Say I Love U / A story by Nikka (2011)
|This story is about a boy and a girl.|
It begins, naturally enough, with a confident girl who has everything anyone could ever ask for in the world. She has her doting father, her loyal friends, her fulfilling job and her attentive lover. One of the "lucky ones" -- with beauty, brains, love and happiness surrounding every step she makes towards her perfect ending. And then there's the brooding boy who has everything completely upside down. He is a silent one, alone and jaded, with only the language of songs to help him communicate to the world. The kind of man that says nothing, wants nothing and feels nothing... or so he thinks.
Their lives are shifted after a series of catastrophic and comedic events in a day -- where the lucky one gets a wake up call, and the brooding one finds himself feeling something.
Who would have thought -- that saying three words would be this tough?
... / Yes. /
"And you communicate through a whiteboard?"
/ ... /
|"Patient Kim Hyunjin, age 16 and diagnosed with the flu, has been requested to have her blood tests redone. Something about the white blood cells being to low for her age, and the something-chloride being too high." The nurse said, shrugging as she put a bundle of paper onto the counter.|
A young woman looked up, swiveling her seat from the computer to have a look at the paper on the table. She wore a stark white laboratory coat over her wine red blouse and black skirt with her name (Im Yoona, 3rd year Seoul Medical University in small, block letters) pinned on the left breast pocket. She read it silently – turning over the pages delicately, before raising an eyebrow a moment later and shaking her head.
Hyoyeon messed up again, she thought – rolling her eyes as her eyes fell on a misplaced period in the paper. Turning back to her computer, Yoona sighed as a program loaded in front of her.
"The results are correct but the decimal points were moved when it was typed. I'll re-print this and send it back up to your station." She said, waving the nurse off as the latter nodded and started towards the door. A few seconds later, the printer hummed into life as it reprinted the document and Yoona cleared her throat. With a hand on her waist, she marched into the laboratory and called, "Kim Hyoyeon!"
"You rang?" A voice called from behind a refrigerator, before a petite woman (dressed in a lab coat too and hot pink pumps) came out wearing a smile on her face. Yoona let out a deep sigh as her friend blinked curiously at her. "OK, what did I do now?"
"Unnie, you typed the results wrong again. That's the third time today!" she said, folding her arms across her chest and frowning. She waved the stack of papers at her friend's face and sighed again. "It's bad enough that the doctors are rushing us to finish their lab requests, but we can't waste time reprinting results we already sent out too."
Hyoyeon took the papers into her hand and skimmed them. "Oops," she said when she saw the misplaced dots she had typed before and smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, Yoona. You know I'm not very good with computers right?"
"Aigoo, don't give me that face." Yoona complained exasperated but smiling. "Next time leave the typing to me, OK? It was a good thing none of the elder staff got wind of this or else you're screwed."
"Thank goodness for their old age that they have to leave early." She agreed, nodding her head. She took a seat in one of the chairs and took a deep breath. "It's also a good thing that the younger staffers are all too afraid of us to say anything too. Maybe it's because today's our last day here."
"That's because you inject kids with needles so mercilessly, Hyo." Yoona said, smirking. She burst out laughing when she replied by sticking out her tongue. "Hyoyeon-choding, don't ever change."
"It's our last day as interns though... do you and lover-boy have any plans tonight?" Hyoyeon asked, wiggling her eyebrows and grinning. Yoona threw a wad of tissue paper at her and rolled her eyes, her cheeks tinted pink. "You're horrible, unni and we're going to dinner like we do every night since we've started dating," she replied, a smile clear across her face.
"Goodness, the two of you date as if you're both logging in for a shift!" The older exclaimed, shaking her head while laughing. She leaned closer to her friend and pouted. "I don't know if it's cute or just plain sad. The two of you really need to be more romantic."
Yoona waved a hand in front of her face and wrinkled her nose. "We're romantic enough, unni. That's all that matters. Besides, shouldn't you be toning down the romance between you and Eunhyuk-oppa? I've heard too many sexy voice messages on your machine whenever I come over."
Hyoyeon shrugged her shoulders. "Hey, my man's a very sexual being. I can't help it if we do well in that department and you don't." she teased, earning a slap on the shoulder from her already-too-red cheeked friend. "Don't be a prude, Yoong. I've been in your position too, and I only got over it after I started dating Eunkyuk when I met him at the subway. Who knows? You could meet your one true love at someplace vague too!"
"Donghae is my one true love, unni." Yoona argued, "and I am not a prude. I'm... just not ready."
"Not ready? Or not sure with your partner?" Hyoyeon countered, earning another slap on the shoulder. She laughed as she rubbed the sore part and nudged Yoona with an elbow. "Don't say I didn't tell you though."
Yoona laughed as well, shaking her head as she pulled her into a side hug. "Aigoo. Let's not talk about this anymore, ok? It's already five in the afternoon and I have to meet Donghae early so I can check up on my dad before visiting hours are over. Could you log my card out for me, unni?" Hyoyeon nodded and watched her pull off her lab coat and fold it neatly into her bag. "And please don't tell Eunhyuk what we talked about here... he talks to Donghae and that'll just be weird."
"You have to live a little, Yoona!" Hyoyeon said as she began to walk towards the door, "One day, I promise you, you'll know what I mean!"
Yoona rolled her eyes at her statement and said nothing as she stepped out of the laboratory. Pulling out a cellphone from her pocket, she quickly typed in a message without looking around her... and as luck would have it, she found herself sitting on her bottom on the floor and looking up to a man who's expression didn't match to the look of surprise on hers.
He was tall and lean, towering over her with a non-descript expression on his face as he looked at her. The black jacket he wore fit his broad shoulders loosely and was in contrast with the slightly fitted white shirt he wore inside. Slowly, he went down on one knee and began to pick up the wads of paper that fell off her bag and folders without a word and handed them to her. "Thank you," she whispered, blinking curiously at him as he stood up slowly and held out his hand. She stared at his open palm for a moment before realizing it was meant for her. Yoona sheepishly took it and stood up carefully, dusting her skirt clumsily as she did so.
"I'm sorry. I wasn't paying attention to where I was going." She said, bowing apologetically at the man in front of her. He nodded, patting off a small patch of dust on her shoulders blouse and then bowed as well before continuing down the hall and into the elevator.
Yoona watched him walk away, wondering why her cheeks warmed for a moment before her cellphone beeped.
[ I'll meet you there. See you. ] The screen said, and Yoona sighed—resuming her walk and consequently putting her wonders (and warm cheeks) to rest.
"How is your work treating you these days?" She asked the moment he walked into the door and dragged his feet. She leaned back and waited patiently as he took out a board and quickly wrote down a response.
/ It's fine. / The board read, and Sooyoung sighed—shaking her head as she pushed back against a pillow and he sat down on a chair right next to her bed. She was slightly pale under the cream white of her patient clothes, but looked fine nonetheless with the constant smile on her face. "You only have to arrange the albums back into place, right? Meanwhile Yuri does all the talking." She said, tilting her head to the side. "I hope you haven't thought about wringing her neck with that blabbermouth of hers. Shim Changmin, It's not nice to kill your adoptive sisters you know."
She was eight when her parents adopted a surly 14-year old Shim Changmin into their lives. Sooyoung had only begun to accept Yuri as a sister when she had been adopted two years before he came along. He hadn't changed much from then—but he at least spoke once or twice a day back then, and his words were always interesting to hear. He was a protective brother, albeit his stoic demeanor and unwillingness to speak. Still, they had always felt safe with him...
/ She's busy with Minho, so it's okay. / Changmin shrugged, raising an eyebrow. He quickly added another statement under the sentence. / How are you feeling? /
"You should just talk – it'd be easier to understand you if I didn't have to wait for you to write it down," she complained, pouting. When all she received in response was a blank face, Sooyoung sighed once again, loudly this time and nodded. "I'm doing a lot better than last time you were here. The cute doctor assigned to me has helped a lot. A little eye-candy never hurt." She said, grinning cheekily.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head at her, but let a small smile creep into his face for a moment. / You should think about getting better first before flirting. / He wrote, shooting her a look, / you'd have better luck if you were standing upright and not just lying in a heap. /
"Writes the man who's not had a relationship in years and has never spoken since... practically forever!" Sooyoung exclaimed, pushing him with a hand on the shoulder playfully. "I can flirt well in any position, brother. Your sister's pretty hot you know."
She laughed when he made a face and rolled his eyes again. She breathed in deeply, letting her dimples deepen beneath her smile and tapped his arm softly. "I miss hearing your voice, Changmin. It's been too long, don't you think?"
"Neither of them is ever going to come back. You should be over it by now... I mean, Yuri and I are." She watched his face for any sign of emotion—but none came to pass. Sooyoung sighed, shrugging her shoulders. No response as always, she thought watching his eyes wander beyond her. "Well, can't say I didn't try again today."
"But I promise you, one day, you'll find something you'd be willing to break your promise for."
Changmin considered her words, letting his mind drift aimlessly to an image of a woman looking up to him from the floor and then nodded—erasing it in his head as he patted her hand slightly. / Want a pie or something? / he wrote, offering her a slight lopsided smile and ignoring her curious expression. He stood up without waiting for her to respond, letting the door hang open and his adoptive sister wondering.
Yoona waited patiently in one of the tables inside a cozy, little restaurant three blocks away from the hospital. She glanced at her watch, quickly calculating the time she had left to meet her boyfriend and get back to visit her father. If she had enough luck for the day, maybe she could even convince him to visit her father with her... He had always said he wanted to see who made her daughter smile...
Her mind wandered briefly to an image of a helping hand from earlier and she blushed, shaking her head. Thinking about some random guy, honestly Yoona...
"Yoona." A voice called, and a smile formed across her face as she looked up and saw the man who accompanied the voice. She stood up, kissing him chastely on the cheek as a greeting. Lee Donghae only smiled in response and sat across from her.
"How was your day?" he asked, briskly opening the menu and skimming it. Yoona's brow wrinkled as she noted his fidgeting behavior and put a hand on his.
"Are you okay?" She squeezed his hand softly, looking into his eyes, "You seem nervous."
Donghae laughed, a slightly sad sound that surprised her because she knew he was not the kind of person to be sad. He was sunshine and laughter when they met a year ago and each day he made her feel wanted and secure. Donghae was a smile she could always count on to see. However, today seems to prove otherwise, Yoona mused staring at him. He took her hand inside his and looked at it – careful not to look at her eyes and face and kissed it.
"I have something to confess. And you're not going to like it." He started, his voice low and strained. Yoona felt her heart grow heavy and she moved her hand away. He didn't grab it back or look at her as she did. "I'm sorry, Yoona... but..."
"I'm seeing someone else."
There was a figure sitting on one of the benches outside the hospital entrance when Changmin walked back carrying food and water. He tilted his head, straining to place where he had seen that red blouse before and the mess of hair it had accompanying it. [ Quickly I'm learning to love again... ] He pressed 'Stop' on his mp3 when he realized the figure was crying and took another step closer. He froze when she looked up at him with tear-stained cheeks.
"Oh, it's you," she whispered, hastily wiping away at her cheeks with her hands. Her fingers trembled as she tried to open the clasp of her bag and failed miserably. New tears seemed to form under eyes as she fought them away and blew at her hands to warm them. "Sorry."
The girl from before, he thought, settling down on a seat apart from her. She took no notice of him and continued on trying to open her bag but to no avail. Changmin watched her sigh in annoyance and give up, lowering her head and letting out a new batch of tears. He looked around tensely, waving off the people staring at her to move along—and then turned his attention back to her. Why am I here? He asked himself as the woman next to her continued to cry softly. Changmin glanced at her again, watched her figure tremble and her hair float around her tear-stained cheeks... Oh, to hell with it. His eyes softened as he brought one of his earphones to her ear and pressed 'Play'.
[ It's gonna hurt when it heals too / It'll all get better in time ]
Yoona blinked, raising her head as the song played on in her ear. She looked at the man sitting next to her and blinked at him. He was looking straight ahead, watching the street fill with people that walked past them and said nothing, bobbing his head slightly to the music. [ I'm gonna smile cause I deserve to / It'll all get better in time ]
"Thank you..." she whispered, wiping her cheek as the song's words sunk in. He shrugged, reaching to his side to offer her a water bottle. Tentatively, Yoona took it and shot him a grateful half-smile.
'Yoona, it gets better in time...' He seemed to say as their eyes met for the second time this day. Without a word, he stood up as the song ended and bowed to her slightly before heading inside the hospital again. She sighed, taking a swig of water and wiping her mouth.
"It gets better in time."
"Yoona... I was starting to think you wouldn't come today." A voice said, his tone friendly and loving as she entered the room quietly. Yoona took a deep breath and turned around to face her father with a smile. "I thought you'd have left your old man all alone." He pouted, reaching out to her with a hand that she gladly took.
Mr. Im had been in the hospital for two years now—battling acute myeloid leukemia with a brave face. Yoona remembered the day she found him bleeding from the nose on the floor one sunny day and tried to quench the fear bubbling inside of her once again that she might not see him again in the morning.
"Don't be such a drama queen, Dad." She said airily, wrinkling her nose as cutely as she muster. She hoped in the back of her mind that her father wouldn't notice the slight puffiness of her eyes. She squeezed his hand reassuringly. "I got held back from work, you see. Hyoyeon-unni had some typographical mistakes and I had to fix them."
He laughed, nodding his head. "Ah yes. I remember Hyoyeon telling us at a dinner once how much she hated computer functions." Mr. Im gave his daughter's hand a squeeze back, bringing it to his lips slowly and smiled. "You'll be alright when I'm gone, won't you Yoona?"
"Don't say stuff like that—" Yoona argued, giving him a mock-slap on the shoulder. Tears threatened to come to her eyes once again and she breathed in deeply. "You're going to be fine. You've been able to stay as long as two years. You can do a little more."
"I just want to make sure you'll be okay. How is that boyfriend of yours anyway? I haven't met him yet..." Yoona laughed meekly, shrugging cutely for effect. Mr. Im laughed again, brushing a hand on her cheek. "I hope I could meet him and see you happy before I go."
Just then the door opened and revealed an elderly man dressed in a laboratory coat and glasses. Yoona stood up and bowed in greeting. "Doctor Park," she said, smiling at the elder man. He gave her a smile in response and motioned for her to follow him outside. She obliged and steadied herself to what she might hear. "Is anything wrong?"
"Your father has decided on spending his days at home instead of the hospital. He says he'd rather die at the home he built than in a furnished hospital room." He said, pushing back his glasses with a finger. Yoona frowned, crossing her eyes against her chest. "I knew you would disagree, but your father's words are final."
"When did he decide this, doctor?"
He sighed, putting a hand on her shoulder comfortingly. "I'm sad to tell you this but your father hasn't got much time left. His blood tests have not shown any signs of repair and he says that he's no longer willing to respond to treatment if he continues to stay here." The doctor handed her a file and shrugged. "There's not much I can do for him here if he doesn't want my help."
"So you suggest that I bring him home? What if he gets worse?" she argued, shaking her head as she flipped through the papers. The elderly man looked at her wearily. "There's no guarantee that he'll get better—but he'll be happier at home than anywhere else. You know that's true."
He left without another word, leaving Yoona to shake her head once more before turning back to look at her father looking at her. "You're insane," she said, frowning at him from the door. He grinned.
"I know. So when do I meet this boyfriend of yours?"
Yoona laughed despite herself, looking away and leaning back against the doorframe. Her eyes trailed across the room and blinked when someone familiar stepped into view in front of her. She stood up straighter as an idea popped into her head. Live a little, she thought remembering her friend's earlier words. With my father's condition worsening, I might as well.
She looked back at her father and blew him a kiss. With a grin, Yoona pulled her bag onto her shoulders and winked. "You'll meet him soon."
"Took you long enough," Sooyoung greeted, grinning from ear to ear when Changmin entered the room. He raised an eyebrow at her expression before letting his eyes trail towards the tall, handsomely dressed man in a laboratory coat standing beside her bed. Changmin bowed in greeting as the man stepped forward. "Good afternoon, Mister Shim." He said, holding out a hand to him. "I'm Dr. Choi Siwon – your sister's attending physician. I would like to have a word with you, if you don't mind."
"He doesn't talk, Doctor-oppa," Sooyoung said cutely, earning a slight bump on the back of the head from Changmin's hand. She glared at him for a quick second then looked back at the doctor. "But he can hear you. He's not a deaf-mute as most people would think."
The doctor laughed, shaking his head at her. "I'm well aware of your brother's predicament, miss and I think we'll communicate just fine." The two men stepped out of the room and stood there for a moment not speaking. Siwon cleared his throat, opening a folder and scanning it. He looked back at Changmin with a worried expression on his face. "Your sister's condition has worsened from a simple stomach ache to a severe intestinal inflammation occupying 50% of her small and large intestines. We'll need to run more tests and keep her here for a few more days... but this isn't your biggest problem..."
/ The hospital fees have already reached the limit of our parents' insurance. / Changmin wrote, finishing the doctor's thought before her could say it. He breathed deeply, rubbing a hand on his temple before furiously writing down once again. / How much do we owe? /
"Close to a quarter of a million in dollars." The doctor said quickly. Changmin's jaw dropped and his eyes widened. He shook his head, calculating the amount in his head and writing it down. "Your parents' insurance wasn't that very big in the first place... the fees have accumulated over the past weeks your sister has been here."
"I've already decided on cutting back my service charges, but it's not enough to lower the costs of tests and the medication. Do you have any place to get the money from?" He asked, watching Changmin slump back against the wall. Siwon sighed, slumping back as well beside him and scratched the back of his neck. "I'm sorry that there's not much I can do at this point."
/ It's fine. I'll figure it out. / Changmin waved him off, nodding his head slowly. / As of now though, could you not tell Sooyoung about this? Just give her all the treatment she needs. /
The young doctor nodded, standing up straighter before turning back to enter the room with a smile on her face. Meanwhile, Changmin stayed back and breathed in deeply—closing his eyes momentarily. He felt someone take a stand beside him and he opened one eye to check, only to find a familiar face looking back at him.
"I think we can help each other." She started, holding out a hand to him. He stared at it for a moment, his brow creasing as he glanced in her eyes confused. "You need money and I need someone... to help. Please?"
She's either serious or out of her mind. Changmin considered her; noting her dry but puffy cheeks and sparkling eyes. He looked back into her sister's room; saw Sooyoung talking happily with the doctor and looked back at this familiar stranger. She looked at him expectantly with a half smile and he nodded, taking her hand finally and letting her lead the way. To hell with it.
"I overheard what the doctor said about your sister's hospital fees and since you made me feel better earlier, I decided to help. I hope that's not too weird." Yoona said, looking out to the sky from the hospital's roof. She stood with her hands behind her back and breathed the evening air into her lungs. "Actually, yeah – it is weird. But I've had the worse day of my life today and you were kind of the shining light today so... My name is Im Yoona, by the way."
Changmin walked towards the fence, one hand deep in his pocket and the other gripping a whiteboard and pen. She raised a curious eyebrow at him and went up to stand by his side. He sighed, the sound so soft Yoona wondered if she was the only one who heard it or if it was even there. She put her hands on the railing and pursed her lips, considering her next words.
"You... really don't talk... do you?" She said, glancing tentatively at him, He looked at her and blinked, before bringing the whiteboard in front of her and wrote, / Yes /.
"And you only communicate through a whiteboard?" Yoona said, staring at the board incredulously. Changmin shot her a look and turned back to the night sky. She slapped herself softly on the face and shook her head, "Oh no. What am I thinking?"
"I'm so sorry. Oh God, this isn't going to work. Worst day of my life, ever. What am I going to do? Shoot." She babbled loudly to herself, hiding her face under her hands. Yoona shook her head, stomping her foot once, twice and three times as her mind raced. The events of the day rushing through her consciousness in fast forward. She wondered how her day could have started so normal and warm—with things just as they should be (work, friends, family, lover: every detail was just right)—and then end so barren and disorganized that her mind goes reeling ahead of her. This is all just a big mistake. Probably just a nightmare I'll wake up from in a few minutes. Today could hardly be real. Could it?
Her eyes feel heavy as she slumped into a seat on the concrete, folding her skirt over her knees and then rubbed her hands together. "My father's dying and he wants to meet the man who makes me happy. The problem with that is that my boyfriend of two years just told me earlier today that he was seeing someone else and wanted to break up... What perfect timing, huh."
Oh so that's what this is about. Changmin stood silently, listening to her rage on to herself. When she sat down, he felt a slight tug in his chest—something he hasn't felt for anyone unless it was heartburn. "I was going to ask you to act as my boyfriend in front of my father in exchange for my help. But I don't think it's going to work..." She looked up at him timidly, laughing a short bitter laugh. "It's too much to ask a person anyway. Much less a stranger who doesn't speak... And the idea's beyond comprehension. Not to mention, really stupid and childish and it transcends more than petty white lies."
Yoona sniffed, shaking her head. "But I'll figure it out, and I do still want to help you. It's not everyday a stranger can make you feel better after you've had a bad day."
Changmin shrugged, pulling out his mp3 from his pocket and lowered himself down to her eye level. It is a stupid and childish idea. But if it means help for Sooyoung... and no more tears from you... He cringed at the last thought and shook his head. Then he put one earphone into her ear, surprising her from her thoughts. She stared at him as he perused his playlist and then hit 'Play'. As a familiar melody began to play, he handed her the whiteboard and leaned back against his hands.
/ Stop crying. It's a deal. / It said in big block letters, and beneath it: / My name is Shim Changmin. / Yoona lips formed a small 'o' as she traced the underside of his name with her finger. She looked at this stranger's face and when he looked at her with the same non-descript expression he had shown her the first moment she saw him that day, Yoona finally let a smile form widely on her face.
[ It'll all get better in time... ]