Those Three Words

 

I met you

When I first saw you walking through the gate, you reminded me of the golden sun peeking through the clouds after an afternoon shower. The strands of your light brown hair fluttered in the breeze as you pulled the collars of your jacket closer. You tucked your hair behind your ears as your curious eyes darted around the compound.

A lady, I presumed was your mother, accompanied you to the administration office. I didn’t manage to hang around to wait for you because the school bell rang and I had to go to my classroom. At the start of the class, Mr. Kim announced that there would be a new student joining us from today. He turned his head towards the door and beckoned for the person to enter.

I had a hunch it was you and I was glad my intuition was right. You stood in front of the classroom, looking a little nervous as you gave your short introduction. Your sweet voice filled the classroom as everyone listened to you attentively before giving a round of applause to welcome you to the school.

Mr. Kim assigned you to a seat at the back of the class since you were tall. I turned my head around as I followed the trail of wisteria as you walked past me. Yuri, our class president greeted you as you took a seat beside her. You gave a quick nod to her and took out your books from your bag as you settled down in your seat.

We had lunch together in a group on several occasions.  Most of the time, you would rather listen then participate in the conversations.

I like you

Yuri did a great job of being your assigned buddy at school. She showed you around the school compound, familiarized you with the school system and culture and even studied together with you. To be honest, I was a little jealous of Yuri, being able to hang out with such a pretty girl all the time.

I must admit that I was captivated by your beauty. Your beautiful eyes, your smooth and silky long light brown hair that cascaded down your back and your fair complexion. You made my heart flutter each time I saw you do a hair flip or when you smile. Your smile was as bright as the sun, filling my day with joy. When I first heard you sing during music lessons, your powerful vocals brought out the emotions of the love song and tugged at my heartstrings. I was moved to tears when you sang the last word.

The first time I had a private moment with you was on a rainy day. It was a cliché moment but I guessed that was how most teenage love stories started. I approached you and offered to share my umbrella with you. The moment you said yes, I was absolutely ecstatic! I remembered trying to contain my squeals inwardly as I opened my purple umbrella. Somehow my umbrella refused to open and I was trying my best to see where it got stuck. My nerves must have gotten to me. You took the umbrella from me, your fingers brushing against mine and sending tingles throughout my body. With a slight tug, you managed to pop the umbrella open before holding it up above our heads. That was the start of the countless conversations we shared.

It started off with schoolwork before we got more comfortable with each other and started sharing tidbits of our personal life with each other. Your parents decided to send you to study high school in Seoul so that you would keep in touch with your Korean heritage. I was glad they did else I wouldn’t have met you.

As time went on, we could talk about almost anything under the sun, except about love. I liked you a lot but I was afraid of destroying the beautiful friendship we had built up. I could only push my feelings to the bottom of my heart and kept it there till the time was right.

Once, while we were lying on our backs under the shade of an oak tree at a park, I was so tempted to confess my feelings for you. It was the perfect setting; birds were chirping, a light breeze was blowing, us lying on our backs on the picnic mats after we ate homemade sandwiches and drinking sparkling grape juice.

Being the sleepyhead, you fell asleep very soon in the cool summer breeze. I watched the rise and fall of your stomach and listened to the sound of your soft breathing.

I lay on my side, admiring every inch of your face. Your eyes were closed and there was a faint smile on your face. I was envious of your long and thick eyelashes. I even noticed a tiny mole on your cheek, something which I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t have this opportunity to see you up close.

My eyes travelled further south and stopped at a pair of pink lips. The gloss on your lips instantly drew me towards it. Unknowingly my body had moved closer to yours and soon my face was just inches away from yours. I had to use a lot of self-control to prevent my lips from landing onto yours.

In the end, I opted for a kiss on your forehead but sadly it never happened because I was too afraid to do so. I knew you held an open view to relationships but I didn’t know you well enough to predict how you would react. I was afraid of rejection and how our friendship may end with this kiss. Hence, I held back my feelings and kept a comfortable gap between us. I could only keep those thoughts of kissing you at the back of my mind.

I missed you

We chose a different college because we had different interests in life. You, being more creative, preferred to dabble into design and fashion while I went for the traditional business course. College life was far busier than I had expected. There were projects to complete and tons of homework to do.

It had become a routine to text you daily, to call you every few days and to meet you weekly. The moment I woke up, I would send you a quick ‘Good morning’ and knowing you were such a sleepy head, your reply would come a little later. We would chat over Line app, sending random emoticons to cheer each other on. At times, I would make the effort to call you for a quick chat, just to hear your voice. There were occasions I fell asleep with my phone in my hand because I was waiting for you to reply me. I remembered waking up early the following morning, hoping to see a reply from you but there was none. I was disappointed but assumed you were busy and had forgotten to check your phone.

Sometimes we wouldn’t meet on weekends because we had to meet our group mates for group projects. Weeks became months since the last time I met you. Each time you told me you couldn’t meet me, my heart sank. I didn’t know why I was feeling this way. You kept telling me you were busy with your new friends and school. To be honest, I was jealous of your new friends who seemed to have stolen your attention away from me.

I confined in Yuri, who was also in the same college as me, about my feelings for you. Being the analytical sort, she told me that it was probably because I liked you more than just a friend. That sentence got me thinking for the whole night, unable to sleep. I had never been in love before and didn’t know how it felt. All I knew was that I missed you badly. I thought about you very often and even if I didn’t, you were always at the back of my mind. I guess I had fallen for you.

On your birthday, I decided to surprise you with a ticket to the amusement park. I stood at the bus stop opposite your college, waiting for you to come out. I was pacing up and down the bus stop, getting strange stares from the students who were there but I didn’t care.

The moment I saw you walking out of the school gate, a scene from the first day I met you in high school flashed across my mind. Your hair colour was darker and you had curls at the ends of your hair that rested below your shoulders. My heart pounded with excitement as I made my approach towards you.

I was less than fifty meters away from you when I saw a car stopping next to you. A handsome tall young man got out from the driver’s seat and walked towards you. I stopped in my track, watching the both of you. You looked very happy to see him and you ran towards him and threw your arms around his neck. He opened his arms to welcome you and enveloped you in a hug. My heart shattered the moment I saw him planting a kiss on your forehead.

He wrapped his arm around your shoulder and led you to the car. Opening the passenger door, he ushered you in before he went over to the driver’s seat. I was rooted on the spot, unable to move. My heart sank as I watched the car disappear around the bend. Feeling something warm on my right cheek, I brought my hand to touch it. It was then I realized I shed my first tear. Soon, a few more followed. I wished the road would open up, swallow me and take me away from my misery. I tossed the tickets into the bin nearby and dragged myself home.

Now I finally knew why you were so busy. You had a boyfriend. I was both upset and hurt at the same time. Firstly, being your good friend, you didn’t tell me that you were dating. Secondly, I regretted not confessing my feelings to you earlier. I should had listened to my heart and confessed to you that day we were lying under the oak tree. Now, it was too late.

The next day, you called me. The phone calls kept coming but I kept rejecting them. You sent me text messages, asking if I was free to meet up but I kept giving you all sorts of excuses why I wasn’t free to meet. The truth was that I was afraid you were going to break the news of your boyfriend to me and I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the heartache of hearing it from you face to face.

Soon, you stopped calling and texting me. I was having mixed feelings about the state of our friendship. I still valued our friendship but I knew I could never look at you in the same way again if we ever met face to face. Nonetheless, we still exchanged birthday, Christmas and New Year greetings via text messages every year.

I found you

Life worked in funny ways. I remembered how surreal it was when I heard your voice after several years. I was chatting with colleagues at a pre-event cocktail reception when one of them pointed to the main entrance excitedly, asking the small group of us to look.

It felt like a scene out of a Hollywood movie; I turned my head slowly towards the main entrance and the glass of gin tonic almost slipped out of my hand as I let out a gasp when I saw what the fuss was about.

A distinct sense of déjà vu hit me instantly when I saw you walking through the main entrance, dressed in a black tube dress and holding onto a gold clutch bag. The lights from the spotlights at the main entrance bounced off your blond hair and flawless shoulders. The curls at the ends of your long blonde hair were bouncing softly as you sashayed on the red carpet and into the function room where the pre-event cocktail reception was held.

I felt my heart pounding hard and it was then I realized I never did forget my feelings for you. Those tucked away butterflies seemed to burst out with fury, causing me to feel somewhat light-hearted for a moment.

Your eyes swept across the room, presumably looking for your colleagues. The moment our eyes met, it felt like everything around us was frozen in time. You frowned a little before the sense of recognition spread across your face, causing the corner of your lips to be upturned into a smile.

“Taeyeon.”

No one else could say my name like you do. Perhaps it was your unique Korean accent that made my name sound so special. I always liked hearing you call me, in fact, I would never get tired of your voice.

After the event, both of us went to a nearby coffeehouse and spent the rest of the night catching up with each other. It was funny how we didn’t ran out of topics to talk nor was there a single moment of awkwardness as we shared what we were up to for the past few years of our lives.

When it was closing time, we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet up again soon. Being the proactive sort, you stepped forward and gave me a hug before you left. All the feelings I had for you rushed out of a hidden compartment of my memory vault and flooded my body with warmth. I wrapped my arms around you and hugged you back. I wished I didn’t have to let go.

Two weeks later, we arranged to meet again. We chatted until the restaurant closed. We said our goodbyes outside the restaurant. Before you could take a step forward, my arms were already around your back, giving you a goodbye hug. You must have been a little surprised because it took a brief moment before I felt your hands around my back. If only you would see how brightly I was smiling the moment your hands circled my back.

We started to meet up with each other regularly over dinner. Our conversations ranged from work to reminiscing about our school days. Each time when it was time to say goodbye, it ended up with us trying to see who gave the goodbye hug first. It was a funny sight to see two people chatting and suddenly one of them would step forward and hug the other person at the most random moment.

As time went on, our hugs became longer and tighter. It seemed like we couldn’t bear to each other go. I knew I definitely didn’t want to let you go but I wasn’t sure if you felt the same way as me.

One evening, you called me to pick you up from your office as you didn’t drive that day. I arrived at your office promptly and was greeted by the beautiful sight of you waltzing through the main doors of your building and heading towards me. Some guys smoking near the main door stopped to look at you but somehow I had the feeling that you only had your eyes on me.

We headed to a new restaurant at the edge of the town and it was quite a long drive. We chatted about random topics on our way there. It felt like we were going on a date. I couldn’t stop smiling as I constantly stole glances at you while I was driving. We had a nice Western dinner, paired with red wine and lovely live jazz music. After dinner, we went for a stroll in the garden.

While we were reminiscing about the old school days, you suddenly asked me why I stopped contacting you during college. You weren’t convinced of the excuses I gave to avoid you. It had been so many years ago and I was surprised you still held it against me. I finally admitted why I stopped contacting you. It was because of your boyfriend.

Your brows creased and you folded your arms across your chest. You didn’t speak for a good minute while staring at me. I could feel you were angry but I didn’t dare to ask why. When you finally spoke, you told me that the boy was your cousin from the States. He was posted to Seoul by his company for three years and since you were quite close, he wanted to surprise you on your birthday. You didn’t realize I was there at the school gate and witnessed the whole scene. When your classmates told you that they saw me that day, you were worried I had the wrong idea and tried to contact me but to no avail.

My heart sank and I berated myself for my stupidity. I should have clarified matters with you instead of assuming you had a boyfriend.

You couldn’t believe I had such little trust in you after our strong friendship in high school. I could see tears welling up in your eyes as you fought to keep them from falling. You yelled at me for being an idiot and even pounded your fists on my shoulders. You scolded me for not making an effort to find out about the truth. I didn’t know why you were so upset since the incident happened a long time ago.

You said you would get a taxi home. You turned around and headed towards the taxi stand. I saw your slim figure walking away from me and knew I had to do something. I couldn’t afford to lose you again.

I love you

I ran after you and threw my arms around you in a back hug. You stopped in your tracks and I could hear light sobs coming from you. I pressed my face against the side of yours as I rubbed your arms, trying to sooth your sobs.

Drumming up my courage, I decided to say those three words I had been meaning to say since that day under the oak tree. However, the three words that came out of my mouth were different from what I had planned to say many years ago.

“I love you.”

Those three words had evolved from a simple ‘I like you’ to something that held more meaning and sincerity. Those three words rolled off my tongue even before my brain could focus on what I should say.

You didn’t say anything. I was thankful you didn’t struggle out of my grasp and allowed me to hold you tightly in my arms. After you calmed down, I placed my hands on your shoulders and turned you around. I cupped the sides of your face and tilted your head towards me.

The anger in your brown eyes disappeared and was replaced with relief.

I remembered saying, “It doesn’t matter how long it has been, you’ll always have the same effect on me as when we first met back in high school.”

I couldn’t remember what I said after that because I lost my mind when your lips pressed against mine. My stomach was a flutter with plenty of butterflies and my head was filled with shooting stars as your body pressed against mine. Until today, I could still remember the feeling when you ran your fingers through my hair and cradled the back of my head as you kissed me that night at the garden. It was our first kiss and it was definitely very memorable.

We spent the night at my apartment, whispering sweet nothings to each other, raining kisses on each other and laying in each other’s embrace. When I woke up the next morning, I lay on my side and watched you sleep. You looked so peaceful and had a faint smile on your face. I assumed you were dreaming of me (yes, I was that thick skinned!). I wrapped my arm around your back and curled my legs around yours. I snuggled closer, inhaling the faint scent of wisteria and I felt your arm curling around my neck. Waking up next to someone I loved was something I had always wished for. It was then I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my lifetime with you.

I love you so much and I am glad you love me too

You’ve heard me say ‘I love you’ a hundred times, a thousand times and perhaps a million times. I say it to you when we wake up, I say it to you before we go to sleep and I probably say it in tens of times during the day, either over the phone or via a text message. You’ve probably heard it many times in television, in movies, online and on radio. Those three words may seem cliché but I want to you to know that I mean it with my heart each time I say it to you.

You’re my best friend, my soulmate and you complete me. I used to regret not clearing things up with you during college but you’ve always told me to cherish the present and that is more important to head towards the future and build it together.

I remember vividly the day when you said yes. It was six months later since the night we professed our love for each other at the garden. We were walking down the beach, feeling the warm and smooth sand underneath our bare feet. The sun was setting, casting its orange rays on the surface of the sea. We ventured nearer to the water, letting the low tide washed over our feet as we walked down the stretch of beach holding our shoes with one hand and each other’s hand with the other.

It was a blissful moment for me, walking down the beach with someone I loved so dearly. We found a mid-sized rock near the breakwaters and I helped you up as you sat on it. I remembered you had a questioning look on your face when you saw me getting down on one knee. My heart was pounding louder than the waves of the sea as I produced a light medium robin egg blue box from my jacket.

In there was a simple ring with a diamond set in the middle. I popped the question and waited anxiously for your reply. You couldn’t imagine how elated I was when I saw your eyes lit up like the twinkling stars in the night sky and your lips were in the shape of an upturned crescent moon. You got up and wrapped your arms around my neck. Your lips connected with mine and it felt so right. My mind was dizzy with happiness when you uttered a firm ‘Yes’ during our kiss.

It has been three years since we got together and I’m happy that our love is growing stronger with each passing day. We also learnt not to take each other for granted, trying to make up for the lost time.

On this snowy evening, we sit on the couch in our living room, tuck warmly under a shared fleece blanket as we watch a variety show on television and sipped our cups of hot chocolate. I like to run my fingers through your soft hair and down to the back of your neck. Seeing you smile blissfully whenever I massage the back of your neck lightly makes me smile too.

I hold your left hand in my right and brought it to my lips, kissing the back of your hand, leaving a faint chocolate kiss imprint. You glare at me with angry eyes and I know you’re merely kidding. I lift your hand towards me and kiss away the chocolate stain. You giggle and playfully flick my forehead and I pretend to grimace in pain. Then you lean forward to kiss me, making all my pain go away and my heart melt.

I wriggle my fingers around before tightening them around your smooth soft hand. Then I loosen my grip, flex my fingers again before curling them around yours.

“Taengoo, what are you doing?” you asked, puzzled by my random behavior.

“Just trying out the fit of our hands. Your hand feels so soft and warm, I like it. It fits me better than a glove,” I declare.

“Silly you,” you whisper before you kiss me on my cheek.

“I love you, Sooyeon,” I say sincerely, just like how I always do.

“I love you too, Taengoo.”

Those three simple words, they mean everything in conveying every ounce of my love for you. I’m glad you feel the same way as I do.

I love you.

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