She’s been crying again, he can tell, as he watches her stare off into the distance like she’s watching her life story all over again. He leans on the wall, just far away to be out of her line of vision and just close enough to watch her. He wonders, like he does every day, how she can be so strong yet so fragile.
Of course, even more than that, he wonders just how much did she – does she love him. That Han Yi An, the person who had her heart and never even wanted it. Scratch that, he had wanted Go Eun Byul’s heart – maybe he had it already – but never Lee Eun Bi’s. She was never supposed to be part of this.
He thinks back to those days when she leans against him and tells him about what’s bothering her. He remembers himself asking her if she wasn’t happy with Han Yi An, and she’s smiling like he told a joke, and says, “He was never mine to begin with.”
And he aches to tell her that he could be hers – he could be Lee Eun Bi’s.
He’s been trying oh so hard to not get into a fight again. Not out of any affection for his father – though that was more important to him than he thought – but because he doesn’t want to hurt her again. He doesn’t want to see her crumpled form on the ground. Hell, he didn’t even know her identity then but he still felt it. He still didn’t want to see her hurt.
“You’re so strong, Gong Tae Kwang,” He tries not to get lost in her voice as she speaks. The way she calls his name sounds so different when it’s her. He stays quiet, lets her continue, “You can do anything, huh?”
He wants to tell her no, he can’t do anything, after all, he can’t help her the way he wants to. But instead he just hums his approval. Like his heart wasn’t aching with something he couldn’t describe.
She laughs a bit, and it’s like fireworks in his mind, and says, “Well, you’re still a kid.” He glares but he doesn’t mean it, and she glares but she doesn’t mean it either. He grabs her hand playfully. He blinks, surprised, when she freezes. A smile. Maybe something’s changed, maybe it wasn’t the light that was tinting her cheeks pink.
He can hear himself, the voice echoing in the depths of his heart. He wonders how it isn’t drowned out in the sound of his thudding heart. He still smiles like normal, though soon it slips off as he stares at her.
“Hello, Lee Eun Bi.” He wonders if a day will come when he can say her name loudly, clearly, proudly. When this name will no longer be a taboo. But a part of him doesn’t really want that day to come.
She stares at him, and even though her eyes are red – they’ve been like that a lot these days, he notes – they seem to glimmer in the night sky. Corny, he knows, but he’s too desperate to care. Too worried that this time he’s finally done it, he’s finally crossed that unspoken line she drew. Maybe that’s what love is. Crossing that line.
He can hear the gratitude in her voice, “Thanks, Gong Tae Kwang. Thanks.” Thanks. He wants to tell her that he could say her name every day of his life if she wanted. Hell, he wouldn’t mind if he said it with the affection of a lover. But he can’t say that out loud, he doesn’t want to upset her. Maybe that’s love, too. Staying behind that line.
So, he smiles like nothing’s wrong when deep inside his heart whispers ‘Everything’s wrong’.
He knew that she would transfer soon. It was for the better, he argued. She would be safe, happy. Though he had to admit, he wished he had a place in that fairytale. He also knew that she wouldn’t back down, not yet.
But now, as he watches her from his seat – a daily routine – he imagines a time when that familiar back won’t be there. When he will come and she will not be there to smile at him. When he won’t be there to watch her delicate movements, the way her hair fell from her shoulders, the way her voice sounded so like her and not like her at all. He keeps these thoughts to himself.
So one day, when she surprises him by asking, “Will you miss me?” his thoughts freeze in their positions. He wants to tell her no, of course he won’t miss her barging into his life, of course he won’t miss her stubbornness and how she somehow never leaves him alone. Of course he won’t miss the times they shared together, he won’t miss her laugh and he smile and God, her everything.
But instead, what comes out is, “Every day.”
He admits to himself later, amidst despair and embarrassment, that he had felt victorious seeing her face turn red – all the way to her ears, he echoes with a faint blush.
He couldn’t avoid fighting forever. Of course he couldn’t. Not when every day they did something to irk him. It was going to be sooner or later that he would burst. It was sooner.
He says to himself that he gave a good fight, but he doesn’t have anything to show for it. A split lip, bleeding nose and bruises turning shades of blue he’d never seen before. He still manages to make it to the hospital, more to check on her than to get himself treated. It’s just in time, he can hear Han Yi An snap at her again.
The door opens and she steps out, head raised high. As soon as it closes, however, she slides to the ground and buries her face in her hands. The sobs can barely be heard but they hit him like waves and he thinks to himself, these days he’s only seen her crying. He sighs, wonders if yet again he’ll have to hide behind a wall, heart aching. And then she cries a bit louder and it hits him like tides clawing at a cliff, and he thinks ‘Screw it’.
She raises her head when he’s standing right in front of her, and he sees the damage. Her eyes are red and puffy though she makes an effort to hide her tears. They’re both silent for a while. Then, he sighs and rubs the back of his neck.
“We really have to stop meeting like this,” He says, and smiles.
Even if he said that it was an accident, no one would believe him. He couldn’t even believe himself. After all, he didn’t have anything to drink that night, and he certainly wasn’t on drugs. Maybe he really was mad. Maybe falling in love with her did that to him.
It was a starless night, he recalls. They sat on that bridge, playing and smiling. After all that they had gone through, heaven knows they needed a moment of joy. He watched her balance on his latest gadget, watched her excited smile like a little child on Christmas morning.
And he never meant for it to happen, he honestly didn’t. He just lost himself in her smile and the next thing he knew, he’s talking smoothly.
“Hey, Lee Eun Bi.” He doesn’t give her time to be surprised, “Let me tell you something. But don’t believe me, okay? I’m a lying bastard.”
Wait. I shouldn’t do this. No, not now. Not like this.
She tilts her head slightly, eyes wide with curiosity. And he wishes he could just hold her tight, watch her smile at him, and not in a ‘friends’ way.
Screw this. And, well, he throws reasoning out his window and keeps his heart for her, God, only for her.
“The thing is, I don’t like you at all. I’m not in love with you.”
God, just let him survive this one. Just don’t let him lose her.
He smiles, like he always does when he’s around her, and says, “I’m a lying bastard.”
If this is what love does to you, then damn it all.
I love her.