Chapter 0 - Introduction (19+)
Even Woojin had moments where he let his walls completely crumble.
And that was when he was with ‘her’.
Eight years ago.
“Hyein, are you home?”
It was late at night. Walking quickly with his slim, long legs, Woojin carefully opened the front door to his house. Hidden behind his back in his hands was a bouquet of white Cooktown orchids that meant “bless you” or “congratulations.”
Today was a special day. It marked the third year since Hyein decided to stay by his side.
He entered the dark bedroom and turned on the lights. Just as he had guessed, she was sitting quietly on the bed. Hyein looked up at Woojin with a vacant gaze. Unlike usual, she seemed devoid of any emotions. She looked pale too.
“At least turn on the lights.”
“I told you to call me after you’re done with your part-time job. I can drive over and pick you up. Why did you come here alone? It’s freezing today.”
Woojin sat down by the bed with his knees slightly bent, a worried expression painted on his face. Even so, Hyein maintained her ice-cold gaze. He, however, did not notice as he reached out to hold her icy wrist.
As he did so, Hyein obediently gave him her wrist before saying something very unexpected.
“Sunbae1A term used to address anyone who entered your academic or work environment before you., do you remember when we were in high school, when… I was accused of stealing the test paper and was forced to drop out?”
Woojin’s eyebrows gathered into a slight frown as if he did not welcome this topic.
“Why are you bringing that up all of a sudden? Did something happen at the cafe?”
He deftly stroked Hyein’s hair and brought his hand down to touch her cheek, but she turned her head slightly to avoid his touch. It was an obvious rejection. She had never done this before. Woojin’s expression morphed into one of disbelief.
“Sunbae, is there anything you want to tell me about that?”
Woojin looked straight at Hyein with clear, honest eyes as if he could not comprehend what she was saying.
It was a topic that they had tried not to talk about whenever possible up until the present. It was also an incident that caused her pain, and Woojin did not feel it necessary to prod. Had he known the details of the incident at that time, he would not have left Hyein to face this injustice alone. Unfortunately, Woojin had been in the United States with his mother at that time and had not been aware of the full extent of the situation.
“I was out of the country at that time so I don’t particularly remember much. Why are you suddenly bringing this up, though? Let bygones be bygones. You’re fine as you are now. Let’s just focus on the present.”
As usual, his tone was gentle and affectionate. His sweeping touch on her hair was soft. But for some reason, she had a look of endless despair.
Unfortunately, Woojin missed it. At that exact moment, he carefully placed the bouquet he had hidden behind his back into her hand.
“Happy third anniversary. I wanted to have dinner at a fancy place to celebrate, but it seems this year we won’t be able to do anything special. It’s great that you’re working a part-time job, but remember to take care of yourself.”
Hyein could no longer look at Woojin. She just fiddled with the bouquet in her hand.
Her sorrowful appearance seemed to have bothered him deeply. Unable to stand it, he grabbed Hyein’s soft cheeks in both hands and kissed her lightly. Their soft lips parted slowly with a gentle sound.
“How many days has it been? Don’t you miss me? I thought I was going to die from missing you.”
“I don’t think I can wait until I get my bachelor’s degree. Can’t we just get married earlier? I don’t want to be separated from you.”
Although they have been dating for only three years, his love for her grew with time.
Hyein, caught between the desperation she felt from Woojin currently and the uncomfortable secret surrounding him that she discovered today, bit firmly into her lower lip. She continued looking at Woojin, who was growing more anxious by the minute, in silence.
Then, he proceeded to tilt his head further and deepened the kiss. As if that was not enough, his lips gently touched hers and his tongue penetrated through the slight gap between her lips. In response to his actions, Hyein’s empty eyes rolled back.
Sounds of their labored breathing filled the heavy air.
Everything about Woojin was perfect: sharp eyes, slender nose, and wonderfully-shaped lips. What Hyein felt as she stared intently at Woojin, who was passionately kissing her, was not satisfaction but suffering.
When Woojin took his lips off hers slightly to let her breathe, Hyein resisted.
Woojin, however, thought she had said those words because of her usual shyness and not because she rejected him. This instead motivated him. He slipped his hand up her shirt as the rustling of fabric reached their ears. Then, sweeping his hand up Hyein’s smooth back, he skillfully unfastened the hooks of her bra.
“Aahn, urgh, stop.”
She had slept with Woojin several times by now. So naturally, she recognized his little habits. He would always unhook her bra with his left hand. At the same time, he would support her thigh with his right hand, which made her wrap her legs around his firm waist.
This time was no different. Hyein was used to this situation that even though she knew she had to push him away, her body reacted otherwise. Both of her hands gripped his clothes.
Woojin, seeing that Hyein was welcoming him as always, shifted the course of his lips and stole light kisses down her long, slender neck. Their saliva, now one after their long kiss, wetted Hyein’s pale skin.
The air in the room vibrated with heat. Hyein’s breath gradually quickened. Her skin could not get any hotter. However, Woojin did not stop there and boldly slid his hand under Hyein’s skirt.
His hand slowly stroked her soft skin and tightly squeezed her right thigh. Woojin then unhesitatingly pushed his long, straight fingers into her underwear. Hyein screamed when Woojin curled the tip of his finger, hooked it into the thin cloth that covered her privates, and pleasured the nub of ecstasy hidden between.
The bouquet of flowers fell from her hand and rolled to the floor with a thud.
“Wait! Stop, Shin Woojin, urmph!”
“Shall we shower together? It’s been a while. I want to have you in my arms faster, even if only by a second.”
Just as Woojin, who had pulled his hand out of her skirt, was about to carry her to the bathroom, Hyein, who had been lifeless in his arms, finally pushed him away forcefully with her shoulder.
Hyein even screamed hysterically at him, seemingly agitated, “I told you to stop!”
She did not sound like she was only temporarily resisting due to embarrassment or shyness. Rather, it was clear in her voice that she did not want the act itself at all.
Recognizing this, Woojin’s face hardened. He seated Hyein, who almost slumped over and blankly stared at him. Then he looked into her eyes.
Hyein was not someone whose emotions were prone to fluctuate. No matter how much she was suffering inside, his girlfriend had a bad habit of pretending to be calm on the outside. There must have been a reason for her to react so explosively.
“What’s wrong? Did something really happen to you?”
“It’s not like that. I just… have something to tell you, sunbae.”
She stared at Woojin, her pupils trembling awfully, traumatized. Her quivering lips looked nervous and very anxious.
“What is it? You can tell me anything. Anything. I’ll listen to everything you say.”
“Anything as long as it’s you.”
Now, Hyein looked somewhat queasy while also sad. Concerned that his actions might have hurt Hyein’s feelings, Woojin instinctively comforted her by lightly pressing his lips to her smooth forehead even though he did not know the reason for her being upset.
The first time he had seen her cry, Woojin had decided that no matter how difficult of a problem Hyein would face in the future, he would solve everything for her. That intention was still valid.
Woojin breathed calmly and squeezed Hyein’s hand as if telling her that it was okay to continue talking.
As he did so, she pushed away his warm touch and coldly added, “Then, let’s break up.”
At that moment, a stifling silence hovered between them, as if the thread that had connected them had snapped off.
It was Woojin who broke the silence first. “Is it April Fool’s Day today? It’s cute, but this kind of joke hurts me.”
“I’m not kidding.”
“Seo Hyein, do you know what you’re saying right now? Today is our third anniversary. And I’m finally seeing your face right before midnight. You can’t do this.”
“I’m really sorry, sunbae, I found somebody else.”
Hearing this, his eyebrows immediately furled down. So far, he had never sensed an impending breakup. With her honest personality and her inexperience in dating, Hyein would never be attracted to someone else while in a relationship with him. Because of that, Woojin could not understand, nor was able to accept, the current situation.
“Are you telling me to believe that right now?”
Only then did he slowly pull back his hand, which had been clasping hers as if supporting her. He scrutinized her face more closely as he tried to understand her intention.
Two pairs of cold eyes clashed sharply in the air.
“You know I can’t lie. Since I can’t, I’m confessing this to you because I don’t want to fool you anymore, sunbae.”
Woojin’s eyes sharpened like a knife as he searched her face. Hyein knew that his kindness was only directed towards her. He was, in reality, a cold person.
“Sunbae, I know you’re not someone who will get attached to a woman. Three years is a long time. Let’s end this here. We weren’t suitable for each other in the first place.”
Her words intentionally disturbed his emotions, like a knife cutting his bones. She wanted to hurt him more but did not know how to, so she could only twist her face in discomfort.
Seeing that Hyein’s attitude was different from usual, Woojin seemed to realize her sincerity.
He spoke, the low frequency of his voice penetrating into the air, “Seo Hyein, are you serious?”
“Yes. Be well. Thanks for everything.”
Struggling with the ruined hem of her clothes, she stood up. In the process, her feet hit the bouquet and the fresh flowers were crushed under her feet. At the same time, a ring, which had been hidden in the flowers beforehand, rolled out on the floor, stopping her in her tracks.
Their eyes both went to the ring at the same time.
Woojin, who had been dazzled as he looked at the sparkling jewels, belatedly called for her to stop.
“Seo Hyein. Wait, Seo Hyein!”
Hyein wobbled as if she could not feel her legs towards the entrance of the studio apartment. Woojin desperately called her, begging, but she did not so much as look back until the very end.
Eventually, the front door cruelly shut with a resounding click, and her figure disappeared completely from Woojin’s view.
Woojin sat up in his bed as he exhaled sharply with a gasp. Cold sweat moistened his back. His thick eyelashes trembled slightly and then stopped.