“Excuse me. I’m not joking around with you,” Yi-soo declared, her voice trembling with suppressed emotions. The thin thread of rationality that had been barely holding her together finally gave way. With a decisive motion, she broke away from the suffocating atmosphere and marched towards Hyun-seong. He sat there, one eyebrow raised, legs crossed, his swollen ankles and black shoes creating a faint rhythm against the floor.
“Just how long do you expect me to play this doll game?” Yi-soo’s words carried a mix of frustration and vulnerability.
“Stay right there,” Hyun-seong commanded, his voice cool and controlled.
Yi-soo could feel his scrutinizing gaze as it traveled from head to toe, his eyes narrowing at certain points. She noticed his focus linger on the belt cinching her waist, accentuating the elegance of her white-toned dress. The dress hugged her figure gracefully, the skirt flowing down to her calves with perfect poise. The V-neck collar added a touch of sophistication, elongating and slimming her neck, making her even more stunning.
Standing there with her arms crossed, Yi-soo invited him to speak his mind. Hyun-seong hesitated for a moment before finally rising from his seat.
“That should be enough,” he declared calmly, his gaze locking with hers.
As Hyun-seong stood up, the dynamics between them shifted instantly. Yi-soo, who had been looking down, found her eyes involuntarily drawn upwards to meet his. Though the difference in height was slight, he stood just a touch taller than her.
In the midst of their tense exchange, a sharp and cold fragrance of cologne wafted over, adding an intriguing layer to the atmosphere. Hyun-seong, ever the observer, ran his fingers casually over his chin as he continued to study Yi-soo, his eyes filled with curiosity. Mesmerized, her gaze naturally followed the trail of his long, thick fingers.
“Hmm…” he mused.
“What’s wrong? If you don’t like it again this time, you can just go home,” Yi-soo snapped, her frustration seeping through.
“You look beautiful, Seo Yi-soo.”
Silence enveloped her, as if time itself had momentarily stopped. Yi-soo felt like she had encountered a glitch in reality, struggling to process Hyun-seong’s unexpected compliment. As she searched for a suitable response, he diverted his gaze, almost as if he didn’t want to see her reaction.
“Let’s go with this one. Please wrap it up for me,” he finally said, steering the conversation back to the matter at hand.
“Yes, understood. Let me assist you with the payment first,” a voice chimed in.
“Secretary Kang, handle the payment,” Hyun-seong delegated, clearly not in the mood for such mundane tasks.
“Do lawyers not have hands? Or do they not have feet…. Geez, really,” Tae-jun grumbled as he headed towards the cashier.
Amidst the mundane chatter around her, Yi-soo remained rooted to her spot, trying to regain her composure. Hyun-seong’s words echoed in her ears like a sweet melody, causing her heart to flutter with excitement.
“You look beautiful.”
Those simple words had an unexpected effect on her. Despite her attempt to convince herself that she had sorted out her feelings after four long years, she realized that her heart had never quite let go. Yi-soo’s heart beat softly, whispering of possibilities she thought she had abandoned long ago.
Having bid farewell to Hyun-seong, Yi-soo boarded the nearly empty bus, her body weighed down by exhaustion. She found a momentary relief in the prospect of finally collapsing onto her bed once she reached home.
“I should pass out as soon as I get home…” she mumbled to herself, clutching the shopping bag tightly and placing it on the vacant seat beside her. The bag held the dress he had complimented her on – a dress that now seemed to carry both her weariness and the stirring emotions from their encounter.
The journey home would take around 30 minutes by public transportation, and she hoped the traffic wouldn’t be too bothersome at this hour. Despite the fatigue that seemed to be pulling her into a deep slumber, she fought to stay alert, relying solely on her sheer willpower.
His unexpected praise still echoed in her mind, making it difficult for her to concentrate on anything else, including the fact that he had paid for the clothes. It was only upon further reflection that she realized she should return the money. The dress had cost a significant amount, but when she attempted to voice her intention to reimburse him, Hyun-seong dismissed it as if it were of no consequence.
He had promised to contact her soon, asking her to keep her phone close. But as Yi-soo thought about him, she couldn’t help but feel that he was a man whose true feelings were elusive, like trying to hold on to a wisp of smoke.
Yi-soo let out a tired sigh as she wiped her face with her palm, hoping to shake off the weight of the day. Just then, her phone, nestled inside the shopping bag, buzzed to life. Curiosity mingled with weariness; who could be calling at this hour?
Reluctantly, she fished out her phone from beneath the layers of clothes and noticed an unfamiliar international number flashing on the large screen. Ordinarily, she would dismiss such calls, considering them suspicious or annoying telemarketers. But a strange intuition compelled her to answer this time.
“Hello?” she said, tilting her head slightly, her suspicion momentarily giving way to curiosity. The silence on the other end of the line lasted for a few seconds, causing her unease to creep back.
Could it be some sort of prank call? As she prepared to speak again, there was still no response. Just as she was about to hang up, a woman’s voice finally broke through the silence.
“Yi-soo, can you hear me?”