted—since he hadn’t even met the said man to know how intimidating he could be.
The two females seemed to notice his sudden anxiety even when he tried to hide it.
“Don’t worry, Siwon oppa will like you,” Joohyun held his hand more tightly and smiled. “And even if he doesn’t, I won’t listen to him.”
Joonmyun laughed nervously. “Well, the last part is quite relieving.” Not really.
“That childish husband of mine should start learning that his baby cousin has grown up. She can date freely,” Miyoung huffed. “Sooner or later he still has to meet y—oh, look! He’s already here!”
Right in front of their destination cafe, had parked a luxurious black sedan. And—Joonmyun couldn’t help but gulping nervously again—they saw a tall man in formal working attire stepped out from behind the wheel. Upon seeing his wife and cousin, he waved and smiled brightly. But then his smile fading away when he spotted Joonmyun was holding Joohyun’s hand.
“Oppa! You’re already here!” Minyoung happily chirped to break the awkwardness. She quickly went to her husband to give him a peck on his cheek.
The tall man slightly bent over to return the peck. “The examination went a bit faster than usual, I see? I thought I had to wait for you for another hour.”
“The examination went well. Joohyun was apparently feeling much healthier than usual. Probably because she has her own special vitamin now, if you ask me.” Minyoung winked at the younger couple behind her.
Joonmyun could feel something chill creeping up his spine—no, it definitely had nothing to do with the cold weather—when Joohyun’s older cousin really had his full attention on him this time.
“Siwon oppa,” Joohyun started, sounding a bit nervous. “This is Kim Joonmyun, my—my boyfriend.”
December 24th, 2013
“How was your week?”
“How was your week?”
“Hey, I asked you first,” Joonmyun lightly pinched his girlfriend’s nose.
Joohyun giggled and tighten her arms around his. “We always talked about how our day was every single night, why do you have to ask again?”
“It feels different to hear it through phone and in person like this. Besides, we didn’t talk last night. Someone already dozed off even before I called her—”
The girl pouted. “I accompanied Miyoung unnie shopping after work yesterday. It was fun yet really tiring so I instantly fell asleep after my head landed on pillow.”
Joonmyun let out another amused chuckle. His heart felt lighter now that he was finally able to see her and hear her voice in person. The past week was quite torturing to both of them because they couldn’t meet due to his work and other things, but their day off had arrived at last and the wait paid off nicely.
It was Christmas Eve and they were walking hand-in-hand on the roadside after having a movie date. Sometimes she would link their arms together and snuggle closer to his side, and he would occasionally plant a kiss on her head. She would laugh at every single joke he made—albeit some of them were actually lame—and he would listen attentively to every single words she said. They also talked a lot about the animation movie they had just watched—the title was Saving Santa and Joohyun insisted that the main character’s voice was totally similar to Joonmyun’s.
It was probably one of their best dates so far.
“Are you warm enough?” Joonmyun carefully fixed his woolen scarf which wrapped around Joohyun’s neck.
“I think I should be the one asking that since you’re the one who isn’t wearing scarf.”
“This turtleneck sweater is completely warm, don’t worry.” And he was telling the truth. “But how could you forget to bring something as important as scarf on a cold day like this? Tsk, such a clumsy little girl. Should I start to suspect you did it on purpose just so you could wear my scarf?”
“You wish!” Joohyun stuck out her tongue. “By the way I heard you had lunch together with Siwon oppa yesterday. How was it?”
Although it was still hard to believe, Joonmyun was now friends with Joohyun’s protective cousin. The said older man who appeared less friendly towards him at their first meeting last month had surprised everyone big times by inviting Joonmyun out for a drink three days after. It was then that Joonmyun found out that Siwon was actually a very nice and fun person to befriend with. Even though it was crystal clear that he was still trying to cope with the fact that Joonmyun was dating his precious baby cousin, fortunately he liked the younger man enough to put aside his protective instinct and try to know him better.
“Not bad,” replied Joonmyun, recalling the day before. “It was a short lunch, though. Siwon hyung happened to have a meeting near my school so he decided to ask me to have lunch with him before heading back to office.”
“Me and Miyoung unnie are really relieved that you two can be friends. This is actually the first time Siwon oppa can get along with my boyfriend.”
“I can see why,” Joonmyun winced. He remembered how intimidating Joohyun’s cousin was during their first and second meeting. “But well, at least he thinks I’m okay enough to be his friend.”
Joohyun had opened her mouth to reply when something suddenly caught her attention. “Oh!”
“What is it?” Joonmyun stopped in his tracks to see what it was.
They were standing in front of a theater building at the end of the road. It seemed like a show or performance had just ended because lots of people could be seen walking out of the building. They then waited until the crowd diminishing before Joohyun led them both into the wide courtyard.
“I always love this place, especially the fountain and the big clock over there,” Joohyun smiled. “I remember watching a ballet recital there with my dad when I was twelve and we spent almost an hour sitting on the bench after the recital has ended just because I want to watch the fountain.”
The place was indeed pretty and somehow Joonmyun could understand why Joohyun liked to be there. The theater was a tall, magnificent white building with huge pillars and the huge clock on its front which made everything looked more classics. A marble fountain stood beautifully in the middle of the courtyard near the huge clock, surrounded by wooden benches and shiny Christmas decorations.
“And those stairs over there,” Joohyun pointed to the wide staircase leading to the main entrance. “Please don’t laugh but when I was fifteen I used to pretend to be Cinderella and purposely left my shoe on the stairs.”
Despite of his girlfriend’s request not to laugh, Joonmyun laughed nonetheless. Somehow he really could picture the scene in his mind—a younger version of Joohyun running down the stairs and clumsily left her shoe on its step.
“Oooh, then there is this bench!” Joohyun exclaimed before pulling him down to sit on one of the wooden benches. “This is definitely my favorite spot. I stopped by this place after my late piano lesson. It was snowing that night and I thought it would be wonderful to sit here and watch the snow. So I did.”
Joonmyun smiled at her excited face and shifted on his seat so she could snuggle more comfortably to his side. “And what’s the story of this bench?”
Her expression softened. “This bench … was the meeting place for lovers on Christmas Eve. Like guys would sit here about half an hour, all dandy and well prepared—probably with a bouquet of roses or a box of fancy present, waiting patiently until their lovers showed up. And then they would have a wonderful night together,” she paused for a moment, “except this one unfortunate man.”
“Hmmm, why was he unfortunate?” he actually put some effort to stay focused on her words because damn, it felt really nice to have her snuggling to him like this and she just smelled so good.
“Well, the truth is … he had lost his lover in a terrible accident some time ago. His heart had always been plagued by deep sorrow ever since but he still went to this place by himself on Christmas Eve to wait for her. Yes, even when she would never show up again. Such a miserable life he had, right?”
“Why do you love writing sad stories so much?”
“Hey, I don’t always write sad stories. And stop interrupting,” she poked his cheek. “On the third Christmas Eve after he lost her, our unfortunate man came again to this place. Still with the same hollow heart and all, he sat on this bench and watched the snow until the clock over there struck twelve. And that was when something magical happened.”
She continued with a more dramatic tone, “Instead of moving forward as usual, the clockwork was moving backward!
At first he thought he was just imagining things. But then he realized that it wasn’t just the clock that moving backward. Everything around him was moving backward. The people, the snow, even the wind were all moving backward. He was the only exception. And after a while, suddenly a very familiar figure appeared before him. It was his lover.”
“So this is actually a horror story? Ouch! Ow ow—yah!” Joonmyun yelped as his girlfriend pinched his thigh.
“That’s for ruining the mood and moment,” Joohyun glared but her expression softened as she continued her story. “As scary as it might sound, what he saw wasn’t a ghost—he wasn’t sure what it actually was but at least he knew it wasn’t a ghost. It wasn’t another girl with similar appearance either for she was wearing the same shoes and scarf he gave her years ago. She was only standing there, flashing him the beautiful smile he had missed so much. He then slowly walked up to her, trying to reach her. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t. She was there, standing before him, but he still couldn’t reach her. That was when realization hit him.”
What kind of realization? was already on the tip of his tongue but he held it. He could still feel the slightly painful sting on where she pinched him earlier.
“She wasn’t coming back to him for good, she was only saying a proper goodbye this time. They already belonged in two different worlds and it hurt her to see him suffering like this. So she borrowed a little time to meet her lover for the last time.” She turned her head and smiled at Joonmyun. “The end.”
“Well,” Joonmyun sighed and pulled Joohyun closer, “it was beautiful as always but it would be much more beautiful if you ended it happily.”
“But it was a happy ending, though. He was finally able to accept her death and let her go.”
“Yes, if you put it that way. But it’s still a heartbreaking short story.”
“Why? Because it involves character’s death?” she leaned her head on Joonmyun’s shoulder. “Death isn’t always a bad thing, Joonmyun-ah.”
“No it’s not,” Joonmyun agreed. “But getting left behind is.”
He could feel her body tensed a bit before she pulled herself and stared at him in concern. “Hey,” she said softly, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Joonmyun smiled and pulled her back to his embrace. “I was still very young when my parents died and my family was always there for me so it didn’t hurt much. And why are you apologizing? You shared the same pain when your mother died, right?”
Joohyun didn’t immediately answer. “After my mother’s death and I learned about my heart condition, I started to see death as something … less scary. I mean everyone will die eventually and it was unavoidable, right? So other than fearing the death itself, I think it’s better to live our life happily and make every second counts.”
“Is that why you made the mermaid died at the end of The Mermaid’s Tears?”
“She didn’t die, she turned into foam.”
“Which is practically the same thing!”
She laughed. “I’m sorry for breaking your heart, then. But hey, think about it this way: at least she was able to fulfill her dream to live happily with the prince until the time is up. Even when she knew that she would still vanished in the end—” Joonmyun winced, “—she still chose to live her last days happily with the prince whom she loved so much. She didn’t die in vain, she left happily.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever agree with you in this matter. Let’s just agree to disagree.”
Joohyun laughed again. “Fine then.”
Joonmyun didn’t answer, only tightened his arms around her even more. But her words kept echoing in his head for the following days, even weeks.
“We have to make every second counts.”
That was when an idea appeared in his mind.
January 4th, 2014
It was the first weekend in 2014 and everything was still covered in snow. Despite of the chilling weather he still asked her out for a date in the park. The initial plan was actually only to have a lunch date at their favorite barbeque restaurant but then she wanted to take a walk in the park near the restaurant and Joonmyun couldn’t say no.
Joohyun was walking a meter away in front of him, kicking the snow happily and singing something about building a snowman. She really looked like a little girl. In another occasion he would laugh and probably sing together with her, but this time he was too busy with his own thoughts and concerns.
To tell the truth, he was nervous.
Really, really nervous.
Even more nervous than his first job interview.
Something had been bugging him for the past weeks and it went even worse three days ago when he received a certain phone call. The phone call itself wasn’t the main problem but it undoubtedly gave a huge impact on his plan. He had talked to his grandparents and Minseok samchon and although all of them showed the best support and approval he could ever get, he was still in doubt. Even when he already made up his mind—he decided to give it a shot—there were still a lot of what-ifs that bothered him.
“Joohyun,” he called.
The said girl stopped and turned around, smiling prettily. “Yes?”
He smiled back at her and reached out, silently asking for her hand. “I want to tell you something.”
“Oh? Have you finally made up your mind?”
“What do you mean?”
Joohyun gave him a knowing look. “I knew you were hiding something. You’ve been spacing out lately and you look especially troubled today. So I guess something was bothering you and you didn’t know how to tell me. Am I right?”
Joonmyun brought her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles. “I can’t hide anything from you, can I?”
She blushed. “You can say so. Now please tell me.”
He inhaled deeply. Here we go. “I got an offer.”
“What kind of offer?”
“Seoul National University called me a couple of days ago. They offered me … a full scholarship for my master’s degree. The new semester will be starting this March. I don’t have to quit my job—they said I could still teaching at morning and noon before taking my classes at evening—so it won’t be a problem, I guess.”
“And?” She tried to suppress her wide smile.
He cleared his throat. “And after I graduated—which they expect to happen in approximately two years—I will be trained as a lecturer in Seoul National University.”
“Can I—can I hug you?” Joohyun looked really thrilled.
For a second Joonmyun forgot how nervous he was and chuckled. “Yah, did you just ask my permission to—?”
He was interrupted because his girlfriend had launch herself into his embrance—
—and kissed him on the lips.
“I thought you only asked for a hug?” he asked her some time later, still in a dazed state, after they ended the kiss.
“You clearly didn’t complain,” she giggled shyly. “But seriously, Joonmyun, it’s—it’s wonderful! I don’t know why you are so troubled because of it, you should’ve just told me right away. Well, I understand that you might be a bit too overwhelmed—”
“It’s not just that,” Joonmyun softly interrupted. He then took both of her hands and gently squeezed it. “Accepting it also means I will get less and less spare time and—you—I mean us—”
“Are you telling me,” her eyes widened in disbelief, “that you’re considering to turn the offer down just because you’re afraid that we won’t be able to arrange our future dates—”
“No, no, no, no, it’s not like that!” he quickly said. His heart was thundering loudly inside his chest. “What I’m trying to say is—uh, I—I don’t want to do this alone. Like—I definitely need you to support me and everything and—and—”
“Oh, Joonmyun, you know I will always support you without being asked.”
“I know.” Her words just now calmed his nerves a bit somehow. “I know. But I—I remember what you said at that time, about how we should make every seconds count and—and I don’t want to waste any more time. That’s why I—I’ve been thinking about—”
He took a deep breath and stared at her clear, round eyes. “Joohyun, what—how do you think about us … getting married?”
It was a long silence. Or at least that was how he felt.
He was about to have a panic attack but then he saw how her cheeks were dusted with pink and her lips curved into a small, shy smile. Which should be a good sign, right?
“I mean—it doesn’t have to be in the near future. I can wait forever. Just—” he really stared at her, “—just please don’t say no.”
Another short pause before Joohyun let out a soft chuckle and stepped forward to hug him again.
“Don’t be stupid,” she mumbled against his shoulder and he could hear her smile. “You just said yourself about not wasting time and making every seconds count. I would even marry you tomorrow if you asked me to.”
And Joonmyun swore he never felt more relieved than this. She was now smiling brightly in his embrace and he had to feel somewhat stupid for worrying too much earlier. Of course they would always be there for each other. Of course everything would be just fine from now onwards.
“So it’s a yes, then?”
Joohyun laughed and her eyes were now filled with tears. She put her palms on his cheeks before pulling him close for a longer, deeper kiss.
“Of course yes, Kim Joonmyun. A million times yes.”
A/N: ahem hello, it’s me again. it’s been like more than half a year since my last update, I guess? hahaha. *awkward laugh* BUT HEY AT LEAST I’M NOT ABANDONING THIS STORY. ugh, lame excuse I know, but thank you so much for those who are still waiting :)
anyway please do check this amazing accoustic english version of baby don’t cry on youtube :D I swear the lyrics fit this story so much it scares me.
and I'm sorry for the crappy proposal scene. OTL