When I heard your voice
the distance caught me by surprise again
and I know you claim you're alright.
but fix your eyes on me
I guess I'm all you have
and I swear you'll see the dawn again.
- "Guiding Light"
Ga Eul was early, Woo Bin noted absently.
It was odd, he thought; in all his previous meetings the other parties involved usually made him wait, and he understood their reasons for prolonging what they deemed to be inevitable. Necessary and painful, but inevitable all the same.
He wondered if she dreaded this meeting, as all the others before her did.
A part of him certainly did.
And now he wouldn't even have enough time to dissociate and not make this more personal than it already was, goddamnit.
"Yo," Woo Bin greeted with a small salute, depositing his briefcase on the chair next to the one he was about to take. The smile on his face felt brittle and fake, but still he chose to wear it around her. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice. It's good to see you after- well, after everything that's happened."
No, that didn't sound awkward at all.
"Woo Bin-Sunbae," she acknowledged, sounding hollow. "Hi."
He leaned closer to her and asked, "How are you?"
Ga Eul didn't meet his eyes, focusing instead on playing with the stem of her water glass and twisting it to and fro. "I'm... I've been better, I guess."
Obviously. Then again it was quite a stupid question. Dismissing the thought, Woo Bin gestured at her empty plate instead. "Would you like me to order for you?"
She blinked, looking down at the table as though she had never seen one before. It took her a moment more before she shook her head. "I'm not hungry."
"Come on," he cajoled, raising a hand to catch the attention of one of the servers. "I invited to meet you here because I wanted you to try their spaghetti marinara; it's their specialty. I guarantee you'll like it."
"I thought you invited me here because you want us to talk?"
He shrugged. "Can't we do both?"
She looked away, which he took to mean her acquiescence.
Well. Wasn't this a promising start.
After placing their order, Woo Bin looked at her intently. There were dark circles under her eyes and she seemed thinner, paler. Was this how marriage had been treating her?
Or was it the aftermath of that dreadful, dreadful day?
More likely it was the latter.
What a shame, he thought. He'd liked her as the vision she had been when she married So Yi Jung: bubbly and cheerful, with a guileless smile that invited everyone to be as happy as she was. He certainly remembered being envious of his best friend for one whole solid second.
Here, today, So Ga Eul looked as though she was anything but.
"Look," he spoke again when it became obvious to him that she wouldn't, "first of all I'd like to sincerely apologize to you for not being here when-"
Woo Bin paused.
God, it had been several weeks already and yet he couldn't even allude to what had happened without it feeling like he was being knifed in the gut.
So much for his dissociating.
But he had a job to perform now, and the professional in him demanded that his feelings be put aside so he could get this done.
Woo Bin cleared his throat before quietly continuing with, "-I should have been here."
You shouldn't have gone through this alone.
She glanced at him then; he noted that her eyes looked wide and luminous, as if she was purposely holding herself back from crying.
"I know this is hard for you," he said in a low tone, "but you shouldn't isolate yourself, Ga Eul. There are a lot of people who care and worry about you; you know that, don't you?"
"I wasn't-" she started to say, but seemingly changed her mind at the last moment. "How did you-?"
Woo Bin shrugged again. "I have eyes everywhere."
Ga Eul stared at him before sighing loudly. "Jan Di."
"Well yes," he admitted easily, "hers, too."
"I told her not to tell you," she whispered, looking away.
"Why?" he asked gently. "You don't want me to know how you are?"
She said nothing.
"I can handle this," she said, hands curled to fists on top of the table. "I have to."
"No one said you can't," he said lightly. Woo Bin thought about it for a bit before he reached forward to place a hand on top of hers. "Mourning Yi Jung's death... you shouldn't have to bear that pain alone."
She stared at his hand on hers; quietly, helplessly, he watched as one tear rolled down her cheek before she hastily wiped it away.
Ga Eul was saved from having to reply as, at that moment, their food had arrived.
The spaghetti marinara should have made her mouth water with how appetizing it looked.
Instead, the very sight of it made her nauseous, her stomach queasy.
You shouldn't waste perfectly good food, Ga Eul could hear herself say to her students time and again - like a mantra she'd hoped they would someday imbibe.
Now, however, she couldn't even bear following the simplest of her own lessons.
"You're not eating," Woo Bin pointed out, gesturing at her plate with his own fork.
"I'm sorry," she said automatically, though she didn't feel it. Truth be told she didn't know what she was feeling at all. "I told you I wasn't hungry."
"When was the last time you had a good meal?"
Something in his words struck a chord in her. What, did he think she became an invalid all of a sudden just because her husband had died? She met his eyes and said, defiantly, "I can take care of myself."
He must have sensed her anger because the expression on his face shifted, became more guarded. "I wasn't implying that you can't."
Ga Eul drew a deep breath. She'd had enough of scoldings from Geum Jan Di; she couldn't bear it if Song Woo Bin, of all people, joined in the fray too.
"You said you want us to talk about something," she said, wishing with everything in her that this was over. Wishing that she didn't even come to meet him in the first place. "So let's talk."
Woo Bin sighed. Wiping at his mouth with a napkin, he reached for his briefcase and opened it. "I noticed," he began, "that you weren't there when Yi Jung's last will and testament was read, despite several requests for you to come."
Yi Jung's last will and testament. The words sounded so foreign, so unbelievably final. She fiddled with the edges of her own napkin, trying hard to ignore the painful lump in her throat. "They don't want me to be there. I don't want to be there. That's why I didn't go."
His hesitation was evident on his face as he said, "I know you're not interested, but at the very least you have to know what his final wishes were. That's why I-"
"Why?" she asked in a dull tone. "Will it change anything?"
"No," he responded carefully. Woo Bin took an envelop from his briefcase and pushed it towards her. "But it's the duty of those left behind to see to it that they come to fruition."
She eyed the envelop as though it was a snake waiting to bite her. "So," Ga Eul said, and how she hated the slight trembling of her voice, "this is yours, then?"
His brows furrowed. "My-?"
"This. Being here. Talking to me. This is your duty." The word tasted bitter on her tongue.
Woo Bin fell quiet as if he was carefully weighing his words. Then, "I am- was-" He winced visibly. "As Yi Jung's legal counsel, it is my duty to make sure that all his assets are distributed according to how he wanted them to be. That's why I got you a copy of his will and testament. You have to know your rights." He leaned closer to her again. "Ga Eul, Yi Jung left you everything. Everything under his name is now yours."
What? What did he expect her to say? To feel? Ga Eul placed her hands on her lap, curled them to fists. "I don't want any of it."
"I said, I don't want any of it!"
She could feel other patrons' eyes on her after that particularly loud outburst, but she didn't care. There was a reason she didn't want to do this, discuss this issue, because that would mean... that would really mean-
Woo Bin sighed. "I'm sorry," he said. "You're upset and you have every right to be. If you want to discuss this another day, I understand. Just-"
"You know what I don't understand?"
At first Ga Eul couldn't recognize the voice as hers; it sounded so raw and hurt. Still she pressed on: "I don't understand how you can sit there and talk to me like this, like Yi Jung is just another of your clients and you're informing me about his last will and testament like it's a normal, everyday job for you. He's your best friend! Don't you feel anything? Don't you have any heart?"
Sorrow bubbled at the back of her throat as she said, "I thought- I thought talking to you would help. I thought coming here, seeing you, would... would-"
-make me feel less alone.
She risked a glance at his face and found it to have gone pale and pinched. Losing her nerve all at once, Ga Eul surged to her feet. "I shouldn't be here. I can't- I can't do this. I'm sorry."
And she bolted right out of the restaurant as fast as she could.
This was a mistake.
author's notes: so this was supposed to be an update to Rendezvous but then it became a separate story altogether hahaha. Thank you for reading!