HEART LIES

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ODE

It was the first day of three, Ji- Seong would never forget until his dying day.

Sa-rang slept; she dreamt of meadows filled with flowers, where she ran heart racing as she jumped on a man who fell back with the weight of her body.

“What took you so long?” Sa-rang whispered.

The man smiled, and Sa-rang opened her eyes to Ji-Seong’s stare. The man watched her sleep. His eyes didn’t even twitch as hers grew wide at the sight of him.

“Ji-Seong.”

“Goodmorning.”

The tone was one of relief; the woman couldn’t imagine the angst the man had while she slept. Every time Sa-rang exhaled, Ji-Seong thanked the heavens as the woman lived another minute.

Some could laugh at the situation, but this is how families live beside a dying relative. Every breath seems like a victory.

Sa-rang sighed; she, too, was surprised to be there. Perhaps she still had something to accomplish, and the remaining deed concerned the man before her.

“Ji-Seong, what do you want to do today?”

The question made Ji-Seong blink; the sensation was sore for the man who did not shut his eye once while Sa-rang slept.

“IㅡI should be asking you that.”

Sa-rang smiled, “no, really, what do you want to do?”

“Eh,ㅡ.”

“It’s not a trick question,” Sa-rang said before trying to sit up. Ji-Seong immediately got up to assist her.

Sa-rang was breathless by the effort to shut her eyes.

How could something as anodyne as to sit in bed become an endeavor?

The woman opened her eyes and smiled at Ji-Seong, hoping it would reassure him.

Ji-Seong returned a more radiant one with the same intent.

“So?”

“Sa-rangㅡ.”

“Let’s play a game, Ji-Seong. Let’s act like newlyweds.”

On other days the suggestion made Ji-Seong’s eyes roll. As a knight, the man played all the roles possible.

The newlywed’s fantasy made an all-kill every time with the ladies he served.

Here, with Sa rang, it was Ji-Seong who was enchanted.

“Sa-rang, do you reallyㅡ.”

“I suggested it so?”

Ji-Seong nodded like a child accepting another tour on a Ferris wheel.

Sa-rang eyes seemed to curve like her lips, “자기야 [jagi-ya/baby], can you give me a few minutes to take a shower.

If they were in a manwha, Ji-Seong’s character’s nose would have bled.

Blood rushed everywhere as Sa-rang’s words flowed inside him. Being called honey by Sa-rang had that effect. It was a first but not the last of the day.

“Jagi?”

“Yeobo?”

Sa-rang called Ji-Seong with sweet pet names everywhere they went.

Heads turned, and people gossiped, but the woman didn’t care, not anymore. And when people sneered, Sa-rang pushed the vice by holding the man’s hand.

“Sa-rang, you don’t have to.”

“But I want to. Are you embarrassed?”

“No, No, never.”

If it took time for Sa rang to assume their relationship, Ji-Seong was at another level.

Age, wealth, education, or social status were not things Ji-Seong was particularly attached to in the last few years.

Nobody made of flesh and bone had a say about how he led his life, as all will end up as dust and ashes.

Only one thing mattered, and Ji-Seong hoped it would subsist through time and space. His love for Sa-rang was all he held to, and he wished to cherish it until his last day.

A poke in the ribs called him back to reality.

“What are you thinking of?”

“The right question is, who am I thinking of?” Ji-Seong returned.

They stood on the pavement in front of a restaurant’s window where those having dinner watched the couple and whispered, wondering whether it was a mother and her son.

The spectators quickly got their answer as Ji-Seong cupped Sa-rang’s face in his hands and kissed her.

“Why did you do that?” Sa rang, asked.

“Do I need a reason to kiss나의 아름다운 공주님 [naui aleumdaun gongjunim/my beautiful princesse]?”

It was a game that made the lovers smile to hide the wounds they created every second they spent together.

Every word cut and splintered the heart.

And when night fell, only one question remained:

When?

Sa-rang was weak. Ji-Seong felt guilty to have taken her out. A cold sweat broke out on Sa-Rang’s face, and her body temperature rose. Her tongue swelled up, goosebumps appeared on her skin, but Sa rang wasn’t cold.

The night was a difficult one, where Ji-Seong nursed Sa rang, who refused to take any medication.

Pain rippled through her body like shockwaves. If the moment was now, it had nothing to do with the peaceful death she had in mind. She coughed a lot; the woman knew she would die from a mere cold. Her immunity failed her.

Then suddenly, all was calm. Ji-Seong watched Sa-rang until the first rays of light snuck into the bedroom.

When Sa-rang opened her eyes, Ji-Seong’s head rested on the bed. He fell asleep, seated on the floor.

Sa-rang wiggled and wormed her way out of the sheets to her nightstand. Every gesture left her breathless, but what she was about to do was vital for her.

She took out a pen, a piece of paper, and she wrote.

Ji-Seong woke up shortly after.

“안녕, 내 사랑 [annyeong nae sa-rang, good morning my love], how do you feel?” he asked the woman who pretended to wake up.

“I feel better, thank you, Ji-Seong. Last nightㅡ, ”I thought I was going to die, “I really feel better.”

Despite her words, the woman saw how worry played hide and seek behind the men’s gaze.

“I’m hungry.”

“Are you?”

“Yes, why are you so surprised.”

“It’sㅡ.”

“I’d love pancakes.”

“Pancakes?”

“Yes, nice hot pancakes. Can you do that for me?”

Ji-Seong didn’t know what to say. Sa-rang couldn’t be hungry. Still, Ji-Seong got up and went to the kitchen.

Sa rang, took out the letter under her pillow, and re-read. She wasn’t sure it made sense, but she hoped the words would reach their destination. From where she was, she could hear the waves and seagulls. It was just another day of the many which would follow. Life would go on but without her.

Half an hour later, Ji-Seong came back; the whole house smelled the sweet scent of freshly made pancakes.

Ji-Seong posed the tray on the nightstand and sat beside her, “breakfast is served, madam.”

Sa rang only managed to smile with her eyes; she posed a hand on his and murmured, “thank you.”

Ji-Seong went to lift the blinds. The sun showered the room with its brightness; he then turned to face Sa-rang. It was a beautiful day, and they were together, “Sa-rang.”

There was no response. Ji-Seong stood motionless. Something told him not to approach the bed, but still, he went forth, “Sa rang, he whispered.

“Sa rang,” he said.

“SA-RANG,” he yelled as he took the woman in his arms, “please, not now, please, I beg you.”

Ji-Seong knew no moment would be the right one; he wasn’t ready; it was too sudden. It seemed as though a split second ago, the woman smiled at him. Now, her body laid numb and lifeless.

Hours passed, the pancakes became cold and hard like stones.

Sa rang finished the last of her Acts the way she wanted in the peace of her bedroom.

Ji-Seong cried and mourned his lover.

What occurred afterward was a total blur for Ji-Seong, who found himself three months later wondering if Sa-rang was gone.

Here he was with this letter he carried everywhere he went, unable to open it, but today for some reason, the message drew him.

Ji-Seong sat two hours playing with the letter in his hands when he suddenly began to unfold it. The message was a couple of senseless sentences that the man had no mental power to decrypt.

Ji-Seong,

You recognized me, but next time I will see you first.

One day the sun will shine brighter than today, but the wind will whistle.

Your steps will lead you to that door.

Don’t be afraid. Open your heart.

And save me once more.

Ji-Seong folded the letter before his tears drenched the paper, he didn’t understand, but they were Sa rang’s last words for him, and it was all that mattered.

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