HEART LIES

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JUDGE

Sonmi wanted to knock herself out as she paced, waiting for a message; it was becoming a habit. Jae’s morning message was becoming her drug.

Yes, Sonmi was accustomed to his care, gentle words, and gestures. Ho Jae Kyung was the perfect boyfriend.

So perfect Sonmi wondered when her alarm would ring, and she would wake up realizing it was all a dream.

If Sonmi knew his background and if she had met his father, Sonmi would have understood the whole meaning of the expression like father like son. Jae’s behavior was the replica of a man who not only loved with all his being but gave his heart away once.

Sonmi’s telephone beeped, and she rushed to grab it:

GOOD MORNING BEAUTIFUL

The message was nothing fantastic, no poem, just a few words, making her heart’s factory break down and needing another maintenance check.

Jae had won the girl over, and Sonmi was ashamed, mainly when she limited skinship. She didn’t Jae hold her hand in public due to the rumors. People gossiped about how she ran after chaebol sons.

Sonmi didn’t need to look far to find the culprit. Hana remixed and twisted the tale to her liking. Even Eun Young switched sides disgusted by Hana’s evil tongue, which didn’t spare her either since she was still with Myeong.

The two girls were pariahs on campus, and living with bitter Hana was unbearable.

“Move over. Do you count on blocking the bathroom door forever?” Hana said with a glare that was becoming a trademark.

“Sorry,” Sonmi replied, rushing to grab her bag.

To Sonmi’s surprise, Eun Young wasn’t as strong-willed as she looked; she hid sleeping at Myeong’s and Jae’s apartment as much as possible, leaving Sonmi to face Hana’s mood swings alone.

Sonmi exhaled as she stepped out of the building, where she found Jae waiting for her.

“I’ll drive you to Uni.”

“It’s not even 5miles away. Don’t you have something to do?”

“I do, but I prefer being with you,” Jae said with a killer smile.

“Don’t you ever lie?”

“Why lie when there’s no need, and you can give a straightforward answer.

Sonmi was not cunning; she didn’t know how to read between the lines. Being with someone as honest as Jae made things simple.

The man didn’t seem to say things he didn’t mean or beat around the bush; it was reassuring for someone who didn’t know how to play games.

Sonmi’s innocence was the reason why Jae liked her so much; things were simple; he need not lie or calculate; he could merely love her.

The feeling grew and became more persistent as the day passed.

Jae loved Sonmi; he waited for someone like her. A person who would not look at the size of his wallet or his origins, someone who would appreciate him as a man.

Obviously, the couple had not reached the point of absolute trust, but Jae hoped they would get there step by step.

For Jae, the young woman was rough at the edges, but he knew her value Sonmi was his diamond, a rare one which he would not allow anyone to hurt.

Jae knew what people were spreading. Seoul grew small when it came to rumors. This fact meant it was a matter of time before his peers would be alerted, Ho Geun and Hyeon Ju. Jae had to protect Sonmi by all means. Their love was barely budding, and he would not have them take away what was yet to blossom.

The man knew far too well the realities of his social status—a status which forbade him to see his mother or call her name in public.

Jae had to cut the grass under their feet before they did it to him.

“Sonmi, would you have brunch with me on Sunday?”

“A brunch?”

“Yes, I brunch with my family every Sunday. I was wondering if you’d come with me?”

Jae was hasty; it had only been a month and a half since Sonmi agreed to date him. Their relationship held on a string. Still, he preferred to do it this way, in regular times he would have asked Ji-Seong for advice, but his friend appeared to be too occupied to spare him a moment, and Myeong was formal when he gave his wisdom, “don’t dive with this girl, her parents are divorced, she has no money or connections. Yes, her mother is a surgeon, but she also hangs out in nightclubs. Trust me, if we are aware of this, the elders, ancestors, and the fossils are aware of this. Don’t make this into a Romeo and Juliet tragedy because that’s how these types of tales end in the screenplay end real life. Have fun; look, this is our last year before our gap year in Europe. Then we’ll have our military service, and when that’s over, we’ll be Soegating for marriage if the elders don’t decide for us. I know your grandfather, his anchor in traditions, is buried somewhere in the center of the earth, and it won’t budge. He will never let you finish your life with this girl,” with this, Myeong tapped Jae on the shoulder and went to unwrap the packets of his outfit of the day.

“Jae, qwenchana,” Sonmi asked, warping the man out of his thoughts.

Jae nodded, “yeah.”

“You seemed to space out.”

“I was just thinking, if you don’t feel up to it, it’s okay. There’s no rush.”

Sonmi could see the eagerness on the man’s face; she wanted to do something for him.

“Who will be there?”

“My grandfather, grandmother, and ten or so house employees,” Jae said with a weak smile.

Sonmi gulped, “they need all that?”

“Apparently.”

“At what time is it?” Sonmi pursued.

“Usually 11 AM, it’s not very long we eat and then I chat a little with them, I leave around 1 PM.”

“Every Sunday?” Sonmi asked.

“Yes, every Sunday.”

“Okay.”

“Okay, as in yes?”

“Yes,” Sonmi said and grabbed his hand as they walked, making Jae’s heart pump hard for oxygen. One step at a time, he thought, but Sonmi was braver than he expected as she naively leaped into the fire.

Sunday came quickly, and so did the trial.

“Jae.”

“Halmoni.” [gran]

“Oh, you brought a friend,” the woman said, looking at Sonmi from head to toe. Jae had taken extra precautions buying Sonmi a beautiful Carven bell dress with Jewel shoulders and its little jacket, heels, and a beautiful necklace.

It took him two days to convince Sonmi to accept the gifts, and the result was stunning.

“Grandad.”

“Annyeohaseyo,” Sonmi said as she inclined her head in a bow at the old man.

The older man inclined his head, and Jae pulled a seat out for Sonmi to sit.

The house was significant, at least six times the size of the one Sonmi lived in with her parents. Jae was right about the maids. So many surrounded the table Sonmi felt guarded.

These people indeed exist, Sonmi thought. Up till now, like most citizens, Sonmi was sure dramas exaggerated about chaebol life, but the Ho’s mansion was proving that it was a euphemism.

The table was well garnished. There was enough food for twenty people. It was set for all tastes with common brunch elements and typical Korean foods.

“So, Sonmi, do you attend Seoul university with Jae?”

The elders wasted no time; the eligibility test began right away.

“Eh, umㅡ.”

“She’s a med student,” Jae replied in Sonmi’s stead.

Jae’s grandmother smiled, “oh, that’s wonderful; which year?”

“She’sㅡ.”

“Can’t she speak for herself? The older man asked, making Jae stop.

Sonmi sat up, “I’m in preparatory at Yonsei.”

“I see,” said the old lady whose stare dimmed in brightness but continued her questioning.

“And your parents, what do your parents do?”

These were the typical screening questions; everything about one’s life was reviewed. Sonmi heard about these interrogations; never would she have imagined herself living one.

Jae, who sat next to her, held Sonmi’s hand under the table in support. She turned to look at him; his gaze like always was reassuring, and caring Sonmi gained in courage.

“My mother is a surgeon.”

“Who likes nightclubs,” added Jae’s grandad.

Sonmi pursued, “my fatherㅡ.”

“Owns a little flourishing franchise,” the old man added.

Jae’s eyes became slits as he realized they had already done the background check on Sonmi.

“We should meet them,” Jae’s grandmother said to lighten the atmosphere oppressive by the glares both grandson and grandfather threw each other.

“It won’t be possible, will it, Miss Kyeong? Since your parents are divorced,” the old man said with a cynical smile.

Sonmi lowered her head, ashamed.

“Oh dear, how unfortunate,” said the old lady as though her husband announced Sonmi’s parents had a terminal illness.

Jae dropped his fork, “I see you’ve done the background check, harabeoji.”

The older man smiled, and the interrogation stopped for the rest of the meal; it was Jae who spoke. He squeezed Sonmi’s hand to reassure her from time to time, but the girl seemed to have become the ghost of herself.

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