HEART LIES

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CARAMEL POPCORN

Sa-rang stood in front of her building, where the car came and parked. The driver got out to open the door for her.

Once inside, she wondered if she was not dressed too casually in her slim jeans and an oversized gray mohair sweater. At least she was covered, and Ji-Seong would not be tempted to rinse his eyes on her cleavage.

The woman was surprised when the car stopped in front of the CGV in Apgujeong.

A cinema was an extremely public place, and being in the dark with Ji-Seong did not reassure Sa-rang, but at least talking would be limited.

The driver came opened the door and handed her an envelope.

“What is this for?”

“Just hand it at the counter,” the man said before regaining to the driver’s seat.

Sa-rang took it and went inside. Arriving at the counter, she hesitated.

“Will it be one ticket?” The cashier asked.

“Eh,” Sa-rang looked sideways and slipped the envelope on the counter instantly; the woman behind called another employee.

“Please follow me.”

Sa-rang did as instructed; she followed the woman to the lift. Once inside, the lady swiped her badge pressing on the tenth floor, which Sa-rang understood was restricted.

The door opened to what appeared to be a lounge, which they crossed to arrive in the most miniature theatre Sa-rang had ever entered finally.

“You may choose your seat.”

Sa-rang found it strange to be alone, but before she could ask a question, the lady was gone.

Left alone, Sa-rang sat at the back. She could not believe she was there, unable to remember the last time she set foot in a cinema. Her heart was soon filled with nostalgia as her nose whiffed the sweet smell of caramel popcorn she loved so. The aroma got stronger, making Sa-rang lift her eyes. Ji-Seong stood holding a considerable portion in one hand and drinks in the other.

Sa-rang got up to help him set all he had on the outside tablet.

“Good evening, Sa-rang,” Ji-Seong said with the expression of a child receiving a long-awaited gift.

Ji-Seong sat down; the man took his time to look at her before showing off his perfect teeth with a grin, “what do you want to watch?”

“What, we can choose?”

“Yes, anything from the latest releases to Back To The Future,” Ji-Seong replied.

The woman did not know what to chose; the professor had no time watching TV and didn’t know what the movies to see were.

Sa-rang frowned, “eh, you can choose.”

“Really?” Ji-Seong could not believe she let him take the lead.

“Why the surprise?”

“It’s difficult to accept you just handed some power to me,” Ji-Seong replied with a taunting smile.

“I would have chosen, but I don’t know what to pick.”

“Okay, fair enough.”

Ji-Seong made a choice Age of Shadows.

Sa-rang felt comfortable with this spy movie set in the 1920s, and seeing how her knight’s face glowed; she understood it was the genre he liked.

Still, she could not help thinking he choose it to relieve her.

They watched the movie, and Sa-rang tucked into the caramel popcorn. It melted in her mouth, making her want to shed a tear, not wanting to fall in a state of euphoria next to Jiseong Sa-rang refrained herself.

She let her hand fall on the hand rest, the touch was subtle, and before Sa-rang knew it, Ji-Seong held her hand. She turned to gaze at him; he wasn’t even looking in her direction; his eyes remained locked on the screen.

Sa-rang didn’t see how she could discreetly free her hand from his grasp, he didn’t try anything funny, and Sa-rang gave up her hand to his.

The situation made the woman feel like a teen. She had missed out on many things. Hanging out with friends and flirting were part of the missing pleasures.

A regular visitor to hospitals, Sa-rang had no time for such leisure. First, her grandmother, who read her stories while she tried to hang on to life, then her mother.

The professor spent so much time in hospital wards. Her nose was accustomed to the clinic’s smell. Her ears could almost distill the direction taken by the squeaky sound clogs and bed wheels. It was almost a natural choice to become a doctor.

Once she decided, Sa-rang vowed to be nothing but the best. The med student blocked out other distractions, which she found futile. She forgot vain things were also what made life enjoyable. Even when she chose the few boyfriends, it was only for neural stimulation. She privileged wit and conversations above the psychical attraction.

In-Sung, too, was managed the same way by Sa-rang, who chose the stability the man could offer. He was loyal, intelligent, and kind; what more does a woman need? She thought when the law student started to run after her.

So she accepted his proposal despite Yoona’s warnings.

“Sa-rang, don’t rush, you are young, look, you haven’t even finished your studies.”

“Yoona, you can’t understand. My father is old. The little family I have to live in the countryside. I can’t hope for better. He’s from a good family; he’s a good man. I know we’ll be happy.”

“Are you listening to yourself, Sa-rang? You always talk about his qualities never have I heard you say that you love him. What about that and passion?”

“Yoona, you and I know that kind of love exists on SBS and TVN dramas. I’m lucky enough to have found someone whose family is willing to accept a single parent raised woman with no connections and who is finishing her studies on a scholarship.”

Yoona kept quiet; in the ’90s, South Korean traditions had thicker roots; society was even more critical about one’s background. In-Sung was head over heels for a young woman who only lived on calculations to survive.

Years later, it was Sa-rang who thrived on her reputation as a star surgeon and more money she could have imagined having in one lifetime.

She owed a lot to In-Sung. His support and patience got her where she was. Though her love wasn’t passionate, Sa-rang loved In-Sung, a stabbing pain hit her heart as a solitary tear ran down her cheek as for the first time in years, she realized how deeply she loved her ex-husband, so profoundly that she gave him to another woman.

The film started rolling its credits, and the light came on. What lousy timing, Sa-rang thought.

“Sa-rang, are you okay?”

“Ah, eh, I think there’s a lash in my eye. I need to go to the toilets,” Sa-rang said, getting up to flee, but stopped by the hand which grasped hers.

“Wait.”

“What are you doing?” Sa-rang asked the young man who now stood beside her, tilted her head, and gently blew in the eye blurred by the tears.

Sa-rang’s heart raced as Ji-Seong’s breath fanned her eyelids; the situation was surreal.

He stopped to gaze in Sa-rang’s eyes as he still cupped her face in his hands. It was one of those moments, a perfect instance for a kiss, too ideal, thought Ji-Seong, who let go of the woman’s face.

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