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Chance Encounter

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His head felt it was literally going to split in half. It was throbbing so bad that when Seon Ho opened his eyes, his whole world spun around, forcing him to close it again.

"Ahhh. Jjajeungna jjinja.” Exasperated, he covered his squinted eyes with both arms and tried to remember the cause of his headache. Pieces of vague scenes flashed in his mind and what stood out was that he was in campfire with Geun Young and two other people. It was hard to decipher if things really happened as his world felt swirling. He haphazardly turned to his side to stand up but next thing he knew his face and whole body was slapped in a hard and cold wooden floor. He opened his mouth to utter the pain out but a voice groaned on his behalf. The unexpected sound scared Seon Ho and jerked him into a sitting position.

“Owwww…stupid…son of a..."A young man who was also lying, facing the floor, cursed as he furiously smoothened his forehead. He tried to stand up but his elbow bumped at the big luggage bag that was on his side. It toppled down at his head then back, making him groan louder.

Seon Ho crawled towards the man to help take out the luggage. “Are you, okay?”

The young man looked at Seon Ho like he saw a ghost. “Hyung!”

It took a few seconds for Seon Ho to recognize the man in front of him. He was in his dreams. The one holding Geun Young. Rae Wan. Geun Young’s boyfriend. Wait, so it wasn’t a dream then? “Are you okay, Rae Wan?” he asked again, genuinely worried as the luggage bag was heavy and it hit the young man’s head rather badly. He helped him stand up.

“I’m fine, hyung. Sorry for disturbing your sleep.” Rae Wan avoided his eyes and awkwardly bowed. “I’ll head out now.” Without looking back, he rushed out of the door with luggage on tow.

Seon Ho stood stunned for a minute trying to process what happened but got distracted when he became aware that he was standing on a stranger’s bedroom. Where was he? Whose room was this? Before he was able to formulate answers to his questions, a faint sound of a car engine roaring to life caught his attention. He mindlessly followed the sound until he found himself at the back porch of the cabin where Rae Wan was fixing the car compartment and a Ji Young signaling him to hurry at his side.

“Rae Wan, where are you going?” He loudly called out the young man.

The duo almost fell on their place upon hearing his voice. "Oh, we are just going to get something. We’ll be back, hyung!"

Seon Ho knew something was off by the reaction of the two. He was usually quick in picking up signals, yet with his hangover state just made him dumbly stare at the duo who were now starting the car.

"We need to do a quick run! We'll be back, Oppa!" Ji Young waved at him as the car sped off.

"Wait, where's Geun ---- ?!" He tried to chase the car but resigned when it disappeared out of his vision. He glumly dragged himself back inside. Carefully inspected the strange and quiet surrounding, looking for clues of who owned the cabin. The more that he found nothing in each room, the more he got scared that someone might barge in and accuse him of trespassing. He decided to find his way back to his cabin instead by rushing to the front door to escape. A yellow sticky note posted on it stopped him on his track. “Unnie, Rae Wan and I went off. Will be back on Friday. We have the car, your phone and laptop. You have no way out. P.S. Deal with it before it’s too late! -xoxo, Ji Young-ie & Rae Wan-ie

She's here? They left her? He took the sticky note and re-read it. A soft snore resounded in the house, startling him. He thought it might be Geun Young but the snore got louder that he was sure it came from a man. After much hesitation, he curiously followed the sound leading to the second floor. He found a broom and held on to it ready to swat it in case needed, forgetting that in the current scenario he was more of the intruder. Tightening his grip on the broom, he walked around searching. The snores stopped and he found a small curled form of what seemed like a little girl sleeping with her back against him. The girl suddenly snorted and resumed on snoring loudly. She murmured something inaudible. He was about to approach her when she rolled on her back revealing her face. “Geun Young-ie?!” He knew it was impolite to gawk on a sleeping woman but he can’t help but admire the sight before him. She looked angelic in her sleeping form and it contradicted the manly snore she was emitting. He chuckled at his discovery. “How cute.”

---

Disappearing in to thin air was impossible but was the only solution that Geun Young could think of that she started praying to the high heavens for it to miraculously happen. The series of events in less than 24 hours was so embarrassing enough, much more dealing with it in front of a clueless man who doesn’t have an inkling idea that the reason of her dilemmas was him.

“Geun Young-ie, what do you need to deal with? I can help you out if you need support.” Seon Ho’s face etched with genuine concern. Answering him will mean revealing the truth and she wasn’t ready to deal with it yet. She changed the topic instead.

“Oppa, why are you holding a broom?” Totally forgotten he was holding one, he quizzically looked at his hands.

“Oh, uhhh. I thought… it was for defense.” He let go of the broom.

“You were going to hit me with a broom?” She laughed at his reddening face.

“I’m sorry. Uh, I thought you were someone else. I heard loud snoring so I checked it out and… just wanted to make sure it was safe.”

It was her turn to blush. Her well-kept secret from society was busted by no one else but with the man she liked a lot. Dramatic as it may sound, being exposed by her embarrassing quirk felt like a confession. She silently prayed again for a miraculous disappearing act. “Sorry for snoring like a bear.”

“Oh, no, no. I should be the one sorry, Geun Young-ie. I disturbed your sleep. And you don’t sound like a bear. You sounded cute!”

She huffed at his lie.

“No seriously, it was cute. Also, I’m used to people snoring while I sleep. Two days, One night trained me well.” He joked. “Seriously, you should hear them live.”

Geun Young looked at him and they both fell quiet. He cheerfully smiled at her. She gave him a small smile. He lifted an eyebrow in question, she sighed in return. He narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, as if clarifying something with her. She pouted at him and bobbed her head as if agreeing with him. She sighed in relief. Weirdly enough, she understood their strange signals as if they verbally spoke and she’s sure he understood it as well.

“I will keep it a secret, don’t worry.” Seon Ho promised her. “You don’t have to be embarrassed about it.” He gave her a dimpled smile. “Most especially coming from you it’s sounded very cute.”

Cute was an overused compliment that she heard on a daily basis from people around her - family, friends and fans. She had always wished that people will use a much more flattering description to compliment her. She hated the word cute as it made her feel being transported back to her 12-year-old self that the whole nation watched her every move and step. The girl everyone boxed with a title of ‘Nation’s little sister’ and seen as someone who never grew up. Yet, hearing that cute compliment from Seon Ho felt she was so beautiful even if she had a gross habit. She wouldn’t mind hearing it from him again. She savored his compliment while trying to have a poker face.

“So, Geun Young-ie, why did Rae Wan leave you here? What do you need to deal with? I can help you if you need anything.”

“It’s nothing, Oppa.” She assured him. “Don’t worry about it. They’ll be back on Friday.”

“But it’s only Wednesday! And they took away your things. They said you have no way out because they took away the car. What are they up to?” He heaved a sigh. “Do you want me to drive you somewhere? Or bring you back to Seoul, Geun Young-ie?”

“Oh, no! No need, Oppa. I’m fine. I’m fine! Don’t worry.”

“Then what are you going to do here by yourself? You have to wait for two more days. You can’t be alone here…” Seon Ho’s face crumpled with worry and his tone starting to sound like a lecturing mother. He looked genuinely stressed. Geun Young had to bite her lips to stop herself from smiling. She knew he was worried of her wellbeing but the way he was so affected looked endearing to her that it made her heart flutter and guilty the same time. She had to tell him the truth sooner or later or else she’ll get in to a deeper mess.

“…Rae Wan shouldn’t have left you in the middle of the mountain alone… Who in their decent mind will leave their girlfriend by herself…” Seon Ho continued with his passionate lecture.

“Oppa…”

“Hmmm? His reaction and the questions after scared her the most. She managed to say it with a calm voice but not looking at him directly.

“Rae Wan is not my boyfriend. Ji Young is not a friend of mine.”

“Huh…? What do you mean?”

“Ji Young is my sister and Rae Wan is my cousin… I’m sorry, Oppa. It was a… lie.” Geun Young slowly looked at him, preparing to deal with his disappointment on her. Seon Ho’s face was unreadable though. He was staring into a space, mouth speaking but no voice coming out. Eyebrows creased and one had pointing around aimlessly in the air. Like a having a monologue on a stage. “Oppa?”

“Hmmm. It makes sense now.” He tilted his head towards her.

“…what do you mean, Oppa?”

“He doesn’t act like a boyfriend to you.” He shrugged. “Rae Wan was more focused on giving me soju shots and chatting with me than talking to you last night.”

“Oh?” He took notice of those small things? She was taken aback by his calm reaction.

“And he wouldn’t leave you just like this in the middle of the mountain if he cared about you a lot.” Seon Ho sat on the couch near her. “Why did Rae Wan and Ji Young lied to me, Geun Young-ie?”

“They… wait, you’re not mad at me, Oppa?”

“Hmmm? Why would I be mad at you?”

“How did you know it was the two who made up the lie?”

“Why are you answering my question with another question?” Seon Ho laughed at her but answered her question anyway. “It made sense now. When they were introducing you, they were fidgety. And I understand now why you were a bit off last night.”

“I’m sorry, Oppa. I should have stopped them. The two are very close and well….” Her voice trailed off, too embarrassed to continue.

“It’s okay Geun Young-ie. It wasn’t your fault.” He warmly smiled at her.

“Well, the truth is the two were making fun of me because they think my love life sucks. Both of them know you as my co-lead and… they were trying to pair you up with me.” She shook her head for the nth time.

Geun Young didn’t notice his curious stare at her. “So, they were trying to make me feel jealous?”

She slowly and shamefully nodded. “I’m sorry again, Oppa!”

“They must have blackmailed you that’s why you can’t fight back, eh?”

“How did you know?!”

“It’s a younger sister and cousin’s job to tease and blackmail their older sister. That’s my job to my cousins since I don’t have siblings. They all hate me for being an expert on it.” His boisterous laugh rang in the room.

“I’m sorry, Oppa…”

“You have to stop apologizing, Geun Young-ie. It’s fine, really. Your sister and cousin should be the one apologizing.” He stood up and smiled at her very relieved. “I’m glad he’s not your boyfriend.”

His last remark was laced with care and innocence but hit her different. She shook off her assuming thoughts and stood up as well. He was looking at her, waiting as if expecting her to reply. When she did not, he asked her a question instead.

“So, what’s your plan for today, Guen Young-ie?”

On cue, her stomach grumbled loudly. They both laughed.

“I haven’t eaten since last night. For the trouble we caused, can I invite you for breakfast, Oppa? I’ll cook.” Geun Young gave him
a sheepish smile.

“I won’t say no to that!”

---

A few minutes ago, she wanted to hug and thank her sister for thoughtfulness. She was ready to forgive their dirty antics. It all went down the drain the second she saw the breakfast table set-up that, no doubt, the duo created. If killing wasn't a crime, she would have hunted them right at that moment and murder them with her bare hands. It was Seon Ho who saw that there was food prepared in the kitchen. Hangover soup and pasta in the stove, loaves of bread in the oven, and brewed coffee in a pot were ready to be re-heated. Juices and cold salad were in the refrigerator, rice was already cooked, egg rolls and side dishes were lined up in the kitchen counter. She was deeply touched by the feast prepared but she should have known there was something to it. As they headed to eat, the dining room door was locked. A small post it note directed them to proceed to the front porch were a "surprise" was waiting.

"Wow, that's a beautiful table set-up." Seon Ho let out a low whistle. "Did your sister and cousin do this?"

She was too shocked to answer him. Indeed, the table looked beautiful – grandly set-up for a date. Their small dining table that can accommodate four people was dressed with a dainty red table cloth. Two slotted chairs were placed on each end. Fancy plates, utensils, wine glasses, flower centerpieces and even small glasses of scented candles were perfectly positioned in the table. Top of the cherry were red and white petals of roses scattered around the floor circling the table. On how the duo were able to manage to do everything and get some utensils she never seen before; she cannot comprehend. She didn't notice Seon Ho had approached the table until he spoke.

"Oh. My name is here?" He picked up a paper name plate with a nice calligraphy of his name was written. "Your name is written is there too, Geun Young-ie!" He pointed to the other one across him then got innocently confused. "So this is for us two?”

They both fell silent, waiting for the other to speak. Geun Young fervently implored the high heavens that Seon Ho won’t get a hint. While Seon Ho quietly assessing and trying not to assume anything from what he was seeing.

She broke the silence by randomly babbling to compensate the awkward silence. “We don’t have to eat here, Oppa! If this is too much for you. We can eat inside. Rae Wan works in events and he is good in designing set-ups. I’m sure it was Ji Young who cooked as she’s studying culinary and wanted to flaunt her skills. Those brats. They had to do this to force us to have a date….” Her heart must have stopped beating when she realized the last words she spat out.

He tilted his head in question. “Ah. They did this for us to have a date?” Small smile forming in his lips which she didn’t notice due to her panic. “A breakfast date?”

“Ahhh….”

“Hmmm. Sounds nice. Shall we eat here then? Let me get the food.” He cheerfully went inside without even waiting for her answer, leaving her astounded. Did he just liked the idea of them having a breakfast date? She slowly followed him inside to help him out.

---

From afar, anyone who saw them would think they were beautiful carved statues guarding the cabin. They were both quietly standing opposite each other in the front porch stairs, overlooking the mountain view. Lost in their own deep thoughts, not aware that they were both worrying about themselves and how they might have stupidly acted in front of each other for the past hour and half. Between the two, Seon Ho looked more uneasy. The alcohol seemed to have already gone out of his system and the reality of his actions and words this morning were catching up on him.

I’m glad he’s not your boyfriend?... So, they did this for us to have a date? Breakfast date? Sounds nice? Shall we eat here then? The brazen words he told her whirled around his head repeatedly. Wow, that was smooth and brave of you Seon Ho. He wasn’t sure if he should scold himself or be proud for having the courage to flirt. Then again, it was liquid courage that made it possible. He suddenly worried that he might have made her uncomfortable and promised himself to be more careful of what he will say.

“Thank you for the meal, Geun Young-ie. It was delicious.”

“Ah. You’re welcome, Oppa. But I think we should thank Ji-Young. She was the one who cooked for us.”

“I’ll make sure to thank her once they come back here on Friday then.”

“Oh. Are you staying here in the mountains until Friday, Oppa?”

She caught him there. He’s not good in lying so he confessed immediately. “Uhm, until Thursday but I’ll extended it to Friday. I’ll accompany you. You can’t be alone here by yourself.”

“Oh, no! You don’t have to…”

Arguing with her will be pointless. He was sure she will push him not to stay. A plan clicked in his head and hopefully it will pan out smoothly. He’ll make sure she won’t stay in the cabin until Thursday. The earlier he gets her out of there, the better. “Fine. Just promise me that when they get back on Friday, you’ll let me know, okay?

“I promise!” She raised her hand as if swearing an oath.

Time to put his plan to action, he casually leaned his back to the wooden pillar at his back. “So, Geun Young-ie. What are you up to today?”

“Hmmm?”

“You won’t just stay here in the cabin, right? It’s your birthday. You should be celebrating."

“Ahh. I don’t have any plan when I decided to celebrate my birthday here. I just wanted to get away of the city and my work."

The pout in her face worried him. When it came to work, she was a ball of energy and for her to get tired of it only meant something big bothered her. Recently she shared to him that she was considering doing theater plays again. Being a thespian, it was something he was happy and proud of, helping her re-kindle her interest in something he was very passionate about. Months ago, he invited her together with some of their co-stars to watch his latest play. Since then, she hasn't stopped gushing on how amazing stage plays were and how much she missed the adrenaline in being one.

She immediately sensed his worry on her so she quickly assured him. “It’s a long story, Oppa. Don’t worry about me.”

“Long story? I have all day and have nothing to do. I’m all ears.”

“Oh, no. No, Oppa. Don’t worry too much about it.”

“The more you say don’t worry about it, the more I worry about it.” He teased. “So come on. Spill, Geun Young-ie.”

“It’s a long story, Oppa. I don’t want to keep and bore you with my woes.”

“I’m a boring person. I’m a storage of boring stories. Come on, give it to me.”

He sensed the hesitation in her. Need a little bit more push to make the plan work, he thought. “Guen Youn-gie?”

“Yes, Oppa?”

“I need help.”

“Oh. Sure! What is it?”

“I’ll show you later. Can we meet in an hour?”

“An hour?”

He scratched his head and shyly laughed. “I just need to freshen up and change clothes. I've been wearing this since yesterday."

“Oh, okay, Oppa. Are we going somewhere?”

He mischievously grinned at her.

“Can you give me a hint?”

“No. You didn’t give me a hint about your long story so I won’t give one too.”

She looked at him with her big doe eyes.

He fought the temptation to concede by giving her naughty smirk. "No, that won't work on me, Geun Young-ie."

"Huh? what won't work?" The shock on her face was so innocent that it was hard for him not to resist on impluse. Still looking at her eyes, he unconciously walked towards her and lightly pinched her cheeks. "So cute." Then as if it was the most natural thing to do of him, he gave her a quick light hug.

“See you in an hour!” He cheerfully waved at her and went his towards his cabin. Not able to see the shocked but furiously blushing Geun Young who was stuck at her place for a good more five minutes.