Chapter 2 - A Delivery
She first met him in her second year of high school and then dated him for three years while he was in university. While Hyein wasn’t able to attend university due to unavoidable reasons, the relationship between them had been solid.
The person who destroyed their relationship and who forced her to disappear was Woojin. After such a long period, Hyein never imagined that she would see him again.
“Ah, right. My name tag.”
She absentmindedly gazed at her chest and searched around for it. The tag was gone. When she remembered that Woojin pulled her tag off, heat rushed up to her face. Hyein, who was staring at her reflection in the mirror with blank eyes, brushed the back of her hand against her flushed skin. Her face was warm.
What kind of expression did Hyein have on her face when she saw him just now? Every time Hyein imagined running into Woojin by chance, she had always deliberated on what kind of facial expression she would make. When the moment had arrived, however, her deliberations were rendered completely useless. She wished she had a relaxed and careless expression at that time. Honestly, she couldn’t remember how she reacted when she saw Woojin.
‘Should I resign?’
Even if she wanted to quit, she couldn’t. For someone like Hyein, who’s only worked one part-time job her entire life, a large company like Malena was like an oasis in the desert. Never mind how great of an opportunity this was, Hyein had a bigger problem on her plate that made her throat tighten.
‘If I quit now, I won’t be able to pay for Hyesoo’s hospital bills next month. What about the utility bills, the delayed rent, and the interest…? On top of that, how will I compensate for the ruined painting? It seems very expensive.’
Hyein leaned her body against the cold cabinet in distress. She clenched and uncleaned her hands that had previously and obstinately wiped Woojin’s clothes.
Her manager, the gallery’s curator, entered the changing room.
Hyein immediately straightened her posture at the sound of the manager’s voice.
“Ah, Curator. Is there anything you…”
“Take this painting up to the director’s office. He ordered a painting. It’s the one wrapped in a cloth outside.”
Even when they were dating, Woojin never mentioned anything to her about his family. His background was pure speculation all according to Hyein’s poor imagination. She never imagined that he belonged to a world different from hers. Perhaps even if they didn’t break up that day, their relationship would have eventually ended miserably.
“Umm… Does it have to be me?”
“We just received a call from the secretarial office. They said it was an order from above and to ‘make sure to send Seo Heyin’. Ms. Hyein, are you acquainted with some of our hotel’s executives? How would they know the name of a newbie, and why would they specifically ask for you?” the Curator subtly asked.
Hyein waved her hands, thinking the Curator misunderstood her.
“I don’t know anyone. I’ll go up right away.”
Hyein bowed politely and quickly left the changing room.
Although she suspected Woojin’s intentions, there wasn’t anything she could do as a new recruit. All she could do was hope that he wasn’t in his office.
* * *
The rhythmic claps of her heels against the floor reverberated through the quiet hallway. Hyein was worried and tense as she made her way to the director’s office. It was as though she was on an express train heading to an unknown and dangerous destination.
When she arrived at the entrance, the secretarial staff ushered her in as if they knew she was coming.
“He’s waiting for you.”
Hearing that, Hyein softly bit her lips in worry.
“He’s waiting for me? I’d like to hand this painting over and leave.”
“Please go in.”
Hyein expressed her desire to leave as soon as possible. Instead of listening to her, the secretaries knocked on the director’s office and opened the door. They then gestured for Hyein to head inside. Hyein had no choice but to enter. The door closed behind her with a resounding click. The sound was gentle to her ears.
Before she could focus on that gentle sound, an elegant voice interrupted her. It was Woojin.
Woojin was sitting at his office desk. He looked at her as if he just realized she had walked in. Hyein froze even though he was simply looking at her. She was scared because she had no idea what was hidden within the abysmal depths of his mind.
“I… I heard that you have purchased a painting from our gallery, Director. Where should I put this?”
Woojin didn’t answer. Instead, he slowly rose from his seat and walked towards Hyein. He slowly made his way to her. Woojin took the canvas from Hyein’s slender hands with ease and placed it down.
Hyein had expected every event up until now, but she could have never imagined that they would be standing so close to each other.
“Since you’ve received the painting, I shall take my…”
Hyein belatedly realized what the current situation was. She stopped talking and instinctively stepped back.
Her back hit the partition in the office with a thud. She tried to reach for a handle, but her hand could not find anything.
Woojin stood in front of her as though to prevent her from escaping. A long shadow cast over Hyein’s face.
“What’d you think you’re doing?” Hyein asked.
“I just bought a painting, meaning I’m a customer. Does the gallery’s customer manual tell you to leave like this? As a customer, I asked for Ms. Seo Hyein, an employee of the gallery. So, what do you think you should be doing, Ms. Seo Hyein?”
There was nothing wrong with what he said. Hyein gently closed and opened her eyes to find her composure and the answer to his question. She failed, unfortunately, so she had no choice but to ask him.
“What do I have to do?”
“Could you please choose a location to hang this painting in this room? I’m not too educated when it comes to art, you see.”
Suspicion instantly appeared in Hyein’s eyes. She couldn’t believe that. If she had remembered correctly, Woojin had both brains and beauty. He was knowledgeable in many fields. Hyein, thinking that the most pressing matter at hand was to figure out a way to deal with her current situation, carefully and nimbly removed the white cloth covering the painting.
She stiffened slightly, caught off guard by the content.
“Oh, I bought it. Seeing as it was smudged on my clothes, I started liking the colors.”
Selling damaged paintings to customers was against the gallery’s policy. Starting from this morning, Hyein thought it was strange how her manager didn’t say anything to her when she saw the damaged painting. At the time, she was too busy thinking about when she was going to be fired.
All sorts of theories swirled in her head. Combining all the questions she had, she could not help but ask, “did you plan on purchasing that painting from the very beginning, Director?”
“Am I obligated to tell you?”
“No, it’s not that…”
“If it isn’t, then please stick to your duties, Ms. Seo Hyein. Where would be a nice spot? Aren’t you going to help?”
Hyein, who had been hesitating, reflexively looked over his shoulder around the office. She believed that the only way out was if she fulfilled his request. As she searched around for a proper location, Hyein realized that this office reflected Woojin’s preference for organization and tidiness, as well as his demanding personality.
“You can place the painting anywhere in this room because of its bright colors. It’ll serve as a contrast to the calm atmosphere in this room. It’ll look great behind the table over there or on this wall.”
“I see,” he briefly answered, but his eyes were only focused on Hyein.
It was obvious from the beginning that he wasn’t interested in the painting.
“If you are satisfied with this placement, please move aside. This position is uncomfortable.”
Hyein was only able to reach with her hands towards the painting. There was nowhere for her to go. She couldn’t back up any further. Woojin was standing in front of her, so she couldn’t move. She even thought of pushing him back, but she decided against it. She didn’t think it was a good idea to be so reckless.
He didn’t respond to Hyein.
“Umm… Director,” said Hyein, who could at least move her lips.
“Have you been well, Seo Hyein?”
At his sudden remark, her gaze that had been fixed on his plump lips traveled up to his dark eyes.
Their eyes were locked onto each other. Surprised, Hyein tried to look away, but Woojin gently grabbed her chin to ensure her eyes met with his once more.
“I’m asking you, have you been well?”
“As you can see…”
“You do look like you’ve been well. You look like you’ve been living well.”
Hyein couldn’t figure out the meaning behind his words. There wasn’t any expression on his face. Although he was speaking very calmly, Hyein couldn’t help but sense something dangerous about his tone. Hyein felt as though Woojin was barely suppressing something that was boiling within him.
“Right now, this is office hours. If you don’t need me anymore, I think I should leave.”
Woojin, with his piercing eyes, took a step back in agreement. Relief washed over Hyein immediately.
As Hyein tried to suppress her sigh of relief, Woojin said, “there will be an MP Group family event this evening at the reception hall. I would like to have some paintings displayed there. Can I leave this task to you, Ms. Seo Hyein?”
Hyein couldn’t hide her confusion.
“But I just finished my probation period. I’m not experienced enough to be responsible for such an important job.”
“I have the right to allocate tasks to my employees. If anything goes wrong, I’ll take full responsibility. Just do as you’re told. I’ve already informed your manager in advance. If you’re done now, please leave.”
Before she knew it, Woojin had increased the distance between them. He turned his back against her and started to walk towards his desk.
Hyein stared at him. Then she silently bowed to the man, who didn’t even bother to look back. She walked out of the office.
As soon as he heard the click from the door closing, Woojin’s gait came to a stop. He rested his hands on the office desk and let out a nervous sigh.
Eight years had passed since his affections towards Hyein were replaced by betrayal and anger. That was a long time ago. He was now the owner of the largest hotel in Korea, and he believed that his heart had also matured along with his growth. It seemed, however, that he was mistaken.
Seeing Hyein face-to-face caused the aching resentment that had harassed him for the past couple of years to reappear. Surprisingly, his heart pounded like crazy.
Bang! Woojin struck his desk.
“Why did you do that to me?”
She was the only person he had ever liked.
He, who had everything, had been determined to accept all of Hyein, who possessed nothing. He even mustered enough courage to give up everything for her. To this day, he still wasn’t convinced of her betrayal.
How insignificant were her feelings for him that one day she would profess her love to him passionately, and the next day turned around and told him she met someone new and wanted to break up?