"I wish I could drive, but I don't know where," complained Tae Soo, opening up the door for Giselle. This might be some of the most unconventional dates he'd been to with the girl at the wheel of her own car, while he was the passenger.
"So, do you dance?" Giselle threw a curious look at him.
"Not really. My body is not built for that," he answered with his typical honesty.
"I would not say that," she replied flirtatiously, and he felt her glance all over his body as she shamelessly checked out his whole slender length with a daring smile. Whatever had gotten into her, he wanted to know, so that he could keep it coming.
"I had to dance for a show once and let's just say, my hips don't move well."
"Fused hips," sneakered Giselle, managing to keep her eyes on the road.
"I guess," he trailed off, looking out into the darkness. They were on some inconspicuous road without as so much as a streetlight to show the way.
"Don't worry. I'm not going to abandon you in the jungle," she giggled again.
This was way too strange. She was flirting and joking nonstop, his suspicion that she took something began to shape from just a funny thought into something more real.
"Giselle, you seem... a bit different tonight," he finally noted.
"Not that I don't like it, it's just... are you OK?"
"I'm fine. I'm great." She replied back with a smile and her hand landed on his, pressing his fingers a bit for reassurance. That really got him worried. She has never acted this way, even when she was playful, there was a different air about her.
It was a combination of tequila shot she snuck in while he was in his room and sugar high from all the ice cream and extra sweetened iced coffee she downed afterwards to sober up and not to smell like alcohol, but she was overcome with courage to finally tell Tae Soo how she felt. She wanted to be sexy and desirable and she enjoyed flirting with him, putting aside her natural shyness. She would confess during the dance, she decided.
"So, back to dancing. I bet I could get those sexy hips of yours moving," she gave him a not so modest smile and her hand trailed to his thigh, making him tense up and slightly pull back into the seat. She was hitting on him. Tae Soo's mouth felt dry and he licked his lips a few times, almost uncomfortable to look at her.
Suddenly the road curved back down the mountain and the twinkling of lights began to shine brighter and brighter as they approached a small paved landing by the seashore. She parked on a dirty patch next to a couple of other cars and turned off the engine. "We are here. This is a local place, just like my client wanted," she turned grinning happily.
"Thanks," he responded unsure how to take this whole thing. Giselle was so forward and she did not seem to let out. At the rate she was going, they might be heading toward something he did not even allow himself to dream off. "Come on," she nudged him out of his thoughts. Giselle already had one foot out of the car when he scrambled to offer her his hand and she accepted it again with a coy and sexy smile (how did she manage to combine both? he was hooked either way).
She demurely linked her arm over his and led the actor toward the loud café just to the side, with the tables sprinkled on the pavement and a band playing loudly some catchy Latin rhythm.
They occupied one of the few still empty tables, lit by candlelight with a night moth buzzing around, attracted by the warm flicker of the candle. The waiter quickly brought out cold beer, as if it was water, and asked which drinks they wanted, not counting beer as a drink.
The band loudly started another set and two rum overloaded piña coladas were delivered by the quick waiter. "Try it, it's veeery sweet," giggled Giselle lifting up the glass to Tae Soo's face. He continued to stare at her in disbelief, not sure whether he should be worried or happy at this strange turn of events. This would be a perfect chance to use the outing and tell her how he feels. He imagined confessing to Giselle and blush covered his cheeks. "Dance," she pulled him up, yanking the straw of his barely touched drink out of his mouth. He noticed from the corner of the eye that her glass was already empty and she ran her tongue slowly along her lower lip from one side to another and did the same to her upper lip, to gather the after taste. Winking at him wantonly, she backed into the dance circle while letting her body move with the beat, sexy hips rocking and her arms and shoulders doing the salsa.
He paused to enjoy the view. Her cheeks were rosy, a smile played on her moist lips, and her eyes were sparkling naughtily. A few misbehaving locks of hair now bounced around her face along with her whole body and the little sparkles of earrings and her necklace beguiled him.
Giselle motioned for him to join her; she immediately positioned herself across from him and placed her hands on his hips counting, "1 – hold the beat, 2 - step back, 3 – rock, like that, and 4 – step back with another foot. Now the same only forward, 1, 2, 3, 4", prompting him to step back and then another step pulling him forward.
Her hands felt hot through the fabric of his pants and he could care less about the steps, only feeling her moving together with him, "Fused hips," she whispered, her eyes changing from teasing to outright laughter and then to a more serious shade, as he grinded his hips into her, catching her leg in between and took a confident step leading her in a dance of his own. His body made full contact with hers and his arms held her at the low of her back and just below the neck, completely wrong for Salsa, but absolutely perfect for making her liquefy with desire and let him lead her to wherever he wanted to, whether it was this dance floor, the hood of his car or his bed.
Making her gasp, Tae Soo lowered his head almost touching her forehead and slowly traced his fingers along her arms till he reached her hands still glued to his hips. A wave of pleasure followed where his fingertips touched and Giselle held her breath staring into his gorgeous eyes; her mind muted by alcohol, his image coming in and out of focus, but his almond eyes were so serious and intense unquestionably wanting her, psychedelic swirls of white and dark chocolate danced inside his irises, sucking her in whole, and her head began to spin along.
Tae Soo became bold, uncharacteristically so. Although he was not drunk in the least, the potent Caribbean rum ignited his blood. For Giselle, alcohol made everything simpler, her indecision was a faint silliness to be forgotten. This man was sizzling hot and it did not bother her at all that Tae Soo was pressing his lips to her neck, leaving tangy kisses as he climbed to the jaw line and then his tongue flicked her ear lobe, and he impatiently whispered into her ear, "Joaheyo." His breath was ticklish and Giselle giggled, pulling away. Did he say something sexy or deliciously dirty, was it Korean code for 'lets make out right here right now'?
Tasting like rum and coconut, her mouth sloppily searched for his lips, but Tae Soo stalled suddenly as if he was expecting her to do something else. His gaze softened, but still magnetic he lowered his eyes before meeting hers again, his lips finally made a move toward hers and their breaths joined as his mouth grazed hers. Giselle closed her eyes and ready for their real kiss...
"Don't let me stop you," they heard familiar voice, destroying this romantic moment completely at the first sound. Like spooked gazelles they both gave a start, confusion on their features and turned toward the perpetrator who butchered their almost perfect first real kiss.
"Rico?" Giselle could not believe her eyes.
"You?" Tae Soo still in the throws of prior happenings, incredulous, looked at the man. This was truly mind-boggling.
"Are you stalking me?" Very piqued Giselle barked at him.
"No, I was just here for a drink and to watch others have a good time," he said making a particular emphasis on "others", like it mattered to anybody, but him. He motioned to his empty arm, as if the fact that no sleazy girl was hanging off it was some kind of achievement worthy of an Olympic gold medal. "I told you Giselle, I'm changing for you and I will wait for you till he leaves. I can be patient," he said with a reassuring grin.
"What is he talking about?" Tae Soo asked Giselle hoarsely, realizing that if he touched Mr. Jerk, he would probably won't be able to stop till he actually killed him. A murderous instinct was strangely pleasing and he was shocked at how easy it was for him to imagine his hands closing tightly around the man's thick neck, crushing his airways and chocking the life out of this annoying cockroach that just would not go away.
"Did she tell you that I beat up a few people at her work because they called her a lesbo?" Smirked quite proud of himself Mr. Jerk. "Yes, I protected her honor." He smothered into the actor's face the obvious superiority of his actions.
"Is it true?" Grunted Tae Soo.
"Please, don't pay attention to him," started to beg sobering Giselle, worried that another fight will break out as her almost lover had the scariest glint in his eye she's ever seen.
Tae Soo pulled Giselle closer and said in low menacing tone so that only she could hear, "I am going to get rid of him once and for all. Give me five minutes."
"NO!" She grabbed his wrists, "Let's leave, let's leave now. I don't want you fighting. I don't like you fighting."
"OK," he agreed after a minute of thought. "But I won't stay still next time he comes near."
He left money on the table and returned. Mr. Jerk was still smiling widely at Giselle, who at this point had no ideas on what to say, since she thought she had already said everything she ever could, and yet he was stupidly relentless. "Rico, I don't like you. You have to stop this craziness. I will never like you. Ever! Leave us alone."
"I will wait," he repeated like a broken record and Giselle wondered if he had some kind of auditory processing disorder, which would qualify him for an obvious disability and at least plausibly explain his complete lack of comprehension what she was saying.
Tae Soo did not grant even a look toward Mr. Jerk and tenderly fixing a strand of hair from Giselle's face, put his arm around her shoulder and led her away.
The mood was completely ruined and so was the evening. "I will drive," announced Tae Soo, escorting Giselle to the passenger's door. Helping her get inside, he covered her head with his palm so that she did not hit it on the low metal frame. She was still tipsy from the alcohol and awfully quiet, bitterly swallowing yet another destroyed opportunity for a moment of happiness. Maybe, she just had bad luck.
The alcohol was quickly evaporating from her system, and with it her bravery was gone. How such a girl like her could have imagined that she would actually have a chance to confess? When was it that she ever got the guy she liked? And Tae Soo was not just any guy. Self-deprecation wormed into her thoughts, laying its ugly eggs to produce more of the vicious and malignant creatures to poison her already filled with doubt and confusion mind.
I guess a girl like me attracts assholes like Rico. I did not even get my kiss, and went over board with all the drinking, flirting, winking and hip shaking.
She allowed herself to believe that she deserved him, but tonight was a sign that she deluded herself. She put up barriers between them, testing him, yet she was the one who failed miserably, making herself into something she really was not. And that was the outcome. Tae Soo probably is getting tired of me. Well, I should have seized the moment. If she had waited, Tae Soo would have kissed her on his own. Is she had let him, she could feel it in her heart that he would show her how much he cared and she would finally feel good about herself.
She sighed loudly and lifelessly dropped her head.
"You OK?" asked the driver, who managed to engage his phone GPS and was already on the road. "Are you feeling sick? Do you want me to pull over?"
Sweet, concerned and caring, Tae Sooito. My favorite man, who made my head spin.
She even felt dizzy remembering what his lips felt like on her skin and musky, yet freshly pleasant scent of cologne that accompanied him.
"Giselle!" He shook her shoulder, worried more, since she did not answer. He swiftly swerved to the side of the road and stopped with the motor still running. His deft fingers cupped her cheek, turning her to face him and his eyes studied her downtrodden expression, lips drooping into a sad pout and even the corners of her eyes pointing downwards. She looked like she was about to cry, but her eyes were dry, just lost in very dark place.
"I'm here. We are going to be home soon and everything will return to normal. Forget about him," he softly murmured, gently rubbing her cheek with his thumb.
She leaned into his hand and exhaled with resigned exhaustion.
"I'm sorry. It's all my fault," she said somewhat detached. "I have a bad feeling. Tonight I had this plan and now, I'm not even sure about anything," she added passively.
He flinched as if she pinched a nerve. Was it another rejection coming his way?
"I said something to you when we were dancing..," he started.
"Don't. It does not matter. It's not meant to be." She glanced at him and then kissed his hand before falling back on the headrest. The kiss was gentle, but it was not the kiss that promised future, it was more of a "thank for everything you've done for me, but now I think we should stop" kiss.
Tae Soo really thought that if he told her about his feelings, she would reciprocate. But she acted as if him putting himself on the line did not mean much. Words began to disintegrate before they even got a chance to form and Tae Soo crashed into an impenetrable wall she just erected around herself. The happy, enticing and playful Giselle hid away from him again, frightened of the part of herself that was daring and confident as a woman.
He understood why she was like that, after all he met a few men in her life, and none of them instilled any hope to recognize her abilities or bolster her self-esteem. She was vivacious and wonderful around him, yet, when push came to shove, she inevitably retreated into her hard shell. It appeared that every time they took a step forward, they would take two steps back.
"My head and my stomach are kind of queasy," she said with an empty voice.
"You want to go home?"
"Sure." The only sound that accompanied their drive of disappointment to the beach house was humming of the motor and the croaking chirping of the frogs.
"Don't be mad at me." Giselle requested, muting her voice to negligible levels.
"I like you, I can't stay mad at you long, you know that," the answered softly and caressed her fingers with his. She took his hand in hers, tightly intertwining fingers. She did not say anything in return. She held onto his hand to remind herself that it was warm and strong, it was there for her any time she needed it and that he had offered it to her many times before.
"I'd like to start over. Let's forget tonight, let's pretend it did not happen. I will continue working with you and living with you and since we like spending time together, let's just do that."
Tae Soo sighed suppressing a moan of frustration. She wanted to erase tonight and start afresh. So he had to act as if he never confessed to her, even now she ignored the main point of his statement – he liked her enough not be mad. But when they were dancing and she accepted his kisses so willingly, his confession could not have been misconstrued.
"You want me to pretend we have not almost kissed?" He finally said, suppressing pretty strong resentment he wished he did not hold.
"I want to start over. That's what I want. Let's give it a week. Let's just be together and have fun, like we always do. I want us to arrive to the same place together without any witnesses, without interruptions. I want a week to heal from all of this... My Dad, my work, Mr. Jerk. My pathetic attempt at drinking... I want to be myself, instead of trying too hard. Can we?"
"A week?" he groaned through the teeth. It was a long time to wait, but at least she was honest that she needed more time. He was tempted to ask what would happen at the end of the week, but stopped himself. It was better that way.
Their attraction was undeniable, but it was also causing them to be too self conscious. It was not just a matter of simple chemistry between a man and a woman, they were both slowly developing feelings and whether either of them had awareness or not, these feelings were much deeper than they were ready to admit even to themselves.
Tae Soo's fist came into contact with Mr. Jerk's jaw, but instead of feeling the resistance, it barely grazed the bone. Tae Soo looked at his hand, confused. There was no impact, not even the reddening of the skin. He checked his knuckles again; he thought he packed quite a punch, did he lose some muscle without regular exercise, while on vacation? And Rico, machismo personified who was supposed to fight back, was not in his line of sight. Some drunken mumbling reached Tae Soo's ears and he looked down to the floor. Next to the yellow sign "Ciudado Piso Mojado" lay prostrated on the wet floor Mr. Jerk. He was comically trying to get up, only to have his feet slip again on the freshly cleaned and still damp floor, astonished at his position and staring up at Tae Soo, as if asking 'what the hell just happened to me'.
The door to the bathroom opened, and Mr. Jerk yelped, his head hit. Scooting on his butt away, he vigorously rubbed the back of his head and whined, like a puppy who was kicked and stepped on. "Sorry," said Giselle, not at first realizing who it was in front of her. "Are you OK?" Then her mouth dropped, she glared at the guy angrily, but quickly assessing the situation, began laughing. The actor, joined in, both of them jolly and seemingly unaffected by Mr. Jerk's misfortune.
"Hey, " he called offended by their indifference. They looked at each other suppressing laughter but then both burst from another round of giggles.
Rico sighed and managed to scrape himself off the floor; he groaned rubbing his lower back and gave Tae Soo a dark stare with a warning. "I meant it, Chino."
Tae Soo's laughter suddenly died and his face took on steely coldness, causing Mr. Jerk to take a step back and into the wall. "I told you to leave it alone. You are drunk, call somebody to drive you home."
Giselle interrupted their feud with a question that was long overdue, only to have Tae Soo ask her at the same time, "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to get you Korean food as surprise. What about you?"
"He wanted to show me a place with Korean food so that I could surprise you."
"What?" She quirked her brow in amazement. "What does he have to do with you and why is he drunk out of his mind?"
"We had a talk. Man-to-man. That's all. He won't be bothering you again."
"Tae Soo! You are bullshitting me, right? You are drinking with that scumbag, going around like friends?"
"No, it was not like that. He came to apologize. We worked it out."
Mr. Jerk confirmed from his corner, where he already slid down the wall and was comfortably slumping. "True. I offered to be friends. And I brought alcohol. Only he would not drink with me. What a show off," he scoffed, slurring the last words and snorted in a semblance of a laugh.
The couple ordered kimbap, bibimbap and some boba tea. Tae Soo sunk his teeth into the food, like he'd been starved for months and the familiar taste of Korean dishes brightened up his mood and wiped off any sour leftovers from having to deal with Mr. Jerk.
Giselle cautiously placed a piece of kimbap into her mouth trying to discern between the mingling of rice, seaweed and something that was smashed in the middle. Kimbap was like a sushi roll, but not with fish, it had some beef, some kind of marinated vegetables, a mushroom or something like that and was quite dry. It came with a small cup of miso soup to wash it down and some pickled radish on the side.
"What do you think?" Tae Soo was eagerly curious.
"I like it. I think." She cocked her head to the side. "So is it popular food in Korea?"
"It's a staple for picnics and lunches on the go. A lot of times girlfriends will make some kimbap for their boyfriends and mothers prepare it for kids."
"What about the thing you are eating?"
"Try, try," he pushed a hot pot over to her.
She stuck her spoon into the mixture of veggies and meat over steaming rice and some kind of red paste. "Is it spicy? I don't like spicy food. Puerto Ricans are not into spice that much."
"Wait," he hurried to clean off the paste. "It is supposed to be eaten with it, but it's good without." He loaded her spoon quickly, manipulating chopsticks, getting a sample of each variety and topping it with some egg.
She smiled back at him, thinking that they were so comfortable with each other, sharing food like that. It was nice. The same thought crossed the actor's mind and he smiled back.
"You are not going to tell me about Rico?"
"I have nothing to say. He is not such a horrible guy after all. He is just jerk."
"Mr. Jerk," murmured Giselle. "How did get into your good graces?"
"How long have you know him?" The question came suddenly.
"Yes," he looked expectantly, as if it mattered somehow.
"Please, just tell me."
"Not long. Just from work. He is familiar, I might have seen him around the island. But then who is not?" She shrugged her shoulders. "Why are you so interested in him? You said he is out of our lives, right?"
"Yes. He is." Tae Soo's eyes traveled somewhere, he returned to his food and his smile subsided.
(A few hours before)
Giselle had left somewhere to do something with her family earlier. Tae Soo was at home alone, slightly bored and already missing her bright presence. He flipped through the TV channels, annoyed at the rapid Spanish that inevitably assaulted his hearing, then checked his personal e-mail, finding a few messages from his close friends, asking how the trip was going and whether he had fun. He emailed back with a few pictures of the beautiful scenery, with him smiling and waving on the foreground. None of them contained any likeness of Giselle. He made sure to keep her out to avoid any personal questions, remarks or even worse, her picture finding its way to the world-wide-web.
He was tempted to look at his social networking sites accounts, just to see what the fans were saying, but with an internal smirk he found it very reassuring that he actually did not care at all. He never bothered to check them since he was on vacation. His phone only had one voice mail, of course, from him mother. He was sure it was nothing, but still listened. "Hello, my son. Be careful not to get too tan. Put on sunscreen. Eat well. I heard they have fresh fruits. Don't get involved with any of those island women, they are trouble." He had to scoff at that comment. "Those island women" – what did his mother know of Puerto Rico?
She was a good mother, loving and caring, doting on her son, making sure he always had healthy and delicious home cooked meals and peace and quiet at home. She did not pressure him about much, very supportive of his career, and was proud to have such a beautiful and talented son in the limelight. But his mother was a typical Korean mother, and to his dismay, very traditional and severely old-fashioned when it came to relationships. She was ultimately hoping to marry him off well to a carefully picked match from a family with a good background and no problems in the eyes of the public. His mother's ideal might have been something he did not mind before his trip: a beautiful and subservient daughter-in-low, who would continue the tradition of catering to her husband in every way and placating her in-laws, while devoting all of her time and attention to keeping the household and cute well-dressed children clean and presentable.
Tae Soo so far managed to avoid dealing with that part of his filial duties, simply by the grace of his professional career that did not allow time for such endeavors as dating or family. Since he was still very young, he had years before he would have to fight off the advances of well off and from tip to toe fake women, whose faces and bodies were products of the skillful handy work by some of the most prominent cosmetic surgeons. Their chiseled noses and perky chins, big rounded eyes and skin devoid of any pores, as if made out of plaster, teeth shining like a tooth whitening commercial, and most of all their disingenuous high pitched voices and demure flutter of curled and mascara dipped eyelashes – were quite repulsive to him.
He did not put much thought into what kind of partner he wanted in life, but he was very clear of what kind he did not. That girl that his mother envisioned, even if she was sweet, kind, and beautiful, was not appealing to him. Giselle made his heart beat loudly and with exhilaration never known before. She had him crave life and seek the very definition of what was real and not carefully crafted to match his mother's expectations. The way she made him smile just by the sheer glimmer of her eyes, by the way her voice touched the very strings of his soul, had changed his whole outlook on what he wanted in a woman.
He wanted somebody like her, but nobody else was like her. Who else had the curves and the softness of a real woman, who did not care to accentuate them strategically and hid them under baggy t-shirts? Who else was incredibly thoughtful and introspective, while making unexpected decisions out of spontaneity. Who else was shy and reserved, while spilling her emotions over at the drop of a hat and wearing them on her sleeve like a permanent accessory? Who else was humble and inconspicuous, with a fragile self confidence and struggling to believe in herself, while having the strength to tell somebody off, to stand up for herself and to fight for her principles? Who else was sexy like hell and innocent like a baby all at once? Tae Soo actually wanted her, because only next to her he could honestly look at himself in mirror and see the kind of happiness shining in his eyes his mother wished for him. These kinds of thoughts kept randomly popping into his mind at odd times of the day and snuck into his dreams, which seemed to center on all things Giselle lately.
He should be mad, but not with her. Not able to put it into words, Tae Soo understood her. He complied with "starting over" scheme she devised because he would do anything for her, but for him there was no turning back the clock, he had almost kissed her, he had held her trembling body in his arms, he had told her he liked her... This was a useless regurgitation, since she controlled the reigns which determined how fast or in which direction they would be moving. He shook off the image if her succulent lips with the tint of that lipstick she wore last time and sighed loudly feeling more than an innocent desire flush his system. Cold shower suddenly seemed like the thing to do and he groaned getting up, his body fighting against his mind.
"Open up!" Loud order shouted from the outside, yanking him out of whatever fantasy he was surfing, no more urgency for cold shower.
Tae Soo came over to the front door. "Open up, I know you are there!" The annoyingly familiar voice insisted. That can't be. Impossible. The actor chuckled from sheer amazement. This is like a pray walking over to the hunter and begging to shoot it in the head. He had to see it with his own eyes to believe it. He cracked the door open.
"I came to apologize and" a six pack was shoved into the actor's face, "I brought some beer." A cocky grin without any hidden agenda, besides what he just said, confirmed the dumbest plan known to men to have been proudly conceived. Tae Soo made a pronounced nod and cocked his brows up demonstratively, then slammed the door closed.
"Oh, come on bro, I said I want to apologize."
"Consider it done, bye." Tae Soo spoke through the shut door.
"Please, I swear, I feel bad. But I have to tell you something about Giselle."
The actor's muscles tensed, he flung the door open, "What did you do this time?" he glared at Mr. Jerk.
"Nothing, let me in."
Tae Soo blocked the entrance with his body, studying the man's face with open suspicion.
"I would have killed you last time, if not for Giselle."
"I know," responded with a smirk Rico, "but I come in peace. For Giselle's sake," he added meaningfully. As Tae Soo just continued to burn through him with the darkening eyes without speaking, he added, "I know who you are, Mr. Lee Tae Soo." He pointedly pulled out his phone, showing the screen. "You are quite famous, king of chemistry." His tone was a weird mixture of mocking, admiration and almost disdain.
Tae Soo slotted his eyes and sneered. "I am. What is that got to do with anything?"
"I bet she does not know. I bet you did not tell her," Rico retorted triumphantly.
"Is this your idea of apologizing? Blackmail?" Tae Soo turned around, ready to have the door shut once and for all.
"Wait, I'm not here to fight. I'm worried about her." Mr. Jerk grabbed his shoulder and Tae Soo whirled around in one swift motion, shaking the hand off and hissed, "Don't touch me."
"Just a drink." And Rico slithered stealthily for such a bulky specimen into a thin gap between the Korean and the doorframe. Tae Soo's first instinct was to push him out, but something about Mr. Jerk today was different. He appeared... sincere and the air of arrogance about him was gone.
The visitor shed his shoes quickly noticing that Tae Soo was not wearing any and walked inside, aiming at the kitchen and landing the beer on the counter. "Glass or can?" He asked casually and when Tae Soo seemed to be befuddled by his unceremonious behavior, popped open one of the beer cans and took a swig. "It's cold." He encouraged Tae Soo, who chuckled, and felt something resembling tolerance and even amusement toward his guest.
Come to think of it, he had only gotten unwanted visitors lately. All were the men from Giselle's other life. The life she had before she had met him. At least her father was a prominent figure, although Tae Soo secretly wished for her to have a more sensitive and sensible parent. But Mr. Jerk! Maybe, that was his allure – the ability to waltz into people's life like he was invited and continue barging in untill they got used to him and finally he was there to remain. The thought made him shudder.
"I'm not drinking with you. I don't drink with my enemies and you are certainly not my friend."
"I bet you don't have enemies. You don't even seem to have anti-fans. Don't look so surprised. I did my research. You think I'm just a walking muscle bag, don't you?" Rico challenged Tae Soo to a duel of stares, leaning over the counter. "For your information, I went to college. The same college as Giselle. And I've known her since her freshman year. Yes, I did." He punctuated with satisfaction swilling the rest of the cold liquid. He searched a trashcan and zeroing on it, made a basket with a quick throw from the wrist. "Where was I?" he trailed off and popped another can, intermitting long sips with a few sentences.
Tae Soo continued to listen in silence, uneasy feeling forming in his chest, something akin to jealousy and covetousness of what Rico had gotten just by the virtue of living on the same island as Giselle.
"We took the same English class. She does not remember me, I'm sure. I was a bit shy then. But I knew of her, since I've been good friends with her cousin since elementary school. I was not as good looking and hot back then," he snorted, almost spitting some of the third beer can he was already breaking in. "Anyway, I was saying, that she was so smart and she always made these comments. And once she read this story she wrote..." He seemed to recall her performance with admiration on his half sober face. "Well, I thought I was out of her league then. You know, there were rumors that one of the graduate students dated her because she was so talented. I kind of had a crush on her... Then I blossomed," he grinned again, flexing his muscles unconsciously, "I discovered that girls liked me and I liked to be liked and then I was good at flirting with girls and having fun and they seemed to enjoy my company..."
"I'm not interested in your escapades. What is your point? I've been patient long enough," Tae Soo pushed the trash can with his foot over so that Rico did not have to throw each empty beer can across the kitchen.
"Thanks, man," flashed a smile at him Mr. Jerk. "My point is, I've known Giselle for a long time. I know about her and I know that she is a special girl. When I saw her at the restaurant, I kind of was surprised that she would end up at a place like that. But then again, we all have to eat and the jobs are scarce." He took a poignant pause, he face taking on a more serious flare. "I know I was hitting on her and acting like an ass, but sex is what I do and I wanted to use what I've got. You are doing it, too. Your long legs, your good looks, your foreign accent, your money. You are using it all to get into her pants. You are no better than me, but then again, maybe, you are," he mumbled as if talking to himself.
Tae Soo's blood boiled just when he decided that this pathetic drunk was nothing to be bothered about. He hit a nerve. "I want you out," he directed warningly. "Take your alcohol and get out!"
"Shit, I forgot why I was saying it all. Oh," a light bulb went off in his head and his eyes lit with a bright thought. "I know who you are. You are a famous star in Korea. In fact, in Asia. Apparently, you are a big shot. So I will make my point quickly, Mr. Sexy Smile. She is not your average girl. Giselle is special. She is sensitive. What you are doing with her – you are going to hurt her. You will break her heart and leave, because you don't belong here and sure as hell does not belong in your world." He now was slurring a bit, but for a drunk, he was surprisingly coherent in his ability to express himself. No longer he sounded like an idiot and more and more he sounded like he actually cared about Giselle's wellbeing. "You will leave. Even long vacations come to an end. What will become of her? I can see she is smitten. Yes, you represent something bright and beautiful from the world outside of this tiny boring island, the world of opportunities. But you are a false hope for her. You will make her cry harder than I ever had." He added bitterly.
Tae Soo froze. He was about to drag the man by his collar and throw him out the door, but he froze. The words speared him where it hurt the most.
"Why did not you tell her about who you are? I'm sure she does not know."
"Because, honestly, I kind of forget about who I am when I'm with her. And you don't understand, how people look at me once they know. Just like you, assuming and judging. It will never be the same. I'm just Tae Soo to her." Why on earth was he disclosing this to Rico he was not sure, but the man's passionate speech shook him deeply. "Please, don't tell her." He asked softly.
"I won't. But you better do it yourself and do it quickly, so that she has a choice to stop before it's too late. I'm warning you – if you hurt her, I will find you and I will make you pay." His bloodshot eyes were flickering with real threat.
"You have a funny way of apologizing."
"Sorry, bro. I just got carried away." He flipped his expression, like he had changed an outfit. He became relaxed and sunny even, glossily gazing at Tae Soo, he swayed, pulling away from the counter. "Anyway. She is happy with you. So for now, I want to help you. There is this Korean place they opened up. Giselle loves surprises and she loves learning new things and trying new foods. I'll show you where it is and you can get her something." Rico grinned and grabbing the last beer headed for the door. "Aren't you coming?"
"Do you have a car?"
"Yes, and you are driving. I think I'm a bit too tipsy."
And Tae Soo, amused and amazed at how quickly he let go of his hatred toward this guy, followed. "Leave her alone. Promise not to show up in front of her anymore. And stop stalking her, it's embarrassing," he mentioned with a somewhat friendly tone, as he got into the car and adjusted the seat to his height. "Let's keep this visit between the two of us men, OK?"
"Okey-doky," snorted Mr. Jerk, sinking into the seat and looking now completely wasted. "It's that way," he waved arbitrarily.
"What is it called?"
"Hot pot. Look it up. It's on Montemar Plaza." He managed to put together the words and in a minute was out cold.
"Shit," mumbled Tae Soo. What did he get himself into? He made sure to roll down the windows and turning away with disgust had to lean over the drunken passenger to put the seat belt on. It was the worst judgment call he's made in his life, he thought.