“The next target is….” Seo Byung-Hoon paused for dramatic effect, hoping that this time someone would appreciate his craftsmanship. When it became obvious no one was going to indulge him, he sighed before continuing, “superb wedding planner, Park Yoo Je.”
“Ah!” Min Young exclaimed clapping her hands together, “We’re going to help someone who also helps love!”
Moo Jin was currently trying to untangle a mess of wires. He only acknowledged this next assignment with a grunt before continuing with his work.
Ah Rang smiled at Min Young’s outburst and asked Seo Byung-Hoon, “Who’s the client?”
Seo Byung-Hoon began removing photos from a manila envelope and taping them to the white board the team used for mission notes.
“This,” he said, taping the picture of a smiling woman in her late twenties or early thirties, “is Park Yoo Je. She owns a small wedding planning business and has successfully planned the wedding of 12 couples over the last few years.”
“Those are good numbers.” Min Young said, eagerly scribbling notes using the multi-color pen Ah Rang had gotten for her a few days ago.
Seo Byung-Hoon nodded his head in agreement before continuing, “This is Choi Sang Hee,” he said, adding a picture of a woman holding a large plant to the white board. Min Young looked closer and saw that the woman was also around the age of the target. “She is a florist that Yoo Je-shii employs for her events. She is also our client.”
There was a small clang as Moo Jin dropped his bundle of wires and equipment onto the floor in shock. Min Young, though surprised, nodded along and jotted some more notes about the client. Ah Rang looked blankly at the white board, trying to process the request.
Seo Byung-Hoon surveyed the group, his eyes narrowing. “Is this going to be a problem?”
Everyone quickly shook their heads no.
“Good. Now,” Seo Byung-Hoon said, starting to add more pictures of people and drawing connections between them, “what the client needs is time with the target. She has worked with Yoo Je-shii for almost every wedding she’s planned. Sang Hee-shii knows that she can win the heart of the target if she would put her phone down for more than two minutes.”
Min Young got that crafty look in her eye. “Ah! So, sabotage!” She said, shaking her hand up in the air to emphasize her point.
“We wouldn’t want to sabotage an actual wedding though!” Ah Rang said. “Think of what it would do to her reputation.”
Min Young gasped and said, “And to the poor couple who just wanted love! You’re right Ah Rang-shii. Sabotage is not the answer.”
Moo Jin, who by now had recovered his mess of cords and had almost gotten them untangled, looked up, a quizzical expression on his face. “Well…” he started.
Everyone turned to look at him. Whenever Moo Jin spoke, a rarity during planning meetings unless it was to explain a technical limitation, it was sure to be something important.
“We could always sabotage a fake wedding…” He looked up at Ah Rang and Min Young who were conveniently standing near each other (as always). “Min Young and Ah Rang should pretend to be engaged.”
With his statement made, Moo Jin ignored the rest of them and finished his project with the wires. Ah Rang, however, was panicked. If they went through with that idea, he would have to spend lots of time with Min Young. They would have to pretend to be a couple. Holding hands, sitting close, talking about getting married. Ah Rang was sweating just thinking about it.
Min Young was also stunned at the suggestion. Her and Ah Rang? She almost wanted to laugh - no one would believe it! It’s not like he was kind and caring and handsome….Min Young shook herself out of that train of thought. Nothing good could come of it.
Seo Byung-Hoon considered Moo Jin’s suggestion. He sized up Ah Rang and Min Young. While both of them were new to the team, they had proven time and again how dedicated they were to making someone’s happiness come true.
“That’s a great idea!” He said.
Seo Byung-Hoon clapped his hands together. “Congratulations on your engagement Ah Rang and Min Young!”
* * *
Ah Rang didn’t know what to say. He always thought Min Young was beautiful and if he could bring himself to, he would take her hand this second and tell her that. But now was not the time.
“You hair looks fine Min Young-shii.” He said, reaching to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. “Perfect even…”
After a moment’s pause, she said bashfully, “Min Young. You have to call me Min Young...Ah Rang. Or she won’t think we’re a real couple.” She couldn’t look him in the eye and in an effort to stem her nervous energy, Min Young started pulling on her hair again.
“Be careful,” Ah Rang said. “You might show your earpiece. You need to keep it covered so Yoo Je-shii won’t see.”
Ah Rang knew that Min Young was always very conscious of her earpiece but he needed to say something so he could think about the implications of what she had said. While of course it made sense, he couldn’t believe he was going to do something so, well, intimate.
“Min Young…” He started, but just then the doors to the office lobby they had been waiting in burst open. Park Yoo Je stood there, beaming at the two of them.
“Hello! Congratulations! You must be Ah Rang and Min Young!” Yoo Je exclaimed, ushering the two of them into her office.
The walls of the office were lined with bookshelves, each row filled with issues of wedding magazines that must have dated back to the early 2000’s. It looked like she even had some magazines from overseas, as Min Young couldn’t read some of the titles on the spines. Along the wall behind her white desk, were photos of all the couples whose wedding’s she had planned.
Yoo Je gestured for Min Young and Ah Rang to sit on the plush white love seat. She served them cups of tea painted, of course, with a bride and groom on them, before sitting behind her desk.
“I am so excited to be planning your wedding!” She opened a notebook in front of her, “Tell me about how you met! How you fell in love! Tell me everything!”
Ah Rang and Min Young looked at her, their eyes getting wider. They hadn’t planned on her asking them personal questions! As the silence stretched on, Min Young heard Seo Byung-Hoon’s voice in her ear saying, “We met at a coffee shop. I used to work there and he would come in every day and order the same thing.” Min Young repeated this out loud.
After a pause, Ah Rang picked up the story, reciting Seo Byung-Hoon’s words, “She was always so kind to me, smiling at me, giving me a free coffee from time to time. One day, when she came to clear my cup and saucer away, she didn’t realize I had hidden something there for her.”
“He put a note between the cup and the saucer! Can you believe it?” Min Young continued, giggling a little at the fake memory. “It was an invitation to dinner. I remember feeling...all bubbly inside! I had wanted him to ask me out for weeks.” Seo Byung-Hoon, out in the van with Moo Jin, was impressed by Min Young’s ad-libbing.
“She said yes and now here we are,” Ah Rang finished. He looked at Min Young, pretending, as he had been taught in his acting classes to do, that this had really happened. That they had met in a coffee shop and he had swept her off her feet by taking her to an extravagant dinner. That they loved each other.
That last part wasn’t hard for him to pretend.
“Awwww, what a lovely story.” Yoo Je said. “I’m sure you too are very happy together. Now,” she continued, her pen poised over her notepad, “have you thought at all about what you want for your wedding? Colors? Cake flavors? Anything at all?”
“We do have one request,” Min Young said, “we want the flowers to be from the Purple Orchid shop.”
“The woman who works there was integral to my proposal.” Ah Rang said. “She helped me pick out the perfect flowers. I hid the ring in a bouquet of them.”
Yoo Je looked at them, a look of surprise on her face. “How interesting! That is the shop we use for all our ceremonies.” Min Young and Ah Rang had to lean in to hear Yoo Je’s quiet comment to herself. “I didn’t realize that Sang Hee was so...romantic.” Yoo Je looked a little flustered and began fiddling with the pendant at the end of her necklace.
* * *
“I was thinking we could do a combination of peonies and calla lilies.” Sang Hee said, as she entered the wedding planner’s office.
When they had told Sang Hee that she was going to have to present her selections, Sang Hee had grown concerned.
“With both Ah Rang-shii and Min Young-shii there? I’m not sure I will be able too.” She quivered at the thought.
Everyone began speaking at once. Ah Rang and Seo Byung-Hoon tried to explain that in order for their plan to work, she was going to have to pretend as if this were a normal engagement. She was going to have to pretend that she didn’t know Min Young or Ah Rang.
When that didn’t seem to convince her, Min Young put her arm around the girl and sat her down on the couch in the theater.
“Sang Hee-shii, you care quite a bit about Yoo Je-shii, right?” She asked.
Sang Hee nodded.
“Then focus on that. Think about Yoo Je-shii and how much you like her. Think about her happiness and how happy that will make you. Draw strength from that.” Min Young said, her eyes glancing over Ah Rang briefly before focusing back on Sang Hee, who was looking more hopeful by the second.
“So in that meeting, if you ever get scared or nervous, think about Yoo Je and then you won’t be worried at all!”
Sang Hee seemed uplifted by the pep talk and agreed to the meeting.
Min Young can really do anything. Ah Rang thought.
“The different shapes would bring a nice contrast don’t you think?” Sang Hee said, gesturing to the large bouquet of them she had placed on a small table in Yoo Je’s office.
After Sang Hee presented the flower choices and her designs, Yoo Je got up from behind her desk to inspect the sample design closer. As she caressed the flowers, she didn’t realize that Sang Hee had started to rearrange the flowers. Their hands touched briefly through the petals, Sang Hee almost caressing Yoo Je’s hand. Yoo Je pulled her hand away quickly, holding it close to her chest as she turned to face her desk, blushing fiercely all the while.
Min Young barely caught the exchange but was pleased with the results. She leaned into Ah Rang, their shoulders touching, to tell him about what she had seen. But something prevented her from speaking.
Ah Rang smells so...nice, Min Young thought. He smelled of honey and pine and something she couldn’t quite place. His skin was warm and soft against her arm and she felt her face getting warmer.
At this point, Ah Rang noticed her against him and looked to her, expecting her to say something. This brought Min Young out of her daze. She gestured to Yoo Je as she whispered, “Did you see that? Yoo Je blushed at the touch of Sang Hee’s hand.” Ah Rang shook his head but smiled.
As Yoo Je was writing in her notebook, trying to calm down from the exchange, Sang Hee looked to them, her expression inquisitive. And as if they were of one mind, Min Young and Ah Rang silently motioned for her to approach Yoo Je.
Finding courage, Sang Hee turned back to the bouquet on the table and picked a small peony from the bunch. Min Young and Ah Rang gave her twin thumb’s up and Sang Hee walked to Yoo Je’s desk.
She said, tentatively, “Yoo Je-shii…”
Yoo Je looked up, her mouth open in surprise as she noticed Sang Hee standing there with a flower.
Emboldened by the reaction Sang Hee made to speak again, but was interrupted by the phone on Yoo Je’s desk ringing.
Min Young’s smile crumbed and Ah Rang shoulders slumped at the sound.
“Oh I’m sorry” Yoo Je said, “I need to take this call. Would you mind waiting out in the hall?”
Min Young, realizing she was still leaning against Ah Rang, sprang up and ushered the other two out of the room. When the reached the hallway, Sang Hee sighed and began picking the petals off the peony in her hand.
“It’s always like that…” Sang Hee said. “Yoo Je-shii always has to answer her phone.”
“You’re doing great though.” Ah Rang said, trying to keep her spirits up. “Didn’t you see her blush?”
Sang Hee looked up at him at that, peony destruction forgotten.
“She did!?” She exclaimed. When Min Young nodded in confirmation, Sang Hee’s face broke out into a big smile.
“Oh I didn’t even notice! She might...actually feel the same after all!.” Sang Hee said, disbelief in her voice. She turned to Min Young and Ah Rang, her face serious. “If this does work, I hope Yoo Je-shii and I can be as good a couple as you two are.”
Min Young and Ah Rang were stunned into silence. Sang Hee thought they were a real couple?
Min Young made to respond but then Yoo Je opened the door to her office. “Sorry about that. Now, where were we?”
* * *
But Ah Rang couldn’t sleep. While he was happy that tomorrow’s events would bring Yoo Je and Sang Hee together, he couldn’t help feeling a little sad. After tomorrow, he and Min Young would no longer be working so closely.
He had come to realize over the course of the last few weeks of pretending to be in love that he was actually in love with Min Young. She was smart and beautiful and she cared so much about this job, about what this organization did, it warmed his heart.
He flipped over in his sleeping bag, wishing his tent was outside so he could look at the stars and not the ceiling of the theater. How can I tell her how I feel? Ah Rang wondered. But when no ideas came to him after several moments, he changed tactics. What would Seo Byung-Hoon do if I was a client and Min Young was the target?
He lay in the dark for several moments, trying out different plans when finally it came to him. He ripped open his sleeping bag, unzipped the tent and ran to Moo Jin’s room. While he wasn’t going to like being woken up in the middle of the night, he was going to love Ah Rang’s idea.
* * *
She sighed and ran her hands over her face. When she thought about it, it made a lot of sense. Ah Rang was so positive and friendly that of course she had been drawn to him at first. And as they had gotten to know each other, they had become closer and closer. She could tell him anything and trust that he would do what he could to help her out. He made her feel comfortable and safe and she hadn’t felt that in a long time.
Min Young hadn’t realized how strong her feelings were until they started spending so much time on this mission together. All she wanted to do was hold him close and bury her head in his chest. To feel his arms encircle around her, protecting her. As they planned their fictitious wedding, there had been times she wished it had been real.
What am I going to do? Min Young thought as she turned onto her side, violently throwing her blankets over her. It was a fruitless effort, as sleep never came.
* * *
“Is everyone clear on the plan?” Seo Byung-Hoon asked. Min Young, the day before, had insisted that Sang Hee attend the tour so she could discuss ideas for decorations. While Yoo Je had sounded apprehensive on the phone, she had not rejected the request.
When they all nodded agreement, Seo Byung-Hoon continued, “Good. Let’s make it happen!” He turned back to the console as everyone left the van. Before they parted ways to go to their assigned spots, Moo Jin gave Ah Rang a small thumbs up.
Min Young and Ah Rang waited at the front entrance to the venue, a small park in the middle of a mountainous region outside of Seoul. Ah Rang could tell Min Young was nervous. She was fidgeting with her hair and bouncing on the balls of her feet.
“Don’t be nervous Min Young-shii. You’re going to do a great job.” Ah Rang said, placing a hand on her shoulder to calm her bouncing. Min Young smiled at him and stopped playing with her hair.
“Oh look! There goes Moo Jin,” she said, gesturing further down the path in front of them. There was a small commotion as Moo Jin bumped into Yoo Je, casually sliding his hand into her purse and taking her phone out of it. Yoo Je, while surprised by the encounter, didn’t seem to notice that Moo Jin had just stolen from her. Min Young and Ah Rang could seem him bow in apology and continue down the path towards a side entrance to the park.
When Yoo Je and Sang Hee reached them, Yoo Je was all apologies. “I am so sorry we are a bit late, Ah Rang-shii and Min Young-shii. Are you ready to view the venue? Sang Hee-shii has been sharing a few of her ideas on the walk up here and I can’t wait for you to hear them, too!”
Min Young nodded enthusiastically and linked arms with Ah Rang as they entered the park. She listened very attentively as Yoo Je explained the history and the significance of the park, peppered in with some suggestions from Sang Hee on potential decorations and flower arrangements.
Min Young was taken under the spell of Sang Hee’s descriptions and drifted off into her own world, imagining the wedding day, wishing it was real. She was so focused on the client, in fact, that she didn’t see Moo Jin, hiding behind a rather large bush, slip the phone into the pocket of her dress.
Ah Rang, whose only focus was on his own plan that he had concocted with Moo Jin the night before, noticed the transaction and knew the time had come for Sang Hee, as well as himself, to take center stage.
Quietly, Ah Rang stopped walking and grabbed hold of Min Young’s arm, stopping her in her tracks. As this had been part of the plan, Min Young was not frightened and carefully followed Ah Rang to couch down behind a bench a little ways off from the park. The two turned to watch as Sang Hee and Yoo Je continued walking, their conversation barely in hearing range.
“Sang Hee-shii? It’s time.” Sang Hee heard Seo Byung-Hoon’s voice whisper the instruction quietly in her ear. She took a deep breath, building up her courage before interrupting Yoo Je’s explanation of the oldest tree in the park.
“Yoo Je-shii?” Sang Hee said, tentatively. Yoo Je stopped talking abruptly and focused on the woman. “I have something to tell you.” Sang Hee continued, her voice getting stronger as she spoke. “I have been...proud of the work we have done the last few months. Proud of the weddings that have happened and the couples that we have made so happy.”
“Yoo Je-shii, I think you are wonderful, not only as a wedding planner but also as a person.” Sang Hee continued. “Over these past few months I have...grown fond of you. No! I have grown to...love you.” She stopped speaking and looked to Yoo Je for her reaction.
Yoo Je was stunned, Sang Hee’s confession coming out of left field.
Sensing Yoo-Je’s hesitation, Sang Hee tried to back pedal, “I would never want to make you feel uncomfortable Yoo Je-shii. We can just...pretend I never said anything! I could recommend another florist to you if I make you--”
Yoo Je, unable to express with words all the things she was feeling, did what she had wanted to do for the last few weeks. She closed the gap between them, cupped Sang Hee’s chin with her hand and kissed her on the lips mid sentence.
From behind the bench, Min Young was ecstatic, her fist pumping in the air. The plan had worked! By taking the phone away, a device that had vibrated at least three times during Sang Hee’s confession, Yoo Je was able to focus on her feelings and not her job.
As Yoo Je and Sang Hee continued to kiss, rather enthusiastically, Min Young turned to Ah Rang, ready to celebrate a job well done, which is when she noticed he wasn’t crouched next to her as he had been moments before.
Where could he be? Min Young thought, frantically glancing around the park for him. The phone started to vibrate in her hand again. As she glanced down at it distractedly, about to send the call to voicemail, she noticed that the caller ID said Ah Rang.
She answered. “Where are you?”
“Look behind you.” Ah Rang replied. When she turned, she saw that he was standing on a hill a little distance away, waving at her.
“What are you doing over there?” She asked into the phone.
“I wanted to give you space,” he said. “I wanted you to really be able to consider what I am about to say.”
Min Young felt the air turn serious and waited for Ah Rang to continue.
“Min Young-shii, these past few weeks pretending to be your fiance have been some of the best weeks of my life. You are a clever, funny, wonderful girl and while I am glad to call you my friend, I want to be able to call you something more.”
Min Young blushed at his implication. She felt a bubble of happiness rise within her and she couldn’t stop her face from breaking out into a smile. He liked her!
“Min...Young.” Ah Rang continued, emboldened by her silence enough to use her name, “Will you go on a date with me?”
Min Young just succeeded in containing her excitement so the others wouldn’t hear her shout as she said, her smile bright, “Yes!”