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The sun was glowing after a night’s rest and soared through the sky proudly, its beam pouring through the window. Hanul held Jae Hee in his embrace, both enjoying the warmth their significant other provided before the darkness passed into oblivion.
“I like to look up at you like this.”
Hanul looked up at Jae Hee, her face beet red. Hanul always had a filled busy schedule, his time limited. But right now he’s enjoying the presence of his loved one without any interference and care for the world. This moment with Jae Hee was a precious memory to him. Although he flew away with Jae Hee without the consent of her father, the matter now seemed insignificant, what was more important now was the woman in front of his eyes.
When Hanul started a public love affair, he hadn’t enjoyed a peace of mind. Wherever they went, Jae Hee’s guardians would follow in the shadows, and the curious stares of the people watching them made him uncomfortable. Of course few people in Venice knew of his presence here, but not as much as it was in Seoul.
“So why do not you look down? Like this.”
Jaee Hee’s eyes peered down at him, palms on top of his chest to support her weight. Her long hair flowing freely, touching his chest. Hanul pulled her closer in his embrace, his left hand stroking Jae Hee’s hair.
“This.. don’t worry about it. Let’s just enjoy the moment.”
Jae Hee pressed her head on Hanul’s bosom and closed her eyes with a smile. She could feel his beloved’s heartbeat pounding on the left side of his breastbone. Jae Hee mused over the reasoning as to why Hanul chose to fly abroad. Perhaps it was to paint her memories of pure bliss and happiness. Lost in thought, she heard a ding. It was her phone. Before leaving Korea, Hanul turned off both their phones so she hadn’t found the proper time and place to check her messages. Jae Hee streched her arms and grabbed the phone on the bedside table.
Jae Hee’s eyed bulged as she stared at the screen.
“What?! What is it?!”
Quick as a lightning, Hanul raised his upper body, his eyes circling on the screen.
“Jae Hee, Ryu Hwan was discharged.”
It was Jae Hee’s mother, Min Kyung. Jae Hee began to chew her nails with a nervous smile plastered on her face. She knew her brother was being discharged but she did not know it was yesterday. She could picture her brother in front of her, his eyes narrowed and looking at her grudgingly.
“What is it?”
Ding dong. Soon, another message arrived on the screen of the phone.
“Jae Hee, do you not want to see your brother? I’ve been gone for far too long and you don’t even bother to see me? What should I do?”
She knew the meaning of the sentence fairly well and felt an impending sense of doom. He’s looking for her.
Jae Hee turned her head and looked at Hanul. Her face grew tense. Hanul swallowed his saliva and thought of Jae Hee’s father cutting off his head.
“We are running away!”
“Let’s run away, we have to leave Italy now.”
Jae Hee jumped off the bed and shuffled an over-sized pastel blue shirt over her head, her actions seeming so desperate. Hanul looked at her blankly and grabbed her two hands, pulling her back to the bed and asked in a calm voice.
“Really, what’s wrong? If we go away, I have to know the reason why.”
“My brother was discharged. And he’s looking for me! “
Jae hee shouted in urgent voice. She knew Ryu Hwan had misunderstood the events of the past, thinking that Hanul had abandoned her, and she was uncertain of what would follow when both her lover and brother met face to face.
“Is it so surprising that he wants to see his sister?”
“Not really. Maybe he’s already on a plane to Italy.”
“Jae Hee, he would have to fly for over twelve hours on a plane to get here, and would he come to Italy as soon as he was discharged? Besides, what are the chances of him finding our location? Haha, am I right?”
Hanul smiled happily as if he had heard a funny joke. It was impossible for his common sense to wrap the idea of Jae Hee’s brother flying on a plane soon as he left the military.
“You don’t know my brother well…”
“What kind of person is your brother?”
“Someone you don’t want to meet.”
Jae Hee sighed with a grim look. If she met her brother right now, she would need to provide a necessary explanation. Moreover, at the time of her father’s presidential election, she and Hanul got together. She knew her brother well, and surely he would misunderstand the situation. Also, she did not wish for anyone, her brother included, to interfere with the short time spent with Hanul.
“Even if your brother is flying here right now it would take some time. At least half a day is enough, so let’s sleep more.”
Hanul laid back on the bed pulling the hand of the woman in front of him. He had no reason to be afraid of her brother. Jae Hee sighed and leaned her head against his chest.
“Shall we go to Venice? There is a masquerade festival ongoing right now.”
“Yes, Venice. There you can ride a gondola and watch the beautiful scenery. “
“For now, let’s sleep. So close your eyes. “
The two slept through the morning, and that afternoon, the two ran out in the glittering sunshine with a bright smile.
Venice, the city of water.
The woman, standing on the gondola, shook her two fists tightly, her anger written all over her body. Her big eyes, cloaked behind the mask, scowling. If looks could kill, Ryu Hwan would be dead. Ryu Hwan looked at the woman’s dark pupil, and although the mask covered a huge portion of her face, he imagined her being of Asian descent.
“Do you speak Korean? Japanese? Or is it Chinese?”
Ryu Hwan needed to apologize and began to speak in English.
“Are you not riding?”
Gondorie, the owner of the gondola, questioned the woman writhing in anger. The woman who was staring at him for a while, rushed back to the gondola, her rear view similar to Jae Hee.
“How did I make a mistake?”
Ryu Hwan shook his head and slapped his cheeks.
“If you’re not riding, I will have to ask you to leave.”
Gondorie glared at him and raised his voice, his comment directed towards Ryu Hwan. He thought that two were sweethearts, fighting due to some problems.
“I will have to intrude you.”
Ryu Hwan hesitated for a mere second before stepping into the gondola and stood behind the woman. He slipped out a Euro coin for the cost of boarding the gondola.
“I apologize for what happened earlier, I mistook you for a person I know.”
The woman did not respond as he spoke in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Her head remained fixed on the view in front of her. Resigning to his fate, Ryu Hwan sat the opposite side of her. He looked back at the woman and sighed. He was unable to appreciate the pleasant scenery in due to the embarrassing situation earlier, acting without a thought.
The woman willed herself to ignore his existence. Thinking of being abruptly pulled into Ryu Hwan’s bosom and his arm snaking its way around her neck, her face grew dark. Moreover, she saw him looking at her every now and then. He was a rude man, she thought. She refused to face him, the reason being that it would mean forgiving his unruly behavior.
“Korean, Japanese, or Chinese… I thought you would be one of the tree.”
On the other side of the gondola, Ryu Hwan was shamelessly speaking to himself. The woman understood the words spoken, but remained silent, refusing to let him know she understood Korean.
This time Ryu Hwan spoke in English. He seemed to have an idea of speaking all the languages of the world till the woman was able to recognize it. This time, the woman could no longer pretend to ignore him. She swallowed her pride and turned her head.
“Oh, you can understand me now? Listen, I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else and I mistook you for her.”
Ryu Hwan apologized, his voice solemn. The woman nodded, accepting his apology and turned her head back.
“Uhm.. what to do… ?”
Ryu Hwan began to speak in Korean.
“I have something to tell you…”
Her body shook, his voice somewhat ominous.
“Uhmm… your skirt…”
The woman’s eyes widened and bowed her head down. She saw her skirt fluttering in the wind revealing her thighs. She stood up at the speed of light and briskly fixed it. Before turning her head, she saw the man bear witness to what just happened. Her cheeks flushed red.
The ride grew silent.
“So… you understand Korean.”
Ryu Hwan continued to stare at her, his chin rested on his palms. The woman whose cheeks were flushed red looked down and bit her lower lip, refusing to meet his gaze.
“If that’s the case…”
Ryu Hwan sighed and did not talk to her anymore. He threw his gaze out to the beautiful city of Venice as he tilted his body back. It was ridiculous, he thought. Feigning as if she did not understand him. It was obvious she did but did not want to speak to him.
“Which country are you from?”
At that time, Gondorie spoke to him suddenly. He found the silence of the two people becoming inconvenient and the atmosphere too dull.
“That woman too?”
“I don’t know. “
Ryu Hwan glanced at the woman. Though the masked covered half of her face, her skin like snow, soft dark eyes, and ebony hair are no doubt of Asian descent.
“Miss, have you ever heard the popular saying that when you kiss under the Rialto Bridge during the sunset, love will happen?”
When the gondola passed under the Rialto Bridge, Gondorie spoke to the woman softly. The woman’s lips widened slightly.
“Yes, I’ve heard of it. But it’s just people talking to entertain tourists. “
She began to speak. Ryu Hwan’s eyes turned to the woman. He thought she would continue to remain silent, ignoring the questionings of Gondorie, but to Ryu Hwan’s surprise, she started conversing with him.
“It’s not a story I made, but it’s true. I also kissed and married my wife under the Rialto bridge. So if you have a man you like, you should bring him here. “
She glanced up at the gondolier and lifted her lip slightly up. Ryu Hwan’s eyebrows lifted up, feeling as if he’d heard the voice before. He wanted to hear more of the woman’s voice but unfortunately, the conversation between the two ended. When the woman’s eyes met Ryu Hwan’s, who looked at her with a curious look, she closed her lips and turned away. Ryu Hwan, seemingly unhappy with her action frowned and threw his gaze into the horizon. Gondorie, who watched the two people turning their heads in different directions, began to chant a song. The song hit the hearts of the two.
Ryu Hwan turned his head, his gaze remaining on her snow white face.
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