Chapter 4 - The Shocking Truth
“What are you doing? Didn’t you want to leave? None of this concerns you. Go.”
At first, Hyein was offended by the lady’s harsh words. Slowly, she became flustered. She didn’t know why things suddenly turned out this way. At the very least, she managed to restrain herself, and she politely excused herself. As she tried to leave the reception hall, someone grabbed her by the shoulder.
When she turned around, she was face-to-face with Woojin’s mother.
“Did you say that your name was Seo Hyein? How long have you been dating my son? Are you two in a serious relationship?” asked Mrs. Shin as her eyes pleaded for Hyein to say that wasn’t the case.
Seeing that, Hyein bit her lower lip. Although her question was directed to her, it was obvious that Mrs. Shin wouldn’t accept any answer from her. Even if Hyein told her that this is their first reunion in the past eight years, there was no way this middle-aged lady would believe her under these circumstances.
“There seems to be a misunderstanding. There’s nothing between us, Ma’am.”
As soon as she responded, Woojin intervened.
He said, “Ms. Seo didn’t you hear me? Get out.”
“I’ll be leaving now. Pardon me.”
Hyein once again bid them farewell and finally managed to leave the reception hall. She closed the door behind her. As the door closed, Mrs. Shin swung a resolute slap onto his cheek.
A harsh clap echoed in the air. One of Woojin’s cheeks became swollen.
“Shin Woojin, what the hell are you doing?!”
Woojin laughed scornfully.
“Mother, I thought you were someone who cannot live without etiquette. May I suggest speaking with a little more class?”
“Do I look like I care about etiquette right now? You’re the one who invited me to this exhibition. Did you show this to me on purpose? Do you find these marriage meetings to be repulsive?”
Contrary to his mother’s seemingly overwhelmed state, Woojin asked back politely, as if he had expected this from the start, “Why in the world are you so antsy?”
You… you planned this whole thing just to show me that girl. Do you expect me to be calm after being fooled? Do you think I’m going to leave her alone after seeing this mess? I’m going to bother her from now on. I’m going to torture her and separate you from her. Do you hear me? By introducing her to me, what do you hope to accomplish? Declare war? Are you going to marry her?”
“How did you know that?”
“You brat, that child clearly has nothing…!”
Once again, she raised her hand, but this time Woojin didn’t let her hit him. Instead, he held his mother’s slender wrist firmly.
“Let’s not go overboard this time. I won’t keep still if you keep insulting her.”
“You really want to take it this far?!”
His mother’s suspicions were correct. He deliberately suggested tonight’s dinner and invited her to this exhibition to make her meet Hyein. This would provide him with an excuse to approach Hyein, not as her boss but as a man.
Woojin couldn’t think of a single instance where his marriage-obsessed mother succeeded. For many years he had rejected his mother’s pursuits. He knew what his mother would do if the woman he was with wasn’t up to her standards.
“Please have a look at the paintings. Don’t you like to sell things at a high price? My brother and I included.” Woojin uttered, indicating that she had accomplished what he had sought her to do.
His face, nicked from her abuse, turned towards the reception hall’s door where Hyein had escaped from his devastated mother.
Woojin had successfully created a springboard. Now, all he had to do was jump on it.
Woojin’s sharp eyes, gleaming with vigor, stared firmly at the closed door.
* * *
It was dusk. On the way home from work, Hyein walked up a steep hill.
Her rental home was in a shabby building at the top of a hill. The bus never came up to this alleyway, so she always had to walk as if she was on a mountain hike. As she struggled, Hyein thought of a certain someone and his elegant face.
There was a time when she had thought that Shin Woojin was her savior. He stood quietly beside her and protected her. He taught her what love was and always lent her a hand when things were too difficult. Throughout her years of knowing him, his attitude never changed. Not even a little bit.
As a result, she relied on him more than she did her family. She loved him as if her life depended on him. Now, all she felt for him was hatred and confusion.
“Haa… What do I do now?”
What kind of expression should she make with him from now on? He was the person who ruined her back when she was in high school?
During her final year of high school, Hyein, who was ranked second in her class, was falsely accused of a crime. Allegedly, she had conspired with the top-ranked student to steal the exam papers and cheat on the college entrance exam.
Hyein was innocent. Although she was poor, she never sold her dignity. Before the actual culprit was caught, the rumors had already blown up. By then, that incident was all over the media.
Her school was known for its prestige and its long history. At the time of the incident, Hyein was still a minor. She convinced herself that the teachers would protect her. She was naive at the time. Deciding that someone had to take responsibility, the school encouraged her to drop out. Hyein was an orphan with a sick younger sibling. She couldn’t muster enough energy to escape the arrow that had been aimed at her.
Her life naturally descended into an inescapable pit.
During those difficult times, there were moments when she wanted to die. But there was one person who took care of her and stayed by her side. It was Woojin, who was a year above her. Hyein couldn’t help but fall for him.
It was, unfortunately, all an illusion. Woojin was responsible for bringing that incident to the surface. She was shocked when she found out. Tears flowed from her eyes. He completely fooled her.
“Do you remember that incident? It could have been quietly covered up. But Woojin blew the incident out of proportion. Don’t you remember him? He was in the student council and your upperclassman. He’s handsome, smart, and from a nice family…”
On the exact day of their third anniversary, her former math teacher suddenly came to the café where she worked. Her teacher told her that she knew Hyein wasn’t the culprit. She also revealed some shocking information to Hyein. Hyein couldn’t doubt her teacher’s credibility. Her teacher showed her a letter from the school’s ethics committee.
The letter with Woojin’s signature on it said that Hyein had to be punished.
The document was obviously in his handwriting
Hyein knew this herself.
Still, Hyein wanted to believe in him. She prayed that he would explain all this to her. She was desperate. Because Woojin had been so kind to her, she wanted to give him a chance. She was even willing to accept his apology if he had been honest about what he had done.
But he didn’t.
“Let bygones be bygones. You’re fine as you are now. Let’s just focus on the present.”
Hyein found it so difficult to deal with her disappointment when he avoided the truth. For the first time since she was born, she had finally opened her heart to someone. But now, it seemed that she couldn’t trust anyone anymore.
All her trust in him crumbled, and she fell into despair.
Hyein, whose heart was entangled with memories from the past, finally reached her house. She stopped when her phone rang.
“Hello, this is Seo Hyein.”
Is this Patient Seo Hyesoo’s guardian? This is from the convalescent hospital.
Upon hearing the familiar voice, Hyein’s brows furrowed slightly.
“Ah, I haven’t deposited Hyesoo’s hospitalization fee yet, right? I apologize that you had to call for this every time.”
Oh, don’t worry about it. Even though you’re sometimes late, you’ve never forgotten a payment. I’m only contacting you just in case.
“I’ll be getting my paycheck soon. I will definitely pay it this week.”
Alright, then I shall contact you again.
The phone conversation ended. Hyein looked up at the moon shining attentively in the dark night sky. She was about to continue her trudging steps, but incredibly bright headlights suddenly appeared.
Hyein looked away as she blocked the light with the back of her hand. A luxury sedan that she had never seen before in this poor neighborhood was driving towards her.
‘Why is there an expensive car in this neighborhood…’
Before long, Hyein heard the whirring sound of a car window winding down, and a figure appeared in the back seat. She recognized his cold temperament and his features. The man, even with the small wound at the corner of his mouth, was charming. That man was Shin Woojin.
“Are you going home now, Ms. Seo?”
He looked up through the window at the shabby building in front of her.
“So people can even live in such…” His eyes slowly descended once more to focus on Hyein. “…a place.”
Woojin was completely rude to her. Because she was caught off guard, she forgot to reproach him.
“Are you perhaps looking for me?”
“Right, as if it’s possible that we would chance upon each other like this. It must be fate!”
“I was thinking we should have a talk.”
“I have nothing to hear nor say to you, though, Director Shin.”
“That’s fine. I do.”
Hyein took that as if, as long as he had business with her, she had no right to choose. Woojin beckoned to the driver’s seat. The driver quickly got out of the car and opened the rear door of the vehicle.
Woojin stared expressionlessly at Hyein’s face. She scoffed.
“Why should I? We’re outside of the hotel grounds, which means that strangers.”
At Hyein’s cold words, Woojin’s tone turned peculiarly icy as he responded, “Are you confident that you can face the consequences of your words right now?”
Hyein was upset over the fact that she still remembered so much about him to be able to recognize this subtle change.
“What on earth is it that you have to tell me?”
“According to your argument, Ms. Seo, we aren’t strangers every time we meet at the hotel in the future. Can you handle that?”
“I had no idea that the relationship between the employer and the employee could be so close. I shall keep that in mind in the future. Please take care.”
Woojin knew that he couldn’t get through to her. As Hyein unilaterally ended the conversation and was about to turn around, Woojin had no other option but to get out of the car and stood in front of her.
“Listen to me before you leave. It won’t take long.”
“Doesn’t matter. I don’t want to.”
Hyein was already exhausted because of today’s events. Her encounters with him, Woojin’s mother’s insults, and her sister’s convalescent hospital expenses were all causing her to have a headache.
“I would like it if you listened to me before you leave, though. You misunderstand, Ms. Seo. I’ve come to warn you.”
Hyein, who was about to leave, suddenly stopped.
Woojin added as if he was taking advantage of this pause, “My mother…is quite goal-oriented. She’s one hell of a cruel woman too. She’s not subtle at all when it comes to her methods. She won’t leave you alone from now on, Ms. Seo. You’re going to go through various unimaginable confrontations, and you’ll probably suffer greatly.”