It was almost seven in the morning and Yi Jeong was standing in the cold air, holding the piece of paper Eun Jae gave him the previous evening. The sun was about to rise and the sky was already clear and even if he almost didn’t sleep, he was wide awake. It had been a long, hard night, a night of tears, healed wounds and clearness. Finally knowing his brother’s story and most of all, seeing him with his first love, had closed a wound in his heart that was bleeding since they had deserted him. Yi Jeong knew he was supposed to feel hurt and betrayed but as the night had gone by, he found out he was just feeling a quiet peace in his heart. Eun Jae’s smile was radiant and Il Hyun eyes were glowing as he looked at her, and it somehow felt right for them to be together. It was like their love unveiled his eyes, making it finally easy for him to see.
He loved Eun Jae, there was no denying it. He always had and he probably always would. He loved her as his keeper, as his friend, as his counsellor. There was a time he had loved her as a man loves a woman, but now that she was in front of him once again, he realized that over the years he idealized his love, clinging to a romantic ideal that wasn’t real anymore. It had taken her return, it had taken to see her in flesh again to understand it. It had taken for him to be brave and finally stop running from his feelings. He now knew why he couldn’t accept to be over her in all those years: it was safer to think he was still in love with her, it was the perfect excuse to keep his heart closed and not suffer. She was his hiding place and finally abandoning it was painful. Learning the truth about his brother had already shaken his world, but accepting he didn’t love Eun Jae anymore was the last blow to the pillars that supported his life in the last three years. And yet he wasn’t feeling sad or lost and he knew why.
Ga Eul was still there.
Ga Eul was the column that held him still in one piece.
Ga Eul was the one he needed to go on.
It was barely two days since she left him at Namsan yet he missed her so much that even breathing was hard.
The chance of her rejecting him was the most scary thing, he didn’t know what he would have done in such a case. He knew he would have begged on his knees if needed, for her to have him back. The irony of that situation was almost making him laugh as he remembered to have said almost those exact words to his white angel when she had showed up at his workshop asking to date him. Fate, if such entity really existed, had a dark sense of humour for sure.
Before he could go back to her and try his luck though, there was one last thing he needed to do, and that was the reason he was there, so early in the morning.
He knew Ga Eul would have approved.
The low sound of footsteps behind him made him turn around and Yi Jeong smiled at the sight of the woman walking to him.
“I didn’t think you would have come.” He greeted her, talking in a low voice. Somehow speaking loudly didn’t seem appropriate.
“I need this as much as you do, Yi Jeong.” Eun Jae smiled back, reaching his side. “It was me who invited you here, three years ago.”
The young man nodded and looked ahead across Seoul roofs, acutely aware of the city asleep under his feet: all those people who were living their own life unaware that today was a special day for him.
Somehow this made him feel very little and unimportant in the great balance of the world. “It feels right, being here with you. To close our circle. Thank you for giving me this possibility.”
“Are you ready now?” She asked, caressing the jigsaw piece pending from her purse.
“You know me.” He answered, still looking ahead. “I don’t think I’ll ever be ready, but this is not the time to run away. I think I’m finally starting to learn that lesson. I’m sorry if I’m so late.”
Eun Jae merely smiled and Yi Jeong sighed, lowering his head. “Last night made me think and realise a lot of things that were so obviously before my eyes only that I was too blind to see them. I spent my whole life ruled by fear. I was scared that my mother would die, so I always complied all her requests thinking my love for her could somehow give her that family she always wanted. Everytime she tried to kill herself, I thought I wasn’t doing good enough and I tried harder, too scared for her to admit with myself I was doing nothing to really help her. When Il Hyun was disinherited, I was so scared of being alone that I chose to believe he betrayed me and heeded grandfather order to forget about him. I’m so ashamed now.”
“You believed what he wanted you to believe and he forgave you for this.” She replied lightly touching his arm.
“I know. But this doesn’t help at all.” He turned to the girl by his side, taking her hand in his one. “To you, I’ve been really unfair too. You were always there for me and I was so scared of changing I pretended not to see something already had. I made hyung sacrifice useless and I made you suffer.”
Eun Jae didn’t reply and Yi Jeong squeezed her hand. “I want to tell you something, before I see what you wanted to show me three years ago. I really loved you, Eun Jae. I was a coward and I kept you with me ignoring your feelings, but my heart was yours. You were the strenght that kept me going, you were my sun and stars. Even if everything changed now, I’m happy I can finally tell you how much you meant to me.”
“I really was all that?” She asked, her eyes watery.
“You really were.” He confirmed. “If I was brave enough back then, I would be the man by you now and not my brother. But seeing how much happy you are, I can only think it was for the best. You deserve a man like him, someone who’s not scared of sharing his feelings.”
She smiled and dried up the tears that were rolling down her cheeks. “What about you, Yi Jeong?”
“There is someone in my life too.” He replied, with a deep breath. “I made her suffer but she always stayed by my side, teaching me to stop running from my fears and living my life in regret. She’s the person I’ll go back to, she’s the one I’ll beg to have me back.”
Yi Jeong nodded. “I don’t know if I still have the right to be with her, after what happened. I don’t know if she’ll forgive me. But I’ll do as she taught me and keep trying.”
“Let’s close this circle then.” Eun Jae softly said, pointing him to the rising sun and the billboards that were slowly starting to glow. “Together you and me, for our new beginning.”
And as the blinding light displayed the message of love sent to him three years ago, the last twinge of regret faded in Eun Jae’s warm embrace and her whispered words. “I will always love you. Now go. She’s waiting for you.”
And Yi Jeong ran.
Ga Eul was quietly walking to reach the bus stop to go to school. It was the third day without Yi Jeong and despite her best intentions, she kept dreaming about him at night. She knew waiting for him would have been hard, but she didn’t expect it to be that hard! She couldn’t help to think about him every waking moment to the point that she frequently thought to have seen him in the most unlikely places. Like the bright orange car that had just turned in her street and was driving towards her at full speed. Another illusion, Ga Eul sighed. If that kept on, she was really going to be worried. A man shouldn’t have that effect on anybody.
When the car stopped just near her, she really started to be afraid. An illusion wasn’t supposed to be so real. But then the window lowered and Yi Jeong’s bright smile flashed to her.
“Good morning, Ga Eul yang.” He greeted the stunned girl.
“You’re not supposed to talk.” She whispered, trying to understand if he was real or not. Just to be on the safe side, she went along with it. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to take you to school. Hop on.”
He was real, she decided. It wasn’t a fantasy. He was smiling at her, pointing her at the door and before she knew what she was doing, she was already in the car, fastening her seat belt. The Lotus moved and that was when Ga Eul woke up from her trance.
“Yi Jeong sunbae.” She started, just to close her mouth soon after. What could she say to him? It was early in the morning and she was still half asleep, not to mention her last dream about him was still fresh in her mind.
He didn’t say anything either, just driving towards her school. Some minutes later, his hand gently closed on her, while the other one kept using the steering wheel.
“I missed you.” Yi Jeong quietly said, squeezing her hand. “Can I take you to lunch after school? I need to talk to you.”
He had briefly considered the option of trying to get her to skip school to stay with him, but he knew Ga Eul and her deep sense of duty. She would have never agreed. When she nodded, he exhaled in relief, stopping the car just some buildings away from her school.
“I’ll see you later then.”
She never thought school hours could be that long. It seemed like she was in class since an eternity and that lunch time would never arrive. Needless to say she didn’t listen to a word her teachers said that morning. Yi Jeong wanted to talk to her. Had something happened? Had he already figured out what he wanted to do? What if he was about to tell her they couldn’t be a couple anymore? She was determined to fight for her right to be by his side, but how could she? Cha Eun Jae was beautiful and she knew Yi Jeong since he was a child, not to mention she was a heiress too and thus of his same world. Could she really compete with someone like that? And she respected her… Now she fully understood what Jan Di was going through with Ha Jae Kyung.
Nervous to the limit, she walked to the exit of the school building and turned around the corner to find the sports car already waiting for her. Her heart sped up and she felt the blood rushing on her cheeks as Yi Jeong hopped out the car, waving at her.
Come on, Ga Eul, one step after another, she urged herself, walking to him and sitting in the Lotus.
“Where are we going?” She asked, after he drove away.
“To my workshop.” Yi Jeong answered. “I thought we could have a quiet lunch and then talk a bit.”
She nodded and the young man took her hand in his own again, intertwining their fingers. Ga Eul’s blush worsened and her head started spinning. What was he doing? Was it a signal of some sort? But she loved every minute of it. She missed his touch so much she could hardly believe it.
The ride was a quiet one and when she crossed the threshold of his workshop, memories flooded her.
Don’t be ridicolous, she scolded herself, it’s only been two weeks since you last were here.
“The lunch is ready.” He told her, and his voice almost made her jump. “I ordered it from the same restaurant we went together, you should like it.”
Ga Eul nodded absent-mindedly and walked to the sink in the workshop’s little kitchen. “I’ll wash my hands.”
It was incoherent, but when Yi Jeong saw her lean against the sink, memories of another sink and another kitchen filled his mind and he found himself behind her without even knowing how.
“What are you doing?” Ga Eul whispered, shivering against his chest, her breathing accelerated.
“Let me help you.” He murmured, guiding her hands under the water, soaping them and then washing them again. It was so slow Ga Eul felt like melting and when Yi Jeong turned the water off and dried up her hands she felt her cheeks were a deep red.
His hands raised up her shoulders and he slowly turned her around, his eyes dark. “I missed you.”
She didn’t know what to say, her mind completely confused. She opened her mouth a couple of times but no sound came out and as he slowly bent over her, she didn’t pull back.
His hands cupped her face, gently brushing her burning cheeks and Ga Eul closed her eyes feeling her heart almost stop when his lips touched hers.
It was like breathing again after days of apnea, like seeing the sun after months of dark. The kiss deepened and Yi Jeong’s mouth hardened on her, claiming her fully. Ga Eul raised her hands to his neck moaning and as that was the cue he was waiting for, his arms embraced her so hard she could hardly breathe.
“Forgive me. Take me back.” He whispered against her lips, releasing her. “I love you, Ga Eul yang. I’ll never leave you again.”
Her head still spinning, she struggled to find the strenght to answer him but he silenced her again with another kiss that left her completely powerless. What was this man to affect her that much? She knew she had to ask what happened, but her will was crushed and she just wanted to kiss him more and more, until they were both exhausted.
“Teacher Cha?” She managed to feebly ask, panting and realizing her hands were slipping under his shirt’s collar to touch him.
“She’s the past.” Yi Jeong answered kissing her cheeks, her eyes, her forehead. “You’re the present. You’re my future. You’re my everything.”
“Are you sure?” She whispered, holding on to him to not fall down. Her legs were refusing to sustain her any longer.
“Yes. I missed you so much I felt like dying. You’re the air I need to live, Ga Eul. Forgive me. Forgive me, my love.”
Then he passionately kissed her again and Ga Eul stopped thinking.
He was back, he was with her. He belonged to her.
Her hands rushed on his shirt, almost ripping it off his trousers and she felt his hands doing the same with her uniform’s blouse.
Still kissing her, Yi Jeong lifted her in his arms, heading to his bedroom and laying her on the bed, getting rid of her clothes as she helped him out of his garments too. He never felt that much urgent need in undressing a woman in all his life, not just out of lust but to feel her again against his skin, to realize she was really there and she was his.
Naked in her arms, he let out a loud moan as she forced him on his back, straddling him and bending down to kiss him. Her breasts were brushing against his chest, her legs were pressing on either sides of him and her hands were on his shoulders.
“Promise me you will never leave me again.” She gasped as one of his hands closed on her breast and the other one pressed on her back to lower her to him.
“Never. I swear. I would rather die.” He replied, reversing their positions and deeply kissing her again.
His hands were everywhere and she felt like burning, unable to stop her moans as he touched her.
When he finally pushed himself in her, she let out a cry of pleasure, holding him firmly in her arms and lifting her hips to welcome him. Their dance grew frantic as they fiercely clinged to each other and the release caught them by surprise, leaving the both of them panting and sweated.
Yi Jeong kept her near him, gently stroking her hair while recovering his breath, his heart almost ripping apart with pure and sheer joy.
“I’ll make it up for you, I swear. Take me back and I’ll love you like nobody ever had or ever will in this life.”
She raised her head sealing his lips with a searing kiss and that was answer enough.
“Now tell me what happened.” She asked much later, comfortably leaning on his shoulder. She still couldn’t believe he was back to her, that he had choosen her. It was like a dream.
“I realized my love for Eun Jae died a long time ago.” Yi Jeong was slowly stroking her arms, savouring the feeling of her naked body near his own. “I still care for her and I always will, but it’s not the love I felt three years ago. Yesterday I found her with my brother and as I watched them together it all became clear to me.”
“Yes.” He nodded, smiling. “I think we will fix things between us, I don’t want to loose him again. I missed him a lot. And now he and Eun Jae are together. I’m actually happy for them, I think they are a good match. Seeing them together was what I needed to understand my feelings.”
Yi Jeong raised Ga Eul face until she was looking at him and gently brushed her cheeks. “I kept loving an ideal all these years. I didn’t love Eun Jae, I loved the memory I had of her, of her love for me. She was the only one who really understood me, the only one I could trust. I loved a ghost. I thought a lot during these days and tonight I finally got it. You are real Ga Eul yang. I’m not loving someone in my head, I’m loving a real person, someone who will yell at me, someone who will argue with me, someone who will support and love me. Someone I can share my life with.”
Ga Eul’s eyes widened but Yi Jeong still had something to say. “Three years ago, I thought Eun Jae was my air, someone I needed to keep going on. I was mistaken. She was the strenght who supported me during my difficult times, she was the sun that warmed my cold heart, but she wasn’t my air. Eun Jae was more like a wind, a light breeze that opened my heart, taught me how beautiful love could be and left it waiting for the real one to come. That’s you, Ga Eul yang. You are my air. You are the person I need to keep on living. Without you, my life would be dull and black and hopeless. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it.”
Extending his arm, Yi Jeong took something from the near night table and handed it to Ga Eul yang. “I want to gift you this. It’s very precious to me, it’s my good luck charm. I don’t need it anymore, because you are all the luck I need, sweetheart.”
Ga Eul opened his hand and his eyes watered at the sight of a silver chain and the crown shaped ring Yi Jeong was always wearing. She knew it was his favourite.
“Will you accept it? And my heart with it too?”
The girl raised his head again, nodding and smiling through the tears. “I’ll keep it safe with me forever.”
“I know you will.”
As Yi Jeong kissed her again, Ga Eul sighed in happiness, still unbelieving of her good luck. Her man was back with her. The nightmare was over.