She arrived at the venue well ahead of time, but such was her plan. Desiring to be the first to arrive, she wished to ensure the reservation was in order and to simply wait at the table for Dong Hun. After all, it was she who had invited him, so it seemed only right to treat him as her distinguished guest this time. Contemplating such minutiae allowed her to keep her emotions at bay, emotions she undeniably felt but chose not to reveal until she could assess the situation fully. She had no intention of complicating Dong Hun’s life once more.

With everything prepared, she sat at the table, drifting into memories of Busan. „How did I endure it?” she marveled to herself, astonished at how far and long she had been from him. Memories of nights spent almost howling in loneliness and the sheer willpower it took not to jump on a train to Seoul just for a glimpse of him resurfaced. Many times, she had reached for her phone, his number glaring back at her, but the knowledge of his efforts to rebuild his family life held her back from calling. The fact that he never called hurt deeply, yet she understood his predicament, even feeling the weight of his struggles after his wife’s betrayal.

„But you could have called…” she thought with a sigh and a reluctant admission. Indeed, it’s hard to fool one’s own heart. It invariably unveils the most meticulously laid plans of the mind and its finest excuses.

Her gaze wandered to the window, as their table was right by the restaurant’s display. The weather was spring-like, a truly magical time in Seoul. Pink blossoms adorned the trees, the sun was not too scorching, and the air was filled with the sweet disarray of love. Such was the scene on this street as well. She glanced at a modern apartment building across the way and wondered, „Perhaps Dong Hun was involved in its development?” It seemed just like him: simple, sturdy, aesthetic. „I could live here,” she mused.

For the first time, she checked the time on her phone laid on the table. It was now 3:17 PM.


„Hmm, perhaps he’s caught in traffic, or maybe he missed the train if he took the subway?” her mind unconsciously searched for reasons for her guest’s absence.

After taking a sip of water, she returned to observing the street. To the waiter who approached, she mentioned she was still waiting for another person and would signal when they needed something. She hardly noticed when the bustling street scene faded from view, her mind busily crafting its own images.

„Maybe he forgot… Perhaps he mixed up the times… Could he have gone to the wrong address… Maybe…” she caught herself genuinely starting to worry. The anxiety from the day before returned with increased force, layering over her current uncertainty. „This isn’t like him at all!” She checked their text message exchange again, everything seemed normal. Had he wished to cancel or been unable to attend, he would have said so outright. After all, this was her ahjussi, whom she knew so well.

After a half-hour of waiting, she decided to send another message, a playful reminder of their meeting. She sent it, but it remained unread! Reluctantly, she tapped the green call button. A dial tone was swiftly replaced by a message stating the phone’s owner was currently unreachable or had their device turned off.

„How can this be!” This reality seemed so surreal that she tried calling again, only for the operator to ruthlessly confirm that the call could not be connected.

Lee Ji An was utterly bewildered. It had never occurred to her that Dong Hun might simply not show up, let alone be unreachable.

„And now what?” she thought, feeling the tears start to roll down her cheeks.

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