Go Eun Bi combed her hair absentmindedly, her eyes staring at the mirror in front of her without seeing her reflection. Her mind was running mile a minute; she had been wondering how her night would go ever since she received an invitation for a class reunion two weeks ago. The reunion was organized by Kwon Ki Tae and Jo Hae Na, who were recently engaged.
It had been about seven years since the two had been together. (They were really smug about it.)
It had been six years since she reunited with her twin, Go Eun Byeol.
It had been five years since they graduated from high school.
It had been three years since she and Han Yi An broke up.
Four years, she thought as she fastened a small pink ribbon on the right side of her hair. Four years since I last talked to Gong Tae Kwang.
She could still remember that day when her texts went unanswered. She tried calling him once, twice, thrice, many a times only to be told by a computer-generated voice that the number was no longer in use. His social media accounts were also taken down. When she told Eun Byeol about this during her summer vacation, she received a solid smack behind her head.
“Are you an idiot?” Eun Byeol asked hotly. “If I was Gong Tae Kwang, I would also do the same. You’ve been stringing the poor guy along. Can’t you even guess that he might not be 100% happy with your relationship with Yi An?”
“But I’m not stringing him along! I clearly told him that I only see him as my friend,” Eun Bi countered, rubbing her (slightly stinging) head.
Her twin scoffed. “The more reason to cut off his contact with you. Seriously, let that poor guy move on. Besides, if you really want to know why, just go to his house.”
“I can’t,” Eun Bi said petulantly. “Why are you defending him anyway? I thought you didn’t like him.”
She never received a reply from her. The unanswered question had plagued her for a year until the answer hit her like a ton of bricks.
They’re both the same, she had thought in horror as she was sitting across Yi An on one of their rare lunch dates (The swimmer had been tirelessly training for six months in order to win the gold medal in the national competition and, hopefully, in the Olympics). Her mind brought her back to the time when her sister suddenly departed for overseas. Yi An smiled at her at that moment and she couldn’t bring it in herself to smile back. That’s why Unnie left. She didn’t really go to fulfill whatever her dream was… she just wanted to move on.
The guilt of causing her sister pain, coupled with Yi An’s busy schedule, made her end her relationship with Yi An. They had broken up amicably, with the reassurance of still remaining as friends.
She exhaled sharply and she came back to the present. She finally took in her appearance and decided that she was ready. Taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders, she grabbed her hand bag lying on her bed and exited her apartment.
The restaurant was bustling with laughter when Eun Bi arrived. Lee Shi Jin and Cha Song Joo linked their arms with hers as they greeted her happily.
“How have you guys been?” she inquired, a huge grin playing on her lips.
Song Joo smacked her shoulder playfully. “You know how we have been. Seriously, your sense of humor is as bad as your twin’s.”
“No, Eun Bi’s is a lot worse,” a deep voice sounded behind them. Eun Bi didn’t know why but she felt her insides somersault. In dread or excitement, she didn’t know. She turned sharply, disentangling from her friends in the process.
“Gong Tae Kwang,” she breathed. In that moment, the gulf created due to the years that the two had not communicated was gone as she took in the man’s appearance before her. His black hair was slightly tousled, perhaps due to the wind, and the white shirt he wore underneath his dark blue blazer added to the boyish charm he always carried about him.
“Heol,” Song Joo said, wonder seeping through her voice, “so you do know how to dress up.”
They expected him to playfully smack their heads and was surprised to hear him chuckle instead. “Thanks, I guess.”
They gaped at him. Shi Jin was the first one to recover. “Yah, where did you disappear off to?”
“I studied overseas,” he replied lightly. “You still didn’t change, Lee Shi Jin. By the way, have you seen the event organizers?”
“They’re over there,” Song Joo said, pointing at the table nearest to the patio. The table was swarmed with well-wishers and the center of the attention was a slightly embarrassed Ki Tae and a pleased Hae Na. “How did they give you the invitation anyway? No one knew where you went.”
With a wink, he waved at them. “I had my ways.”
For the rest of the evening, Eun Bi tried to catch Tae Kwang’s eyes to no avail; he was too busy laughing at Ki Tae’s embarrassment – since when had the two been close? – and catching up with the friends he had made on their last year in high school.
It wasn’t until the couple started dancing that he made his way towards her. His grin, which made his eyes shine brightly, made her stomach do some flip flops.
“Go Eun Bi, how have you been?” he said as he held a glass of champagne towards her. She took it carefully, glad that her fingers didn’t shake.
“I’ve been fine. Working at Sekang High School was nice,” she said after taking a sip. “How about you?”
“Great,” he grinned. “By the way, is Han Yi An busy with training? I didn’t see him.”
She shrugged, smirking playfully. “That or he wasn’t invited.”
“Didn’t you ask him?” He raised an eyebrow at her and then a few beats later, froze. “Wait, you two aren’t quarreling, right?”
She snorted. “No. Besides, we broke up three years ago.”
There, she felt like adding but didn’t. Tae Kwang contemplated this for a moment and frowned slightly.
“Huh, that’s surprising. I expected the two of you to last longer than Ki Tae and Hae Na. Don’t tell them I told you that,” he said playfully. She felt something heavy settle in her chest and she opened her mouth to speak but he beat her to it. “Why did you two break up? If you don’t mind telling me.”
She shook her head and sighed. “We just realized that we were not meant for each other. Besides, he was too busy practicing and stuff.”
“Yah,” he scolded and then flicked her forehead, “that’s not a good enough reason to break up. Really.”
Before she could tell him the real reason – the reason that no one other than Eun Bi herself knows – his cell phone rang. Smiling at her, he excused himself to take the call and exited the restaurant.
Years ago, you were the one chasing after me, she thought as she watched him through the glass doors. He was laughing at something the person on the other side of the line had said. Now, I’ll be the one to chase after you.
She made her way back to her table, smiling at her friends. Song Joo suddenly stood up and grabbed the microphone from Park Min Joon, who was singing a ballad onstage. He acquiesced, seeing that the Cha Song Joo, whose face had graced the bill boards many a times, was quite determined to do so.
“Yah, kids,” she started, getting the other’s attention. It was then at that moment when Tae Kwang reentered the restaurant, a smile playing on his lips. He approached the stage and stopped at the right side, clearly waiting for Song Joo to continue. “I’ve got some good news for you. Well, it really just concerns me but… whatever.”
The crowd laughed. Shi Jin and Eun Bi stared at each other and then giggled. Trust Song Joo to make dramatic announcements.
“So, I just got a deal yesterday,” she paused and then squealed. “I’ll be appearing in the upcoming TV series ‘Dark Moon’ as the main lead!”
They congratulated her enthusiastically and she bowed multiple times before she held the microphone out to Min Joon. Before he could get it back, another hand grabbed it away from him.
“This will only take a minute,” Tae Kwang said softly and then turned to Song Joo after bringing the mic near his mouth. “Congratulations, Cha Song Joo.”
She grinned at him, her dimples gracing her cheeks. She gracefully went down the stage and then sat back in their table.
“Congratulations, Song Joo-yah,” Shi Jin exclaimed. Eun Bi gave her a huge grin, a little bit distracted by Tae Kwang’s presence onstage.
“I, too, have some good news to tell you all,” he said playfully. “Some of you might be wondering where I have been these past four years. I’ve been studying abroad as an exchange student and I’m currently working as a guidance counselor in one of the high schools in America.”
He paused for a moment and the others rolled their eyes at him. Ki Tae yelled at him to spit it out already.
“While being there, I met someone who made me extremely happy.”
Eun Bi, who was in the middle of texting her unnie about Song Joo’s announcement, froze. Mechanically, she raised her head to see Tae Kwang smiling and gesturing at the restaurant doors.
“Everyone, I’d like you to meet my fiancée, Lee Soo Yeon.”
A woman with long flowing black hair entered the restaurant; she had an air of confidence around her but still managed to appear humble. The claps and catcalls reverberating inside the restaurant were drowned out and all Eun Bi could hear was the loud thudding of her heart in her ears.
Oh, she thought blankly. He was… he is…
She was brought out of her daze when Shi Jin slapped her shoulder. “Yah, can you believe it? Look at his fiancée. Heol, she’s really pretty.”
“I wonder how he managed to seduce Lee Soo Yeon-ssi,” Song Joo said with a scoff. Eun Bi smiled faintly and tried to contain her tears.
“We should,” she began and then cleared her scratchy throat, “we should congratulate them.”
The three made their way towards the stage. Eun Bi couldn’t quite remember what she said or what she did when she stood in front of the engaged couple. Thankfully, mercifully, her phone rang and she hastily exited the restaurant. She cried in relief when she heard the voice from the other side of the phone.
“Eun Bi-yah, how was the party?” Eun Byeol inquired good-naturedly. Eun Bi could hear some sort of fanfare from the other end of the phone. “You should’ve ditched it and went here with me. This amusement park is really daebak.”
“Unnie,” she said brokenly. She couldn’t help the tears she was holding in from breaking out.
“Yah, what’s wrong?” Eun Byeol asked, her voice tinged with fret.
“Take me home. Please,” she sobbed as she closed her eyes.
She wanted to run away again from reality – escape like what she did when she jumped off the bridge in Tongyeong, like how she let the others fight for her battle many times.
“Okay, I’ll be there in ten,” Eun Byeol said firmly. “Wait for me.”
As she inhaled the cold evening air, tears still streaming down her cheeks, she wondered what could have happened if only she was brave enough four years ago. She knew Tae Kwang’s home address, she knew who his father was.
I should have tried harder to find you, Tae Kwang-ah.
She looked up at the moonlit sky.
I really am such a coward.