CH 13

We were walking by the lake and boarded a passing village bus by the time the blazing heat set in in August. The destination was, of course, the nearby neighborhood.

“I’ve never been in a car that shakes like this,” Jang Yoonsung, who sat behind me in a two-seater, laughed. I looked out the window because he had a smile that I might become attached to.

The scorching wind blew in through the open window. Giving attention to the man sitting near me was, as expected, not a smart idea. We wouldn’t be able to see one other again till the heat had subsided.

We boarded off the bus in front of the corner store. Jang Yoonsung had already stopped by and walked towards the refrigerator with familiar steps. He reached in, brought out two chocolate-flavored ice creams, and held one out for me. He picked it up every time because that was the only item he tried.

“Don’t you get tired of this? I’ll take this.”

I picked up a pear flavored one and asked, “Wanna try this?” but Jang Yoonsung shook his head.

“I usually don’t change my preference once I come to like something.”

“I have seen someone so loyal to ice creams before.”

“Even if it’s not ice cream.”

Jang Yoonsung’s approach toward life in the world struck me as overly serious at times. That was not how I would like to live.

“I am not like that.”

If you cherish everything, your life would be weighed down.I didn’t want to weigh heavily on his mind.It was a reward for being able to stay that way because of Jang Yoonsung’s kindness. Han Jiyoung in front of him was a non-existent person.

Jang Yoonsung carried two ice creams and paid for them without much response.

The elderly in the neighborhood were playing a go board on the wooden seat where we had previously sat, so we sat side by side on a little bench in front of the store. Although it shook beneath us, it was fine because there was cover in the form of a long tent in front of the store to keep us out of the blazing sun.

Jang Yoonsung opened his mouth without saying anything, as if he suddenly recalled something while eating his ice cream.

“Do you want to go to Seoul with me tomorrow?”

“Seoul? For what?”

“To pick a ring. It’s better to have something out of it even if it’s a fake engagement ring.”

Jang Myeongsoo visited the villa more frequently after Jang Yoonsung declared his willingness to participate in the phony engagement. Under the guise of the engagement, Jang Myeongsoo appeared to be attempting to acquire more from his father.Jang Myeongsoo sat around the table with his father, anxious to satisfy him, and spoke to me as if I were a pretty and cute daughter-in-law. He had to be a person with unusually thick skin.

Chairman Jang’s health was deteriorating, according to Jang Myeongsoo, despite the fact that he appeared to be in good health. Chairman Jang, who was fully aware of this, was impatient and eager to arrange the engagement ceremony as soon as possible.

He could see he was nervous.Jang Myeongsoo did not appear to be the person to treat Han Jiyoung fondly after Chairman Jang’s death.As a result, it is preferable to gather as many witnesses as possible through an open engagement ceremony. If I was Han Jiyoung, I couldn’t help but appreciate Chairman Jang.

Even though Jang Yoonsung stated that he would cooperate, it was extremely difficult to stage a grand celebration that could be carried on television. Other than Chairman Jang, who said his eyes were foggy, I had no idea what was stuck in Jang Yoonsung’s eyes, but the more people who saw me, the more likely I would be caught. Of course, Jang Myeongsoo would not have wanted his son, who had a bright future, to be tainted by an open engagement that was only planned to be dissolved afterwards.

Jang Myeongsoo made an excellent excuse. Since that Han Jiyoung’s adoptive parents were still in the United States and could not go to Korea soon enough, he stated, “Let’s simply have the engagement in front of our family for now.” Chairman Jang disagreed with Jang Myeongsoo’s plan, but when attempting to persuade Jang Yoonsung, he reluctantly feigned to embrace it.

Even if he didn’t trust his son, he seemed to have complete faith in his grandson. As a result, I was expected to have dinner with Jang Yoonsung’s family and receive a ring a few days later.

I never considered getting a ring while we were talking about it at the table where Jang Myeongsoo was sitting with us. Jang Myeongsoo stated that he would prepare one himself. In the same way that he arranged all of my stuff for cross dressing.

“You mean I can keep the ring?”

“I can do at least that much for you. I also told my father about it.”

“Then can you buy me a ring with gold the size of my fist.”

How much does gold cost? I replied to myself while rolling my eyes and pretending to tap a calculator in my head. It was sweet to buy someone a ring, but going to Seoul like that was absurd. I felt like kicking the air just thinking of holding a man’s hand and selecting a woman’s ring.

Jang Yoonsung, who was sitting next to me, listened to me and frowned.

“Don’t tell me, are you going to sell the ring?”

“Then do you want me to keep the ring?”

“Of course..”

He looked as if it was something to be even asked of.

“Isn’t it strange to even have it? No matter how fake it is, it’s a ring that promises marriage.”

“But it’s even weirder to sell it.”

I was taken aback by his disgruntled response and questioned who was correct. But, it was difficult to determine what was more unusual because we had a strange connection from the start.

Jang Yoonsung began to grumble in a slightly sulky voice.

“You didn’t even tell me your name, and now you are saying you’re going to sell your ring. People don’t have the least bit of honesty. If you’re not going to be telling me your name, my dog gave birth to a baby, so give a name to him.”

Jang Yoonsung brought up that story again, as if he was disappointed that I didn’t let him know my name.

“The dog doesn’t have a name? I should name him ‘Poongjak’. Since the owner seems to have a lot of good harvest.”

Who cares if the name was fake? I would tell Jang Yoonsung my name multiple times if he was an average person who couldn’t figure out anything with only the letters of a name. Yet the man in front of me could figure out everything simply by hearing the first three syllables of my name, so I had no choice but to respond feistily. Yet, I had borrowed someone else’s name, so I couldn’t even express how fucking bothersome that was.

“Are you really going to sell your ring?”

Jang Yoonsung asked again, as though he didn’t mind if I cursed. That was a gentle tone, as if to comfort me.

Instead of answering, I stuffed the ice cream into my mouth and sighed. Hence, if I bought a costly ring, I wasn’t confident that I would keep it instead of selling it in the case of a future financial crisis. There were times when I couldn’t help but be seduced by his personality, yet given our relationship, it was natural for me to be self-conscious. At the same time, I didn’t want to lie or use a fake identity.

Eventually, I jumped out of the seat. Jang Yoonsung looked at me with suspicious eyes.

“Wait a minute.”

I squatted in front of the drawing machine, which was next to Jang Yoonsung’s bench, in front of the small store. I discovered some pennies in my pocket and inserted them before pulling the lever, which released a plastic capsule. Jang Yoonsung was staring at me with wide eyes.

Only kids could play with the toy ring within the capsule. It had a less childish design, such as a flower ring or a character, but three cubic parts in a row that appeared to be fragile as soon as it was worn.

I remembered seeing Jiyoung pick something similar to this in front of a stationary store when I was little. Such rings were usually adjustable in size so that I could wear them on my adult finger.

Jang Yoonsung came out and glanced at the ring alternately as if he didn’t understand. I carefully took out the ring and put it in my hand.

“What if it’s a fake ring in a fake engagement? Grandfather’s eyes are blurry and your family won’t even care. I also can’t sell this anywhere.”

I thought I would be able to treasure it if I consider it as a joke. Playful engagements and rings. Therés no need to add meaning to it. It will crumble quickly without having to keep it for a long time.

Jang Yoonsung took a bitter look at the ring on my palm and accepted it. I didn’t sit on the bench again until I saw the toy ring safely enter Jang Yoonsung’s pocket.

“You know, about Poonjak.”

Jang Yoonsung brought up another topic, perhaps giving up on the story about the ring.


“Yeah, you gave him the name Poonjak?”

“Is it really true your dog really had puppies”

I thought it was sort of a curse aimed at me by giving his dog a name, but as if it was really true, he nodded.

“Yeah. They’re really cute.”

Jang Yoonsung pulled out his phone and opened a photo before passing it to me. A pitiful-looking golden retriever cub was holding his snout close to the camera. As I remarked the puppy was cute, Jang Yoonsung softly continued and nodded in agreement.

“Do you want to take one and raise it?”

“Wouldn’t the dog get really big? There’s no place for even a person to sit in my house.”

“Is your house small? How many people are there in your family?”

“Mom and…”

I almost mentioned my family without realizing it. I wasn’t sure if he could figure out my true identity through my family links, but it was best to keep it hidden then watch how it played out.

It was because I didn’t realize how an inadvertently spilled piece of information could be traced back to me.

Jang Yoonsung smiled regretfully as I closed my mouth before finishing my sentence.

“You’re really not easy.”


A woman arrived at the villa shortly after the engagement date was set. It was Jang Yoonsung’s mother.

Yet, Jang Myeongsoo called me early in the morning.He said she’d be my mother-in-law and that getting engaged without showing my face wouldn’t seem nice.Chairman Jang appeared to be aware that the engagement ceremony was merely a formality, but he stated that he would demonstrate enough sincerity to cover his eyes and not make a fuss.He further stated that his wife had agreed to the fake engagement and that there would be no problems.

Given the age difference between Jang Yoonsung and his brother, the woman would have been a few years older than my mother, but it was impossible to tell due to her elegant manner and vivid face. She appeared chilly and delicate, yet stunning in every way. I didn’t know where Jang Yoonsung got his personality, but I believed I knew where he got his face.

The cold expression was the same when she greeted Chairman Jang, but it was an exception for her only son.

“Mrs. Na!”

When Jang Yoonsung ran out to her, jokingly addressing her as “Mrs. Na!” the woman opened her arms with a brighter face.

“Son! How have you been?”

Mrs. Na’s name was Na Heesoo. She shouted and hugged Jang Yoonsung. It was a regular mother-son relationship for the two of them, but it became odd when Chairman Jang and I entered the picture. Perhaps the woman smiled at me because Chairman Jang was observing from the side.

“You’re Jiyoung, aren’t you? I heard you’ve been through quite a lot.”

She comforted me by patting me on the back, Han Jiyoung. It was a cold, emotionless touch.

It could have been uncomfortable for her, or she could have had reservations, but it was unexpectedly kind. That style of acting indicated that she was part of a class that did well without trying.

She made a scene without even looking at my face and expressed her feelings to Chairman Jang.

“What a relief, father. You’ve found Jiyoung and she will also become a part of our family. I already love this kid.”

“Haha, then it’s a relief.”

Somehow Chairman Jang’s heart seemed to be saying, “Fat chance!”. On the surface, however, Chairman Jang seemed to be satisfied that things were going smoothly.

When I studied those figures, I couldn’t help but wonder about one thing. Was Jang Yoonsung so dependable in Chairman Jang’s opinion? Enough to believe that he could maintain his promise even after his death, despite the strong opposition of both of his parents. In other words, Jang Yoonsung placed so much faith in me. Without any cost.

Na Heesu didn’t stay long at the villa. We ate lunch together and got up quickly. With Chairman Jang, who was not feeling well,  already inside and Jang Yoonsung and I coming out to see her leave, Jang Yoonsung’s mother didn’t seem interested in me, except for a few glances at me while having lunch. She turned to me after a lengthy talk with her son, pleading with him to return home.

“When are you leaving?”

She asked as if she had just thought of it, but in front of Chairman Jang she acted friendly and talked to me sternly as she would do to someone she didn’t know.

“I may leave before the last day of the month.”

Anyway, Na Heesu smiled smoothly at the sound of me leaving by the end of that month.

“I think Jang Yoonsung has already become so close to you. He must be disappointed.”

Meanwhile, she looked at Jang Yoonsung’s face. Jang Yoonsung shrugged, as if it was not the case at all. Perhaps, it was just a feeling but Jang Yoonsung was strangely cautious.

No, it wasn’t just a feeling. It was because he couldn’t see the pineapple tower he already got used to in front of his mother. It was because he didn’t want to be misunderstood at all.

“Right. Then let’s get along until the end.”

I smiled awkwardly at the tone that emphasized the word, end. It had already been that long.

“Hurry up. You’ll suffer if there is a traffic jam.”

When Jang Yoonsung urged her, she nodded and got into the car. The black sedan soon left the villa. Jang Yoonsung and I stood far away until the car disappeared from view.

The day I would leave that place. The day I looked forward to so much. The day I would get paid for enduring that uncomfortable and listless time.

However, I thought it would be okay if the rest of the time would pass a little slowly.

“It’s hot. Let’s go in.”

Jang Yoonsung shook his head and created a shade on my face with his palm.