TRACKSIDED

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I walk into the living room. Travis sits down; hands clutched as he leans over a big craft envelope.

Rebecca gets up as soon as she sees me, “Jane, please come and sit down.”

Just in her tone of voice, I know something is wrong. Have they found out about my stalker and blackmailer?

“I prefer to stand,” I say and camp in my position.

Travis decides to tackle the subject,” Jane.”

It’s dreadful; he never calls me Jane unless he has something awful to announce.

“Do you know who Kim Tae Won is?”

“The singer?”

I give it my best shot.

Rebecca gives me one of her crunchy crisped smiles, “no, Jane Kim Tae Won, the man we found you in the pool with a few weeks ago.”

“Yes, he’s my boyfriend, a student at SNU law, and a former swimmer.”

“Jane, is that all you know about him?” Travis asks, throwing a gaze in Rebbecca’s direction.

I grimace, “why, do I need to know more?”

Rebecca glances back at Travis and starts to take steps towards me.

“Jane, I’m going to ask you something, and I want you to accept without asking any questions. Do you think you can do that?”

I step back, “what do you want?”

“Jane, honey, I, I mean, we want you to stop seeing this man.”

Defense mode on.

“Why?”

They know.

“You can’t be in a relationship with that man.”

They know.

“Why?” my gaze keeps going back and forth between them as I attempt to read through their poker faces.

“Jane, please.

“Come on, Rebecca, tell her. Do you sincerely believe she’ll accept to do it without knowing why she shouldn’t see the man again?”

“How did you meet him?” Rebecca asks.

“He’s my tutor.”

Simple and efficient.

“Good God, weㅡ.”

I avoid explaining that I met him before. At this moment, it’s preferable to leave them to be consumed by the guilt of having brought Tae Won into my life.

Rebecca looks at the ceiling; it’s the second time my mother seems to lose feet in the situation; she pats her lips. I know what she’s going to say, I want to run, but it's one of those moments where your feet stay glued.

“Jane, this boy, I mean this man, he’sㅡ.”

It’s difficult for her to say it because she knows what effect it will have. Still, she pursues, “that man, he’s the son of the couple who died in the accident Jane, Kim Tae Won is their son.”

Though I’m more than aware of what she says, hearing it from someone else’s mouth is like an electroshock. In one sentence, Rebecca turned what I made into a mirage become a concrete reality.

“Jane, you can’t be with a man who youㅡ.”

Travis points his palm in my direction, “Rebecca, she knows, look at her.”

Rebecca turns back her gaze to my father before focusing on me, “Jane is it true, you were already aware?”

I don’t know what to say, and I don’t need to speak; Rebecca sees through me.

“Jane, how could you? How sick are you? You can not under any circumstances be with this man, ever. Did I make myself clear?” Rebecca says, shaking me violently.

“Stop, Rebecca; it won’t change a thing. What’s essential is that Jane stops seeing him. Is Kim Tae Won aware of this?”

I shake my head; Travis crazy. Tae Won would kill me if he knew.

“Good, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Travis answers.

Rebecca chuckles, “good; you say, Travis? So for you, it’s okay. What can I expect from a man who has cheated on me for the last 15 years like father like the daughter you live deceitfully, and it’s normal.”

“Rebecca, I’m not the subject right now.”

A coward, it’s only now I see what a selfish coward my father is and the truth behind Rebecca’s apparent coldness. It’s a facade she used to protect herself from the humiliation inflicted by a man who underestimated her witts.

“Jane.”

But right now, I have no time to ponder longer; I only have one thought in mind, Tae Won.

“Let me finish it properly.”

“No, Jane, you can’t see him again.”

“What harm will it do to let her end it her way?”

“Shut up, Travis,” Rebecca says, looking back at my father. At that moment I start to run. I leave the house.

It’s late, and there are almost no trains. My small steps become strides, and before I know it, I run. I look at my watch; I’ve got five minutes to catch the last line 1 to Yongsan, from which I’ll have to walk.

The night is cold, but I’m too determined.

An hour later, I’m standing in front of his apartment.

“Jane.”

The tears I held until I got here stream down my cheeks as Tae Won invites me inside. I can’t stop crying, and he stops asking me what’s wrong; instead, he takes me in his arms.

“My god, you’re freezing. How did you get here?” Tae Won says as he rubs my hands, “oh my goodness, Jane, you should take a shower. I’m afraid you’ll fall sick.”

I don’t say a word, and I follow his instructions, half another later, I’ve showered, and I’m wearing one of his t-shirts and shorts.

Tae Won doesn’t seem to know where to fix his eyes as I’m wearing one of his shorts, but still, my legs are evident, embarrassed, and I immediately realize he can not only see the scar on my leg but how skinny I’ve become.

“Are you hungry?”

I knew it.

I nod, I can’t say no even if I’m not hungry, so I force myself to eat a bowl of cup ramen, which I don’t regret.

Once I’ve finished, he tries to question me again, but I can’t bring myself to speak. We sit quietly without the Tv.

Tae Won gets up from the couch, “are you tired; you should sleep? Take my bed, I’ll-.”

“Sleep with me,” I didn’t see when it happened, but my hand is outstretched and clinging to the bottom of his tee-shirt as I say this.

His eyes grow big, and I blush at my indecent request, in total contradiction shameless I pursue,” I mean lay with me.”

Tae Won doesn’t say a word. He stretches out his hand, I get up, and we walk to his mattress, where I lay down. Tae Won lays next to me and starts to caress my hair.

“Jane, I don’t know what happened, but just know that I’m here. You can talk to me.”

Tae Won’s words make me cry again. How can I tell him that it’s the end? That it’s the last time, he sees me?

I close my eyes as I’m cradled by his hand, touching my hair. I’m not asleep, but I want to pretend everything is fine and it’s a sweet dream.

“Jane, are you sleeping?”

I don’t answer, as I’m drifting.

“I never thought I’d get over my parent’s death, and I don’t think I ever will, but thanks to you, I’ve found a reason to live. saranghae Jane.”

I open my eyes to the first I-love-you of my entire life.

Tae Won’s eyes grow wide, startled by my sudden movement, “didㅡdidㅡ, you hear?”

“Saranghae, Kim Tae Won.”

The tears keep dribbling down on their own. Tae Won kisses my forehead and eyelids before kissing my lips. He kisses me like a thief stealing kisses, his hands slide under my t-shirt, and he caresses my back with his hands. The sensation makes me shiver. It’s the first time Tae Won touches a hidden part of my skin. I let my hand glide on his back, in the same way, frustrated by the limited contact he takes of his tee-shirt.

Bare-chested Tae Won hovers over me and slowly lowers his head to kiss me, hair tickling as the strands brush my face.

Tae Won slowly lifts my t-shirt and starts kissing my stomach; I tug a little on the t-shirt as I know he can see the stretch marks due to my various regimes and the stigmas of the scratches I used to make.

“Don’t look,” I say.

He lifts his head and brings it back to my level, where he gazes at me.

“Don’t look. I’m horrible,” I add.

“You’re not.”

“I.”

Tae Won kisses me with force, and I sit up. The room is silent; all that one can hear is our heavy breathing.

Our eyes fix one another for a minute before we kiss again, and Tae Won slowly takes off my top, the only light in the room comes from the lamp on his desk, but still, I know he can see.

Scars.

The ones from the accident, on my arm and leg. And the others, the stigmas of the one I inflicted myself.

“I’m a monster, Tae Won, look at me.”

“I see you, Jane, and you’re beautiful to me.”

I lay once more on the bed to add another sin to my plate.

It’s wrong, I shouldn’t do this, but I love him.

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