Thursday, January 1, 2015

Chapter 1

She thinks only fools fall in love.
He can't help falling in love.
She loves being with men.
He needs to be away from some women.
When loves comes knocking at her door, will she be foolish enough to open it?

Min Su carefully opened the bathroom door and crept into the room. She tiptoed to the computer chair and picked up her suit jacket and wore it. She was buttoning it up when Sung Joo suddenly turned around. She let out a soft grunt. She’d hoped that he was sleeping. When he caught her eye, she planted a smile on her face as she looked around the room for her purse.

“You’re leaving already?” he asked gruffly as he pulled up the blanket hiding his nakedness.

Min Su pointed at the clock on the nightstand. “It’s already after one. I need to go home and get some rest.” She found her purse and walked over to pick it up.

“Oh, I get it. You just came for a hit and run, didn’t you?”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be absurd.”

He stretched his hand out to her.

She looked at him inquisitively. “What?”

“My money. You forgot to leave it on the nightstand.”

“Very funny.” With her purse in hand, she was almost ready. “Have you seen my shoes?”

“Forget about your shoes and come here."

“Huh?” She looked at him and saw that he still had his hand out to her. “Don’t tell me you really expect me to give you money.”

“Why don’t you come here and find out?”

She sighed and moved closer to slap his hand but once he caught her hand, he pulled her on the bed.

“Yikes!” She caught her balance then sat next to him. “What are you trying to do now? Haven't you had enough for one night?”

“It’s my birthday, remember?” he said, looking at her from underneath his rather sparse eyelashes.

She smiled despite herself. In a million years, she never would have thought that she’d get along with a man who pouted and acted childishly whenever he didn’t get his way but somehow she found it endearing.

She showed him her wrist. “According to my watch, it’s already past your birthday.”

“You said that my wish was your command.,” he reminded her, shoving his face right in front of hers.

She glared right back at him. “But that doesn’t mean you have to take the piss and go overboard.”

“Wanting you to spend the night with me is going overboard? How can you be so heartless on my birthday?”

She let out a huge sigh and shook her head. “You’re too much trouble.”

“Which is just the way you like it,” he said right before he wrapped his arm around her waist and forcefully pulled her entire body onto the bed.

“You could get arrested for this,” she warned as she laughed and gave in.

When they got comfortable with him spooning her, they laid in silence for a few minutes with only the sound of his breath on her neck as entertainment. “How long is this supposed to last?” Min Su asked. She wasn’t one for PDA regardless of if that P stood for “public” or “private.” It made her feel uneasy as she was constantly on high alert waiting for something to go wrong.

“Shh. You’re ruining the moment,” he whispered before tightening his hold on her.

She glanced at the clock one more time. By her calculations, she’d spent over five hours with him. They’d seen a play, had dinner then ended up at his place. Wasn’t that enough? “Don’t you have to go to work tomorrow?”

“Of course I do.” He slowly caressed her arms.

“And you don’t think you need some sleep?”

“I’ll do that as soon as you stop talking."

“Well, I need to go home and get a change of clothes or do you expect me to wear the same clothes two days in a row?”

“You can stop at a store before you get in.”

She turned her head sideways to look him in the eye. “So instead of going home to get my perfectly laundered clothes, you want me to spend my money on new ones?”

“I can pay for them," he whispered as he leaned in for a kiss.

She turned her face away to avoid his lips. “That’s not the point.”

“Then what is?”

“I want to go home, get some sleep, wake up at 7:30, shower, get dressed and go to work just like every other day.”

“But this isn’t every other day. I only turn 30 once. You can’t do this little thing for me? I’ll make sure you wake up early enough to go to your apartment and change and I’ll even drive you over in your car so that you can get some more sleep.”

She hissed. He wasn’t making it easy at all. And all this because he wanted her to sleep over?

After a few moments, she pried his arms off her body and got off the bed. When she turned to look at him, his eyes were down turned like he was a hurt little child.

Sung Joo was a guy she’d been seeing for over six months and as far as young professional men in Seoul went, he was pretty okay. He was attractive, kind, had a great body, was adept at using that great body and best of all, unlike today, knew how to give her space. He was around when she needed him and gone when she didn’t.

If fate would let her, she’d love to keep him around till they both grew tired of each other and if that meant breaking her rule and spending the night a few times, perhaps it was time for her to do that. Besides, this was an anomaly for him – maybe he just didn’t want to be alone on his birthday.

She looked down her shirt and then at him. “Well, you don’t expect me to sleep in this, do you? Got any t-shirts I could borrow?”

A smile immediately took over his face like an excited kid who’d finally been allowed to ride on a roller coaster. He jumped off the bed and into his closet. A few moments later, he emerged with a black t-shirt that looked like it’s seen many better days.

“How about this? It’s my favorite one.”

When Min Su reached over to take it, he grabbed her hand and pulled her into a hug. “Thanks so much for staying.” Then he brushed his lips against her ear and whispered, “I love you.”

On hearing this, Min Su’s body stiffened as her heart sank. Damn. And it had been going so well.


“I know you’re meeting your dream girl today but when do I get to use my own damn bathroom?”

“You want me to stop mid or what?”

“What kind of takes that long? If you have diarrhea make sure you spray the hell out of that place when you’re done. There’s no reason I should have to smell your nasty while I brush my teeth.”

“Yes, Mom.”

Tae Gyu looked at his reflection in the mirror and rubbed his freshly shaven chin. He would never admit to his friend and temporary roommate, Seung Ri, but he had taken a little extra care with his appearance that morning.

Yes, it was true that it was his first day at the new company and he wanted to make a good impression but it was also the day he was going to meet the girl he’d fantasized and dreamed about every waking and sleeping moment of majority of his high school days. He was no longer that teenage boy but still... and besides, how awkward would it be for them? He’d had it bad and she’d never given him the time of day since he was younger and nowhere as cool as the numerous boyfriends she’d had.

Back then, she’d had a reputation for breaking a lot of boys’ hearts but his cousin was her friend and had reassured him that those were just rumors made up by scorned men. But perhaps if he’d paid more attention to those rumors more, he’d have saved himself the heartache he’d carried with him into college. The helplessness of an unrequited love cut deep and was a painful a love as any.

Seung Ri banged the door. “Is there any chance I can actually use this bathroom or do I need to go next door?”

Tae Gyu flushed the clean toilet. “I’m coming out now,” he said as he opened the door to find Seung Ri scowling back at him.

“Are you sure you’re done or do you need 3 more hours?”


“Yes," he said, shoving him out of the way, "easy to say when you’re not the one who’s been kept waiting. I hope you’ve already begun to look for a new place because I don’t think I can take more than one month of this,” he said before slamming the door behind him.

If Seung Ri were a different person, perhaps Tae Gyu would have been offended by his comments but his personality changed with the time of day. Majority of the time, he was a very cheerful and cordial person but in the first thirty minutes after he woke up each morning, you could confuse him with the devil. So Tae Gyu didn’t get mad, especially as he was in no position to, seeing as he was mooching off him.


Ahn Tae Gyu walked into the lobby of the tall building and headed to the front desk.

“Seo Bakeries is on the 8th floor, right?”

The elderly gentleman sized him up. “Yes. Do you have an appointment?”

He nodded. “I guess you can say that. Today’s my first day.”

“Oh,” the man said, a smile replacing the previous look of suspicion. “You must be Mr. Ahn. I just need to verify your identity with a state issued ID and I’ll have you set up with your building card in no time. You have 24 hour access with…” he continued, rattling off the building amenities as he set him up.

Tae Gyu looked over at the other employees walking into the building. It was a 23-storey building and most of the inhabitants were dressed in formal business attire – something he hadn’t expected from a bakery. But then again, they only occupied one floor and he was at the business headquarters so perhaps it was something he should have expected.

Truthfully, he hadn’t known what to expect when he was called in to his boss’s office one day and been told that he’d been given a promotion which involved him packing his bags, moving to a new city and heading the sales department of a recent acquisition.

After business school, he’d worked at a small finance firm till he’d been offered a position at his current company. After spending a few years moving up the ranks, he’d been pushed off his well planned five year track and into uncharted waters. So he’d done as much research as he could and while he was perusing the company's website, had stumbled onto her picture. At first, he’d been stunned because he hadn’t even thought about her in years but he’d recognized her instantly and that name – Lee Min Su – was one he could never forget.

But seeing an old crush wasn’t the reason he was going to do his darnedest to make this acquisition as smooth as possible. They were a small local brand with three stores and regional mail order business, and it was his job to take their products under the parent company’s umbrella and make it a national brand. And after he was done, he would never have to hear the word ‘nepotism’ associated with him again.

With directions and his shiny new building card in hand, Tae Gyu walked over to the elevators and up to the 8th floor.

A few minutes later, the pretty receptionist led him to his office and informed him that there would be a company-wide meeting at 10 but before then, a representative from HR would be coming to his office.

A few minutes later, the rep showed up and gave him the not quite grand tour. Even though it looked like majority of the occupants of the building were formally dressed, this office was different. They weren’t exactly in shorts and t-shirts but most were dressed like they were grocery shopping on a Saturday.

He followed the middle aged woman around the office, smiling at all the faces giving him strange looks when he followed the lady as she turned a corner.

“And this is our kitchen,” she said, walking into a clean, brightly lit room. “I’ll soon take you to the business kitchen, which is where we conduct taste tests, but this our lunch room.” She walked over and opened up a cabinet. “It’s well stocked, as you can see. What kind of company would we be if we didn’t consume our own products?” she asked with a chuckle.

Perhaps that was true but Tae Gyu doubted that the bakery also made Twix chocolate and Doritos chips as the cupboard was filled with it and other snacks. He looked over at a group of people huddled around one of the tables laughing and wondered why they weren’t fat.

He was about to turn his head away when he caught a particular side profile.

She was dressed in a knee length flared skirt where she tucked in a short sleeved blouse under a wide belt. Her hair was loosely pulled back and her feet clad in low heeled shoes.  She looked just as she had the first day he'd set his eyes on her in the middle of his freshman year. That day, she'd been sitting with a group of friends at lunch answering a magazine quiz and even though she'd been wearing a uniform that day, the feeling was the same. Well, kind of.

She must have felt him staring at her because she turned to look at him and when she caught his eye, smiled.

Tae Gyu’s heart stopped. It had been almost ten years but he suddenly felt like that teenage boy that would walk past her classroom and odd times to the day just to catch a glimpse of her. Why was he finding it difficult to breathe?

Before he could smile back, she turned her head away and refocused her attention on her fellow gossipers.

“Are you ready to see the business kitchen?” the HR rep asked, bringing him back to reality.

“Of course,” he said, smiling at her. “Please lead the way.”


The computer clock read 9:52 so Tae Gyu decided to head over to the conference room. He’d had a short meeting with the COO and some other members of the sales team where he’d been informed that he’d be formally introduced to the rest of the company at that morning’s meeting. If they’d discussed other things, Tae Gyu didn’t remember because he’d spent the five minutes or so thinking  of how Min Su had barely changed in a decade and  wondering if she’d recognized him at all, and if she had, what they’d talk about. From her bio on the website, he knew that she was the Creative Director so he knew they’d have cause to interact professionally but would he revert to that teenage boy every time he saw her? He really hoped he wouldn't because it wouldn't make sense - he'd been over her for years.

He was still thinking about it when he heard a voice from behind him say, “Hey, you!”

He turned around to find Min Su smiling at him. He masked his surprise with a comparatively wider smile. “Hi.”

“So how are you doing?” she asked in a very friendly tone. The kind of tone one used for an old friend. "What's up?" She had a can of diet soda in her hand and sipped it as she waited for his response.

"I'm doing okay."

She laughed. "Only okay? Don't let me report you. I know for a fact that you can do better than that."

From Tae Gyu’s perspective, piecing together her behavior with the way she’d looked at him earlier on only meant one thing – she remembered him. The thought calmed him and he suddenly felt good. He grinned. She genuinely seemed pleased to see him and the awkwardness he'd anticipated was nowhere to be found. “I’ve been good. What about you? How are you?”

“I’m good too.”

“And your family? How has everyone been?”

“M-my family? They are fine. Thanks for asking.”

“My family’s fine too.  Even though I’m not sure I made the right decision by moving to this town, Noona is glad that she now has a place to stay,” he said, chuckling as he thought of her. He’d yet to tell his cousin that he would be working with her old friend but he could already anticipate her reaction.

Min Su looked at him in confusion then said, “Seoul’s great – you’ll love it. And you’ll be more than okay here especially at this company. We are really looking forward to working with someone with your expertise.”

“My expertise?” He took a good look at her face and it finally dawned on him that what had started off as a pleasant conversation had turned awkward for her. “You don’t know who I am, do I?”

She looked away and bit her lip in embarrassment. She placed her hands on her chest and said, “I’m so sorry. I was told that the new Head of Sales, Mr. Ahn,  would be starting today so I just assumed that was who you were. Please, please tell me today is also your first day. Don’t tell me you’ve been at this company for six months and we’ve had numerous conversations and all that..”

He forced himself to chuckle. “Don’t worry, today is my first day.” He searched her eyes for a hint of recognition but there was none.

She let out an audible sigh of relief. “Thank God. I pride myself at being good with faces so it would have been odd if we’d met and I didn’t remember, you know? I’m Lee Min Su from the creative department.” She offered him a handshake.

He took her hand. “I’m Ahn Tae Gyu from the sales department.”

She laughed. “See? I knew who you were.”

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chapter 2

“The Monthly Monday Meeting will begin in the large conference room right now,” blasted from the intercom.

Min Su glanced at her watch and smiled at Tae Gyu. “Looks like we should head in there,” she said, leading the way.

He returned a smile that revealed nothing of his true feelings. How dare she forget him? It was bad enough that she couldn’t remember his face but not even his name? All those weeks, months and even years that he’d spent thinking about her hadn’t even left the lightest footprint on her heart? He frowned as he watched her walk in. What annoyed him even more was his childish reaction to the entire thing. Considering that his feelings for her had faded years earlier, did his reaction even make sense?

“Mr. Ahn, don’t feel shy. Come into the room,” Mr. Oh, the COO cajoled, forcing him out of his mental pity party. “Everyone is eager to meet you.”

He smiled and followed him in. Then he quickly shook thoughts of Min Su away and got mentally ready for his speech. He knew everyone already thought of him as the bad guy since he was a stranger from their new parent company who not only demoted their former head of sales but as far as they were concerned, was now going to try to foist his ideas on them. It was normal with acquisitions like his mainly because of the uncertainty.  So his job was to let them know that even though we was going to put them to work, he wasn’t the enemy. And he needed to prove to everyone just how capable he was.


After the meeting, Min Su walked into her office feeling pretty good. Ahn Tae Gyu turned out to be a lot more pleasant than she’d expected. Everyone else she’d met from the Tan San group had turned out to be stuffy and snobbish but this one was different.  The merger had left her with conflicting feelings. On one hand, she hated that their owner had sold them to another company and left them entirely at their mercy. During mergers and acquisitions, a lot of negotiations were usually made to protect the acquired company; issues ranging from maintaining their benefits or their company culture but for them, all Mr. Chu had cared about was making money and leaving. So with the new company, it had just been one problem after the other. First, they forced them all to sign non-compete clauses agreeing to not work in a similar company for up to a year after leaving Seo. And when they’d tried to fight it, were told to either sign it or find a new job. Then they had to learn that the cost of their medical insurance was going up, their 401K match had reduced from 100% to 50% and worst of all, their dress code had abruptly changed from casual to business. As a result, almost all her colleagues had their resumes out and were looking for new jobs. But she’d spent so many years working her way up the ladder that she wasn’t quite ready to jump ship. So meeting Mr. Ahn, a man she’d have to work closely with was like a breath of fresh air. She chuckled as she remembered their meeting. To be honest, he’d been a little too friendly but at least he wasn’t creepy.

When Min Su reached for her mug and saw that it was empty, she decided to go to the kitchen for a refill. On her way there, she met the guy she was going to make her new best friend. Making nice with the folks from Tan San could make her life a lot less stressful.

“Hello,” she said, sending him her signature smile.  “I really liked your speech at the meeting.”

“It wasn’t a speech – just an outline of what I plan to do here.”

She chuckled. “Of course. I think everyone is excited to have you on board. So how’s your day been going so far?”

He glanced at his watch. “Well, it’s only a little past 11 so not that much different since we last spoke.”

Mmkay? She laughed with slight embarrassment. “I know… it was a long meeting. But we only have them once a month so it’s not too bad.” She waited for a response from him but when she got none, said, “It sounds like you have a lot of advice concerning our rebranding.  I suppose it just won’t be as simple as replacing our logo with yours, huh?”  she joked.

“We would certainly need to do more than that to take your products national, don’t you think?” he replied coldly.


“Sunbae, what do you think of Mr. Ahn?” A younger employee asked as soon as she stepped into her office. She shut the door behind her and moved closer to Min Su’s desk.

Not looking up from her computer screen, she replied, “What do you mean?”

“Isn’t he a lot cooler than all the other people from Tan San? At least he’s not ancient like the rest of them.”

Kim Hye Won was an employee that had joined her team about three years earlier. She’d been very nervous and insecure about her abilities back then so Min Su had taken her under her wing and become her unofficial mentor.

“And he’s kind of cute, don’t you think?”

Min Su shot her a disapproving look. “Do you come to work to date?”

“Sunbae, how can you say that to a newly engaged woman?” she asked, showing off her diamond ring for the umpteenth time. “I just want to know what you think of him since we’re going to be spending a lot of time with him.”

“What do I think of him?” Weird? Bipolar? Her prior feelings of optimism had been drained by his sudden cold attitude. Now she was a little worried that he’d be a bit of a nightmare. “I’ll tell you in a few months.”

“So how was your dream girl?” Seung Ri asked from the other end of the line.

“What dream girl?”

“Or did she turn out to be a nightmare?” He laughed at his own joke. “Was that just an old photo of her and she's now fat and ugly?”

Fat and ugly might have softened the blow. “Is this what you called me for?” Tae Gyu asked in irritation.

“Since your office isn’t too far from mine, I figured I could show you the best place for lunch in these parts – a fabulous salad bar.”

“I’m surprised you actually want to hang out with me. This morning, you were acting like you wished I was dead.”

“Omo, are you getting sensitive on me?”

Tae Gyu ignored his question. “The team is taking me out for lunch today so maybe tomorrow.”

“Alright then. But you still haven’t told me about your dream girl. Still as pretty as you remembered?”

 “Seung Ri, I’m too busy for this.”

“You can at least tell me if she remembered you or not. Did she remember you?”

“I’m hanging up.”

His friend burst out laughing. “So that is why you’re so mad! I—"

Tae Gyu cut him short by hanging up on him.


“Thank you,” Min Su said as she walked through the door a fellow customer her opened for her. She joined the long line of fellow lunch goers.

“So he told you he loves you?”

Min Su frowned as she held the phone close to her ear.  She could hear the smirk in her closest friend’s voice “Yep.”

“And now you’re going to dump him?” Joo Hee asked, making sure her tone reflected her disapproval.

She didn’t reply as she looked over the menu. What was she in the mood for? A sandwich or a really yummy salad with all the trimmings?

“You’re stubbornly going to be single for life, aren’t you?”

“And what’s wrong with that? You know I don’t do love.” A male customer moved aside and gestured at Min Su to cut in front of him but she shook her head and thanked him with a smile. Standing in front of him would mean having to listen to him hit on her and she was not in the mood for that.

“Grr. You’re so frustrating. What’s so bad about love?”

“Should someone who’s lost weight, gained weight, lost a job, had her bank account emptied, gotten—” She stopped herself before adding the word ‘hit.’ “You’ve been through so much bulls.hit because of this crap and you still think you can convince me that love is grand?”

“Yes, all that has happened to me but am I dead? I went through a lot of but it was all worth it now that I’ve found true love.”

Min Su pretended to throw up. “Give me a break.”

“You really don’t want to be happy like me?”

Min Su thought about all the times she’d watched her friend bend over backwards to please a man who as far as she was concerned, wasn’t fit enough to wipe her smelly shoes. “Mmm... no.”

 “I can’t wait till you stop lying to yourself. If you hate relationships so much, why do you date?”

Min Su sighed. How many freaking times were they going to have this conversation? “I love spending time with men and all that comes with it. But as I’ve told you many times, I like to have a very uncomplicated life.”

“Which is why you’ve left a string of broken hearts in your wake, right?”

She looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping and whispered into the phone. “As you’re well aware, I tell each and every man I date that I’m not looking for anything serious and each and every time, they are delighted.”

“Till they get their hearts broken.”

“How’s that my fault?”  Really, how was it? To be fair, she sometimes felt bad but not bad enough to actually consider getting serious with them. Never that.

“Whatever. Just be gentle with Sung Joo. He’s such a funny and sweet guy. Do you really have to do this? I feel so bad for him.”

“Instead of worrying about him, why don’t you ask yourself if you’re sure you want to surprise your boyfriend at home?”

She chuckled. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind a little midafternoon nookie.“  He always worked from home on Mondays and she’d heard no complaints the one time she'd shown up unexpectedly. In fact, he loved it so much that he’d asked her to do it every week.

“Mmkay, Hun. I’m about to place my order so I’ll talk to you later.


Joo Hee took one last look at her reflection in her compact mirror and when she was satisfied with her refreshed make-up, picked up the container of lunch she’d bought on the way and stepped out of her car. They’d been together for a little over a year and as she was hoping for a proposal in a few months, was doing everything in her power to be extra nice and wonderful to him, which was kind of hard since he was so messy. They’d moved in together about five months earlier and they had been five of the hardest months in her life. But no man was perfect and she was just going to have to get used to picking up after him. Picking up after him, not talking back to him, giving him space, never gaining a pound and the list seemed to get longer every day. But he was the kind of guy who surprised her with roses at work or a helicopter ride for lunch so as far as she was concerned, it balanced out.

She shut the car door and walked towards their apartment. She didn’t even have to pull out her keycard because a neighbor walked right out as she approached the door. She didn’t have to press the elevator button before one arrived in front of her and opened up. When she stepped in, it didn’t stop once before arriving at the 14th floor. Something was wrong.

With a suddenly weary heart, she slowly walked towards their apartment. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, right? She gritted her teeth when she realized that she was letting Min Su’s warning and overall negativity cloud her judgment. Not having to wait for an elevator was a good sign, for crying out loud!

Once she was in front of her apartment, she stood in front of the black door and said the number aloud. But maybe there was something to what Min Su said after all, that girl had never been dumped in her entire life. Maybe she should take her advice and not disturb a man who was very hard at work. Her nerves had to be all over the place for a reason. Besides, if she didn’t walk in, she wouldn’t get any unwelcome surprises and before long, she’d be engaged or married. She’d already begun to look through bridal magazines for the style of dress she wanted. One great thing about constantly being on a diet was that she looked good in everything – even mermaid gowns.

At the age of 19, she’d been proposed to by her first love but instead of following her heart, had listened to everyone – her family, her friends, even his family– and turned him down. A few years later, when it became clear that she couldn’t find a better man, she’d begun to regret that stupid decision.

And now because of that mistake, she was standing like a pathetic woman in front of her home instead of going in confidently like the woman her parents had raised her to be. She took a deep breath in, punched in the code and walked in.

She braced herself for an unpleasant scene and walked into the living room. The television was on but he was nowhere in sight.  Curious about where he was while wasting electricity, she put the food in the kitchen and called out to him. “Oppa! Oppa!”  But there was no reply. She’d seen his car parked outside so she knew he had to be around. She smiled and felt at ease. Was he really working hard and not goofing off? Even at lunchtime?

With a smile on her face, she walked towards the study room and when she turned the knob, began to make a joke about his dedication to his job when she stopped midsentence. She shook her head and rolled her eyes at the sight. “Why so cliché?” she whispered more to herself than the two people who were looking up at her with stricken faces.