Yi Jeong had cancelled.
Completely cancelled the rest of his dates.
Just like that.
No explanation sent to Ga Eul's phone or passed on through her manager.
On Wednesday, she'd been leaving at the end of her shift when her manager pulled her aside and told her she wouldn't be serving Yi Jeong anymore.
And that was that.
She wondered if what she had said about him not really wanting to get married had struck a nerve. Or if he'd actually found someone, like that Kim Ara character, who didn't totally offend his sensibilities regardless of whether or not he felt any affection for her. Just someone to get the job done.
She supposed his parents were putting plenty of pressure on him, or he wouldn't have agreed to go on those dates at all. Which made his cancellation of them all the more curious.
Well, he hadn't personally notified her, and she felt awkward messaging him, so she guessed she would never know why he hadn't come back. Unless she found out through Ji Hoo via Jan Di. But Ji Hoo didn't seem like the type to give up that sort of information easily.
Was she upset that their relationship, vaguely defined as it was, had ended on such abrupt terms?
But what did she think was going to happen? Their relationship would have run its course in a few more weeks, anyway.
In a way, Yi Jeong had spared her the awkwardness of drawing it out.
She supposed she should be grateful.
Instead, she wanted to spend all night eating ice cream, drinking wine, and watching an angsty melodrama.
Maybe crying over someone else's relationship woes would put her own foolish expectations in perspective.
Possibly. Unless the heroine ended up marrying the handsome chaebol at the end and living happily ever after, as was wont to be the case.
To cheer Ga Eul up—and to save her from an ice cream overdose—Jan Di had suggested they go out for fried chicken and beer at their regular place, even though it was Friday, and they normally ate out on Saturday night.
Well, a little break from routine couldn't hurt, and she could get drunk off of beer just as easily as wine. It might take a little longer, but she could get there.
"I hope you don't mind. I invited Ji Hoo Sunbae to join us," Jan Di said when she got back from the clinic. Ga Eul already stood in front of their shared full-length mirror making last minute adjustments to her outfit—a white ruffled blouse and a red skirt with black stockings and red heels. Whenever she found herself in a dull mood, dressing up lifted her spirits, even though she knew she'd be overdressed for the place they were going to.
"Oh. Um, sure. That's fine," Ga Eul answered, checking herself in the mirror one final time and sliding her red headband further back on her head.
Actually, it wasn't fine. She'd rather not see anyone that reminded her of Yi Jeong, but it wasn't Ji Hoo's fault his friend was so fickle. And Ji Hoo had been quite nice to her when taking care of her hand. He hadn't even charged her. Though at the time Ga Eul had thought Yi Jeong might have paid for his services. He probably had paid and hadn't given it another thought. It hadn't meant anything. Money wouldn't mean anything to him.
Jan Di changed clothes quickly, and a few minutes later, she rushed Ga Eul out the door.
"Hey! What's the big hurry?" Ga Eul asked, struggling to match her friend's frantic pace down the stairs of their apartment building. "It's still so early."
"Ji Hoo Sunbae offered to drive us," Jan Di called back to her. "He's waiting in front of the building. Let's go."
When they exited the building, she saw Ji Hoo sitting in a white Mini Cooper, which idled in the pick-up and drop-off lane. She couldn't help but smile when she realized he matched his car; he was dressed in white as he'd been on all the other occasions she'd seen him. She happened to know he also drove a white motorcycle, so she guessed white was his color. This time he wore a white sweater over blue jeans. She recalled his white suit at the exhibition.
Her mind immediately conjured an image of Yi Jeong standing on a rooftop. Already, that beautiful evening seemed like a lifetime ago.
She blinked the image away and greeted Ji Hoo politely before slipping into the backseat of his car and letting Jan Di sit up front.
While Jan Di gave Ji Hoo directions to the chicken place, Ga Eul let her mind wander once more.
But when her mind wandered, it inevitably circled back to Yi Jeong, no matter what she thought of.
Thankfully, it didn't take too long to reach their destination. Ji Hoo found a good parking spot, though a crowd had already formed inside.
They got out of the car. Ga Eul began walking ahead of them to the entrance of the restaurant, but Jan Di called out for her to wait.
Turning around, she lifted her eyebrows curiously.
Didn't Jan Di want to get inside while there were still tables?
"Ji Hoo Sunbae and I will get us a table. Wait here for a second." Jan Di walked up to her and placed her hands on Ga Eul's shoulders. "Someone wants to talk to you."
"We'll be inside, so come find us when you get finished." Jan Di dropped her arms and continued past Ga Eul. Ga Eul looked at Ji Hoo, but he said nothing, merely offered her a cryptic smile.
"Finished with what?" Ga Eul called after them. They kept walking, gravel crunching under their shoes.
Ga Eul stared at their retreating backs until they entered the restaurant.
A light breeze whipped around her as she turned in a semi-circle towards the road.
She didn't see anyone she knew.
But who should she be expecting?
"Ga Eul-yang," a familiar but unexpected voice spoke up behind her.
She spun around and saw Yi Jeong, flamboyantly overdressed for his surroundings in a black suit with a dark grey waistcoat. He stood behind a red Cadillac a few parking spaces over.
When had he gotten there?
"Yi Jeong Sunbae," she murmured. Cleared her throat. Spoke louder. "Yi Jeong Sunbae. Um, what are you doing here?"
"Your friend said you would be here." He shuffled his feet. "I wanted to ask you something."
"Oh?" Jan Di had known he was coming and didn't tell her? That was unlike her. They told each other everything. What else did Jan Di know that she didn't? "I mean, sorry," Ga Eul amended. "I didn't realize you were standing there before."
"I was sitting in my car when you arrived." He tapped the trunk of the Cadillac. A different car than the one she'd ridden in—one of several, she guessed. He probably collected real cars the way some people collected toy models.
She should step closer to him so he could comfortably ask whatever he wanted and be on his way, but something about the way he was looking at her had her frozen to the spot.
So she inwardly sighed with relief when he walked over to her instead.
He halted a few feet from her and flashed her one of his mind-numbing smiles.
"Uh...y-yeah," she stammered. "What was it you wanted to talk to me about?" Her voice squeaked through the last part of the sentence.
"You're probably wondering why I cancelled the rest of my dates, right?"
"Um, well...a little bit." She stuffed her hands in the pockets of the red cardigan she'd thrown on over her blouse. "I hope the service wasn't that terrible," she managed to quip.
"Oh, no, no." He laughed. One of those charming, effervescent laughs that made her fall for him all over again.
Really, she hoped he had a damn good reason for showing up in front of her like this. She hoped it wouldn't become a regular occurrence because she sorely needed to get him out of her head and—
"With me...Will you go out on a date with me?"
For a moment, Ga Eul stopped breathing.
What had he just said?
"A date?" Ga Eul repeated. "You mean like before? When we went to the exhibition together?" She laughed nervously. "Goodness, how many events does the museum have?"
"No." Yi Jeong shook his head. "A real date. I..." He hesitated. "I like you."
I like you.
She'd imagined those words coming out of his mouth so many times that she half-believed she was in a dream right now.
"I...Um, I...That is, um, th-thank you." Her voice lifted up at the end, like it was a question. Not that she didn't want to go out with him. But this was all so sudden, and she wasn't sure what it meant.
And she wasn't sure she wasn't in a dream.
Proceeding cautiously, she continued, "Thank you, but...what about your parents? Don't they still want you to get married soon?"
"Oh, that." His expression sobered a bit. "Actually, I talked to my mother earlier this week. Apparently, the whole marriage mandate was her idea of forcing me to stop fooling around. But since I found someone I like, she was surprisingly satisfied with that as long as I'm serious about the whole thing. Which I am. Not that we have to get married...or something...right now. I mean, we can just date. Or not. If you don't want to, I understand that too. I just thought—"
"It's okay. It's okay, Sunbae." Ga Eul couldn't help but smile at his uncharacteristic rambling. Still, she was trying to process the implication of his confession. Like...how long had he felt that way about her? And what did 'serious' mean for him, exactly?
And why the heck was she worrying about any of that right now?
So Yi Jeong had just told her he liked her!
Still, the question had to be asked.
"Uh, Sunbae, why are you telling me all this now?"
"I just mean...I didn't really get that you liked me that way from the past few weeks." She interlocked her fingers, tugging and twisting them.
"Right. That. I just...You were right about me getting pushed into going on the dates. I wasn't expecting to get anything out of it, really. I didn't think..." Yi Jeong paused and glanced away. He furrowed his brow, his mouth moving. Minute movements. She guessed he wanted to find the right words. "I wasn't looking for you," he finished, looking back up at her. "So when you suddenly appeared I didn't know what to do."
Interesting. She could relate to that on some level. She hadn't expected to meet him either. Or to like him so much when she did.
"And who do you think I am?" she asked. "To you, I mean?"
He tilted his head, studying her.
"Someone really nice. Like you said. Maybe I'll meet someone like that. You were right. Only I already had."
Ga Eul bit her lip to keep from smiling too big.
When she regained her composure somewhat, she said, "Okay."
"Okay." She gave up on holding back her excitement. "Yes. I will go out with you. I like you too," she confessed, shyly casting her eyes to the ground as she did so.
"Why?" She looked back up at him.
"Just...you liked me, but you had no problem yelling at me." Yi Jeong gave her a warm, genuine smile, but one with a hint of teasing.
"I wasn't yelling. I just...Well, you were being a jerk."
"That's exactly what I mean. You really say what's in your head."
Ga Eul blushed.
"Well, you can blame Jan Di for that. She's been influencing me too much my whole life. You don't know her that well yet, but...you'll see."
Yi Jeong smiled and nodded, and a moment of silence settled between them.
He seemed to be waiting for her to say something else; she wondered if he meant for them to have a date right now or later.
"Well, I came here with Jan Di and Ji Hoo Sunbae, but, um, do you want to go somewhere else? I can—"
"No, no. I think your friend might kill me if we don't satisfy her curiosity." He gestured to the restaurant, and Ga Eul looked over to see Jan Di quite conspicuously twisting her head to peer out the window at them. She held a menu over half of her face, but Ga Eul could see her eyes hovering over the top of the colored plastic.
Spying wasn't exactly Jan Di's forte.
Chuckling, Ga Eul turned back around.
"We should probably go in before she injures her neck."
When they had entered the restaurant and crossed over to Jan Di and Ji Hoo's table, Jan Di did, indeed, wear the face of a puppy salivating over a long-awaited treat.
Ji Hoo, however, spoke up first.
"Did you have a nice talk?" He leaned back in his chair, ogling the two of them.
"If Jan Di reads lips, I'm sure she can fill you in on the details," Yi Jeong answered, sitting down next to Ji Hoo and diagonally from a suddenly red-faced Jan Di.
"I-I...But I was just—"
"Don't bother trying to defend yourself, Jan Di. I saw you too. And you didn't even tell me he was coming, so shame on you." Ga Eul plopped down next to Jan Di, who mumbled a weak protest into her water glass. Looking at Ji Hoo, Ga Eul continued, "But if you two must know—"
"I asked Ga Eul out, and she said 'yes,'" Yi Jeong finished, looking over the menu.
"Yeah, that," Ga Eul added. "Did you know about this?" she asked Ji Hoo.
"Yi Jeong told me he wanted to ask you, so Jan Di and I arranged this. Just remember us when you're picking godparents for your children."
Jan Di coughed, choking on her water.
"Hey, hey, slow down. We're going on a date. A date," Yi Jeong emphasized.
Ga Eul simply blushed and sipped the water the waitress set down in front of her.
Jan Di asked for another moment to look over the menu, and the young lady went away.
"Anyway," Yi Jeong continued, "what's going on over there?" He gestured to a table diagonal from them where several guys Ga Eul vaguely recognized from her college were scarfing down chicken like their life depended on it.
Ga Eul smiled at his obvious discomfort and attempt to change the subject.
"Apparently, there's a chicken eating competition today." Jan Di pointed to a sign in the window.
"You should enter, Jan Di. I bet you would win," Ga Eul suggested.
"W-why would I win a thing like that?" Jan Di objected.
She noticed her friend avoided looking at Ji Hoo, who was, in fact, looking at her quite intently, so she decided to rib her some more.
Served her right for letting Ga Eul suffer all day wondering if Yi Jeong hated her guts.
"Remember that noodle competition?" Ga Eul remarked.
"That was in high school, and I did it on a dare," Jan Di retorted.
"Noodle competition?" Ji Hoo queried.
"No, no, no." Jan Di waved her hands. "I don't remember that."
"He's about to see it anyway," Ga Eul said. "You always eat so much. I don't know where you put everything."
"At least I don't peck at food like a little bird." Jan Di scowled at her.
"I don't peck at my food."
"Now that I think about it, you did eat really slowly the night we ate together. I kept wondering if you actually liked the food," Yi Jeong noted.
"Ah, but that was because..." Ga Eul bit off her protest. I was trying not to be messy and embarrass myself, she mentally finished.
Yi Jeong looked like he was going to ask her to complete her sentence, but something at the entrance of the chicken shop mercifully caught his attention.
"Woo Bin?" he called out.
"Yi Jeong. Ji Hoo. Ladies."
Ga Eul turned her head to see Yi Jeong's other friend from the exhibition approaching their table. That night he had been wearing a flashy magenta suit jacket, but today he had more of a casual bad boy vibe going, a brown leather jacket complimenting his white dress shirt, which was open at the collar, and distressed jeans.
"What are you doing here?" Yi Jeong asked.
"What am I doing here? What are all of you doing here?" Woo Bin threw the question back at Yi Jeong.
"He's on a date with me!" a lady rushing up behind Woo Bin announced. She latched onto his arm, and Woo Bin looked like he wanted the floor to swallow him.
But he didn't shake her off. So that was something.
"Oh, um, guys, you know Ha Jae Kyung?" Woo Bin gestured to the lady clinging to his side. "Her parents own JK Group."
The lady grinned and greeted everyone enthusiastically, saying she'd already met Jan Di and Ji Hoo at the exhibition, but Woo Bin looked more and more discomfited by the situation with each passing second. He probably hadn't expected to run into his friends there, of all places. Ga Eul wondered how long the two of them had been dating.
"Oooohhh, are you four having a double date?" Jae Kyung asked. "Can we sit with you? Come on, Binnie, let's sit!"
"I told you not to call me that," Woo Bin muttered as Yi Jeong broke into gales of laughter.
Ji Hoo smiled and toyed with his water glass.
Ga Eul slid her chair over so that Jae Kyung could slide a chair in beside hers, which she seemed intent on doing, welcome or not.
"Who's on a double date?" Jan Di protested. "Ji Hoo Sunbae and I work together."
"Awww, but you would be so cute together," Jae Kyung insisted, and Jan Di turned beet red. "There's a chicken eating competition today," the enigmatic heiress explained to the rest of the table. "That's why I told Woo Bin to come here."
"Jan Di, I think you have some competition," Ga Eul whispered to Jan Di, causing her friend to glare at her once more.
"Woo Bin, are you doing it too?" Yi Jeong asked his friend who had reluctantly pulled up a chair next to him.
"Against her?" Woo Bin pointed at Jae Kyung and scoffed.
"He's only saying that because he always loses," Jae Kyung remarked, drumming her knuckles on the wood table top.
"Awww, poor Binnie." Yi Jeong mockingly patted him on the back, and Woo Bin elbowed him in the ribs.
"Hey! Cut it out! Dammit," Woo Bin grumbled, and Ga Eul laughed silently.
She supposed the situation was a bit weird. Yi Jeong had just confessed to her that he liked her, so they hadn't even been on a proper date yet, but there they were, eating dinner with their friends like they'd all known each other forever.
On second thought, it was nice seeing Yi Jeong so relaxed, especially considering the awkward atmosphere of some of his dates. He looked younger when he laughed and teased Woo Bin and Ji Hoo, and she could see how they must have been growing up together. It gave her a feeling of warmth, thinking that they all might be like family someday.
Also, out of all the boys at the table, Yi Jeong was the cutest.
Also, Yi Jeong was hers.
After a few hours of eating, drinking, and enjoying each other's company, their group of six had split ways.
Ji Hoo had driven Jan Di back to the apartment.
Yi Jeong had offered to drive Ga Eul separately, but now they'd been sitting in his car for ten—twenty?—minutes, talking and laughing as they recalled Woo Bin's embarrassment from earlier and Jae Kyung's comically successful chicken-eating victory.
"I just realized something," Yi Jeong commented while Ga Eul wiped tears from her eyes after another bout of laughter.
"Mm, what?" she asked, folding her hands in her lap.
"This is the first time I've seen you without your uniform. I mean, aside from the thing at the museum."
"Oh. Yes, I guess so." Ga Eul glanced at her outfit self-consciously. Though she'd taken care in preparing it, she didn't know that it was the outfit she would have chosen had she known he was going to be at the restaurant.
"You look pretty." Yi Jeong stared at her so intently that she glanced down a second time, the compliment making her even more self-conscious.
"Thank you. Actually, this skirt is kind of old." She plucked at her skirt as she said it. Because of course he needed to know that.
"You look pretty," he repeated.
He leaned over her to put her seatbelt on before she had time to react, and when he did their eyes met.
The seatbelt clicked into place.
She gulped. Their faces were nearly touching.
"Don't be nervous," Yi Jeong whispered.
"I'm not," she whispered back. A lie, of course.
But before she could lose her nerve, she tilted her head forward and brought her lips to his at the same moment he cupped her chin and leaned into her, sealing their lips like a promise of something new and full of hope.
A/N: Two Updates:
1) Personal Update:
My husband got a new job, so he and I are moving to a different state in the United States. Where we are going is a pretty cool place in the U.S., so I'm excited. On the other hand, I've never lived outside of my home state before and certainly not that far from my family and friends. So if you have a moment, please spare me a prayer that I will not get too homesick or depressed my first few weeks and months living there. It's also going to be winter and colder than I'm used to (I'm moving further north), so that probably won't help me get acclimated hahaha but I will drink lots of hot tea and hot cocoa and make the best of it. :)
2) Writing Update:
I have NO self control, so I am writing another ten chapter AU fic because people have loved on Ten Dates so much. The new fic is a detective AU called Dangerous Games. I just posted the first chapter of it (it's rated 'M,' so check your filter). Let me know what you think, or give it a fav/follow if you're interested.
Take care! And thank you so much for reading! :)