jieun jihoon a love story
By the time the clock claims eight in the morning, Jieun has been awake for two hours with one thought on her mind. She lays there, silently wordsmithing the proposal, agonizing over the perfect argument to win her case.
"Let's move here," she says ineloquently as he stirs to the sound of her voice, his eyes still closed with sleep.
She knows every inch, every curve of him, and so when he stills – even just a fraction – Jieun begins to prepare herself for the worst.
"Can we talk about this later?" Jihoon mumbles, putting off a conversation they've only broached shallowly before. He reaches for her, pulling her in toward him. His intent is to end the conversation, and she knows it.
Jieun resists, but only for a heartbeat.
"Let's just move," she continues. "We can buy a place in LA. We can keep acting in American movies." She pauses, unsure of his thoughts. Two years of work in the United States and they'd both come up with nothing to show for it. He – a series of box office failures despite Wachowski backing. Her – a series of straight to DVD projects and action films that lead her nowhere. "No one would bother us if we wanted to get coffee together. No one would follow us, no one will hack our phones, try to break into our houses. We don't have to pretend we're strangers in public."
He sighs into her skin and she can feel the unspoken reluctance. In that instant, she regrets bringing it up at all.
When she looks back later, she believes this is the moment they begin to break.
She falls in love; she is sure of it. It's day one in table reads and she can't - she won't stop sneaking glances at him. She is making a drama with Rain. With Rain!! Mentally, she can't stop adding exclamation points (too many of them) to the end of each thought. Oh, she thinks, she should call him Jihoon now. But she can call him Jihoon now!!!
"Jieun?" The director's voice interrupts, his impatient tone indicating that she's taken too long before reading her line.
Clearing her throat, Jieun bows her head, brow furrowing as she reads diligently from the paper in her hands. She hopes (God, she hopes) her hair provides enough coverage to stop Jihoon (!!!!!!!!!!) from seeing the traitorous pink that creeps through her face.
Turns out -- it is love. This is love. She is in love.
Only, she has never been in love before. She's certain this is -- it must be! -- what it's like. Her heart expands and constricts simulaneously, her world begins and ends in the same breath, and if this isn't love, God! What impossibility must love feel like?
By the end of the first month of filming, she stops loving Rain, the future superstar -- the man she thought she'd known from afar, through mutual friends and industry events, the man who croons on the radio to millions.
Somewhere along the way, he becomes Jihoon, simply Jihoon. Somewhere along the way, she becomes enamored, enraptured. Somewhere along the way, they begin meeting secretly for dates, always away from the public eye. As far as anyone is concerned, they're simply two friends who once filmed a popular drama together. The beginning of their love is immortalized in a small museum on Jeju Island, disguised as a commemoration to the characters they once played.
Two years later as they stand on opposite sides of the party neither want to be at, she pretends that she isn't acutely aware of where he is, the way his smile is just a bit crooked, the way he's retreating into endearing humility as the others congratulate him on his success.
"Jieun," he says when he finally breaks away from his adoring fans, his eyes bright as he greets her. "It's good to see you."
"I haven't seen you in a while," she replies but the mischievous smile gives away her lie.
They continue the innocuous small talk, putting on a show for the wandering eyes and ears. As it turns out: they're very good at pretending. He is her secret and she is content to tell no one.
The agencies for both celebrities confirmed their relationship.
Police believe CEO Jung Hoon-Tak used the cloned phone with the intention of monitoring Song's communication and relationships with other members of the entertainment industry. Sidus HQ denied these allegations.
The world is ending today.
Or at least, Jieun is convinced of it and as far as she's concerned, her world is ending. The hopelessness is deafening, and she isn't sure she'll be able to claw her way out.
When she turns up at his home unexpectedly, he says nothing. He opens his arms, and she collapses into him. Between them, they are uncertain who will be broken faster: her with her violated privacy and fractured trust, or him with his helplessness, condemned to do nothing but to watch her shatter. Suddenly two months of silence and of stubborn pride is a distant, forgotten memory.
When he finds her, she is alone in her condo and has been for some time. The bed hasn't been made in a couple weeks, and she's lost five, maybe seven kilos since he last saw her.
Coaxing her into the shower is like coaxing a despondent child. He panics. She is only a shell, a reminder of the woman he met four years before.
Somehow, he convinces her to board a plane. When he takes her to LA, he does so under the pretense of needing company. He is the one that needs to get away. He is the one that needs her. Though he supposes, it's less a lie and more of a truth. He will always need her, but he sells this story to her anyway.
As the days go by, they both learn to pointedly ignore the emptiness that fills her, to stomach the repeat failures they both face in the United States. Every morning, they learn to cheerfully lie. Today is a good day. This is not Seoul. In Los Angeles, we are whomever we want to be.
Anonymity is a gift two of the biggest celebrities in Asia thought they'd never see again. And eventually, she begins to believe the facade and she thinks she might never go back to Seoul. Happiness can only exist in LA.
"I'm sorry," the casting director says, having the decency to at least look marginally apologetic as he says the words. "We're looking for someone more... American, you know what I mean? Someone more relatable."
She's stunned and it takes her a moment longer than she would've liked to recover.
"But..." she starts to say. I am American.
The words pile up in her throat, but she can't get them out.
"Okay, thank you," she says instead, swallowing her protest and the rising nausea.
She cries that night because she's forgotten the bitterness of no, and then she cries because she feels stupid for crying at all. Had she become so comfortable in luxury and sycophancy that she'd forgotten rejection? But it's been years since her last audition, years since someone found her inadequate.
For a fucking background character no less.
Song Jieun, biggest box office opener and highest paid actress in South Korea, is auditioning among hundreds of unknowns for a secondary character, and she is not relatable enough for a few paltry lines in a forgettable movie. But she can only find happiness in LA so she has to make it work. She has to take the shitty roles people deign to throw her way.
When she can catch her breath and seem less pathetic, she calls him and pretends she didn't even want the project anyway. Why would she? It's a joke of a role.
"Come with me tomorrow," he tells her after she recounts the audition. "Let me introduce you to Andy and Lana Wachowski. I'm sure they can help you make some connections."
The day her first Wachowski project premieres four years later, she comes close to calling him. She thinks she ought to say her thanks, be the bigger person, be a rational adult. She won't. Instead, she is content to loathe him, to refuse to forgive him for giving up, for not loving her enough.
The music video is a present. It is an apology in the form of a song and short film starring him, starring her. In this world, there is only them.
As they lay in bed the night before they begin filming, he whispers of the misery he felt while they were separated. He tells her he wrote the lyrics for her, and she finds her heart is caught in her throat.
With his lips, he presses apologies and promises along her spine. He will be there, he doesn't say, when everything falls to pieces. He will put her back together. She steadies herself, stubbornly refuses to let the goosebumps prickling her body affect logic. When he's in the shower the next morning, she secretly listens to his song, allowing the melody to hum through her bones. His words belong to her and only her.
With their secrets exposed to the entirety of South Korea, they create a music video together for a song appropriately named "Love Story." Because this is their story and it is, and it always has been love.
But a small part of her questions. She feels naked, laid bare to the public. She agrees to the music video as a compromise, a demonstration of her faith in him.
Something doesn't feel right.
He's turned his back on LA, on the dream they crafted together in the dead of night. He's gone crawling back to music in Seoul -- to safe. He's abandoned their promises to each other, to carve out a new path and redefine themselves on their own terms. He's turned his back, and she doesn't think she can forgive him.
"I don't have time for this, Jieun," he growls, his back to her. "I have to go on stage and perform in three hours."
The year is peppered with arguments and excuses. He spends more and more time in Seoul, while she resists and stays in their rented home in LA.
"LA isn't going to magically fix your problems," he spits at her. "You won't find what you're looking for there. They don't give a shit about Koreans. You and I, we don't have a place there. We're better in Seoul. We've got a good thing going. We can make enough money and retire early if that's what you want, but it's a reliable source of income. LA's full of assholes who will sell you bullshit false promises."
She fights back a snarl at his pessimism. Los Angeles is nothing like that.
"They don't care about you in Seoul either," Jieun snaps. "Seoul is full of Korean assholes who will pretend to love you until the media turns on you. And then who will be left? No one."
"You'll be left, or you're supposed to be," he volleys. "I have to enlist soon, and what are we going to do? Are you going to leave me in Korea while I finish my military service? You'll go back to LA, sip mimosas and forget about me? Don't make this harder than it needs to be."
She rolls her eyes. "It's conscription, not the death penalty. You only have to do two years and then you'll be out."
"I told you: I'm not moving to LA. That's final. It's too big of a risk for both of us. We're better off in Seoul."
"But what about me? Don't you want me to be happy?"
"I am thinking about you. I'm thinking about your future, my future, our future. We need Seoul."
When they sleep that night, Jieun finds herself laying beside a stranger.
"So that's it? We're done?"
She pauses by the doorway as she hopelessly prays that he'll change his mind one last time.
She doesn't cry for seven days, but when she begins, she thinks she may never stop.
But she does. Eventually. And as her tears dry, she buys a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, chasing the hope that she might reclaim happiness.
She spends most of the last few months avoiding Youtube and Korean establishments, anything that might play Jihoon's latest hits. He's released a new mini-album, and apparently it's good. Or so she's been told. She wouldn't know.
She's not sure why, but morbid curiosity leads her to purchase his music long after its release.
When the song ends, when that familiar voice fades, she's not sure what she expected. He's written his last song about her and these are his final words to her. She ought to feel nostalgic, sad, maybe. Heartfelt, maybe. Maybe she should think about calling him, considering a reunion. Maybe they should fix everything gone wrong. She's sorry, she didn't mean it, she loves him. They can make it work.
But the thoughts don't come. A familiar unflinching, unrelenting bitterness consumes her. She could've been better, but she wasn't. She could've done better, but she didn't. She doesn't deserve happiness, and he doesn't deserve to be burdened by her. She isn't good enough for a compromise. She isn't worth the sacrifice. She just isn't enough. For Jihoon, for Korea, for herself.
In place of sadness, numbness settles.