(Random) SONG OF THE DAY
Lee Seung Yol (이승열) – “스물 그리고 서른” (20 versus 30). You might know him from contributing songs to the soundtracks of both My Name Is Kim Sam Soon and Que Sera Sera. This is a song I especially love because of the lyrics. He compares being twenty (the entire world was beautiful, love was easy, and so were promises; he felt no fear facing an unknown world, living free) to being thirty (waiting for a new start, promises, and people, and understanding fear). The bridge/outro is particularly lovely; for some reason it reminds me of (Ok Computer-era) Radiohead. [ zShare download ]
(Once I hit the final few chapters, I felt compelled to finish it all off in one go. I just had to.)
CHAPTER 20: “Loving You”
Five months later.
Eun Chan and Eun Sae send their mother down the aisle in marriage to Mr. Gu, six years her junior and a first-time groom. At first, Eun Chan feels it’s too strange to have him as her stepfather (Mr. Gu was more like a friend), but gradually, she comes to see that they’re very happy together.
Coffee Prince has been steadily growing busier and busier, and Han Gyul has returned the cafe to Mr. Hong’s care, leaving to work for the Dong Yi Corporation. Nak Gyun started school again and now only works part-time, and Ha Rim has officially left home, living and studying on his own. Even Sun Ki, who’d gone missing for a few months, suddenly appeared back at the Coffee Prince one day. Nobody knows the details of his circumstances; all they know is that Han Gyul had something to do with it.
As for Eun Chan… She’s recovered from her surgery completely. Eun Sae has finally succeeded in an audition, and spends all her spare time practicing singing and dancing — often times with Sun Ki, who’s also pursuing singing. Sun Ki has started to tentatively see Eun Sae — with Eun Chan’s permission, of course.
She still works at Coffee Prince, although everyone calls her “noona” now — and treats her just a little bit differently from before. For instance, she walks in on Ha Rim and Nak Gyun changing clothes in the dressing area, and they cover up in a show of modesty, telling her to knock before entering. Eun Chan scoffs that she’s seen everything already, and they protest:
“Is this the same as before? We’re saying we see you as a girl now, noona. You’re hair’s longer, and you’ve lost some weight.”
Oh, and there’s also Min Yub.
Feeling so bad over what happened before, Min Yub now insists on being responsible for taking Eun Chan to and from work every day until he enters the army, which will be soon. Eun Chan finds it unnecessary, but since he was so stubborn and wouldn’t take no for an answer, she let him have his way.
If I accept Min Yub’s apologetic feelings, would that person forgive me too…?
Everyone else thought Eun Chan was doing well. That’s what they thought when they saw her. She ate well, laughed, put on a strong front; she seemed just the same as before. But Eun Chan had suffered from insomnia for five months. Until the day she was released from the hospital, she’d been waiting for him. Even though he’d coldly hung up on her phone calls, and then ceased answering them altogether… even though she’d felt afraid hearing he’d felt betrayed… she’d believed when time had passed, he would come. But he never showed up. He wasn’t at the cafe, or room S11, either. It was as though he wasn’t a part of this world…
Because Coffee Prince is doing so well, Mr. Hong brings up the idea of starting a franchise. They don’t aspire to Starbucks-level ubiquity — and they don’t want that, citing their personal touch with their loyal clientele as one of their hallmarks — but think that perhaps opening a Coffee Prince Store #2 would be a good start. If that goes well, maybe a Store #3, and a #4…
To this end, Eun Chan and Mr. Hong have been taking meetings with Dong Yi Corp’s representative (they’re still investors in the cafe), of whom Han Sung is the main contact. Mr. Hong also tells her to start barista training — once they open a second store, they’ll need more hands, and she won’t have time to learn then.
So, she meets Han Sung to discuss business plans at the jazz bar where they first met. Eun Chan drinks beer quietly while Han Sung informs her that Han Gyul has now been promoted and is doing well. He’d been the one to broach the idea of franchising Coffee Prince, and had done all the requisite research.
The moment Han Sung mentioned Han Gyul’s name, Eun Chan’s heart started to race. Truthfully, she’d been anticipating the possibility of hearing about Han Gyul ever since she’d known she was meeting Han Sung. But as she listened, her spirits started to sink. The thought that he’d been living so well and never once called her both angered and saddened her.
When Han Sung asks about Mr. Hong running the cafe, Eun Chan explains that they’re all still loyal to Han Gyul: “He was like our guardian angel. When someone was going through a hard time, he’d appear to help out, and save us.” Han Sung muses that Han Gyul talks about it differently — he sees his employees as having been like loyal troops, spurring him on.
Drinking a bit more, Eun Chan lets the beer buzz loosen her tongue a bit more honestly:
“He insisted that he hated entering the company. Does he love it that much now? I suppose he’s being buried with work now. … Wow, I feel really crappy. These days, I feel like a wandering bum. I’m hungry no matter how much I eat, I’m cold no matter what I wear. It’s awful, and it pecks away at me. My insides burn like I’ve drunk soju on an empty stomach…”
Just then, Eun Chan stops talking — because she’s just spotted Han Gyul arriving with Yu Ju. “Han Gyul’s expression hardened, and Eun Chan grasped onto her beer bottle with such strength she thought it might break.”
Unable to avoid them, Han Gyul briefly says hello to Han Sung. Just as he turns away with Yu Ju to leave, Eun Chan, borrowing some strength from the alcohol, stands up and shouts: “Hey, Choi Han Gyul! You know, it’s a good thing I ran into you here! Who the hell are you? How can a man be so narrow-minded?!”
Although she’s a little tipsy, she’s not drunk, and stands her ground, continuing:
“You were the one who first saw me as a man. You never once asked me if I was actually a guy. And now you don’t even give me a chance to explain, you bastard? What makes you so great, huh?! Say something! You twisted jerk!”
Han Gyul turns to give her a fierce scowl: “Eun Chan flinched inwardly, but using the strength borrowed from liquor as an excuse, she stood her ground and stared back at him.” She continues — how can he treat people like that? If his employee got hurt, he should have at least gone once to see how they were doing: “Even if you think I commited an unforgivable crime, you should at least have asked me why I did it!”
Finally, Han Gyul can’t remain silent anymore, and he tells her to go ahead, explain:
“If you spent several months deceiving someone and playing around with them, there must be a really huge reason, right? It can’t have been for a measly few pennies, right?”
Eun Chan spits out that yeah, it was because of money. How great that he never has to worry about a few pennies, being so rich: “And when did I ever ridicule you or play around with you? I’ve never done that!”
“You’ve never done that? Who’s the one who was pretending to be honest, pretending to be clean and pure while exposing a person’s heart?”
“When did I do that?! I’ve never done that! I tried to tell you the truth! I couldn’t because I was too afraid of losing everything! It would’ve been so great if you could’ve figured it out yourself, you dense jerk! How could you not know that for months? Ah, that hurts my pride, dammit. Am I… am I really that wrong for you? Did you not feel anything at all?”
Immediately, Eun Chan is embarrassed, but she holds firm. If she leaves now, it’ll be over. If she never sees him again, she should at least tell him straight now, and get his straight answer.
“What, am I gay? Why would I have feelings for a guy?”
He’d given her his straight answer. Eun Chan felt as though she’d been hit by a chair. She’d been a hypocrite for thinking she wanted him to be honest with her. She didn’t want to let go of her momentary alcohol-induced strength. She wanted to hang onto him however she could, whether as friends, or sworn brothers. Thinking of not being able to see him ever again made her heart ache so much it was killing her. I can’t live like this anymore… It’s too pathetic, and wretched…
“It would’ve been better for you to have been a guy. I wanted to treat you well as a younger brother — don’t you remember what I said? But now, you’re a girl? What good is a girl like you? You’ll do anything to earn money, and you stab people in the back, you bitch.”
Eun Chan felt the sting of his harsh words and flinched. But, rather than becoming angrier, sadness grew stronger in its place. She bit down on her lip, then shoved her hair aside to show him her ear.
“Th-then, let me be your younger sibling. I’ve still got the marker of proof here. C-can I not be that anymore either?”
The room watches in rapt attention, silently following the exchange. Han Gyul shoots an even angrier glare her way, telling her she wasn’t the only one whose pride was hurt — she’d trampled all over his, too. He sees Eun Chan’s eyes brimming with tears, and explodes at her:
“What male animal can’t tell a female from her scent?! Do you know what a disgrace that is to a man?! That means there was something there that the man didn’t want to show the woman! Dammit!”
Eun Chan has to rethink what he just said — there’s something he didn’t want to show a woman? Does that mean she saw something another woman wasn’t supposd to see? What’s that? She can’t control herself, and shouts right back:
“I’ve never seen anything like that! I don’t even know what you’re talking about — how could I see it?!”
At that, he turned back around, and walked toward her with large strides.
Eun Chan was so taken aback, her breath caught. He approached with such recklessness, she thought he might hit her.
“I’m talking about this, you idiot.”
He now stood right in front of her as he spoke. The moment she wondered, “What’s that?” he grabbed her head and pulled it toward him. She realized she was being kissed, and understood what that thing was the moment his tongue found its way into her mouth. Eun Chan, who’d been frozen in place, now began to meld to him. Lost in emotion and excitement, her arms wound their way up to hold onto his neck. A pleasant thrill shot through her body. To deepen the kiss, Eun Chan drew back, making Han Gyul pull her closer to himself with more force. As the deep, intense kiss ended, still entranced, Eun Chan tried to keep the kiss going, realizing belatedly that he’d lifted his lips, opening her eyes with a dazed expression. Han Gyul let out a small laugh, and the spectators who’d been watching the deep kiss began to clap and cheer.
After Eun Chan had been dragged off by Han Gyul, Han Sung and Yu Ju looked at each other awkwardly.
“It’s like we just saw a scene in a movie.”
“A movie with a happy ending.”
Yu Ju thanks Han Sung for helping with the plan, and he says their main players did their part too — Han Gyul by getting appropriately worked up, and Eun Chan for getting appropriately tipsy. They sit with each other comfortably for the first time in years — not as former lovers, but as the friendly oppa and dongsaeng they once were……
Eun Chan talks on the phone with Han Gyul, filling him in on the events of her day. She’s been incredibly busy lately, working at Coffee Prince, attending barista classes, and dating Han Gyul. Their phone conversation is filled with giddy, affectionate joking, and it’s too cute. He sets a date for the next day, and warns her not to be late, then adding:
“Oh, and try dressing so it doesn’t look like two guys are going on a date.”
“Then you can wear a skirt.”
Han Gyul’s been promoted another level, and is learning the ropes as the CEO’s successor. He enjoys a friendly rivalry with Han Sung, and they encourage and spur each other on.
The next day, Eun Chan takes particular care to dress more femininely than usual, because of his joke that they might both look like men. Unfortunately, she misses her train and winds up being late anyway, running all the way to meet an impatient Han Gyul. He causes a fuss, annoyed that not only is she late, she didn’t call to say she would be (her phone was acting up) — “Do you know how worried I was?!”
Thus mollified, Eun Chan tolerates his antics as he grabs her useless phone and stomps on it, to the interest of passers-by. When he’s done, she tells him to look at her — and he finally takes notice of her feminine clothes. He tells her with a laugh that she’s pretty, and she pointedly asks him if she’s prettier than Miss World. Han Gyul realizes that Eun Chan was there when he unceremoniously got rid of her to to go to a party with all those good-looking babes, and he tries to backtrack his way out of this one:
“I didn’t have any fun at all that time. I don’t even remember them.”
“Ha, do you think I’m an idiot? You were grinning like a fool when you chucked me aside to go running to them.”
“But that’s when you started looking pretty to me. Do you know how much torture it is for a guy to find another guy pretty? If you want to repay me for turning my insides out back then, you’ll have to pay me back about two hundred times.”
“Turn your sides inside out? This is the first I’m hearing of that.”
“That’s ’cause my body’s got a poker face. It’s a family trademark for us to separate our feelings from our expressions.”
Eun Chan and Han Gyul enjoy their day running around an amusment park, then go to a restaurant located on a tall observatory platform. They eat dinner, drink wine, and look out at the night scenery from their window in an alcove, sitting side-by-side on a leather couch.
Han Gyul idly asks if Eun Chan will continue growing her hair, and she says she’s planning to — does he not like that?
“I don’t dislike it, but it doesn’t fit the concept of the Coffee Prince, since that’s just for princes.”
“Then do you want me to keep looking like a guy?”
Without hesitation, Han Gyul nodded in affirmation.
“Yup, you should look like a guy to other men, so they won’t approach you.”
They continue gazing out at the scenery while sitting together, his arm around her:
From time to time, Han Gyul clasped her tighter with the arm holding her around the shoulders, and affectionately rained kisses on her temple and her cheek.
Eun Chan asks if Han Gyul really never suspected she was a girl, up until the time he found out the truth at the hospital. He asks what she thinks, and she counts off the possibilities:
“Number one, you never had that thought. Two, you suspected maybe once or so. Three, you had your suspicions subconsciously, but never thought so on a conscious level. The reason being that you’re a coward. Four, you wished I were a girl. So, which one is it?”
“Hm, feels like there’s something missing from those examples. Especially three, I don’t like that. My answer is number five.”
“I’d like you even if you were a man.”
Eun Chan asks what that means — so was his kiss on Valentine’s Day not just a joke, then? Han Gyul answers, “That’s why I said there was a part of me I didn’t want to show to a woman.” Eun Chan remembers that, and asks what he was referring to, then. Han Gyul hedges, not wanting to say it explicitly, but she makes him say it:
“You know… like sexual desire.”
Eun Chan was so surprised, she turned her head to look at Han Gyul. He gave her a look that said, “Hey, what are you staring at?” and put her head back down to rest on his shoulder.
“So you mean you felt that even though you thought I was a man? And so…”
“That’s what I said.”
“No way…. you pervert!”
“Yeah I know, I’ve got nothing to say to that. But thinking about it, I think number three is right too. If I knew you were a girl, I’d have to fire you from the cafe. I might’ve pushed aside my suspicions because of my selfishness, wanting to preserve stability.”
When Eun Chan notices it’s late and time for her to be going home, Han Gyul has a multiple-choice question for her:
“Number one, you’ll sleep with me tonight. Two, you’ll come with me to Dong Yi Hotel. Three, you’ll talk with me all night long on my bed. Four, you’ll live with me forever.”
When she heard the last one, Eun Chan was struck speechless, her heart beginning to pound. Her heart raced crazily. She hadn’t discussed it with him, but that meant he had thought a bit about their future, that he’d considered how his parents would accept her.
She had thought to enjoy their happiness in the present and to treasure each passing moment, but this means they can enjoy being with each other to their heart’s content, without limits. He asks her to answer him in kisses.
“People will see.”
“Hurry, answer me. Otherwise I’m gonna touch your chest.”
Eun Chan hit Han Gyul over the head with a cushion.
“Such a horny ajusshi!”
Again, he presses her for her answer, and Eun Chan slowly leans toward him with a sidelong look:
With a smack, she kissed him on the lips. When she stopped after the third kiss, he looked at her.
“Number three, then? Wait, what was number three?”
He looked at Eun Chan with a slightly disappointed expression.
“I don’t know if I should respond to such a silly proposal as this.”
Eun Chan reached out her hand to Han Gyul’s head.
“Since you’ll be bored without me around, I suppose I’ll have to look after you.”
Eun Chan laughed as she kissed him. Lifting his lips, he descended on her, and being no match for his strength, Eun Chan fell back on the sofa. Poised above her, he laughed, stroking her cheek with a hand as he spoke:
“You’re so soft. Softy.”
“Hurry, move. The employees can see.”
Han Gyul pushed Eun Chan down by the shoulder and lowered his lips to hers.
“Adapt. I don’t care how I look to others.”
Should she stop him from kissing her? But with her eyes closed, she couldn’t see anyone else. She’d have to adapt. Since this was forever……
End of COFFEE PRINCE STORE #1.
Guys, thanks for reading along with these chapter excerpts and summaries! Coffee Prince Store #1 is actually the first novel I’ve ever read in Korean (so please excuse any mistakes I may have made), so this has been quite an experience for me too. It’s a bit sad when something you’ve enjoyed comes to an end, but thankfully, we’ve still got the drama ahead of us!
I started reading this book and blogging about it to enhance the Coffee Prince experience, and I hope it’s done that.
See ya later for more drama goodness!