Chapter 4

“Good morning Taeyeon. Had a good sleep last night?” Mrs Hwang asked as she poured Taeyeon a cup of freshly brewed coffee at breakfast.

 

 

“Good morning Mrs Hwang. I’ve never slept so well in my life until I got here.  I didn’t realize I managed to sleep eight hours straight, considering I usually sleep half that time back home. You have the most comfortable pillows in the world. I ought to buy the exact same one for my home. What’s the brand of the pillows?” Taeyeon said as she sipped the piping hot coffee.

 

 

“The pillows? Oh, I just got them off the home furnishings store in town. It’s just a generic brand I believe.”

 

 

“Oh, I thought it would be some famous brand name since it’s so incredibly fluffy and soft. By the way, what is the name of the place you wanted to recommend me last night?” Taeyeon asked.  The thick black coffee trickled down her throat, instantly warming her body and jolting her senses awake.

 

 

“It’s the reflection lake. Many photographers and artists like to visit the lake. Most of the time, the water is in the lake is rather calm as there’re huge trees lining its perimeter. You’ll be able to see the reflection of the hills on the water. It’s really stunning,” Mrs Hwang explained.

 

 

“Wow, it sounds unique,” Taeyeon said excitedly.

 

 

“You should pay a visit to the lake while you’re here. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the beauty of the lake. I’ll get Seungri to loan you the spare DSLR and to direct you on how to get to the lake,” Mrs Hwang replied with a smile.

*********

 

 

“Taeyeon noona, in order to get to the lake, you’ll just need to follow the road to the right of the guesthouse. It’s very nearby and takes only ten minutes to get there on a scooter,” explained Seungri while pointing towards his right.

 

 

She slung the camera bag around her shoulders before getting onto the scooter.

 

 

“Taeyeon noona, here’s a bottle of orange juice for you in case you get thirsty. Ride safe!” Seungri placed the bottle of juice into the scooter’s topcase.

 

 

“Thanks Seungri, you’re very thoughtful. See you later. Have fun playing your computer game. Remember to rest your eyes every now and then.”

 

 

*********

 

 

The lake came into view as Taeyeon rode around a bend. A beautiful scene unfolded in front of her eyes as she got nearer to the lake. The water was calm and there was a small family of wild ducks waddling along the edges. The trees along the lake and the hills in the background reflected off the waters, resembling a painting. Just then, a kingfisher swooped down into the waters and emerged with a small fish in its mouth, disrupting the mirror-like effect of the lake.

 

 

Taeyeon parked her scooter by the side of the road, removed her helmet and headed down the path that led to the water. She strolled to the water’s edge, taking a deep breath of fresh air while admiring the lovely sight in front of her.

 

 

Wow, I feel like I’ve just stepped into a beautiful painting! This is a hidden treasure!

 

 

 

Squatting down by the edge of the water, Taeyeon dipped her hands into the water. Concentric circles formed around Taeyeon’s hands, breaking the mirror like reflection. She scooped some water using her palms and took a sip.  The water was cold but refreshing.  Looking up, she spotted a wooden jetty further down the lake and decided to head towards it.

 

 

The morning sun was partially hidden by the clouds, providing a nice backdrop for photographs. Taeyeon removed the DSLR from her bag and started to take a few test shots. Peering at the LCD screen on her DSLR, Taeyeon was pleased with herself.

 

 

Thankfully I’m not that rusty after not touching the camera for close to a year.

 

 

As Taeyeon got nearer, she saw some fishermen fishing along the wooden jetty. Most of them were drinking beer and chatting merrily with each other while sitting on small foldable chairs while they waited patiently for their catch.

 

 

“Hey young girl, don’t be shy. Come over here, we have some beer and snacks if you don’t mind,” one of the fishermen called out to Taeyeon. He motioned for Taeyeon to sit next to him while he opened a foldable chair for her.

 

Taeyeon was rooted to her spot, hesitant if she should join them. She wondered if they had any ulterior motives or if they were dangerous men. Before she could make her final decision, a man in his forties stood next to Taeyeon and nudged her towards the chair.

 

 

“We’re not monsters, we don’t eat people, right guys?” the man said aloud. The rest of the men laughed heartily.

 

 

Still feeling a bit wary of the men, Taeyeon smiled and greeted each one of them politely before taking her seat. She felt awkward initially but was soon welcomed by the friendly fishermen as if she was their daughter. As they chatted, Taeyeon learnt that some of them were sailors or fishermen who used to work at the port. Most of their children had grown up and gone to the city in search of a better life than staying in the countryside. In good weather, these men would gather around the jetty to share their stories and do leisure fishing.

 

 

Having made friends with them, Taeyeon was able to capture the men in their natural state with her camera while they were chatting merrily. She was very pleased with her photos and thanked the men before leaving the jetty.

 

 

Walking further south, Taeyeon spotted a girl with a Golden Retriever sitting underneath a huge tree. The girl was wearing a huge straw hat that covered most parts of her face.  A mid-sized drawing block was resting on her legs as she focused on sketching the scene in front of her. The dog was pacing around the girl and the tree, stopping to sniff at some flowers nearby.

 

 

The dog started barking in a somewhat friendly manner as Taeyeon approached the girl.

 

 

“Sooyeon?”

 

The girl paused and looked up from her drawing.

 

 

“Taeyeon, what are you doing here?” Sooyeon asked, curious.

 

 

“Mrs Hwang told me about this place and strongly encouraged me to come here for a visit. You like to draw?” Taeyeon asked, pointing at the unfinished landscape sketch.

 

 

Sooyeon nodded. “I come here to draw and paint in my free time.”

 

 

“You’ve lived here all your life right? Isn’t the landscape the same for the past few years?” asked Taeyeon in a matter-of-fact tone.

 

 

“The landscape changes with every season. Within each season, there’re different moods to be capture if you come at different times of the year,” explained Sooyeon.

 

 

“Aish! What’s this?!” Taeyeon exclaimed in an irritated tone. She felt something rubbing against her leg. She looked down and saw the dog sitting next to her. There were two stalks of yellow flowers in its mouth and it seemed to be asking Taeyeon to take it.

 

 

“Angel wants you to have the flowers. She feels apologetic for causing you to crash into the fence the last time we met,” Sooyeon explained.

 

 

Taeyeon raised her brow and stared at the dog. Both the owner and the dog seemed to be waiting for Taeyeon to take the flowers. Reluctantly Taeyeon bent down and remove the flowers from the dog’s mouth. The dog stood up on its hind legs and attempted to lick Taeyeon’s face. Fortunately for Taeyeon, she had rather quick reflexes and managed to dodge the impending wet tongue.

 

 

“That’s Angel’s way of expressing her affection towards someone she likes,” Sooyeon explained casually, as if she was the translator for the dog.

 

 

“Angel, down. Go over there and don’t disturb Taeyeon,” Sooyeon instructed, pointing a spot further down the path. The dog wagged its tail and walked away slowly.

 

 

“Mind if I sit here and rest on the groundsheet? It’s pretty shady here and I don’t get direct contact with the grass. I tend to itch and I’m kind of worried about the bugs that are hiding in the grass.”

 

 

“Sure,” Sooyeon giggled shyly.

 

 

“The distance I walked today is probably equals to what I normally work in a week back home,” Taeyeon exclaimed as she threw her arms up into the air. Exhausted, she plonked herself on the groundsheet next to Sooyeon.

 

 

Sooyeon picked up her pencil and continued from where she left off.

 

 

 

“Someone told me that city people hardly exercise. If they do, it’s on those machines or in shopping malls where they can shop for hours. There’re some things I don’t understand. Isn’t exercising on machines very boring? Are your shopping malls really huge that’s why it takes hours to finish shopping?” Sooyeon asked innocently, having stayed in the countryside all her life.

 

 

 

Taeyeon laughed. “That’s a very interesting way of looking at things. In terms of exercise, most of us lead a very hectic work life and often have little time to keep our bodies in shape. Going to the gym is the best way to keep fit since we don’t have the luxury of open spaces unlike here. We’re surrounded by buildings in the city. Not many of us can afford an apartment along the river .”

 

 

Sooyeon stopped drawing and turned around to look at Taeyeon as she went to explain further.

 

 

“Our malls are huge but some of the main reasons why people like to shop are to kill time and enjoy the free air-conditioning in the malls, especially during the hotter months. It’s also a good meeting place to catch up with friends over coffee at one of the cafes. We don’t necessary buy a lot when we go shopping. Sometimes it could be just window shopping,” Taeyeon added.

 

 

Sooyeon furrowed her brows, trying to digest what Taeyeon had just said. She found it rather intriguing to learn more about city people’s habits.

 

 

She seems so innocent and naïve. She probably hasn’t been to the city before. Over here there’s hardly a decent shopping mall around. Wonder that they do over here to kill time?

 

 

“So what do you do for exercise around here? How do people spend their weekends here?” Taeyeon asked, scratching her head.

“I suppose some people like to jog or swim at the river. Personally I prefer cycling and gardening. We do visit the park or go trek in the nearby hills around the lake area. It’s also a good time we get to bond with our family members and loved ones. Occasionally, someone in the neighbourhood plans a BBQ and we’ll go over for a fun time,” Sooyeon elaborated.

 

 

“Isn’t there any nightlife around here?” Taeyeon asked.

 

 

“Nightlife? You mean pubs and clubs?”

 

 

Taeyeon nodded. In fact, she planned to ask Mrs Hwang the location of the nearest pub to the guesthouse. She was bored stiff at night and wanted to go for a drink.

 

 

Sooyeon tapped the side of her head and thought for a while. “There isn’t any clubs around here for sure. The population’s too low and there’s no demand for it. However, there’s a small pub in town but they close rather early. I think it’s 9pm.”

 

 

“Oh, that’s extremely early indeed! In fact, that’s the time when most of us start arriving at the pubs or clubs!” Taeyeon was hoping for a bit of good news on the nightlife here but ended up being disappointed instead.

 

 

“Most of the people here work on farms or are fishermen, hence they tend to sleep early and wake up in the wee hours to prepare for the new day.”

 

 

I don’t think I can survive another few days here. I’ll probably die of boredom even before Kyu comes to pick me up.

 
“It’s really different from where I come from,” Taeyeon added, stretching her arms.

 

 

Taeyeon let out a yawn. Waking up early in the morning was making her drowsy, especially after a heavy breakfast. She stared into the scenic landscape in front of her. Moments later, she drifted off to dreamland while hugging her camera bag.

 

 

*********

 

 

Taeyeon felt someone licking her face. She swatted the furry person away and continued to sleep. The wet tongue kept coming at her. Irritated, she finally woke up and faced that ‘person’. It turned out that Angel was the one licking Taeyeon’s face, trying to wake her up from her afternoon slumber.

 

 

“Aagghhh! I’ve got doggy drool all over my face!!” Taeyeon shrieked.

 

 

A clean handkerchief with floral prints appeared in front of her. Taeyeon took the handkerchief and wiped the drool off her face.

 

 

“Don’t worry, a dog’s saliva is not poisonous,” Sooyeon said, trying to suppress her laughter.

 

 

“Soon I’ll have a collection of floral handkerchiefs in my room,” Taeyeon joked. She stuffed the handkerchief into her bag. “I’ll wash it before returning it to you, plus the earlier one too.”

 

 

Sooyeon smiled and said politely, “I’m leaving now. Have a nice evening, Taeyeon.”

 

 

“Hang on, are you going home? Would you like a lift back? I rode the scooter here,” Taeyeon offered.

 

 

“It’s okay. I prefer to take a leisurely walk back since the weather’s pretty good. It’s a good form of exercise for me and Angel. Ride safe, Taeyeon,” Sooyeon bid farewell to Taeyeon. Angel followed closely beside her owner as both of them walked towards the main road.

 

 

She’s unlike most of the other girls I’ve met at various functions. She doesn’t try hard to impress me. Those girls always hang out with Kyu and me just because we have the connections. Some of them want to know more important clients so that they can secure a modeling job, some are just hanging around because of free drinks or perhaps they’re just lonely and need company.

 

 

Taeyeon rode slowly behind Sooyeon and Angel, admiring the back view of the girl. The white cotton blouse, folded at the elbows and navy blue skinny jeans accentuated Sooyeon’s slim and attractive figure. Her baby pink cardigan was tied loosely at her waist. With one hand holding onto Angel’s leash, her other free arm was swaying gently.  Her dark brown hair looked smooth and shiny as its curls bounced in sync with her long strides.

 

 

Sooyeon…she seems so different from them. Kind-hearted and pure. Though I can’t say I like that dog of hers. I better get home soon and take a shower to scrub off any remnants of that yucky drool off my face.

 

Taeyeon sped up, waved goodbye to Sooyeon and headed for the guesthouse.

 

 

Sooyeon waved back and watched the pink scooter disappear from her sight.

 

 

She appears to be a nice person, though a bit impatient. Angel seems to like her a lot. She has never offered flowers to a stranger before, definitely not someone she just met for the second time only.

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