As he stands to straighten the punching bag, the towel is over her face; not just to wipe up the sweat. Her body isn’t shaking so he’s pretty sure she isn’t laughing.
“I confess,” he admits as he stops in front of you, “I deserved that.”
He crouches down in front of you, slowly easing your hands down, pulling the towel from your face. He reaches out to lift your chin,
“Look at me Noona…. Please”.
You take another swig from your water bottle, slowly opening your eyes to meet his. The panic and pain he sees makes him cringe for how he treated her. He tries to start again, “My actions earlier tonight were uncalled for, out of line, and I ask for your forgiveness”. He keeps your chin in one hand, your hands in his other and continues to keep direct eye contact.
“The only way you’d be apologizing or even knew where I was means you’ve spoken with Mr. Kim.” You sigh; reclose your eyes knowing that your shame is now in his hands.
“Yes, I just left him. I was convinced it was in my best interest to trust you, not only with my brothers but with myself as well. It seems you hold the highly coveted seat just to the left of him with his wife on the right. It is a place many have longed for, yet I understand now why none of us have ever achieved it. You are a tough act to follow, a “force of nature”?”
You roll your eyes at his description. They are like a second family to you, yet you doubt you hold any such leverage on the level of Mrs. Kim. Sighing, you stand up, forcing him out of your personal space. “That’s a pretty fairy tale, do you believe in the tooth fairy also?”
Your overly sarcastic comment in response to what had been a serious comment on his part; catches him off guard. A smile starts at the edges of his mouth, “I haven’t lost any teeth in almost seventeen years but I guess I could let you knock one out and we could test it”.
That works; an unbidden shake of your head occurs as a smirk forms.
“I am forgiven?”
You roll your eyes, turn and start walking across the gym to the door, “possibly” you whisper as you pass him. You look over your shoulder as you reach the door, “Goodnight Tong”.
When the alarm screams into your dream the next morning you feel like you’ve only been asleep for a couple of minutes. Hitting the offensive object, one eye squints open to see that it was actually 4 hours. As you roll onto your back, muscles you haven’t used in years start to protest. There definitely won’t be a work out this morning, you reset the alarm for another hour and a half.
Pounding on the door two hours later wakes you with a start. Jumping up out of bed makes the room spin, grabbing your head doesn’t make it to stop. Wow, if this is anything like having a hangover, it’s enough that you don’t ever want to attempt one. Just as your brain starts to wonder why it’s up, the knocking on the dorm door starts up again.
You came straight upstairs from the gym last night and fell straight into bed. It accomplished what you wanted by exhausting you enough that your brain had no argument as you fell asleep. You look down at your wrinkled work-out clothes; shrug and finger comb your hair as you head toward the annoying sound. You yank the door open just as a hand rises to start knocking again.
You raise your eyebrow in question as you face Ae and Tong with a scowl.
“Can I help you gentlemen? I should have stayed at the hotel; I could have at least put a “Do Not Disturb” sign up”.
“Ah, someone is cranky first thing in the morning without her coffee?” Ae tries to tease. You turn around and flop most unladylike on the couch.
“I don’t drink coffee, what’s your next excuse for waking me up before my alarm?”
Too late you realize that your alarm actually woke you up an hour earlier; you simply reset it. Oh well, doesn’t matter, they are uninvited, noisy, and in way too good of moods for the first thing in the morning.
Tong heads over to the fridge and peers inside.
“Hey, out of there! This isn’t your house or your dorm,” you grump as you turn your head to face the couch and close your eyes. “Not that you’ll find anything in there, it’s more just the principle of the matter,” you mutter.
Tong looks at you over his shoulder as he grabs a can of Diet Coke from the 12 pack in the fridge. He reaches up into the cabinet for a glass, proceeds to grab ice cubes from the freezer. Searching his memory, facts from ten years come back to him. From the time you’d left him in the gym, throughout the night, you were all he thought about. He looks around the counter, opens the silverware drawer and finds a prize. He opens the small bottle of flavoring and adds a few drops into her drink. Grabbing a straw he closes the drawer and heads over to the prone woman sprawled over the couch. Ae looks at him in question, but he just smiles and reaches down to lightly tap you on the shoulder.
“Rise and shine Noona,” he intones, not flinching but simply handing you the glass when you turn your head to scowl at him. At the sight of the glass your eyes get wider and you sit up to take it from his hand. He watches in amusement as you sniff at it, stir it with the straw, and took a tentative sip. Your eyes shoot up to his in shock, then narrowed to slits in suspicion.
Pointing at the glass you question, “How? Just what all did you and Mr. Kim discuss last night?”
He shakes his head and smiles, “I have my secrets”.