(Originally posted 6 Apr 2014 on tumblr)
Yoo Rachel arrived at the outdoor filming location for the drama A Daughter’s Revenge half an hour earlier than she was scheduled to. The sun was still an hour from peeking over the mountains to take the chill out of the early autumn air, though in this thick a forest, it would take several hours for everything to warm up. With any luck, she would be long gone by then. She fished her gloves out of her coat pocket and put them on while her assistant found an empty stretch of gravel to park the van.
Even this early on a Monday morning, the filming location was a hive of frantic activity. A Daughter’s Revenge was already in its third week of live shoots, and they still had two more weeks to go. It was a ratings juggernaut, inching ever closer to forty percent, which was one of the reasons why Rachel had bothered to come in person instead of letting her assistant handle it.
A crew member rushed to the van almost before they were parked. He knocked on the driver’s side window until her assistant lowered it.
“Can you turn off your headlights? We’re filming right over there.” He pointed into the section of forest currently awash in yellowish light.
Rachel couldn’t see anything out there from the back seat, but her assistant immediately shut off the headlights.
“It’s all right. How can I help you?”
“We’re from RS International,” said Lee Min-ah. “We brought the product placement clothing for Moon Chae-won.”
“Right. I’ll grab her team and have them come meet you.” The man scampered off before Min-ah could respond.
“Leave the engine on until they arrive,” said Rachel. “And close the window. It’s cold.”
“Of course, Team Leader.”
It only took a few minutes for Moon Chae-won’s team to arrive, which forced Rachel out of the warmth of the van. Rachel supervised them as they helped Min-ah pull the jackets out of the back of the van and over to Moon’s prep area. They hung the jackets by color and style on one of the empty racks.
Rachel inspected each article of clothing again while she let Min-ah chat with the team. Min-ah was in her early thirties, with an unassuming face and friendly demeanor that made it easy for her to blend in and put others at ease. She was also a fan of A Daughter’s Revenge, so it didn’t take long for Moon’s people to warm up to her. Min-ah was clever, too, and it hardly seemed like work for her to shake loose some very interesting details about Moon Chae-won’s current and prospective endorsement deals. Rachel hoped her mother would let her keep Min-ah—she was a valuable asset—but that would likely depend on how well sales went this week.
Once she was satisfied that everything was perfect, Rachel took a seat in one of the empty camping chairs nearby. At this point, the only thing left to do was wait for Moon to finish her current scene. Rachel pulled her coat closer around her throat and wished she had brought a scarf. The mountains were colder than she remembered them, though not yet as frigid as a snow-covered New York.
She was so preoccupied with the cold that she nearly missed Lee Hyo-shin when he walked by.
The Hyo-shin in her memories usually wore his Jeguk uniform, a suit, or some other sharp outfit. His clothes were never the most expensive, but they always suited him and his pedigree. Rachel had never imagined he owned a pair of jeans that worn or a bulky green coat that had clearly been chosen for warmth instead of aesthetics. He looked like he fit in with the rest of the young crew members he was hauling lighting equipment with.
(The Hyo-shin in her memories hadn’t finished growing into his shoulders yet, either.)
It wasn’t until he smiled at her that she was even certain it was him. The last time she’d seen that smile was outside a psychiatrist’s office.
And just like six years ago, Hyo-shin disappeared the moment she turned away when someone else called her name.
Rachel kept looking for Hyo-shin throughout the fitting and grew increasingly irritated every time she realized what she was doing. It would have been polite to greet him, but if he wasn’t going to pause long enough for the social niceties, she was under no obligation to seek him out. She had work to do.
Work that proved equally frustrating. It was one thing to deal with a coordi whose sole purpose was to make a celebrity look good, but PD Kim Yong-soo was known for his meticulous—almost obsessive—attention to detail. Even with sponsored clothing, he insisted on having final approval to ensure that everything built toward his vision.
It made for gorgeous, compelling television, and a great excuse for Rachel to practice diplomatic smiling despite her violent urges. Min-ah, she noted sourly, was either an expert at it or blessed with an infinite well of patience.
PD Kim finally approved of two of the jackets before rushing off to micromanage something else. The sun was peeking over the mountains now and staining the world pink and gold, but none of its warmth filtered through the autumn leaves. Even though Rachel was tempted to help Min-ah pack up the jackets that weren’t selected so they could get back into the van and turn on the heat, she made sure to pay Moon compliments about her drama, her acting, and her figure.
“I hope we’ll have opportunities to work together in the future,” said Rachel.
Moon gave her a small, tired smile, and her exhaustion made her cut straight to the point. “The jackets are lovely. Did my manager get you my agency’s information? I review all offers personally, so it may take a few weeks before you receive a response.”
“No need to rush a decision, especially after your grueling schedule. I hope you treat yourself to a vacation after the drama is finished. You deserve to rest. Have you ever been to Maui?”
They exchanged a few last pleasantries while Moon’s staff rushed around getting her breakfast, water, and the script for the next scene. Rachel made a polite but quick departure once Min-ah returned and signaled discreetly that everything was ready to go.
Min-ah had just opened the van door for her when someone called out, “Yoo Rachel!”
She turned back toward the filming location in time for Hyo-shin to jog over to her. The gravel crunched loudly under his feet, for all his steps and smile were light.
“So you do remember me. I wasn’t sure if you had—it’s been six years.”
“You recognized me.”
“You’re memorable,” said Hyo-shin. He opened his mouth, glanced at Min-ah, and then apparently thought better of what he was originally going to say. “If you are heading back to Seoul, could I get a ride?”
Part of Rachel was disappointed by the question, and the rest of her was irritated at herself for being disappointed for no reason. It was a perfectly reasonable request—she was headed back to Seoul—though she wondered where his car was. Had he rode with one of the other crew members? “I’m not running a taxi.”
“Which is why I’m going to offer to pay you in witty conversation and breakfast instead of won. As witty as I can be on thirty hours without sleep, at least.”
“And if I don’t think you’ll be witty enough?”
Hyo-shin’s smile widened at her verbal jab. For a moment, she was tempted to smile back. Talking to him hadn’t always been comfortable or pleasant—it had been confusing and complicated after Bo-na’s party, in fact—but she’d been able to be honest with him in a way she hadn’t been with many other people.
“Then I’ll walk down the road until I can get reception and call to reschedule my appointment.”
“What sort of appointment?”
Another glance at Min-ah. “One that will help me change my life, I hope.”
She eyed him, but he didn’t elaborate. He just stood there, smiling, in his ugly coat, as if his life didn’t actually hinge on her answer. There was two- or three-day-old scruff on his chin and cheeks and the beginnings of dark circles under his eyes. He might have last slept thirty hours ago, but she guessed even then it hadn’t been for long.
“Fine. But I get to pick where we eat.”
He didn’t quite laugh, but he did offer her his hand as if this were some sort of business agreement. “Deal.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “Just get in the car, sunbae.”
Hyo-shin climbed into the van first so he could take the far seat, behind Min-ah. Rachel followed him inside and was grateful at how quick her assistant was to start the engine and turn on the heat. Within moments they were away from the filming location and back on the winding mountain road.
Silence settled into the van, too large with the weight of six years. Rachel glanced over at Hyo-shin only to catch him already watching her. His earlier smile was gone, replaced by a quieter expression drawn in delicate lines. She had no idea what to do with that face.
“I never got to thank you,” said Hyo-shin, “for telling Tan that I had enlisted.”
She had no idea what to do with his gratitude, either, so she bought time by turning her attention to taking off her gloves.
Hyo-shin, she noticed out of the corner of her eye, did not look away from her.
“It seemed pretty pathetic for you not to have anyone to send you off.”
“It was,” he agreed, and she wished for a moment that she had found better words because his voice and face changed as easily as flipping a switch, and he was back to how she remembered him best: confident, teasing, with an undercurrent of ready mockery in everything he said. “Tan wasn’t as good as having a girl promise to wait for me, but our farewell was still moving. It brought tears to my eyes.”
“I’m certain it was worthy of a great poem.”
“Or at least a third-rate script.”
“A second-rate script since you were involved.”
Again, that not-quite-laugh. “I’m flattered.”
“You should be, considering who you were with at the time.” Rachel smoothed her gloves in her lap and looked him over again. “But you came home safely?”
“I did. And you? I heard you went to Columbia University.”
A pleasant sort of surprise washed over her. Had he looked for her after he was discharged?
It was more likely he had heard it in passing. Their potential social circle was small and interconnected, and it was only natural that he’d hear of her accomplishments.
Though that didn’t explain why she hadn’t heard more about him.
“I did. I’ve been back in Korea for a year now.”
“So what are you up to? Besides working at your mother’s company.”
“I’m enrolled in the global MBA program at Sungkyungkwan University. What about you?”
“Just Seoul National University,” Hyo-shin said, as if attending the school that was one of the major gateways into Korean politics and business could hardly be called an achievement. Many Jeguk alumni attended the school, if they didn’t study abroad or if they were from government or law families. “I’ll be graduating in—”
Rachel’s phone beeped loudly—not once, but five times in rapid succession from a sudden influx of texts, and then it sounded the tone that meant she had missed calls. Several of them. Min-ah’s phone also went off in the front seat.
“Looks like we have reception again.” Hyo-shin glanced out the window to gauge their place on the road. “It wasn’t as far as I thought.”
“I can kick you out now if you like,” Rachel said as she fished her phone out of her purse. It was probably work if both she and Min-ah had been contacted so early in the morning. She only intended to glance at the texts, but their contents had her hitting the call button immediately instead of listening to the voicemails.
Team Leader! We just got the news. There was a fire in one of the Incheon warehouses early this morning. No word yet on the extent of the damage, but it was a big fire.
Nearly half of the building is gone. Firefighters anticipate there will be a lot of smoke and water damage to remaining product. We’re trying to get a hold of one of the managers.
Manager on scene. She just pulled the records—almost 50% of the new jacket inventory was in the warehouse that caught fire. What are we going to do?
None of our people are allowed on the scene until firefighters are sure the fire is out. Can’t estimate how much product is salvageable until we can investigate.
There was even one from her mother: Call me.
“What’s wrong?” Hyo-shin asked.
Rachel met Min-ah’s eyes in the rear-view mirror. “We may have just lost a good portion of the inventory we wanted to sell through our product placement.”
Rachel did not speak to Hyo-shin again for the rest of the drive. She was too busy strategizing with her mother over how to handle their worst-case scenarios.
Hyo-shin slept. At some point he pulled off his ugly coat and wadded it up into a makeshift pillow so he could lean against the window. It looked ridiculously uncomfortable, but he slept through both the pain and her sometimes terse conversation, his arms folded across his chest, only occasionally stirring to scratch at the stubble on his face. His long-sleeved shirt was close-fitted and a faded black that suited him more than she would have thought. He smelled like the forest: old trees, earth, and cold air.
When Rachel finally hung up, they were already well into Mapo-gu. “We need to head to Incheon. President Lee is going to contact the manufacturer to see what we can do about production.”
“Of course, Team Leader. We’ll take the Seongsan Bridge across the river. What about him?”
“Drop me off at a subway station,” Hyo-shin muttered, though he kept his eyes closed. “Or wherever. M’not picky.”
“Kind of.” He let out a long sigh, dragged one hand over his face, sat up, and blinked open his eyes. “Sorry.”
“For falling asleep on me or for the current state of your hair?”
Hyo-shin half-smiled and combed his fingers through his hair to fix the mess his coat had made of it. “For not being able to pay you back properly for the ride.”
“What sort of businesswoman doesn’t collect on the debts she’s owed?” Rachel held out her phone. “Give me your new number.”
“How did you know my number was new?”
“What sort of person keeps the same number for six years?” she countered, because it was easier than admitting the one time she had tried his old number when she was in America.
“True.” Once he handed her the phone back and put on his coat, he said, “There’s a station just up ahead. You can drop me off there.”
Min-ah pulled over a few seconds later. Hyo-shin practically had to climb over her to get out of the van—his calves brushed her knees, which he apologized for, and she ignored.
He grabbed the handle of the door, but he didn’t shut it. He lingered there, his gaze somewhere off in the distance.
Hyo-shin focused on her again, though he still looked like his mind was elsewhere. “I saw Choi Young-do’s number in your phone. Are you close to him?”
“Think you could deliver a message for me? I know—you’re not a messenger. Still. In exchange for another breakfast?”
That earned her a half smile. “You certainly are a businesswoman. Lunch, then.”
“What’s the message?”
“It’s not certain. I’m not certain, at least. I had to—” Hyo-shin shook his head and started over. “That’s not important. Just tell him that his father might be eligible for early release.”