Signature Chapter 21
Anyway, been brainstorming more about details and this chapter was originally going to be longer but I have some things to work out. I hope you enjoy. Comments are appreciated ^^
It was just a little after 6 am and Chansook was peeling fruits and pouring juices into the blender, blatantly ignoring Jaejoong’s demand to not use his kitchen utensils. There was a puddle spreading on the counter and she grabbed a rag before it dripped to the floor.
Of course her phone would ring when she was preoccupied. Who calls this early?
“Hello?” she answered.
Jaejoong was awakened by the sound of blending and he padded slowly to the end of the hallway, sleepily watching Chansook. She was having another upsetting telephone conversation, he could see, and he wasn’t about to walk in while she was holding his paring knife in one hand.
She ended the call and looked solemnly at the dubious fruit mix in the blender.
“Morning?” he said, deciding to break into her reverie against his better judgment.
“Morning,” she said emotionlessly. “I used your kitchen. Be right back.”
Jaejoong gave a long sigh. He began to pick up piles of fruit peelings to throw them out.
“Yoochun called last night,” she called from the laundry room. Jaejoong wiped up the fruit juice on the counter and furrowed his eyebrows at the concoction Chansook had made.
“What’d he say?”
“He wants you at his apartment around 7 tonight,” she said. He heard the washer start.
“Was this an invitation?” He began to peel some more fruit.
“It sounded more like a demand,” she said from the hallway, and she stopped in the bathroom to finish her morning toilette. Jaejoong poured her fruit drink down the drain and then put new fruit into the blender.
A few minutes later Chansook finished blow drying her hair and she rushed back to the kitchen, about to reach into a cabinet for a travel mug.
Instead Jaejoong thrust one into her face, already filled.
“Oh,” she said. She glanced at him and then took a drink. “Not bad,” she said in approval. “Guess looks are deceiving.”
Jaejoong refrained from telling her what had happened to her first concoction.
“See you later,” she said.
The early morning caller had created a situation that would have to be dealt with immediately. The magazine could wait. This time when Han Chansook walked into the main lobby she wasn’t kept waiting. She was taken straight up to her father’s floor and waited patiently for a few minutes before being shown into his office.
Her father acknowledged her readily this time, indicating a seat for her to take.
“What a surprise. I wasn’t expecting you, but I’m glad you’re here; had something to discuss with you.”
“That’s wonderful,” she murmured. She didn’t care what he wanted to talk about.
“W magazine wants to collaborate with you on the fall spread. Apparently they found out about your inside look of the spring fashion show.”
“I didn’t realize I had one,” she said dryly.
“Well you do. I pulled a favor so you can get a head start on the spring fashions. One of the designers is the son of my coworker.”
“So what you mean is you blackmailed him into letting us see the spring line before the fashion show?”
Her father gave her a blank look, and Chansook decided that there was a matter of greater importance at hand—not only that, but her temper was about to get the better of her.
“I got a call from my mother’s lawyer this morning,” she said.
“Oh?” her father said. “Does this have to do with the spring line?”
“Nope,” she said. She stared him down. “Do you know why he called me?”
“I haven’t the slightest. What would I know about your mother’s legal issues?”
“I think you know a lot more than you’re letting on,” she said with a mean smile. “Apparently someone has been tampering with my mother’s bank accounts. I don’t suppose you know anything about that either?”
Her father slapped his desk and pushed his chair back.
“Listen Chansook, if you have something to say than say it. Neither of us want to play around.”
“You’re damn right I don’t want to play around,” she said with a raised voice. “You tapped into her savings. Where do you get off thinking you can take everything she has? The woman has cancer! Just leave her alone! You’ve been screwing her over from the day you divorced her!”
“Chansook, there are just things you don’t understand,” he said calmly. “This is none of your business…”
“It is my business!” she shouted. “You know damn well she won’t stand up for herself so you’re making it my business! My legal counsel is of now drawing up charges against you for fraud.”
Her father’s eyes went impossibly wide, but just as quickly he laughed.
“You can’t press charges against me. If I’m prosecuted, this entire company will go under.”
“And what makes you think that would bother me?”
Her father watched her for several long moments as if to judge how serious she was about this. No matter what he thought she was capable of, he couldn’t ignore her anymore. She was on his playing field now… So what cards would he play?
“You would never ruin this company,” he said slowly. “There are hundreds, thousands of employees involved in our company, and you can’t take me down without taking them too.”
Chansook allowed a moment of silence.
“You must think very little of the Board if you think they’ll let Han Global go under without you. They don’t need you.”
“Yes they do,” he insisted coldly.
“Here’s what’s going to happen, Father.” Chansook got up from her seat and strolled to the window. “I won’t be pressing the charges for the moment, but both my lawyers and my mother’s will be watching you. You don’t touch a thing of hers ever again. If you persist in blackmail of any kind against her—or against me,” she gave him a pointed look, “you will be prosecuted.”
“They can’t prosecute me on such little evidence,” her father spat.
“Would I dare to put together a case that wasn’t worth our time?”
“You’d dare, but you wouldn’t succeed.”
“The point is that I can’t stand your overbearing arrogance and disregard for other people. Perhaps I should just take the initiative and get as far from you as possible. In fact, maybe I’ll take the magazine with me.” she pondered confidently. Her father stared at her. Han Global’s literary branch was anchored by the magazine—if she took it, the entirety of its proceeds would be gone, and would serve as a strong source of competition.
“You can’t go independent. You don’t have the money or the experience,” he said.
“I’ll get whatever I need, Father, just like you’ve always done. Except I won’t ruin people’s lives.”
“You don’t have the balls to follow through.” He was outright angry now, his red face swelling.
She merely laughed.
“You can underestimate my abilities all you want, Father, but don’t you dare presume to know how far my determination will take me. Leave my mother alone or you’ll be sorry you ever kept me around.”
Jaejoong showed up at Yoochun’s at the demanded time. Junsu and Changmin were on the couch playing a video game, so Jaejoong went into the kitchen.
“What’s up?” he said.
“Oh hey, Jae.” Yoochun threw several packs of ramen into the hot water on the stove. “Glad you got the message. Junsu’s been a little down lately; you know how he gets, it’s not good for him to be alone. So we figured we’d ask you over too.”
He wasn’t sure if Yoochun meant they wanted him to help keep Junsu company, or they thought he needed company. Jaejoong decided he appreciated the gesture despite the fact that he wasn’t an invalid and didn’t need coddling.
“So you invited us over so you could burn us some ramen?” Jaejoong indicated the stovetop. Yoochun laughed and held out a wooden spoon.
“You’re welcome to cook, bro.”
The four guys ate at the table while watching TV. Changmin and Yoochun discussed some of their schoolwork.
“Jae, whatever happened to your classes?” Yoochun asked.
“I dunno. I put them on hold and never took them up again,” he shrugged.
“You have no excuse,” Junsu spoke up. “You want a degree, right?”
“It’s easier said than done, Mr. I-Hate-School. We’ve been busy, you know that.”
“These two are doing it, why can’t you?” Junsu asked.
“Yeah Jae. If I can do it, you can,” Yoochun said. “Besides, your Japanese classes should be a lot easier with Chansook around.”
“I’m not going to ask for her help!” Jaejoong scoffed.
“Give me a break. It’s not a big deal,” Yoochun said. “Put away your pride.”
“Just take a page out of Yoochun’s book,” Changmin deadpanned. “He’s only taken Composition 201 three times, and he’s never afraid to ask the ladies for some tips.”
Yoochun reached out to smack Changmin and after a short battle they continued eating in silence.
“By the way…are you and Chansook fighting or something?” Yoochun ventured.
“What do you mean?” Jaejoong answered, looking up from his plate.
“Changmin said she seemed upset the other day. Did something happen?”
“Where did you see her?” Jaejoong asked, narrowing his eyes at the youngest.
“Does it matter?” Changmin answered. “You’re not getting her involved in your drama, are you?”
“Everything’s gonna be fine. She just…has some things she needs to get out in the open.”
The three members looked at Jaejoong in confusion and curiousity. Finally—
“You did something stupid,” Changmin stated. “Did you hurt her?”
“Chill out!” Jaejoong exclaimed. “I apologized, okay? She’s just holding a grudge.”
“Oh I’m sure you’ve never done that,” Changmin said sarcastically. “She deserves to hold a grudge, Jaejoong!”
“You both need to chill out,” Yoochun interrupted. “Chill. Out.” He glanced at their silent friend. “Right, Su?”
Junsu nodded with a little smile.
“If you’re sorry I’m sure she’ll forgive you eventually. She doesn’t seem like an unreasonable person,” he said. “But you have to understand, Jaejoong…you have to be very careful. You owe her a lot after the situation you got her into.”
Changmin finally released his intense glare at the eldest and Jaejoong seemed to slump, poking wearily at his food.
“Well that was fun,” Yoochun said. “We can stop bashing Jae now. Who wants dessert?”
When Jaejoong returned home that night he found that Chansook had not only broken his rule of not using the kitchen twice, but she had left it a mess twice (just like this morning). He assumed this was out of spite. He surveyed the dishes and the bubbly gook on the stove from her sad attempts at cooking.
“Chansook!” he bellowed.
There was no immediate response, so he headed towards her room.
“Chansoo—,” he began to shout. She yanked the door open in front of him.
“What?! What?” She had the nerve to sound exasperated.
“Were you planning on doing cleaning duty?” he indicated the kitchen behind them.
“I don’t know. Maybe,” she said in a clipped tone.
“Are you in a bad mood because of me or something else?”
“Does it matter?”
He cocked his head, wondering if she was really trying to push his buttons.
“Yeah, you know what, it does matter. But if you want to keep blaming me for your PMS, that will work just fine.”
“You have some nerve, you know that?” she said. Funny, that’s what he’d just thought about her.
“Please, tell me what you really feel,” he said sarcastically.
“I just told you what I feel,” she said. Her tone had gone suspiciously flat, and she backed into her room again.
“Nooo, you keep telling me nothing. You feel nothing, honestly? Come on, I’m giving you a chance to tell me how you feel towards Big Bad Jaejoong. Don’t you want to share with the class?”
Her expression soured even further.
“Maybe I don’t have an opinion.”
“Every woman has an opinion. Now come on, I keep giving you this chance and you have to take it.”
“It’s arrogant of you to think you’re the only thing going on in my life, you know that?” she said, standing firmly in her doorway now. “Has it ever occurred to you that I don’t have time to worry about you and your emotional breakdowns? I have bigger and better things to do, Jaejoong, and once again you can’t seem to understand that I not only don’t have time for this confrontation but I don’t want to have this confrontation.” She paused and Jaejoong waited.
“You’re just another thing I have to worry about,” she shook her head sadly. “It isn’t enough that my father is a douche bag and wants to control me and my mom is foolish and won’t do what’s best for her, no, fate just had to hand you to me as well, and then we were finally getting along and you went and did something so stupid. How could “sorry” ever make up for such a totally psychotic screw-up?” She was talking a mile a minute.
“The fact that scares me the most is that you couldn’t even control yourself, and what if it happens again, then what are we going to do? Are you like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off the next time your feelings get hurt? The only reason I’m here is because of you, and now I don’t even know who you are, Jaejoong, you’re like a stranger even to yourself. I can’t take care of you, okay? You’re not a kid and I can’t kiss your booboo and make it all better. You’re a big boy now and you’re accountable for everything you do, even the stupid things. So don’t you dare, ever pretend that I’m a punching bag again. I’m not a way for you to relieve your pain or anger or stress. I’m just a person, and I have my own life that doesn’t involve you!”
She finally stopped ranting. It was only then that she realized she’d done exactly what she told him she wouldn’t do. They stood in silence for several very long moments, and she was trying to get her breath back.
“Good,” Jaejoong finally said slowly. He looked a little shell-shocked.
“What?” she asked.
“Good. I’m glad you got that out. I’m glad you’re not going to forgive and forget. Only a robot would forgive me for what I’ve done.” His eyes were dark. Chansook was suddenly hoping that he hadn’t asked her to bash him simply so he could be justified in hating himself.
“Jaejoong, I don’t hate you,” she said. “And if I’m mad, I’ll get over it. No matter what you could have done, you didn’t actually do anything except scare me. Oh and ruin my dress, and you owe me a new one, by the way.”
Jaejoong closed his eyes guiltily.
“I just think you need to grow up a little,” she said gently. “I’ve heard things about your childhood and whatnot, and it surprises me how little you live in reality now that you’re an adult.”
Jaejoong met her gaze and stole himself against his next question.
“Is there anything else you want to say?”
After a pause, she shakes her head.
“Okay,” he says. “Then…I’m going to get some sleep.” He turns away and she’s a little concerned that she said too much, or said it too harshly. She’s actually kind of pissed. It made me him feel better for her to lash out at him, but it made her feel horrible.
“You have to forgive yourself before anyone else can.”
He gives her a look that tells her he’s back in that place where no one can reach him, and no words will comfort.
The next morning Chansook sat in her office, stubbornly trying to get some work done even though her head ached and it was too early for anyone else to have arrived.
She felt pretty crappy about what she said to Jaejoong. It was his fault, once again. If he hadn’t insisted… Regardless, she’d never meant to make him feel worthless, and she hadn’t meant to scold him. God knew she wasn’t perfect.
She dropped her pen and laid her head in her hands, feeling decidedly less powerful than she had felt when threatening her own father just days before.
Recap of Chansook’s life, she thought. Mother has lung cancer. Treatments are readily available and chances of recovery are slim but not impossible, but she refuses treatment of any and every kind. Father is a sleazebag and uses everybody to get what he wants. Let’s not forget the blackmailing that 1. made your mother move back to her native land and leave you in his clutches 2. stole your childhood and your lifelong dreams so you could edit magazines about pretty skirts and feminism and 3. joined you with Kim Jaejoong so he could save face.
Actually, it didn’t sound as complicated when she thought of it that way.
Chansook rose from her desk and walked to her windows, looking out on Seoul as the sun pinkened the sky and made everything look bright and cheery.
She had threatened her father, but what was her ammunition, really? She couldn’t leave Jaejoong because her sly father might still find a way to turn it on her mother, and at this point that was the very, very last thing she wanted. She had to admit that she’d signed a legal contract, and blackmail was no excuse for her to back out. Would she press charges against her father for the accounts? After all, he’d been caught before he’d gotten away with anything, but only she or her mother could press charges. What did he need that money for, anyway? Like he didn’t have enough.
Pressing charges would help no one. So what to do about her mother’s treatment, what to do…
Chansook began pacing.
Her mother wasn’t taking treatments because she didn’t want to live, that was the only logical reason. Chemo and radiation or whatever else was available would be costly, yes, but…that was no deterrent. Chansook could only hold out hope that if she made an emotional appeal to her mother, she would go through with a treatment—ANY treatment.
As for herself…she wanted freedom. She didn’t want to be on anyone’s leash any longer. Could she really take the magazine independent?
Chansook furrowed her brows, tapping her nails against the glass.
It wasn’t impossible. It would certainly be unexpected. It wouldn’t hurt the industry in the long run…and she could take all her employees with her, even if with a slightly lower paycheck. It would take time though…careful planning and resources and financial aid…
Chansook took a big breath.
Her attention was drawn to the mounted television on the wall opposite her desk. Chansook narrowed her eyes and walked closer, tilting her head up at the screen.
“Music artists everywhere battling the age of the internet in terms of sales…”
She wasn’t sure why her television was tuned to an entertainment network.
“…hasn’t seemed to negatively affect groups such as SM’s Dong Bang Shin Ki, whose popularity has soared since their debut some seven years ago. SM Entertainment’s prize boys have raised the value of the music market with every public share…”
Shots of Jaejoong and the other boys at an official meeting of SM’s shareholders were shown on the screen as the reporter continued speaking.
Chansook’s eyes widened as the solution struck her.
Duh. The easiest way to get finances and backing was to own shares.
For example, shares in Han Global Inc.
A smile spread across Chansook’s face, lighting it up from within as the sunlight bloomed over her features.
“Chansook? Good morning. Would you like some coffee?” Jihyun walked in with a full mug, and Chansook accepted, ready for battle.