Chapter 1

For every action, there's a consequence. For every yes, there's a no. For one of him, there was one of me.


"I believe this is for you," Oppa said, handing me an envelope.

After a quick glance at the return address, I tore it open. But before I could pull out its contents, I took a deep breath in to adjust to my sudden lightheadedness.

"So what does it say?" he asked from behind me.

Without glancing back, I pulled out the sheet and read what I'd known I'd find. It took another deep breath but it didn't help much. My cheeks had begun to twitch hapharzardly because the emotions shooting through me couldn't agree on what to tell my brain: was I supposed to smile or frown?

Chapter 1

"Hahaha! Go to jail!" my so-called friend, Na Young, declared with far too much glee. She moved her forefinger over the table and counted the squares one more time. Satisfied, she raised her fist up and said, "Yup! Go to jail!"

Frowning, I said a few choice words under my breath then picked my little plastic horse and put him on the doomed spot. It was the last day of school and since classes had ended and we were just waiting for our report cards, as we'd done in the past week, we were passing time by playing board games.

Tae Ran, my other best friend, picked up my blue horse and put him back on his previous spot. When a defiant Na Young reacted by reaching for it, she gently pushed her hand away. "Gosh, why do you have to be like this? Let her roll the dice again. When next will we get a chance to play Moneyply with her?"

Yes, we were playing 'Moneyply.' It was true that the board did look similar to that of 'Monopoly's,' that the concept was the same, in fact, the look, the rules, everything was pretty much the same as the other game's but because our school was too cheap to fork out good money for anything remotely legit, we were stuck playing the bootleg version you could probably convince a street hawker to give to you for free. But it didn't really matter because other than the initial chuckles that were shared when we finally realized that 'Moneyply' wasn't a typo, we were having as much fun as we would have had playing the real thing.

I took my eyes off Tae Ran's protective hold on my horse and smiled. With her long ponytail, black rimmed glasses, red cheeks and small frame, she looked just like the sweet girl she was on the inside. "It's okay," I said. "Since I'm 'just visiting,' it's not a big deal - I can sit my ass in jail."

"Exactly," Il Woo, one of my other classmates said. "Why does she deserve special treatment?" He rolled his eyes.

I smirked then stuck my tongue out at him. "Stop talking and just roll the dice, okay? I'll be kicking your ass in the next round."

He was in the midst of replying sarcastically when my cell phone beeped, notifying me of a newly received text message. I didn't even have to look at it to know who it was. I covered my mouth to hide my smile then stood up from my chair. "Sorry guys, I have to leave now…." I announced. I'd tried to sound regretful for ditching them so carelessly but I failed miserably. I averted my gaze downwards to keep them from seeing my eyes.

Na Young hit the table dramatically. "Can you see what I mean? She does this every time and when I refused to let her play today you guys thought I was being mean. You see? You see what's happened?"

I looked up and giggled. "Hey, don't get so pissed – you guys can divvy up my property. Gatta run! See you later," I said, turning around and leaving before I could hear any more whines.


I tiptoed to him from behind, covered his eyes with my hands then bent over and whispered, "Guess who?" into his ear.

He gently pulled my fingers from his eyes and frowned up at me. "Took you long enough," he accused.

"Whatever," I replied before walking around and sliding beside him on the bench. During the off season, our football field turned into some kind of couples' spot. There was a section of it that was pretty much hidden from the rest of the school and whenever anyone saw a teacher approaching, he or she would alert the other couples and it would be mayhem for the minutes that followed.

But since exams were over and no one really had anything to do, the teachers didn't really mind us hanging out and it showed. Because as it was, the stadium wasn't just filled with couples but also a bunch of platonic little cliques of people who didn't want to sit idly in class.

Ha Min Ki, my boyfriend of almost two years, picked up my hand and kissed my palm.

My chest warmed up at his touch. "What was that for?"

He shrugged. "I don't know – but this is the last time we'll ever sit here together like this."

I frowned. "I know." And it was all because of my father. If he hadn't given me life, I wouldn't have hesitated to hate him.

He shrugged. "I guess I'll just have to find someone else to sit with next year."


"I'm just saying…." He pointed to the sky. "Look at those beautiful clouds and look at the horizon," he said wistfully.

I shook my head in irritation. The sky was beautiful as a mass of blue broken up by thick white clouds but there really wasn't much of a horizon – unless boring buildings a few hundred feet away also qualified.

"… and look at the tree." He pointed at the huge ginkgo tree on the other side of the school gate. "Everything looks better," he said, wrapping his arm around my waist, "when you have someone next to you." He turned to look at me. "Do you really want me to give all this up because you won't be here?"

I frowned and gave him my evil look. "Yes."

He jerked back in exaggerated fright and I couldn't contain my laughter. But the sad thing was that my evil look was actually quite legendary. Most times, I didn't even realize I was giving it till the recipient scurried away or got mad because I was supposedly being rude. And I definitely didn't know I was giving it to the school principal that one time till she slapped me for looking at her 'like that.'

He pulled me closer, adopted a faraway look then stared onto our 'horizon.' "Yeah," he said, sighing, "I guess this wouldn't feel right with anyone else. I couldn't do this with anyone else."

I sighed. He couldn't do it with anyone else and I would never get another chance to look at that skyline again. I snuggled up to him and tried to keep myself from crying. Gosh, why did it all suck? I bit a fingernail and looked up at him. I couldn't believe that this was going to be our last visit to our school's football field., I was really going to miss it all.

Chapter 2

"I'm not ready to leave you now," Young Hee, my brother's girlfriend whined, ok screeched to him from the passenger's seat of the car.

"I know, but we have to get home soon."

On hearing that, she flipped her long hair and turned around to face me sitting in the back seat. "Su Jin ah," she started in a saccharin sweet voice, "can Oppa drop you off first?"

I frowned. Up till about five to six months ago, even though Young Hee and I had practically attended the same schools since kindergarten, we'd barely spoken to each other because she had her gang of supposedly cute girls and I had my gang of very intelligent and cool friends. And as we all knew, in high school, never the two shall meet. However, since she'd started dating my brother, she never ceased to say hello to me in school, come over and talk to me at lunch and even invite me to hang out with her and her friends. It was like dating my brother had made her realize that she was my long lost sister and she wanted to make up for lost time. But the annoying thing was that even if she was kissing my ass for my brother's sake, couldn't she have at least looked up the word 'subtle' in the dictionary first? I looked away from her heavily mascaraed dark eyes and out of the window.

"What do you say?" she asked hopefully.

I shook my head. "Sorry," I lied.

"Come on, Su Jin, the sooner you get home, the sooner you can talk to Min Ki oppa, right?"

And if she and my brother had been a little patient earlier at school, I would have been able to see him for a bit after returning to class from the football field. But because of them, I had to head straight home. "And what am I supposed to say when my father asks me why I came home alone?

She smiled sweetly. "I'm sure you can make something up."

I shook my head. "Sorry, but I don't lie to my parents." I quickly spun my face away so she wouldn't see me stick my tongue out.


"How was school?" my father asked shortly after I walked into the living room. Even though he'd been home for almost three weeks, it still felt strange seeing him sitting on the couch watching television. My brother ran past me and up the stairs.

I shrugged as I walked past him and into the kitchen. Leaving school had sucked but I knew it was the last thing he wanted to hear. He'd decided that we were moving away and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. It didn't matter to him that he was pulling us out of school and taking my mother away from the career she'd built with almost no help from him. All he cared about was that he was the head of the house and what he said went.

"Did you hear what I just said?" my father barked just as I was about to reach for the fridge handle.

I dropped my hand down. "Yes, Abonim," I replied without looking at him.

"Then why didn't you answer me? If I ask you a question, I expect a response."

I sighed. Wasn't the shrug enough? "School was fine." When he didn't say anything else, I opened the fridge and reached for the blue jug.

I glanced at him as I filled my glass with water. Apparently, I took after him because we were both short and thin but I definitely didn't have his attitude. I opened the cupboard and looked for a snack but as usual, all we had were peanuts.

As I opened the car, I glanced at the living room and wondered why I hadn't been born to a different man. For all sixteen years of my life, if I were to add up all the time I'd spent with him, I doubted it would even come up to a year.

My father was a diplomat who'd worked at different consulates and embassies all across the world and even though I was proud that he was representing Korea abroad, it didn't change the fact that I barely really knew him. No, scratch that. We barely knew him.

Of course, his job afforded us the chance to visit places like Pretoria and Vienna but even when we visited him over the holidays, most of the time was spent sightseeing while he was away at work which worked for us because outside of greetings and discussions of school, my brother and I didn't have much to say to him. I was well aware that our relationship never really scratched the surface because whenever it was time for us to 'get real' and past the grace period of constant niceness and politeness, it was usually either time for him to return to whatever country he worked in or for us to return home.

It was certainly not a perfect relationship but I was used to it and pretty fine with keeping it that way but no, as soon as he got posted to Washington D.C., he decided he was sick and tired of living away from his family and suddenly wanted us to be closer.

And if that wasn't bad enough, because he'd taken time off to help with the relocation, he was home all the time and for some reason, or maybe it was the loneliness messing with his brain, whatever it was, he now felt the need to play the strict disciplinarian. My mother scolding me felt natural because it was part of who and what she was but from him, it was almost like a stranger had barged into our house, held us captive and started giving us orders. It neither felt good nor normal and it only angered me that now that we were moving with him, it would become permanent. Wasn't getting older all about gaining freedom and getting to do what you wanted? Why was it the opposite for us? I'd already planned to fill all my afternoons in America with classes like basket weaving and quilt making just so that I'd have a good excuse to spend less time at home.

I readjusted my bag on my back, picked up my almost full glass of water and headed towards my room.

"Are you coming back to watch some television?" my father asked.

"No. I have home…" I started to say, using my standard excuse of the previous weeks. Just to show how little he really cared, he didn't even seem to find it weird that I had homework despite having finished my exams but since he didn't ask, I kept saying it. But now that school was over.... "There's a book I'm reading," I mumbled before I picked up my steps and climbed onto the stairs.


I'd only just shut the door behind me when my phone rang. I dropped my glass on the dresser and picked up my phone.

A smile crept onto my face as I plugged my ear piece into it and jumped on my bed.

"Guess who?"

"Hey," I purred into the phone.

"Are you home yet?" Min Ki asked in a deep baritone.

I giggled. I always loved it when he tried to be Barry White. "So what's going on?"

"Nothing. Did you get your report card?"

I nodded even though he couldn't see me. "Yeah. Didn't you?"

"Yeah, I did. How are your grades?"

"Good enough." I gave him a detailed report. I was pretty pleased with them since I didn't end the year with any Cs. "You?"

"The usual," he said, which I assumed meant he'd done well enough. "So what are you doing this evening?"

I sighed. "Staring at the wall and hoping my father disappears. Are you going to see the new Superman movie tonight?"

As a way to commemorate the end of the school year, a bunch of kids from school were going to see the movie together and I was sure that it was going to end up in a party that was so good, I'd hate hearing about it.

"I thought we agreed that it'd be okay for me to go."

"I know," I said, sulking. "It just sucks that I can't go with you guys– especially since my mother already said it would be okay." I growled. "That man really pisses me off! And with the way he grills me every time I want to step out of the house, I doubt I'll be able to see you much before we leave." My heart started to hurt as the words escaped my lips. "I HATE MY LIFE!!!!"

I'd expected my boyfriend to at least try to console me by saying some sweet words but instead, he laughed.

"What's so funny?" Insensitivity was okay sometimes but certainly, this wasn't one of them!

"You," he said simply.

"What's funny about me? Are you happy that you don't have to see me again?"

"Hey, stop staying like that, okay? And don't worry about your dad."


"I'm serious! We're going to spend so much time together that you'll be sick of me by the time you leave."


"I'm serious."

And from his tone, I could tell that he was. "Oppa." I paused for a few moments as my heartbeats picked up pace. "What are you talking about? I already told you that I can't tell my father about us." As far as that man was concerned, I was to 'face my books' till I graduated from college so if he knew anything Min Ki, there was no way I wouldn't end up at the mortuary.

He chuckled. "I know. That's not what this is about - I'll tell you all about it when I see you tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" I asked incredulously.

"Yes, tomorrow."

Chapter 3

I'd spent about an hour on the computer when I heard my father call me. "Yes, A-abonim," I answered, quickly adding the last word. Technically, I knew that it wasn't very polite to respond to elders with a simple, "Yes," but sometimes, I did lapse into it with my mother. However, I could still hear the tongue lashing I'd received the last I'd made that mistake with my father so I sometimes even answered with a 'Yes, Abonim, Abonim,' just to be on the safe side.

I waited for a few seconds, hoping that he'd tell me the reason for his call but I already knew that he was waiting for me to run down and see him face to face before completing his sentence.

I grudgingly walked out of my room and when I got to the top of the stairs, I found him waiting for me at the bottom.

"Why aren't you down here? Didn't you hear your mother return? Shouldn't you come down and help her with dinner?"

I sighed and walked down the stairs. The entire thing was ridiculous. Before he decided to become our lord and director, the three of us had our little routine that was working just fine. I made dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my brother made dinner of Mondays and Wednesdays and my mother cooked on the other days. But now that my father had returned for good and believed that our family was in danger of becoming dysfunctional because my mother didn't play her role as she should have, everything had changed. This 'role' was probably the reason why I was always forced to help out in the kitchen while my brother got to enjoy sitting in his room alone, watching porn or whatever disgusting things boys his age did when they were alone.

I walked past my father and into the kitchen to find my mother bent over the counter, chopping some onions. She looked up at me and pointed at a bag of kale near the sink. "Will you wash and chop them up for me?" Nowadays, when I looked at her, I really didn't know what to think. Standing there in her white shirt and black pants, her hair falling against her face in a slight bob, her slim right hand moving up and down with every stroke of the knife, I really wasn't sure she was the mother I'd always known. Because that woman who had managed to be both a mother and a father to us while working as a General Practitioner at her own clinic wouldn't succumb so easily to my father's whims. Our family wasn't dysfunctional and we didn't need to shape up! If our family had worked so well even during the vacations we'd spent with my dad, why did he suddenly feel that we had to act differently now that we were going to be together for much longer? How did that make sense? And why hadn't my mother put her foot down and told him to get lost?

I'd always looked up to her as a strong, independent woman who was so unlike other mothers who looked to their husbands for guidance. I'd always thought of her as someone who did what she believed and didn't let anyone else dictate how she was going to live her life. I'd always assumed she was a mini feminist because she'd always treated my brother and me similarly and had the same expectations of us. But somehow, in a matter of weeks, this woman who didn't believe in gender-based partiality was okay coming home from a hard day at work to cook dinner while my brother was jumping around in his bedroom playing his new Wii game. Why wasn't she fighting it?


Another thing that changed was that while we'd previously eaten individually i.e. whenever we were hungry, now it was imperative that we all sit at the table and break bread like the loving and wonderful family we were aiming to be. So once dinner was ready, my mother let the men of the house know that the grub was ready for them to pounce upon.

"Yuh-bo, how was work? How is Dr. Lee managing with his new workload?" my father asked right after he said grace. Dr. Lee was a junior partner at my mother's clinic and was going to be taking over most of her patients in her absence. Through all the madness and transition, the one thing that my mother had fought to keep was her clinic. My father had wanted her to sell her stake to her partners but she refused so even though she wasn't going to be able to work there for the next few years, she still maintained ownership and was going to keep working in a much more minor capacity electronically. She'd excitedly explained it all to us one night over dinner but it had gone over my head. How one could be an e-doctor was beyond me.

"Jae Won," my mother said, "seems a bit overwhelmed but I'm sure he can handle it. We are also considering hiring a part timer to take on a few patients."

"I still think that you should just let it go," my father said pointlessly. "It makes no sense to still keep ties from so many miles away."

"That's why telephones and the internet were invented, darling," my mother countered in a far two sweet voice.

My father didn't say anything in return and after a few minutes of only hearing the clangs of cutlery against plates, my mother suddenly turned to me. "Are you excited about starting your English lessons tomorrow?"

What did she think? We had to get to up early to take lessons the day after the school year had ended. Was that something to be excited about? I glanced at my father who was wiping something off the top of his half-empty glass of water and shrugged. "Not really."


I waved at Tom, our English tutor, as I walked through our kitchen and into our little backyard class. The previous night, my brother and I had pushed the picnic table into a shaded area and had set the chalkboard up in front of it. When I turned the corner, I almost froze at the sight of Min Ki sitting at the table like a good little school boy.

I pinched myself. Was I still asleep? As if he heard my thoughts, he quickly waved and grinned at me.

I raised my brow at my older brother who was sitting across from him but he just rolled his eyes and turned over a page of his exercise book.

"Oppa?" What was he doing here?

He patted the empty part of the bench he was sitting on and gestured for me to sit next to him. I looked back to see if my father had somehow gotten into the kitchen and when I saw that it was still empty, I ran over to him.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" I whispered, a little out of breath. My heart was racing with both fear and excitement. For one, I couldn't believe he was actually there and two, I couldn't believe that he was actually there with my father being somewhere in our vicinity.

"I'm here for English lessons," he announced proudly.

I looked over at Tom who in turn nodded back at me. "He called me a few days ago and said that he wanted to join us. I hope that's okay with you," he said to me and my brother.

Even before we knew anything about our relocation, my brother and I usually took English lessons during the holidays just because it made things easier when we had to visit my father or even when we had to attend whichever embassy's event in Seoul. It was weird but regardless of the country, the diplomats and other official types tended to speak English. Tom was an American who worked at one of the local schools but gave private lessons on the side and he'd been working with us for a few years now.

"I don't think Min Ki is as advanced as you guys," Tom started, "but--"

My attention was immediately stolen by the kick I felt on my leg. Ouch. I frowned and kicked Min Ki back.

He chuckled but then bent down and rubbed his leg. When he looked up to frown at me for hurting him, I started giggling, but the nature of my giggles quickly changed because he soon took his hand off his calf and started tickling me at the bend of my knees.

"Oppa," I yelped, slapping his hand off, "d-d-don't d-d-do th-th-that!"

"Should we leave you two alone?" Tom asked sternly. From the way he was looking at us, it was apparent that he'd finally understood the real reason Ha Min Ki had decided to take English lessons so soon after school had closed.

Suddenly brought to my senses by his humorless expression, I quickly sat up in my seat and with one look from me, Min Ki oppa did the same.


It turned out that Min Ki had the English reading and comprehension abilities of a fetus, so after listening to Dong Won and me laughing our intestines out at the gibberish he was hoping to pass off as English, Tom gave us some work to do while he gave some one-on-one attention to him.

I knocked my pen against my teeth as I watched my boyfriend listening attentively to his teacher. Since I knew that he had no real interest in learning any languages, I was touched by the fact that he was not only willing to sacrifice his summer, but also willing to pay to take these boring classes just so that he could spend some time with me.

I was still staring at him and trying to figure out if we could sneak some private time in when my father walked into the room. As if even the angels in heaven had acknowledged the sudden appearance of evil, everything, including the air seemed to stand still.

"Dr. Oh," Tom said, bowing to my father. I often felt that simply answering as Mr. would be sufficient because calling him by the title usually led to people asking after his specialization and hearing 'Economics' generally confused them.

"How are the classes going?" my father asked in English. "I hope I'm not interrupting."

"Not at all," Tom replied. "They are doing some exercises, and in a few minutes," he said, glancing at his watch, "we should be going over them."

My father nodded. "Good. Dong Won ah, I am sure you're happy to have your friend here with you," he said smiling at Min Ki.

I crossed my fingers and hoped my brother would play along and luckily, he simply smiled back at my father. The truth was that Min Ki had started off as one of my brother's friends. My brother was usually one of the first in the neighborhood to get whichever video game was hot at that moment and as a result, he had a lot of hangers-on from both school and our neighborhood.

But Min Ki was a little different because they'd been friends from Sunday School and wonders of wonders, he even hung around my brother when he didn't have any new toys to share. Since my brother was my only sibling, when I was younger, I was usually in his care so even though he tried his best to ignore me, particularly when I was younger and did embarrassing things like poop on the school bus, I did know quite a bit of his friends and one day, I woke up and discovered that one look from Min Ki turned my knees to jelly.

One day, about a year into trying my best to retain my balance whenever I saw him, Min Ki pulled me aside and asked me to be his girlfriend. After getting over the initial shock because I'd only just lamented to Tae Ran about how he'd only ever see me as a dongseng, I said yes and the rest, as they say, was history.

About twenty minutes after my father's grand entrance, just as I finished reading out my essay about how cats were my favorite animal, my father cleared his throat and asked if it was okay for him to sit in for the lessons. Apparently, his English was rustier than he'd believed and he wanted to brush up his language skills along with us.

Of course, Tom agreed and with that, all fantasies of holding hands with Min Ki as I taught him English tongue twisters evaporated into thin air.

Chapter 4

"Make sure you're back by 10:30," my father called as I walked out of the house with Na Young and Tae Ran. It was the evening before our family trip to The Promised Land so I was spending it with them. They'd come over to beg my father to let me stay out past my not so newly imposed curfew of 9pm (because he didn't understand why a young girl needed to be outside her home at night) and we were supposedly going bowling with the rest of my class.

"Yes, Sir!" Na Young said cheekily before she shut the door behind us. "Phew!" she exclaimed a few moments later as she unlocked the front gate. "With the way he was staring at me, I could almost swear that he could tell that we were lying."

"Shh!" I implored, nudging her. I was almost certain that my father was watching us from behind a drawn curtain and I didn't want him to get any hint of the fact that we were about to go to a party. "Do you know when the next bus comes?" I asked, walking briskly onto the road. When I was sure we were out of sight, I began to sprint. The sooner we got on the bus, the sooner my breathing could return to normal. My friends followed suit and about a minute later, we were sitting at the bus stop, fighting to catch our breaths.

I was in the middle of giggling about the entire stupid situation, when I felt familiar hands cover my ears. "Guess who?" he whispered.

My friends were even sneakier than I thought because I hadn't expected to see him till the party. My father's presence at our lessons had obviously killed any fantasies of creating any kind of love nest in my backyard so I was glad that after almost two months of seeing him almost everyday but being unable to touch him, I finally had him all to myself.

I took an embarrassingly dramatic deep breath and felt the fingers covering my eyes. "Who could this hand belong to? Kim Rae Won?" I asked hopefully.

"No. Try again," he replied coolly.

"Kim Jae Won?"


"Lee Min Ki?"


"Hmm…." I scratched my chin and pretended to think hard. "I'm sure I'm wrong but could it possibly be this one guy? What's his name again? Ha Min Ki or something like that?"

His hand fell off my face and settled on my shoulders. "You're getting better at this, Su Jin ah. It only took four guesses this time," he said before planting a kiss on my cheek.

Before I could respond, I heard the sound of Na Young pretending to throw up. Min Ki and I laughed while Tae Ran just shook her head at her. "One of these days, you'll get over your jealousy," she said to her.

"Why would I be jealous when almost every guy in town is fawning at my feet?" Na Young retorted. "Or have you forgotten that I'm the hottest girl in school?"

Well, she wasn't exactly hot. In fact, at first glance, one would peg her as the stereotypical self-deprecating chubby girl who used humor to mask her pain. Except she would swear that her personality had absolutely nothing to do with her looks and that she was very happy with her weight. She looked good enough to me but as we all know, guys suck.

"Are you guys ready to go?" Min Ki asked. "Jinnie, my car is over there," he said, pointing to his tan Hyundai parked along the street.


"I'm so jealous of you," Il Woo, one of my classmates, said to me. Il Woo and I had always maintained a nice, platonic friendship and when I said that I was going to miss him, I really meant it.

"You're jealous of me? I'm jealous of you. I wish I could stay here with you."

I'd been at the party for a little over an hour and the room had only begun to fill up. The more people came in, the more I realized that I was going to miss so many of them – even those I barely ever spoke to. Would this be the last time I was in a room filled with Korean faces? The thought of being the odd one out and never making any friends had only just begun to sink in and I was increasingly becoming more and more frightened. "I really wish I didn't have to leave," I said to myself.

"But it's America. Everyone wants to go to America."

I hissed. "Why? What's so great about it?" Hamburgers and baseball. Yep, sounded like heaven.

He shrugged. "Maybe you'll get to meet Michael Jackson?"

I rolled my eyes. "Why are you so stupid? This isn't 1980 so nobody wants to meet Michael Jackson anymore. The guy barely looks human these days," I said, immediately fighting the image of his fifteenth nose out of my head.

"Well, I wouldn't mind meeting him."

After a few more minutes of useless banter, I said, "You have to do something for me…." My voice trailed off when I noticed that his attention seemed to be elsewhere. "What's going on?"

He pointed behind me and I turned around to see my brother and his girlfriend going at it so hard that one would have thought that the world was five minutes from some kind of apocalypse. His tongue was so far Young Hee's throat that I was scared that it might come out of her butt.

I took a huge gulp of my Coke to keep the bile down and turned back to him. "Thanks so much for that. Next time, when you see my brother making out with someone, please keep it to yourself. Now I have to go to the bathroom and scrub my brain. And you," I said, slapping his hand to get him to refocus his attention on me, "if you ever want that to be you, you have to talk to Eun Bi at some point next term." Joo Eun Bi was an average-looking girl he had a major crush on but never had the courage to approach. She certainly didn't seem that intimidating to me and I had offered numerous times to play Cupid but he always refused.

"Oh, not that again. I told you I am not interested in her anymore."

"Yeah, right. Is that—" Before I could complete my sentence, I felt someone tap my shoulder. I looked over to find Min Ki standing behind me.

He nodded at Il Woo then to me, said, "Let's take a walk."


"I hope you don't mind but I just wanted to talk to you alone," he said as we walked on the pedestrian path. He took my hand and I smiled. Shortly after, we were swinging our arms together.

"I can't believe that I might not get to see you for like four or five years," I said. I didn't want to cry but walking with him on a random residential street in Seoul on a cool Summer evening was playing games with my tear ducts.

"So," he said, suddenly stopping.

I turned to him curiously.

"I got something for you." He hesitated before disentangled his fingers from mine then putting his hand in his pocket.

"What?" My eyes were trained on the outline of his hand in his pocket.

"Well," he began, "I'd wanted to get you a Blackberry or something like that just so that we can always been in touch."

I frowned. "I can check my email with my phone," I reminded him. And when exactly did electronics count as romantic gifts?

"Yeah, so I thought that this might be better," he said, pulling out a ring box.

My heart jumped to my throat as I looked up and stared into his eyes. A ring? I could feel my chest tightening as I inhaled to keep myself from panicking. He was awesome but sixteen was far too young to get married. But if he proposed to me, did I even have it in me to say no?

Not noticing my turmoil, he opened the box and revealed two rings.

I exhaled. Phew!

"I know that we're still very young but I wanted you to have this," he said, taking the smaller one and holding it up to me. "Will you wear this?"

I looked into his eyes and couldn't keep the tears from forming in mine. He looked so sincere and honest that I couldn't help but silently ask God what I'd done to deserve him.

"Will you?" he cajoled.

I stretched my shaking hand towards him.

He put the box back in his pocket then took my hand. "I know that you can't really wear it all the time but will you wear it today?"

I nodded and watched him slip it on my finger. It was a little too big so I tilted my finger to keep it from falling. I smiled at him then down at my finger. Even though it was a very simple ring, my hand had never looked so beautiful.

"I love you, my Jinnie and I want us to still be together when you return to Korea in five years. What do you think?" Without waiting for a response, he moved closer to me and when I raised my eyes up and looked into his, all I could see was how he felt about me and I knew that he meant every word. He really wanted to be with me forever.

My chest tightened again as he moved closer and pushed his lips towards mine. We were one of those couples who usually held hands and gave each other pecks but when it came to kisses, for some reason, we never did. It wasn't like we avoided them but there never really seemed to be a reason for us to do it. Plus, at the back of my mind, I never really wanted to initiate any kisses just in case I disappointed him with how badly I was at it.

But at that moment, feeling his breath against my upper lip, I knew that the time had finally come.

As he moved closer and closer, I didn't really know what to do. Was I supposed to shut my eyes and tilt my head? Was I supposed to part my lips? When his lips touched mine, was I supposed to press mine back at his? Or was I supposed to remain still and just let him kiss me?

A million thoughts were still shooting through my brain when it finally happened. It felt like soft skin brushing against my lips and I was so shocked that I froze. I thought of parting my lips but immediately changed my mind. What if he tasted my tongue and threw up? So I kept my lips together and tried to ignore the tickling sensation of his nose brushing against my cheek.

A few seconds later, he stopped. My first kiss! I'd survived my first kiss! Then I looked into his smiling eyes and immediately felt sad. Did I have to wait for like five years for my next one?

"Want to go back to the party?"

I jerked forward and threw my hands around him. No, I didn't want to go back to any stinking party. I wanted to be with him so that he could give me enough kisses to last a lifetime. "No, Oppa. Let's stay here for a while longer."

Chapter 5

My brother and I dragged our luggage into the airport while my mother waited with my father as he paid the cab driver. Since our flight was leaving early in the morning and we had to arrive about three hours before our departure time, my father refused to inconvenience any of our relatives by letting them drop us off.

The good thing about sneaking out even before the roosters awoke was that since it was still dark out, I really didn't get to see Seoul as I left it. If I'd been able to see the tree my brother use to keep me from climbing when I was a kid, or the bus stop right in front of the arcade I used to visit with Tae Ran and Na Young or the library I used to pretend to study at just to hang out with Min Ki, or any of the million things I no longer noticed because I'd become so used to them, I would have arrived at the airport in a soaked t-shirt.

As we approached the Continental Airlines check-in counter, I recognized a familiar figure clad in a red t-shirt and dark jeans leaning against it and bobbing his head around like he was searching for someone.

"What's he doing here?" my brother asked, vocalizing my thoughts.

Panic set in.

"Oh God, I'm dead. I am so freaking dead," I said between gritted teeth. I glanced back and saw my oblivious parents not too far behind us. I turned back to look at Min Ki and saw that he was still looking for us amongst the crowd. Glad that he hadn't seen us, I figured that it was time to make a quick getaway. Maybe I could run to the ladies' room and wait there till he left. Armed with my brilliant plan, I made a 90 degree turn but before I could get far, my brother quickly caught my elbow and dragged me with him.

"Oppa! Please, let me go," I whispered to him.

Instead of doing that, he kept his hand clamped on my arm and just laughed.

"What's so funny? If your father finds out about us, you know he's going to kill me, right?"

He raised his brow. "Meaning that I wouldn't have to share the inheritance with you?"

"God, you're so hilarious," I said sarcastically. I looked back at the check-in counter and caught Min Ki's smile. He waved as he walked towards us.

C.R.A.P. "Oppa, go away! Go away!" I mouthed. I shook my head vigorously. "Don't come here! Please, go! GO AWAY!" I mouthed with all my energy.

His brows furrowed in confusion but he kept walking towards us. Okay, so that fortune teller I'd spoken to was really a fraud? How in the world was I going to achieve international fame if my father killed me way before my seventeenth birthday?

Almost like it was in slow motion, I watched as Min Ki's figure grew bigger and bigger and he got closer to us. I glanced back and saw that my parents were almost walking in step with us so there was no way I could just drop my luggage and sprint out of the airport.

I looked at my father's face and saw him watching Min Ki curiously.

Yep, my life was over.

A cold shiver shot through my body and just as I was about to pee in my brand new dark denim skinny jeans, Dong Won jumped in between us and gave Min Ki a bear hug. "Hey you, you didn't have to come," my brother said cheerfully.

"What is this? Yuh-bo, what is this? Why is the Ha boy here?" my father asked gruffly.

"He wanted to see him off," my mother stated the obvious.

"But…what kind of relationship do they have?"

"I'm going to miss you so much," my brother yelled before he hugged him even tighter. Then he titled his head and it was obvious that he was whispering something in his ear.

I felt a little better because I was quite sure my brother was telling him to play along with his little ruse.

My father suddenly rushed forward and tried to subtly pry Dong Won off Min Ki. When they were separated, he looked at them with both a mixture of shock and uneasiness.

"Dong Won ah…," he started to say before turning to Min Ki. My father ran a nervous hand through his hair. "H-ha Min Ki, what brings you here?" he asked before looking disappointedly at my brother.

"What's going on?" my mother asked me. I shrugged and watched the scene with both a mixture of dread and relief. I was glad that my brother had intervened but I still didn't know what was coming next.

Min Ki bowed to my father. "Good morning, sir. I just came to say goodbye."

My father reached across to pat his shoulder, hesitated then dropped his hand back. "Thank you. But this wasn't necessary since we only saw you a few days ago. When two boys are friends…," my father started to say in a high pitched tone. He appeared to be going through some internal battle and his lips quivered like he didn't know if he should speak up or not.

Confused, I looked away and caught my brother's deadly look. That was when it dawned on me: my father suspected that they were gay lovers.

I covered my mouth to eliminate the sounds of my subsequent laughter then gave my brother the thumbs up. Hey, since the beginning of time, Oppas protected their dongsengs. In fact, it was something that was written in every single holy book. And so what if my father thought he was gay? Big deal. All he'd have to do was maintain the charade for the rest of the time – I was sure there were plenty of hot guys in America who wouldn't mind dating my brother. And was that a huge sacrifice? Nope. It was called taking one for the team.

Relieved that it might actually be possible for me to live long enough to be invited to Stockholm Concert Hall, I chuckled at my silliness, picked up my luggage then reminded my family that we had to get into the check-in line. After another long look at my brother and Min Ki, my father picked up his suitcase and led us to the line. I hung back a little so that my mother, then my brother, could line up ahead of me.

For the twenty or so minutes that we were in line, while Min Ki was killing time by speaking to my brother, I wanted to send him some kind of signal to let him know that I appreciated his kind gesture. The previous night, instead of returning to the party, we just sat together in silence till it was time for me to return home with my friends. It hadn't been easy parting with him and underneath all my fears, I was still happy to see him one more time. But every time I started to say something, my father glanced back and saw me.

When our luggage had been checked through and our boarding passes were firmly in our hands, my father sent one last uncomfortable look to Min Ki and said, "Thanks for seeing us off."

He bowed to him. "Please have a safe trip."

"You will try to maintain contact with Dong Won?" my father asked in a way that implied that he really didn't want him to.

Min Ki took a deep breath then turned to me. My heart immediately started thumping and even though I looked away to avoid his eyes, I could already feel my cheeks reddening. Why did he have to look at me like that?

From the way my father's eyes danced from Min Ki to me, I knew that later that night, he'd probably mark that day as one of the most confusing in his lifetime.

While Min Ki's eyes were still boring into me, even though I tried my best not to, I found my eyes slowly turning back to look into his dark brown ones. I averted my gaze for a second then looked back at him. I'm really going to miss you.

In response, he reached across, grabbed my hand then pulled me to his side.

Knowing that it would be both stupid and wrong to pull his fingers off my wrist, I smiled foolishly as I looked at the shocked expressions on my parents' faces and then frowned when I caught the amused one on my brother's.

I looked up at Min Ki and hissed. Did he really need to do that? All he'd had to do was send me a look that told me that he'd miss me too.

He smiled down at me then sighed. "Su Jin ah, we have to do this sometime, don't we?" Then he looked back at my parents. "Mr. and Mrs. Oh, I'll like to introduce myself as Su Jin's boyfriend."

Great. Thank God murder wasn't allowed on transcontinental flights. But what did American coffins look like?

Chapter 6

The one good thing about traveling with my father was that we got to experience the joys of Diplomatic Immunity. And what did that mean? It meant that once my father flashed his green passport, we didn't have to wait in line or go through Customs. I always wondered about the whole practice of granting free entry to certain individuals. Weren't they, in effect, giving some people license to carry contraband? If I were some kind of drug lord, there was no way I wouldn't kidnap a few diplomats' kids to get them to smuggle in a few million dollars worth of heroine. And cocaine. And maybe a few bowls of grandma's kimchi.

"Hurry up," my brother roared at me. It had been a long flight but did he really have to take his frustration out on me? Besides, it wasn't like we were standing on the very long and slow moving 'Non-Citizens' line with the other frustrated passengers. But it did feel rather good to glide past them. So good that I couldn't stop myself from giving them a Miss Universe wave.

I followed my family till we found the Embassy driver holding my father's name on his little cardboard placard. I stepped through the automatic doors and into the sweltering heat.


So maybe if I'd been arriving in Saudi Arabia, I would have been more prepared for it. Or was it because I'd stepped out from an air-conditioned airport and onto the street? But that wasn't exactly a unique situation; after all, I constantly went in and out of air conditioned buildings in Seoul. Whatever it was, I hadn't quite expected so much humidity and stillness in the air. It was only a short walk from the doors to the parking lot but I could already feel beads of sweat forming on my head.

"Is it always this hot?" I asked the driver as we loaded our luggage into the van.

The tall, stocky man called George shook his head and laughed. "Only in August. August in Virginia is always like this but don't worry, it'll get a better," he said cheerfully. "I'll turn the air on in the car."

"Oh, great," I started to say, fanning myself. But wait a minute, did he just say Virginia!?!?!


"Welcome," the ambassador's wife said the moment we stepped into her home. Her unnecessarily handsome husband stood graciously behind her and smiled at us. "I'm so happy to see you!" she said, flinging her arms around us and kissing us on our cheeks. "I've really been looking forward to meeting you guys," she said in English with what I later learned was a twang. As in t-wang.

So, even though I hadn't spent my life fluent in English, I could tell the difference between regular English and cowboy English. For some reason, I'd never really thought that people actually spoke like that – I'd somehow just thought it was some kind of long running joke. But apparently, I was wrong. Or maybe DCians Virginians didn't realize that the joke was on them.

George had tried to explain it all to me, something about the DMV area, but I couldn't quite understand why people claimed to be living in D.C. when in fact, they were in Virginia. I mean, the stupid airport was called Washington Dulles International Airport, but the damn thing wasn't even in Washington, D.C. How in the world did that make sense?

And to make matters worse, although I hadn't really expected the streets to be paved in gold, driving through the state and looking at the wooden buildings with their square, symmetrical shapes and white columns, I'd wondered if I'd somehow become a character from "Gone With The Wind." Surely, this wasn't America!!? What happened to all the cool people in all the Christina Aguilera videos?

"So would you like some soda?" Mrs. Kim asked us as she led us to the living room where her daughter and son were seated, looking very grumpy.

In the past, whenever I was visiting my Dad and he took us to see the Ambassadors in which ever country we were in, they always spoke Korean to us so it was quite weird to see a Korean lady only speak to us in English.

"So what do you think of America so far?" she asked.

After a few minutes of pointless gab, it was dinnertime. To welcome us, she'd laid out a huge spread of "American cuisine" which constituted of mashed potatoes, ham and other things that didn't seem to improve in taste no matter how much salt and pepper I sprinkled on them. On occasions like this, I usually occupied myself by looking at the different ways the Coat of Arms could be stamped on very single piece of silverware and furniture but this time, even that couldn't detract from the bland taste.

After dinner, the ambassador claimed he noticed that us kids were getting bored with all the adult talk so he suggested that we go and hang out in the game room.


My brother and the ambassador's 10 or so year old child were playing videogames when his 17 year old sister sat next to me.

"You're going to need English lessons?" she asked in accented Korean.

I shrugged. If I did, it certainly was news to me.

"Well," she said, looking over at the boys in front of the television, "I wasn't too keen on it before but…." She looked back at me. "Your brother wouldn't be attending our school?"

I groaned and looked away. I couldn't remember her name but I wasn't sure I even wanted to. With her slim physique, long hair and pouty lips, she would have been just his type if her chest wasn't as flat as a t-board. But come on, what was it with all these girls and my brother? He wasn't that hot.

"Is he?" she asked, nudging me.

"He already graduated. He's going to university."

"Oh," she said, not bothering to hide her disappointment. "So I guess he wouldn't be living at home?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know? Interesting." She looked back at my brother and let her eyes linger on him. "How's your English?"

"Don't worry about it."

She turned back and smiled at me in the condescending manner an adult smiled at a child. "Say something in English."

I rolled my eyes. "Forget it. I really don't need English lessons."

"Come on," she said, slapping my knee playfully. "Just say anything."

I sighed. "My name is Oh Su Jin."

"We're in America, so say Su Jin Oh instead."

I frowned. "My name is Su Jin Oh."

She nodded. "Yep, you definitely need my help." She was fighting to keep her eyes trained on me but failing miserably because they kept darting at my brother. "I'll definitely love to help you."


"Su Jin ah," my father called from the bedroom. "Come to my room now."

"Den den den, you're in big trouble! Den den den," my brother chanted from across the living room. Dropping the letter I was writing to Min Ki, I got up, glared at my brother, took a deep breath in and reluctantly got off the couch. It had been a week since we arrived in the United States and my parents hadn't said a word to me about the whole airport incident. After walking around on eggshells for the first few days, I'd decided that by some miracle, they really didn't care. But from my father's tone, I knew that I was wrong. With my heart getting heavier with every step, I climbed up the carpeted steps.

Their bedroom door was ajar so about a minute later, I pushed it in further. My mother told me to step in and shut the door behind me.

"Sit over there," my father ordered, pointing at my mother's vanity chair. He sat on the bed next to my mother and looked directly at me. "That boy isn't your boyfriend, is he?" my father barked.

"W-which boy?" It was a stupid thing to say but with the daggers shooting out of his eyes, it was all that I could come up with.

"Oh Su Jin, the boy who held your hand at the airport and claimed he was your boyfriend," my mother said patiently.

"Ha Min Ki?" I asked sheepishly.

"Yes, him," my father barked. "Isn't he the one I allowed to come to my house almost every day for two months? The one I used to ask to stay for lunch before going home? The one, who I assumed was your brother's best friend? Or is there another Ha Min Ki?"

With my shoulders slumped, I shook my head.

I watched my father's feet as he paced up and down the room. He stopped right in front of me. "He's not your boyfriend, right? Isn't it true that you're not allowed to have boyfriends?"

I looked down and nodded.

"Good," my father said, heaving a huge sigh of relief. "Yuh-bo, isn't that what I said?"

"Su Jin ah," my mother said softly, "you weren't dating Min Ki?"

"I was."

"Then why did you just lie to me?" my father yelled.

"I didn't lie. I was only agreeing with you that it was true that I shouldn't have boyfriends," I said so softly that I wasn't sure they could hear me.

"What is that? What does that mean? What is a boyfriend, Su Jin? What does that mean?" my father was practically screaming at the top of his lungs. "You kids watch television and think that you can just copy everything you see there. What do you know about a boyfriend at your age?"

I shut my eyes and tried to block the sounds of his bellow. How was this fair? What was so wrong about loving someone? Did he really have to scream at me like that? Even though I didn't want to give him the satisfaction, I couldn't stop the tears from stinging my eyes.

"What did you gain from this boyfriend-girlfriend business? How long has it been going on for?"

I kept my lips together and didn't look up.

"Answer me! Ans--"

"Stop shouting at her!" my mother interjected.

The tears had begun to fall freely now. What had I done wrong? Had I robbed a bank? Had I murdered a new born child? Had I poured acid on someone's face? What crime had I committed?

My mother walked over to me and stroked my hair. "Sweetheart, how long has this been going on for?"

I looked up at her through the blur of my tears. Was she putting on an act for my father or had she also been oblivious about our relationship? There were times she'd walked in on me talking to him on the phone and even caught us talking alone a few times he was supposedly visiting my brother. She hadn't figured it out? "Not long, Umma."

She sighed. "I know that it might seem like we are being unfair, but you have to understand that you're still a little child to us."

"She's not just a little child to us - she's a little child. Period," my father growled.

"What happened between you… you know… I mean, you and him, you know in that way?" she asked, sounding both choked and terrified. The way parents spazzed while attempting to speak to their children about sex, you'd think that they were all virgins. "Nothing happened at all. Am I right?" she asked hopefully.

From the look in her eyes, I knew she so badly wanted it to be true. And I was a little saddened that she even had doubts. I'd always thought that at least, she knew that I wasn't that kind of girl.

"Nothing happened?" she repeated.

I nodded. "Nothing happened." Kissing didn't count. Right?

Satisfied, my mother finally exhaled then went back to sit on the bed. "Well, since he's still in Korea, I guess things are different. So end it now. By the time you return, you'd be old enough and if you want to continue, then I will give you my blessing then."

"They won't be receiving my blessing for sneaking around all this while. If he wanted to see my daughter, he should have told us about it instead of making a fool of me."

"But you know that things are different here in America," my mother said, ignoring my father's rant. "American boys are different. They expect things. School starts tomorrow and you're going to meet all sorts of people there. I am sure you might be curious but remember that it will be different with American boys. If you let them touch you, they will want more. If it gets too far, you never know what they will do. So there's no rush, okay? Just face your studies and forget about boys. Be patient and when you get older, you will find someone and get married. Okay?"

No Min Ki, no American boys, no life. I looked up at her. "Yes, Umma," I lied.

Chapter 7

I opened my brand new locker and stuffed some books in it. After spending the last few minutes at the school office getting my schedule and talking to the school principal, I was quite excited to begin school. Mrs. Anderson's petite stature and soothing voice had really eased my nerves and I was suddenly far less intimated about being the new girl. In fact, judging by how much she appeared to love heading our school, it looked like it would be quite fun.

"Hey," a smooth, deep voice said from behind me.

I turned around to find myself staring at the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. His hair was cropped pretty short although he did have a few strands falling across his forehead. He was probably about a foot taller than I was so my face was directly in front of what I was sure was a toned chest.

I'd never experienced this type of sudden increase in heart beats, dry mouth, suddenly sweaty palms caused by the mere proximity to a member of the opposite gender. Dang, I could even smell his masculine musk! Well, I figured that was what all the romance novels referred to as 'masculine musk.' My knees had given way at the sight of Min Ki, but this was an entirely foreign state of being.


I looked into his bright green eyes and held my breath. Great. The epitome of Adonis-ness was speaking to me and he just had to use an English word I was absolutely unfamiliar with. Maybe I really did need English lessons after all.

I gulped and nodded. "Okay?" I said hoping it was a reasonable response to the question. I didn't quite want to say yes and end up agreeing to something embarrassing.

He crinkled his brows and studied my face. "Okay? You don't know who you are? Aren't you Sougeenow?"

Huh? Sougee…? "Oh, Su Jin Oh?" I giggled in relief. "Yes, I'm Su Jin Oh!" Of course I was Su Jin Oh. I nodded. I really had to get used to saying my name backwards. "How did you know?"

He leaned against my locker and gave me the sexiest smile I'd ever seen in my life. I honestly didn't know that stretched out lips could ever look so appealing.

I shyly looked away from him.

"I didn't think you were Okwudili Nwankwo," he said in an amused tone.

I giggled even though I didn't know if it was a joke. But wait a minute? Why was I giggling shamelessly at him? I averted my eyes and silently began to chant Min Ki's name. Min Ki oppa! Min Ki oppa! Min Ki oppa!

"I'm Jonathan Mendez," he said, stretching his hand out to me.

"Hi," I beamed, accepting it. My skin tingled at his touch and when his hand lingered on mine, I hoped that I wouldn't die from an electrocution. Yeah, extremely cheesy but boy, was it true. Min Ki oppa! Min Ki oppa! Min Ki oppa!

He grinned and looked into my eyes. "You're pretty hot," he said, obviously unaware of the steps I was taking to not be affected by him. "Damn sexy too. And got such a cute, little face. I'm glad you decided to come here."

"Really?" I asked stupidly.

He stepped back so that he could take a better look at me. Then he licked his lips.

Eww. My stomach churned. Why did he have to spoil all that hotness by doing something so nasty?

"So," he said, retracing his steps back to me. "What are you doing tonight? Let's hang out or something," he said, once again licking his lips.

I sighed. So maybe the licking lips thing was something he did involuntarily? And why did he have to have such Won Bin lips?

I tried to look away but for some reason, my eyes insisted on remaining glued on his lips. Min Ki oppa! Min Ki oppa! Min Ki oppa!

"So what do you say?" he asked, nodding in a pleading manner. "Give me your address and I'll pick you up."

"Get lost, Jon. She isn't interested in you," someone said before dragging me by the elbow.


I really shouldn't have let strange hands take me away, but I instantly knew they were female and grudgingly acknowledged that it was for my own good. When we were a few feet away from Jonathan, I pushed her hand off me. "What kind of school is this? Do you know me?" Or was it an American thing to touch strangers?

She rolled her eyes and laughed. "You should be thanking me." She glanced back at Jonathan. "You really need to stay away from him. He's the worst kind of player because he just loves to prey on innocent little newbies like you."

I frowned at her then readjusted my school bag on my shoulder. Then I bent over and straightened out my clothes. There was no way I was going to walk around my first day of school looking like a hobo.

"Su Jin Oh?" she suddenly said.

Surprised, I stood up straight and looked at her. "How do you know?'

She pointed behind her. "It's on the notice board. Apparently, we have three new students this year: Mark Williams, Okwusomething Nwanother and Su Jin Oh." She shrugged. "I took a wild guess."

She started walking again so I followed suit. She glanced at me. "You do realize that it's summer, right?"


"So, why are you wearing so many layers?"

I looked down at my skirt, tights, knee high socks, blouse, t-shirt and sweater. "It's called fashion," I pointed out. What kind of rude girl was she?

"Fashion, huh? It's a good thing that the air-con is on full blast, otherwise, you'd melt," she sassily.

I smirked at her. "But since the air is on full blast, aren't you freezing?" I looked at her flimsy tank top and shorts. If her shorts were an inch higher, you'd think she was wearing a one piece swimsuit. She was lucky she had a slim, toned body otherwise, she'd have looked like a wh.ore.

She flipped her long dark hair then looked down at her clothes then back at me. She narrowed her light brown eyes. "It's called fashion," she deadpanned.

For a few seconds we both tried to stare the other down till we realized it was futile and burst out laughing.

"Hi, I'm Alison Crawford, but you can call me Ali."

I nodded. "Cool. Hi, Ali."

"Yeah, I think it makes me sound exotic… kinda like, Mohammed Ali or Ali Baba and the forty thieves."

Hmm… okay.

After about a moment of silence, she raised her brow and asked, "Anna?"

Confused, I shook my head. "No. Su Jin."

She rolled her eyes. "I know that. I'm asking if you're Ana… as in, anorexic? You know, the girls who starve themselves to look like toothpicks?"

I shook my head vehemently. "Of course not. I'm naturally like this – I take after my father." Goodness. Couldn't a girl be skinny in peace?

She looked at me skeptically. "I guess it could be true. Your skin looks healthy and even though you're bony, you're not exactly flat-chested." She nodded. "Alright, I'm convinced. I'm about to go to my math class but let's eat lunch together. Bye!"


About ten minutes into lunch, I figured out how Ali managed to keep her trim figure – she spent her entire lunch break talking! Not that I minded because I got up to speed on all the gossip about people I didn't know from the back of my hand.

"But I really don't know how Lisa is going to cope when she returns after spending her entire summer at a convent in Switzerland."

I shrugged. "Maybe she didn't mind it?" The entire tale seemed a bit farfetched.

"She didn't mind it? How would you like being shipped out of the country to stay with nuns just because you're pregnant?" She sighed. "I'd absolutely hate it," she said, playing with her fingernails. "When I go to Switzerland, I don't go to spend my whole day saying the rosary."

"Maybe it was a fun convent like in 'The Sound of Music'?" I offered.

She groaned. "Su Ji—"

"Hey," Jonathan's silky voice interrupted. "So, Miss Su Jin Oh, have you thought about what—"

Why did I like the way he said my name? Min Ki oppa! Before I could refuse his offer, Ali banged the table with enough force to lift my fork off my plate of uneaten oily pizza.

"Jon, are you deaf? Just get lost!"

Jonathan shook his head and smirked at her. "Get over it, Alison and don't let your jealousy kill you." After sending her a few more irritated looks, he changed his demeanor then smiled at me. "See you later, Su Jin," he said way too sexily.


Since there was obviously bad blood between Alison and Jonathan, I tried to force myself into eating some sweet corn while she ranted about how much of a monster he was. Plus it didn't help that every other sentence was a warning for me to stay away from him. Even if I didn't already have Min Ki in my life, I wouldn't have wanted to get in between whatever was going on between them.

"She's right," a male voice said out of nowhere. Alison and I turned to its direction to find a lanky Asian boy frowning at us. "Jonathan Mendez is no good and I wouldn't want any of my sisters to fall victim to him like she did," he said, looking at Alison and chuckling.

"Drop dead," she said before stuffing some pizza in her mouth.

"Su Jin Oh?" the guy asked before sitting next to me.

I groaned. "Does everyone visit this notice board?" My plans for blending in unnoticed had obviously been thwarted by that blasted thing.

Alison took a sip of her diet coke and nodded. "Yep. It's the best thing ever and it always has the juiciest gossip. But you have to make sure you check it out first thing in the morning before one of the annoying teachers takes down all the good stuff. Right now, I'm sure you'll only find school related stuff but this morning, I saw a list of all the couples that broke up over the summer," she said gleefully. She rubbed her hands together. "I can't believe Ranjit and Amina broke up. I thought they'd at least last till college!"

I squinted at her. Should gossip excite one person so much? "Interesting," was all I could come up with. I spun my head from her to find the boy staring at me. "What?"

"Fawb?" he asked after a few moments.

"Huh? What's 'fawb'?"

He laughed. "Not pub. A pub is where Irish people go to get drunk. Fob starts with an 'f' and not a 'p'. As in F.O.B…."

I still wasn't getting it. "Meaning…?"

He nodded. "I guess that would be a yes. I mean, you do sound like one. It's someone who's only just arrived in the United States. F.O.B = Fresh of the boat."

I frowned. That didn't sound like a compliment. "What's that supposed to mean? I flew here. I certainly didn't take a boat," I pointed out before I paused and thought about it some more. "Did you just insult me?"

He shook his head. "No. Forget about it," he dismissed before reaching into his bag and pulling out a camcorder. He turned it on then directly at me. "Okay, fob, tell me about your first day at Brighton Academy. Good? Bad? Did it live up to your expectations? Did you at least make one sensible friend?"

Before I could tell him that I wasn't interested in his camera, Alison shoved him so hard he fell off the bench. "Stop bugging my friend!"

He got back up, shoved her lightly then smiled at me. "Let's do this again," he said before taking a deep breath. "Sorry for being rude. Where are my manners?" He stretched his hand out to me. "My name is Drake… no, Chase. No, Stone? How about Brandon?"

I eyed him. Was this guy completely insane?

"Still not impressed?" he asked disappointedly. "What name will make agree to participate in my documentary?"

What the hell was going on?

"Ali, is something wrong with him?"

She shrugged. "Just ignore him like the rest of us do and hopefully, one of these days, he'll realize that he's not Stephen Spielberg and throw that cheap camera away."

"Ali, this camera cost a lot," he said before mentioning all its attributes. "Grow up and stop being a hater," he said as he sat back next to her. He blew some nonexistent dust off his seemingly prized possession then trained it back on me. "What about Preston? Jake? Bruce? Enrique…," he continued, apparently attempting to spout out all the male names he probably crammed from a baby naming book.

I watched him with a mixture of amusement and confusion. What a weirdo. I laughed. I had so much to tell Min Ki oppa.

"…Brody, Keagan, Zander…."

"Ryan!" Alison screamed. "LEAVE MY FRIEND ALONE!"

Chapter 8

I had some time between lunch and my next class so I went to the computer room to check my email. Apparently, it took about 10 days to get something as simple as DSL installed so we were still waiting for it to be turned on at home. I logged on to my email account to find that I had 120 new messages. After deleting all the spam, I was left with about 8 real messages; 1 from Il Woo, 1 from Tae Ran, 1 from Na Young, 1 from Young Hee, my brother's girlfriend (WTF?), and 4 from Min Ki. Seeing his name in bold black letters made me feel all gooey inside so I quickly clicked on the first email. It was funny how I didn't realize how much I missed him till I saw his name.

Date: 6 August 14:27:03
From: "Ha Min Ki"
Subject: Guess who?
To: "Oh Su Jin"


How was your flight? I am quite sure that you're on the plane at this very moment but I just wanted to send this email to you so that it would be the first thing you read once you arrived in America. Take to you soon.

Missing you already,


I smiled. How sweet. I could picture him smiling and writing the email as he anticipated my reaction to it. I felt a little sad that I wasn't able to get to it sooner but that only meant that I had 3 more emails to read, right? I clicked on the next one.

Date: 8 August 01:15:42
From: "Ha Min Ki"
Subject: Guess who again?
To: "Oh Su Jin"

Hey Jinnie,

You should have arrived by now. I thought you would have emailed me by now but I guess you're still settling in. What is America like? Is it like Seoul? Does everything just seem more expensive? Does it look like it does in the movies? Have you witnessed a drive-by shooting yet? Make sure you take care of yourself. Well, email me as soon as you can just so I know that you're alright. Okay?

Min Ki


My upturned lips immediately changed position. Stupid Verizon DSL! Why did they have to take so long to turn the stupid service on? Was it really that hard to just hit a button? What was with the whole production? Did Min Ki oppa deserve to worry about me so much? I clicked on the next email with trepidation.

Date: 9 August 22:58:31
From: "Ha Min Ki"
Subject: America must be fun!
To: "Oh Su Jin"

Su Jin,

I guess you haven't been able to reply because you're having so much fun. I'm so jealous. I called the airline and they said that your plane arrived safely. I'm so glad that you're okay. Well, I guess you can email me when you get time. Take care.

Ha Min Ki


My heart sank further. From the tone of his email, I could already tell that he was mad at me so I prayed that he'd be understanding when I tried to explain it all to him. I thought about it then reprimanded myself for my foolishness. Of course, he'd be understanding, after all, he was my Ha Min Ki. Feeling a bit more positive, I clicked on his last email.

Date: 12 August 15:48:56
From: "Ha Min Ki"
Subject: I'm sorry
To: "Oh Su Jin"


I was just thinking and I hope that you're not being punished because of what I did at the airport. It was just that I felt that sneaking around made it look like we were ashamed of being together and you know that I can never be ashamed of you. If you're suffering because of something I did, I really apologize. Tell me what I can do to fix it. I emailed Dong Won but he hasn't emailed me back. I wonder what that means. Is he angry about what I did? Anyway, contact me whenever you have time – my number is still the same.



I exhaled then smiled again. Although I hated that he'd begun to blame himself for my silence, I was glad that he'd figured out that I wasn't just ignoring him. Yes, he'd come to the wrong conclusion but that was fine with me. I quickly logged on to Instant Messenger to find him but he wasn't logged on. I did some calculations and realized that he was probably asleep because it was very early in Seoul. I paused for a few moments to collect my thoughts then hit the 'reply' button.

Date: 14 August 12:48:19
From: "Oh Su Jin"
Subject: I miss you loads!
To: "Ha Min Ki"


How are you? I'm so sorry I haven't been able to get in touch with you. We arrived safely but I've not been able to contact you because we don't have any internet connection at home yet. I should be getting my cell phone service sometime this week so I'll email my number as soon as I get it.

How are your parents? And your sister? I hope everything is great at home. Don't feel bad about what happened at the airport – my parents were pretty cool about it. I guess they don't mind since you're so far away! biggrin.gif I think they think that if I remain faithful to you, then they don't have to worry about American boys. Silly. Like I'll ever look at American boys when I have you. But anyway, I am sure that they fully support us so don't worry about the airport – you did a great thing! It was so romantic - I felt like the damsel being rescued by the knight. See? There's nothing wrong with reading romance novels.

So far, my school has been pretty okay even though it's only the first day. Everyone I have met so far has been great and I'm not having any trouble communicating or anything. I don't know why it was so scared. I attend an international school so I get to meet loads of people from all over the world and I don't feel like the odd one out or anything. I have class soon so I'll write you a super long email later.

I hope you reply soon and I can't wait till I can hear your voice again. America would be so much more fun if you were here with me. Talk to you later.



I stared at my pen and almost blank sheet. I'd had chemistry, art and math before lunch so it hadn't been that difficult to follow what the professors were saying because they wrote the equations or drew as they spoke so all I needed to do was look at the chalkboard and copy.

But in the last 40 minutes my history teacher had been speaking and dictating notes, I hadn't been able to get down more than a few lines. Part of it was that she was speaking like a cowgirl so it was pretty hard to follow her and the other part was because I had difficulty translating what she said to written words. I was still having a relatively hard time trying to think in English so I wouldn't waste time translating everything I heard to Korean first, understanding it, coming up with a response in Korean, translating it back to English then speaking. Tom had explained that the best way for us to learn to be fluent was to start thinking in English. Other than saving time, it also reduced the chances that the person you were speaking with would peg you as someone with a mental disability.

I listened as she dictated some more notes but every time I'd just about figured out what to write, she was already on the next paragraph. I growled in frustration and dropped the pen. I didn't want to give up but I didn't know what other options I had. Was I about to flunk this class?

"Alright, kids, that will be all for today," Miss Saunders said as she snapped her book shut. She was a dirty blonde with a slightly chubby physique but I could understand why some guys would be attracted to her – she had the kind of worldly demeanor that let everyone know that she was so adventurous that she'd probably try anything twice.

I packed my books and followed the rest of my class towards the door. As I walked past her desk, I got an idea so I stopped and walked over to her.

"Good afternoon, Aju—I mean, Good Afternoon, Ma'am."

She looked up and smiled. "Su Jin Oh?" she asked, pointing her pen at me.

I nodded. "Yes, Ma'am."

"So what can I do for you?"

I took a deep breath in then jumped in. "Would it be possible for me to get your notes after class? I'm having some trouble following you and I was hoping I could get a copy from you after each class so that I can read them at home."

Miss Saunders silently stared at me for a few moments then blinked rapidly. "Can you please repeat that?"

I did as she requested but said it twice as slowly. Maybe she could only understand cowboy English?

She distorted her face for a few moments, sighed then nodded. "Okay, I think I got that. You want to get notes from me?"

I nodded.

She apologetically shook her head. "I don't think that would be fair to the other students. If I give you my notes, then I might as well give it to them too, don't you think?"

It was my time to stare at her but this time, in disbelief. What was so hard about giving notes to a student whose mother tongue wasn't English?

She must have read my thoughts because she looked at me closely then asked which country I came from.


"You've only just arrived in the States?"

I nodded. "We came last week."

She raised her brow. "I see. Alright, I'll think about it and see what I can come up with. See me at the end of Wednesday's class."


"Fob," I heard someone say the second I stepped out the classroom. I turned around to find myself staring at a camera. I hissed and continued walking. I really wasn't in the mood to hear more boy names.

"Hey, hold up! Don't you remember me? We just met at lunch. I'm Ryan," he yelled, running to catch up with me. "What class do you have next?" From the corner of my eye, I could tell that the camera was still pointed at my face.

I stopped walking and turned to him. "What's your problem? And my name is not Fob."

"Sorry, Su Jin." He dropped the camera a few inches so that I could see him. I scrunched my nose and took a good look at him. Hmm… he really did look better without that camera glued to his eye. He had a nicely defined jaw and pretty good nose and if I squinted hard enough, he reminded me a bit of Il Woo.

"Can you help me out a little?"

I looked away but didn't leave.

"These first few days are crucial. By next week, your opinion wouldn't be as authentic. I just want to know what you think of the school so far. So can you please answer a few questions?" he begged, lifting his camera back to his eye level.

I covered the lens and shook my head. "Sorry," I said before picking my feet and continuing my journey towards my locker. It certainly wouldn't hurt to make a new friend but even though I pretended not to care, I was slightly affected by what Ali has said about my clothes. Did I really want a permanent record of my outfit?

"Fob," he called a few seconds later. "Will you do it if I lent you my history notes? And any other notes you might need?"

His words were like lead to my feet and I stopped abruptly. I turned to him in amazement. "You are following me? You were spying on me?"

"Hey," he said, his face suddenly darkening a shade, "I only want you for my documentary. Mark Williams hasn't shown up yet and the Okwu person has already rejected me. I just need a newbie's unbiased view of this school. So don't flatter yourself." He frowned. "And I wasn't spying on you – I just overheard. So why can't we make a mutually beneficial deal? I'll lend you my notes in exchange for a few minutes of your time. Then you can forget I even exist."

It was only the first day of school and someone was already promising to disappear from my world? That had to be some kind of record. I thought about it. It would be nice to get some notes but I didn't know if I was going to experience the same difficulty in other classes plus I already had things sorted out with Miss Saunders. And I could probably get other notes from Ali. Plus, didn't the camera add like 10lbs? I shook my head. "No, thanks."

Chapter 9

"So how was your first day?" my father asked us soon after saying grace. Since my brother looked like he was bursting to share his exciting day, I rolled my eyes at him to signal for him to go first.

"Well," he began, putting his fork down. "I think most of the Americans attend orientation during the summer because all the people in my orientation class were either foreign students or from out of state."

"Really?" my mom asked, sounding far too interested.

I looked away so that no one would catch the pity in my eyes. My mother was never the type to sit still in one place for long and I'd already seen how antsy she'd been getting the past week even though she'd been busy with unpacking and redecorating. But now that we were leaving her all alone during the day, there was no way she wasn't going to go out of her mind.

"Yeah, Umma." He beamed proudly. "I think I met someone from every single country in the world," he said, obviously exaggerating.

"Really?" I countered. "You met someone from Sao Tome? What about Kazakhstan?" I asked, showing off my ability to store useless information. If someone handed me a globe and asked me to point those countries out, I'd failed woefully.

"No," he replied, scrunching his nose, "but I met someone from Papau New Guinea. Ever met anyone from there?"

"Whatever. I'm sure there are some of them at my school. It's not called an international school for nothing," I replied before sticking my tongue out at him.

Dong Won chuckled before saying, "It wasn't too bad. Some of them were pretty cool and interesting. One girl I met said that she hosted a musical program in India and that she'd be going back to television after graduation. Also, this—"

"Dong Won ah," my father interrupted, "it's nice that you met all these people but don't forget that you have to make friends with the American students. A lot of children with influence attend your school so you have to make the right connections since this is their country. You can't get very far without connections here -don't forget that. Yes, be friendly with all these foreign students but form solid relationships with Americans – that's what will get you far. That's what will enable you to be successful."

From the corner of my eye, I looked at my brother and from the way he was glaring at my father, if looks could kill, 911 wouldn't be able to revive him. I could see his nose flaring and knew that he was struggling so hard to keep his cool and remain civil to my father. He took a deep breath then planted a fake smile on his face. "Umma," he said, facing her, "there are quite a few activities for parents as well. It looks like a lot of parents with kids from out of state also come to orientation so if you're not doing anything tomorrow, would you like to come with me? I was getting a little jealous of them," he joked.

Before my mother could reply, my father quickly dismissed the idea by saying that he was sure my mother would be busy.

"Doing what?" my mother asked without looking at him.

He shrugged. "I'm sure there's a lot to do at home."

"Like what?"

He turned to her angrily. "I don't know. But I'm sure there's a lot to do. Didn't you say that the DSL will be turned on tomorrow? Don't you have work to do for your practice? Since you'll be busy with that, how will you find time to go to his school?"

How typical. While my father discouraged my mother from keeping ties with her practice when she was still in Korea, he was now using it as an excuse in America. What was so special about sitting in the house doing nothing and if it was so great, why didn't he do it himself?

I glanced at my mother and saw that she was staring at him in stunned silence. When she finally recovered, she cleared her throat and said, "Dong Won ah, what time should I be ready?"


I walked into the cafeteria discreetly trying to cover up my headlights. With Ali's voice still ringing in my ears, I'd dressed lightly with only a baby tee and jeans but after spending all morning in fully air-conditioned classroom, my nipples were on full alert. They were so sharp that a few minutes earlier, I'd been quite hesitant about covering them with small bits of tissue paper for fear of drawing blood. Although I managed to get through the exercise without any cuts, I realized that the tissue only brought more attention to them.

With my upper arms covering my chest in a very unnatural pose, I scanned the room for anyone I knew. I'd seen Ali in one of my earlier classes but because she'd walked in late, I'd been unable to speak to her. I stretched my neck, trying to see every single corner of the cafeteria but I still couldn't find her. Bummed, I picked up a tray and walked up to the serving counter to get my food. Even though I still didn't know Ali well, it would have been nice to have someone to talk to.

A few minutes later, with tray in hand, I tried to figure out where to sit. Even though it was probably not something students at my school would willingly admit to, the cafeteria appeared to be racially divided with certain groups sitting in specific areas.

I scanned the cafeteria again, hoping to find an empty table but since luck appeared to be spending the day with someone else, I couldn't find one. So I took a deep breath and walked over to the right side of the room which populated by other Asian kids.

"Hi," I said before dropping my tray down. I began to sit, expecting to hear a ring of greetings in return but by the time my butt hit the seat, I hadn't heard a pip from them.

"Hello," I yelled. When they turned to me, I grinned and waved. "Hello, I'm new here. Nice to meet you," I said, starting to bow before thinking better of it.

They let out an array of anemic responses then went back to what must have been a riveting conversation.

Disheartened by the reception, I stared at my plate of potato au gratin and tried to decide what to do next. I couldn't believe that at that moment, I really would have loved hearing, "Oh Su Jin?"

I sighed and scanned the room but saw that there still weren't any empty tables. I took a sip of my diet coke and pondered my choices: I could either sit there and remain ignored or go to another table and possibly face more humiliation. I settled on the former and dug into my lunch. Two could play the game – I'd ignore them just as well as they ignored me.

As I sat and chewed, wondering if it would be okay to bring my own spices to school, I curiously glanced at the girls sitting next to me. They all appeared to be around my age even though they were obviously trying to appear much older. Other than covering their faces in what must have been war paint, it appeared that it was a club requirement to wear cleavage-revealing tops that unfortunately, for some of them, only revealed bones.

I was about to look away from them in disgust when I realized that there was something familiar about one of them. I subtly looked closely at her and racked my brain for where I recognized her from till it hit me: she was the ambassador's daughter.

I quickly jerked my head away and tried to ignore the unsettling feeling that was slowly coming over me. She wasn't someone I cared about or someone I'd really planned on becoming friendly with but I couldn't deny that it hurt that she hadn't acknowledged me. A little 'hi' wouldn't have killed her, would it?

I was reaching out for a paper napkin when I suddenly got the feeling that someone was staring at me. I turned around and immediately caught Ali's eye. She looked me up and down in a not too pleasant way, sent me a knowing look, shook her head then turned around. She was obviously annoyed at me but what had I done? I quickly stood up and wanted to chase after who could possibly be my only friend but regretfully stopped myself because I knew that I had to use the rest of my lunch break to email Min Ki.


The computer room was pretty packed when I got there and after waiting for a computer for a few minutes, I finally managed to get one next to some rowdy guys who refused to shut up despite numerous warnings from the attendant. I frowned at her and I sat in my chair. Why couldn't she just kick them out?

Blocking the sounds of them arguing about which Olsen sister was more 'bangable', I opened a web browser and quickly logged on to my email account. Amongst about 20 spam messages with weird characters in their headers, I found Min Ki's email.

Date: 14 August 19:08:37
From: "Ha Min Ki"
Subject: Re: I miss you loads!
To: "Oh Su Jin"

My Dearest Jinnie,

You said I reminded you of one of the characters in one of your romance novels? At first, I wasn't quite sure that I liked the sound of that but later on, I warmed up to idea and it's why I called you 'My Dearest Jinnie.' Of course you are very dear to me but saying it is a little sickening, don't you think? But now that I know that I am like one of those characters that women dream about, I think it's only fair that I play the part.

Okay, ignore everything I've just written – I'm just so glad to hear from you! You're going to write a super long email? I am looking forward to it. And I really hope you get your phone soon because I can't wait to hear your voice either.

Everything is fine here and my mother says hello. The last few days have been very strange because there are so many times I want to call you then I remember that you're no longer here. Why do you think I spammed you with so many emails?

School starts next week and I just can't wait till I graduate. Maybe when I do, I can visit you in America then you can take me to Pennsylvania Avenue and maybe we'll run into The President? What do you think? Hahaha… just kidding. Even if I sell all my organs, I still don't think I'd be able to afford a plane ticket. Which reminds me, I hope it's not too expensive to call from the U.S. and if it is, then I'll just do the calling.

Nothing much has been happening here. I've just been getting ready for school, I guess. Oh – you'd be pleased to know that my aunt just had a baby girl so you guys won the pool. My sister says that she'll be keeping your share till you get back but I think she's already spent it at the mall -serves you right for running to America. Na Young and Tae Ran were worried about you but I'll call them and let them know that you're okay but make sure you email them too.

Anyway, I really miss you. Even if you don't get internet connection at home, you can still email from school, right? That should be okay, too. I wish I could hold your hand right now but… oh well.

I miss you loads too,
Min Ki.


I am going to ignore that you actually typed out the words "American boys" in an email to me.

I burst out laughing. American boys had nothing on him. With my face still in a huge grin, I quickly logged on to MSN. But as expected, he wasn't on. Damn, I sure couldn't wait till I finally had a working cell phone.

Chapter 10

The one thing that really sucked about being the new girl was that everybody already had their own cliques. In freshman year, since everyone was as new as the next, it was easy to make friends because we were all strangers. But joining a school when the students knew one another for two years and most of them were already satisfied with their friends was pretty difficult. Which was why I pretty much walked through the hallways alone. Some people were kind enough to send me courteous smiles when I walked past them and even though I knew the gesture wasn't an invitation to start a conversation with them, I was glad that they had at least acknowledged my presence. I was never an attention but damn.

"Hey, Sexy." There was only one person with such a deep voice and only one person with a masculine musk and he was the only one to ever call me sexy so I didn't even have to turn around to know who it was.

"Hi Jonathan," I said before shutting my locker. I stepped aside then turned around. "How is it going?" His shirt had a few buttons undone and he looked like one of those devilish characters from an American soap opera.

"Let's have dinner tonight – I'll buy."

I sighed. Was I even in the position to reject anyone who wanted to be my friend even if looking into his eyes made my heart flutter? "I don't know if I'm allowed to have dinner outside the house," I replied honestly.

He frowned. "Oh, you're one of those. Got strict parents?"

I shrugged. "You could say so."

He stood still and thought about it. "Then we can have lunch together," he said smiling. "We can ditch the cafeteria and go somewhere good."

I pursed my lips. "I don't think that's a good idea."

He raised his brow and sent me a lazy smile. I felt my heart thump so I turned away. Gosh, why was he so hot?

"What's wrong with us getting to know each other?" he asked, reaching out to take my hand.

I quickly moved away to avoid his touch. "I heard you're a player and I already have a boyfriend."

"Boyfriend? Damn, you work fast. Didn't you just get here? Who is he? Tell me where he is so I can go and beat him up," he said, smiling in that charming way again.

I stretched out my hand. "Let's just be friends, okay?"


I dropped my tray on the table and sat across from Ali and Ryan. "Hi, guys."

"Ryan," she spat, "look who we have here." She looked pointedly at me. "You don't feel like sitting next to your friends?" she said, glancing at the table I'd sat at the previous day.

"You weren't here when I got here."

She raised her left brow. "Are you sure? Because when I walked in, I waved my hand like a mad woman trying to get your attention but you completely ignored me then sat next to the Prada Bitches." She chuckled. "Of all people to sit with. I bet they ignored you too. If you were going to sit with your own kind, you should have at least gone to a different table," she said with a smirk.

I knitted my brows in confusion. "That's not it at all. I couldn't find anyone I knew so I just sat there. I swear, I didn't see you."

Ryan rolled his eyes. "Ignore her. She probably wasn't here when you came in - we spent part of lunch break looking at her car."

"Big mouth," Ali said before stuffing her mouth with a fist full of fries.

I looked from him to her and couldn't deny that they shared a certain warmth. "Are you guys dating?"

Simultaneously, they made horrified faces, glanced at each other then shook their heads vehemently. "Eww!" they said in unison.

I laughed. I was glad to see the tension dissipate. "So how do you guys know each other?"

Ryan eyed her. "I'm her assigned caretaker."

"Whatever," Ali scoffed. "The guy stalks me so what can I do? Even if I move to another town, he's still going to follow me so I figured that I might as well give in and enrich his life with my presence."

"What the…?" Ryan started to say before asking me to pass him the salt. As he sprinkled it on his burger, he said, "Our parents work together so we're family friends."

He went on to explain that their parents worked for a multi-national company which was why he'd been born in Dubai, moved to Houston when he was seven, relocated to DC when he was twelve and that Ali's family had followed a similar path although they were usually about two years behind. "Which is why I am eternally being asked to 'show her around' and take care of her."

"Cool," I said before taking a bite out of my juicy burger. I'd never had it with bacon and it tasted so good that I was already planning on getting seconds.

"So," Ryan said a few minutes later, "have you thought about my proposal?"

Ali's eyebrow shot up. "Proposal? Wow, don't tell me that geeky Ryan Cho is finally interested in a girl. Oh my God!" she yelled. "May the seas part and the heavens rejoice! Ryan Cho has finally realized that he's got a!"

People from other tables looked over at us then turned away in irritation.

"Su Jin, as I was saying," he said, ignoring her, "have you thought about it?"

"This surely is interesting," Ali interrupted before I could respond. "I wonder when this is going to show up on the notice board," she said with glee.

Ryan turned to her. "Yeah, I am quite sure it will end up there – after all, rumor has it that you're the #1 gossip queen at this school."

Ali replied by moving her brows up and down mischievously. "Now you know, huh? So expect this as tomorrow's headline: Which 'straight of the plane' girl is already involved in an intense love triangle with a 'fake wannabe filmmaker science geek' and a 'heartless playboy predator'?"

"'Heartless playboy predator'? I always thought I was more of the 'sensitive playboy predator-type'," Ryan said in a bored tone.

I laughed. "Well, I can't be the 'straight of the plane' girl since I already have a boyfriend."

"Cool," Ryan said.

"Really?" Ali added curiously.

I nodded and pulled out my keychain. "His name is Min Ki. He gave this to me," I said smiling, showing them the couple ring I kept on the keyring. "I can bring my phone in tomorrow if you want to see a picture," I offered.

She shook her head. "No need. So this is some guy from the old world? A country bumpkin you made a blood oath with? Some innocent guy you promised to love for the rest of you life?"

I snickered. "No. I've always lived in the city. And so what if we promised to be together forever?"

"Nothing, I guess." She studied my face as she played with her knuckles. "Long distance relationship, huh? Good luck with that."


"This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the word, happy are those who are called to his supper," the priest said.

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed," I responded with the rest of the congregation.

I got off my knees and waited to get in line to receive communion. Receiving communion was supposed to be one of the most sacred sacraments and you were only supposed to receive the body and blood of Christ with a clean heart. But how could I say that at that moment, I even had one?

For starters, the mass was the second most boring service I'd ever attended in my whole life – with the first occurring the previous week. It wasn't like Catholic churches were known for being particularly exciting but goodness! At least, back in Korea, we dressed up and on days I was feelings holy, I enjoyed singing the hymns. But mass at St. Catherine's could sure insomnia. Most of the congregation looked like they'd just rolled out of bed, no one really bothered to participate in all the responses and I just felt bad for the old lady who screeched as she tried to lead us in the hymns. Even the priest looked like he wouldn't mind being elsewhere and no matter how hard I tried to pay attention to the readings and sermon, my mind kept wandering to more important things like the different cell phone plans I could get.

I walked up to the priest, received my communion, went back to my spot and knelt down and as I watched the rest of the congregation walking up to the altar to receive theirs, I recognized someone I knew.


"Hey, so I guess we attend the same church," I said to Ryan's back. Mass had ended so people were hanging around greeting their friends, chatting with the priest or checking out the chapel shop. I'd seen Ryan lighting a candle so I went to say hello.

He turned around and smiled at me. "I guess we do. I saw you guys for the first time last week so I knew you were definitely new in town."

I shrugged. "Or we could have switched churches or something."

He shook his head. "Na. You guys had the whole deer-in-headlights look so I definitely knew you were fobs."

He started to walk towards the back of the church so I mimicked him. "About your History notes…"

"What about them? Yeah, now you want to borrow them?"

I looked at him sheepishly. "Yeah, still want to trade?" Miss Saunders' notes had turned out to be very sparse because they were just the outlines she brought with her to class. Most of what she dictated was stored in her brain and as it was, I had no real access to them. And as for Ali, she was taking AP History so we weren't even in the same class.

"Well, I know we're in the house of God and all that but I'm going to have to decline," he said before walking out of the church.

"Why?" I ran out to catch up with him. "I thought you really needed me for your documentary. I promise to say very interesting and amazing things," I said hopefully.

He chuckled. "Yeah, whatever. I needed you when you were still fresh and unbiased. Now, you've already been at the school for a week, already have a reasonable idea of what the school is like, what the cliques are, made some friends and all that so you're not as unadulterated as I would like."

"I could fake it?"

He smirked.

I looked away sadly. "So no deal."

He shook his head. "Sorry, no deal." He looked at me for a moment then broke into a smile for some unknown reason. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" he said before walking over to who I presumed were the rest of his family.