o1: we meet again
“Miss, step this way please.” One of many the black-suited men bowed in front of her with one of his arms stretched to his left. “The car is ready for you.”
Clutching on the strap of her sling-bag hard, YeonHee inhaled an amount of air and nodded towards him once. “Thank you,” she voiced.
Her eyes then darted side-ways where she could see some people whispering and pointing at her direction. She sighed softly and began to drag her feet towards the direction pointed by the man. The whispering crowd began to grow as she walked pass even more groups of people on her way towards the VIP exit. It suddenly occurred to her; don’t these people have their own businesses to mind?
“Your return to the country has been reported in all the major tabloids. I assumed that some of them came to witness if the rumour was true.”
YeonHee briefly looked at the young man that was walking beside her. He was supposed to act as her personal bodyguard, not her advisor. She has certainly not asked for his opinion, nor was she interested to hear any.
She didn’t even bother to reply him and kept on walking towards the car with a blank look on her face.
“My number is on your #1 speed dial. Give me a call if you need anything. I’ll be escorting your car in a distance,” the young man informed as he held the passenger door open for her. All the other black-suited men were scattered around the area, their eyes were overlooking a distance to make sure that the surrounding was safe. It doesn’t look like they’re going to follow her though, except for the young man that has now walked away after making sure that she was safely seated inside the car.
The young man patted the back of the car as a sign for them to take off and the car immediately pulled out of the waiting area.
Thus, her new life in Korea begins.
The journey from the airport to her new apartment took more than an hour. She had originally planned on taking a short nap while in the car, but the view that greeted her eyes as soon as they drove through the city occupied most of her interest. This place has really changed. Over the ten years of her absence, it looked like Korea has developed to become a much better place.
A tiny smile appeared at the corner of her lips as she could feel the delight of surprise building up inside of her. Soon, the car started to slow down and stopped in front of a tall building.
“Miss Lee,” the driver called as he held her door open. She didn’t even notice when the driver had actually got out of the car and all the way to her side. “We have arrived,” he announced politely.
With the little smile still on her lips, she looked pass the driver to observe the entrance to her new apartment. Suddenly, all the good feelings that she had crashed as anger started to rise. “Are you sure?” she asked while trying to suppress her disappointment after looking at the grand entrance to a five-star hotel.
“Yes, Miss. The President handed this address to me personally,” he presented a piece of paper with her father’s perfect calligraphy on it. “He--”.
“I don’t want this place,” she cut the man before he could utter another word. Her word was firm and her tone was fierce, making the old man feel very much agitated.
“Find me another place that is less troublesome. I want it to be normal, not this!” she added angrily.
The driver frowned at her behaviour as he was now torn between two instructions. And no matter which party he decides to turn down, he knew he would still get into trouble.
“Miss, I’m sorry. I can’t do that for you,” the driver apologized as he bowed slightly, hoping that she might reconsider. But to his despair, she pulled an even longer face in front of him.
“What seems to be the problem here?” a familiar voice suddenly appeared from behind them.
“Shim ChangMin-sshi,” the driver immediately greeted the approaching young man with a bow. But instead of explaining the situation to him on her behalf, the driver decided to back away from the door to give way for the young man to speak to her directly.
“What’s wrong?” he asked as soon as he faced her. He had to bend down a lot due to his height.
“I don’t want to live at this fancy place. I want somewhere else that is a bit simpler,” YeonHee muttered with her arms now crossed. “I told him to give me my normal life back. Why is he doing this to me?”
The young man then nodded in comprehension. “I understand. Don’t worry. We’ll get a new place for you right away.”
With that, he closed the door and went to speak with the driver. YeonHee could see objection from the driver’s face once her personal bodyguard had finished explaining some things to him. But after a moment, the driver seemed assured by the young man and finally nodded in agreement.
“I apologise for what happened earlier, Miss Lee,” the driver said when he re-entered the car. YeonHee just shook her head with a smile signalling that it wasn’t his fault. Carefully releasing the hand-break and giving the signal to the right, they were now once again on the road towards another place that YeonHee has no idea where.
“These are the set of keys you’ll need. This one is for the apartment’s main door, this one if for the garage, this is for the post-box and the smallest one is for the additional safety lock you’ve paid for,” the lady at the reception desk explained to her. “Please sign here and here. And if you happen to have any more questions later, you can come back to me or leave a note in post-box 1. The reception desk will only be attended from nine to five every day.”
YeonHee nodded briefly and dropped her signature at the said places. She then returned the few pieces of paper back to the lady who was also the manager in charge of the building.
“Thank you and have a pleasant stay at Visage Apartments, Ms Lee YeonHee,” the lady bid with a smile before YeonHee turned to walk back towards where her personal bodyguard was waiting. The keys to her new apartment are now safely clutched between her fingers.
“Everything’s done?” he asked when she was within ears’ reach.
A content smile can’t seem to disappear from her lips when she realised that she finally had things the way she wanted it. “Yes,” she replied as she got closer. “Where’s uncle JaeHwa, by the way?” she asked pertaining the driver that has sent her there. She looked around but there was no sign of him anywhere.
“Oh, his task is over for the day. So I told him to rest at home after fetching his son at school,” he explained with a smile.
YeonHee nodded a few times. Then, she brushed the few strands of her hair that was out of place before looking up to meet her bodyguard’s eyes. “Thank you, Shim Changmin-sshi, for complying with my childish wants,” she voiced sincerely. “I didn’t expect you to actually disobey by the President’s instructions.”
He chuckled and swiftly inserted his hands inside his pockets. “There’s no one around now, YeonHee-ah. You don’t need to be so formal anymore. And besides, your wish has always been my command.” He made a playful bow in front of her.
YeonHee’s good mood suddenly turned upside down as she frowned at her bodyguard’s sudden bold behaviour. “What do you mean?”
“What do I mean what?” he questioned back. His bowing gesture stopped mid-way as he lifted his head in uncertainty.
“How dare you address me so casually,” YeonHee added. “I don’t even know you that well.”
A frown appeared on his forehead. He immediately fixed his posture and looked at her in disbelief. Somehow, hurt and surprise were evident at one corner of his eyes. “You seriously don’t know who I am?”
“Of course I don’t know who you are. We’ve just met this morning at the airport! All I know is that your name is Shim Changmin and you’re my personal bodyguard sent by my over-protective father. What other nonsense are you talking about?”
Changmin cleared his throat and looked away from her. “Haven’t you at least thought of why your father approved of me being you personal bodyguard in the first place?”
“I don’t know, maybe because you’re smart and strong?” YeonHee made a wild guess.
“Well, I am smart and strong, thank you. But you’ve totally missed the point.”
Changmin paused as he carefully examined YeonHee through her eyes.
“Hmm… Nevermind,” he said at last and ran his fingers through his hair as a sigh left his lips. “Anyways, I apologise for being too casual earlier and also for causing this confusion.”
“Though, I do think it’s better if we at least appear to be friends from here on. Or else, it will be very awkward for you to have me around all the time on campus. You wouldn’t want people to know that you have a bodyguard tailing you everywhere now, would you?”
“Wait,” YeonHee’s face appeared to be in shock. “Are we attending the same university?”
“I’d have to even if I don’t want to…”
YeonHee pursed her lips momentarily. She had thought that she might have at least her university life totally undisturbed. But now it seemed that she will still have one of her father’s messengers watching over her every move even in classes.
“Fine. Let’s be friends then.” She extended out an arm to offer him a 'friendly' handshake.
Changmin could see that she hadn’t sincerely accepted the idea yet. But for him, it was good enough for now.
“Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Changmin,” Changmin greeted as he accepted her handshake, pretending that he was delighted.
“Hello Changmin. I’m YeonHee…”
A wide smile appeared on his lips as he heard her pronounce his name without formality. “Now that’s much better.”
YeonHee quickly pulled away her hand that was being firmly gripped by the young man. Her gaze scattered in awkwardness.
“How old are you anyway?”
Changmin flinched when he heard the question. But then he remembered that YeonHee didn’t remember who he was.
“I thought it was already stated on my profile?” he spoke instead. He wore a frown as he leaned against the wall with his arms crossed.
He nodded a few times. “You haven’t seen my profile?
“No. My father must’ve kept it away from me on purpose,” YeonHee grunted at the fact. “Just tell me.”
“We’re born in the same year,” he told her. “But I’m older than you by four months and fourteen days.”
Unconscious to him, a proud smile lingered at the corner of Changmin’s lips. He had remembered the dates perfectly even though they’ve been separated for more than ten years. But as soon as he caught the uncomfortable look on YeonHee’s face, the smile immediately disappeared. He fake coughed and deliberately looked elsewhere.
“Don’t ignore me,” YeonHee said with her hands on her hips. “Tell me. What’s that point that I’ve missed earlier?” she demanded.
Changmin cleared his throat and diverted his gaze towards his black leather shoes. He was trying to not have to answer that particular question. “It’s nothing, really. You should really forget about it.” He tried to insist. But he also knew that he can never hide anything from this girl. Not now, not even ten years ago.
But it’s not the time yet.
“How could I leave this if you keep on appearing as if you know everything about me and yet I don’t know anything about you?” she claimed in frustration. “I don’t like this feeling of not knowing.”
With a consoling look on his face, he looked deep into YeonHee’s eyes and said, “You do know everything about me, YeonHee-ah. You’ve just forgotten all about it…”