All throughout breakfast, I sat anxiously, stealing glances at Lee JiHan who sat across the table, waiting for him to change back to normal at any moment. All he did was eat. Like it had been for the past month, the moment I swallowed the food, positive comments flew out of my mouth. Unlike the past month, however, JiHan did not disappear but instead, stayed in his seat. Why is he acting like this?
Not used to the sudden change, I couldn’t help but get a nagging feeling. I suddenly remembered the conversation I had with JiKyung last night and decided to start my mission.
“Oh. JiKyung told me to look for a different place to live. He wants us to empty out of here and find a new place immediately.”
“He wants to empty out this house?” JiHan asked, surprised.
“Yes. As soon as possible. I’ll let you know the reason later.”
Lee JiHan looked to be lost in thought at my words, but nodded his head. “Yes. We should empty it out today.”
My eyes grew wide at his lack of suspicion.
“What?” I was expecting at least a little resistance.
How could he just agree with asking any questions? I couldn’t believe it, but Lee JiHan ignored my question and threw another question at me instead.
“Did you find a new place yet?”
“If you’re going to get out of here immediately, you should know where you’re going to go next.”
“Oh...I was going to go looking today. Somewhere we can move in right away.”
“But finding a place won’t be so easy. Until you find a place, let’s just stay at my house.”
“Isn’t that your parents’ house?”
“No. I have an apartment under my name.”
This 28-year-old owns an apartment, but someone like me who has worked for 28 years can’t even dream to buy one. The world is so unfair.
“If you had your own apartment, why were you living at your brother’s place?”
“Because it’s my brother’s house.”
I looked back at him, confused.
“Once I started studying abroad, I was unable to see my brother often. I wanted to spend time at his house when I was back in Korea. I won’t be able to see him for a long time when I leave, so I wanted to spend a lot of time with him here,” JiHan told me with a look of deep longing for his brother.
However, as soon as he stopped talking about his brother, for some reason, he stared out into space and sighed in defeat, as if none of this had been worth it.
“Oh...but is it okay if we so suddenly leave your brother’s house?” I asked cautiously.
Without any hesitation, Lee JiHan nodded. “We’ll start packing as soon as we’re done eating. I’ll do the dishes.”
This unbelievable statement he’d uttered surprised me so much that I dropped the spoon I was holding.
Lee JiHan really did do the dishes, and he really did take me to his apartment. In front of the apartment door, JiHan put his fingertips on the door lock and calmly taught me how to use it.
“This is the password,” he said and keyed in the password slowly so that I could see it. Then, in a composed manner, he added. “You might get confused, so I’ll write it down for you.”
“Uh, okay,” I answered, a bit baffled.
His ongoing kind actions felt like a dream. JiHan opened the front door wide and stepped aside to let me go in first. I shuffled nervously inside as he closed the door behind me. Passing me along the hallway, he lead me into the apartment.
“It’s smaller than my brother’s house. There are only 4 rooms. I’ll be using the master bedroom, you can choose any of the other rooms.”
I quietly followed Lee JiHan and looked around. Smaller than his brother’s house? You couldn’t even tell the difference! Here or there, the living room itself was bigger than my stepmother’s entire house combined. I had been following him muttering to myself when Lee JiHan stopped abruptly and turned around.
“I’m telling you now, you can’t stay in the living room,” he said strictly.
“If...you aren’t going to use the whistle here either, then there is no reason for me to want to stay in the living room,” I stammered.
“I won’t use the whistle. Here, or wherever.”
“Because I don’t want to make you work anymore.”
“But if you don’t make me work...then what do I do here?”
“You can just eat and sleep,” JiHan said nonchalantly and headed to the living room table.
Crouching down, he went to grab the pen and memo pad. Watching him, I seriously started to contemplate the reason behind all of this.
Why is he being so nice to me all of a sudden? A million things ran through my mind when suddenly a theory popped into my head, and my eyes grew wide. JiHan handed me the paper on which he’d written down the password. I looked up at Lee JiHan’s eyes and with hope, opened my mouth.
“Are you giving me approval for this wedding?”
His initial reasons for making my life difficult was because he was against the marriage. So if he decided to no longer make my life difficult, then didn’t it mean he was no longer against the marriage? Ah! I really hope this is the answer.
With my hands folded together in prayer, I looked at him desperately, but Lee JiHan replied back coldly, “Never.”
With my hopes crashing down around me, I dropped my hands weakly. Lee JiHan then stared directly into my eyes and continued. “The reason for it has changed, but the result is the same. I am against this wedding.”
“Then why are you telling me to do nothing and stay here? The whole point of this was for you to decide whether you approve or disapprove of this wedding by keeping points on my good and bad attributes. That’s why we decided to live together for two months. But if you tell me now that all I have to do is eat and sleep...”
“I’m no longer going to keep points on you.”
“Because now, I do not disagree with this wedding because you are an inadequate partner to my brother.”
“What do you mean–”
“And I’m not going to hurt your feelings just to display my disapproval.”
Completely baffled, I took the memo that JiHan handed me. His hand, which had been holding the memo, slowly opened and he placed it in front of me as if inviting me to a handshake. Not knowing the reason behind this, I looked at JiHan’s eyes hesitantly. At that moment, he grabbed my hand in his. I jumped in surprise and froze as my heart started to flutter. I realized how small my hands were compared to his, and I could feel the warmth of his hand in mine.
“I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused you this past month,” he said while shaking my hand. “From now on, I promise to play fair. I will persuade you against this marriage without hurting you.”
He spoke as if swearing on his life and let go of my hand. I stood frozen like a statue, and as he removed his hand, the memo slipped out and fluttered down to the ground. I paid no attention to the memo, but instead just stood there numbly.
After letting Na AhJung choose her room, I returned to my bedroom, closed the door, and let out a sigh. Since yesterday, I had been a hot mess. I was angry at my brother for lying to me, but I also sympathized with him for having no choice but to lie to me. Why does my brother have to be gay? I resented God for it. Being gay is not a sin, but why does it have to be my brother? I was angry and sad.
My emotions bounced crazily around, back and forth every minute. I thought about it all night, but I still could not make heads or tails out of it, and I was afraid to face my brother like this. I couldn’t even imagine confessing that I knew his secret. To be able to openly talk to my brother about this, I needed time.
I know now, so you don’t have to hide it any longer. There would come a day when I could finally look at my brother in the eye and tell him that. But that timing was not now. I was thankful my brother would be away for another month on his business trip. I thought deeply about what I had to do for AhJung within that month. I needed to make her give up on the marriage without her finding out that my brother was gay. Either I had to make her love for him fizzle out, or make her realize that there was someone more important than my brother. No matter what, I had to make her cancel the wedding without hurting her, and I had to do it before my brother came back, and quickly. I nodded, determined to make amends for my bothering her, and my brother’s lie that could have ruined her life.
A few moments later as I was leaving the bedroom, I saw the back of AhJung standing in the hallway. As if at a crossroads, she looked back and forth from one room to another, trying to make a decision. I looked at the big room next to mine and turned my head towards Na AhJung. Why is she leaving this big, nice room and contemplating between the two smallest rooms? Thinking how strange it was, I stepped toward her.
“What are you thinking so hard about? The answer is obvious.”
“Huh?” AhJung turned her head upon hearing my voice.
I stood in front of her. “That room over there is much better than these two here.” I pointed at the room across from my bedroom, and AhJung’s face turned to stone.
“Uh, no, that’s alright. I like these better,” she retorted, pointing towards the opposite side.
Our two arms pointed in opposite directions like the North and South needles of a compass.
“Why? Because it’s far from my bedroom?”
“...Uh, no?” Startled, Na AhJung shook her head vigorously.
“If it’s not that then what exactly is the reason?”
“That’s...because it’s closest to the front door. If there is a fire or an earthquake, it’s the room with the closest exit.”
“Oh...I didn’t think of that. That’s true. Then I think I should switch rooms to one of these two.”
AhJung flinched at my unexpected reaction. She looked here and there until her eyes locked onto the ceiling.
“Isn’t that a sprinkler? If there is a fire, it will turn on right away. Then if there is a fire, it will be easily extinguished! I think this room is safe enough, don’t you?”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, I think so.” She nodded her head aggressively.
“Then, you should listen to me,” I said. I grabbed her wrist and dragged her into the room in front of mine. 𝚋𝚎𝚍ｎ𝚘ｖ𝚎𝚕.𝚗𝚎𝚝
“You said I was allowed to choose my room,” AhJung questioned in a disconcerting voice.
“However much I think about it, your choice seems to be wrong,” I replied.
I arrived at my destination and placed Na AhJung in front of the door. As she looked into the room, her eyes widened in shock.
“You want me to use a room like this?!”
She looked around the room as if it was something she’s never seen in her life. Seeing her reaction, I asked, “You didn’t even open this room, did you?”
“I...I guess I forgot to,” she stuttered, taken aback.
“Forgot? You probably didn’t even look at it because it was next to my room,” I scolded her with a frown.
AhJung snuck a glance at me and asked cautiously, “Can I really use this room?”
“There’s a television and air conditioner in here, the closet is huge, the bed is a queen size, and I can use it?”
“That’s why I’m telling you to use it. So you can enjoy it.”
“That can’t be true!” AhJung dropped onto the floor as if she had found out some dark family secret.
It’s not big of a deal. I found her reaction intriguing, but I also felt a bit guilty. She had been through a lot, so my change in behavior could be a bit shocking. I coughed in embarrassment and decided to do more nice things for her.
“Let’s go out after you unpack. We’ll go to buy some things you will need. I’ll be in the living room, so once you’re ready, come out.”
She blinked at me in confusion. Assuming she’d heard me, I shrugged my shoulders and exited the room.