“Who are you and what have you done with my best friend Han Sae Li?”
Sae Li pulled a long face. “Oh come on. I don’t look that bad do I?”
Her friend Kim Woo Bin chuckled. “Seriously, Sae Li, if I knew you clean up this well, I would have made you my girl from the day I met you.”
Sae Li’s breath hitched at his words. If she knew that dressing up in a black elegant evening gown, wearing makeup and high heels would get him to notice her, she would have done it from the day she met him! She had fallen in love with him at first sight but Woo Bin only thought of her as a friend.
Well it was not really his fault. On the third year of high school, the handsome popular Woo Bin had begged her to be his study partner. He had only picked her because she had the top score from the whole school and had been - well was still after 5 years - a nerd. Even when the exams were over, they hung out as they realised they had more in common than anyone would have guessed.
“Come on, Sae Li. We should get a move on or we’re later than we already are for the Ball.”
Sae Li snapped out of her reverie and groaned. A strand of her brown hair came loose and she tucked it back behind her ear. Although she was going as his plus one to the Christmas Ball - although she had been invited too but refused to attend. She wasn’t happy because it didn’t mean they would leave together. Woo Bin had every intention of finding a new girl to date in the Ballroom party held for the Seductive Modelling Agency.
And he would find one as soon as he stepped into the ballroom. Dressed in the black tux, Woo Bin looked breathtakingly gorgeous. His brown curls were as usual covering his forehead and almost covering his sharp chocolate brown eyes. That man had to just smile with those lips and all the girls would swoon over him. Damn, she had no chance of ever having him. After all he was a top model while she was just a nerdy photographer.
“Stop dragging your feet,” Woo Bin told her.
When she made no attempt to pick up her feet, he grabbed her slender wrist and dragged her out of her apartment only giving her a chance to close the door behind her. He didn’t let go until he gently pushed her into his car and closed the door.
The ballroom was held in a hotel. Woo Bin parked his car at the entrance where a parking valet was waiting to take his keys. Sae Li reluctantly got out of the car when her friend held the door open for her. She didn’t give it easy for him wanting him to know how she didn’t want to be there.
Arm in arm, Woo Bin leaned down from his 188 cm height to her 180 cm height. “You’ll only need to be there for few hours. I promise,” he whispered into her ears.
His breath tickled her ear and she almost sent a shiver down her back. “Hmm...” she only managed to mumble as a response.
They crossed the lobby and Sae Li admired the beautiful decoration. The huge Christmas tree in the centre was magnificent. She always loved Christmas. The happiness it brought everyone. But spending Christmas Eve at a ball she didn’t want to be in, couldn’t bring her Christmas spirit up no matter how much she loved Christmas.
Just as she predicted, as soon as the two entered, the room hushed down while only the soft music playing in the background. Everyone was staring at them. Sae Li frowned, she knew how popular Woo Bin was but she didn’t expect this reaction.
“Woah, everyone’s looking at you,” she whispered to him.
Woo Bin tilted his head to the side so his eyes could meet hers. “They aren’t looking at me. They’re all looking at you, Sae Li.”
A small gasp escaped her mouth. Her eyes wandered around the mass of guests in ball gowns and tuxes who were openly staring in awe.
“Oh my God, I really look weird don’t I?” she panicked. She tugged her arm free in hopes to turn around and run away.
Her friend gripped her arm tighter under his and let out a light chuckle. “You don’t look weird at all. They’re all mesmerised by your beauty.”
“I-I’m not beautiful,” she choked out.
He shook his head. “Look at the men. They’re all looking at me with envy because you’re with me.”
She let her gaze fall back on guests and he was right. The men were looking at him with envy. She didn’t know how to take this newfound reaction.
“Let’s go over to Jong Suk,” Woo Bin suggested.
He was already guiding her into the crowd that opened up as they neared and to where Lee Jong Suk stood with his girlfriend. By then the party resumed back to normal. The other man was tall just like Woo Bin but slightly shorter. His girlfriend, Park Sung Ah, besides him was short though.
“Woo Bin!” Jong Suk exclaimed slapping Woo Bin on the back. “You liar! You said you’re bringing Sae Li but you ended up getting a very beautiful woman!”
Sae Li blushed. Although she should be angry that Jong Suk couldn’t even recognise her, she let it slide since he called her beautiful.
Woo Bin snickered. He let go over Sae Li’s arm only to place his hands on her back, pulling him closer to his side. “Sae Li, can you believe this? Jong Suk thinks you’re beautiful after calling you a nerd throughout high school.”
The brunette clucked her tongue. “Kim Woo Bin, you’re no better. You called me a nerd too. In fact you still do.”
Her friend laughed. Jong Suk on the other hand glanced from one to another with wide eyes.
“Oh my God! It is Sae Li!” he finally cried out. “What happened to you?”
“What do you mean what happened to me?” she retorted, totally offended. “I just put on some makeup and some fancy clothes. It’s not like I had a plastic surgery!”
“Come on, Sae Li, you can’t blame Jong Suk for his comment,” Sung Ah defended her boyfriend, finally joining in the conversation after watching in amusement. “You got rid of your thick glasses that covered half your face while you always wore a hat everywhere even indoors. Your clothes were always one-size bigger covering your shape. You look gorgeous with your hair down like that and your dress hugging your figure like that.”
Sae Li clamped her mouth shut. She couldn’t argue if she put it like that. So, she was at fault but they didn’t need to react like she was someone completely different. And why was Woo Bin still glued to her? She would have thought he’d go find a woman to take home by now. Not that she was complaining.
“Woo Bin darling!” a slightly high pitched voice got Sae Li tensed up. Moon Chae Won swayed her hips over to them. Her line of gaze was only focused on Woo Bin. “You finally turned up! I was waiting for you.”
Sae Li shot a glare at the woman who was totally ignoring her existence. But that’s nothing new. Moon Chae Won was the female top model for Seductive Modelling Agency who always looked down on her. That wasn’t the reason why she disliked the woman. Beauty wasn’t a crime. The reason she didn’t like Chae Won was because Woo Bin had a huge crush on her.
“Sorry, Sae Li was taking a long time getting ready.”
Great, blame me why don’t you, she inwardly grunted. Okay, it was her fault they were late. But Chae Won didn’t need to know that!
“Sae Li?” Chae Won cast a confused expression. “Where is she?”
Sae Li stood up straight. She wanted to have the satisfactory of seeing the shocked expression on the top model’s face when Woo Bin tells her.
“She’s standing right in front of you,” Sung Ah answered before Woo Bin could open his mouth. It seemed she still held a grudge on the other woman. Sung Ah was a stylist and when she had been Chae Won’s temporary stylist, Chae Won had made her job a total nightmare.
Chae Won finally looked at Sae Li. Her eyes widened in shock and Sae Li hid the smirk on her face.
“Woah, I guess people don’t kid when they say a little makeup helps.”
Sae Li’s jaws tightened. She should have guessed the other woman would give a remark. She forced on a smile. “You’re right I’m just wearing a little makeup. You, on the other hand, I wonder how much you have to cover up whatever horrid thing is behind that thick makeup.”
Everyone’s jaws hung in shock. Then Jong Suk and Sung Ah looked away covering their mouth as they muffled their laughter. Woo Bin on the other hand went rigid and Sae Li froze as she realised Woo Bin would get angry if she spoke to his crush like that.
“Just because you’re a little beautiful...” Chae Won began but was cut off by Woo Bin.
“Not little,” he corrected her. He was nowhere near angry with her. In fact he was proud of her for sticking up for herself which he always liked about her. Despite being a nerd, Sae Li was always quick-witted and audacious. He had to use all his strength not to burst out laughing seeing the horrified look on Chae Won's face. “She’s more than just beautiful. She’s breathtaking.”
Sae Li suddenly stepped back causing Woo Bin to let go of her and startling him. She kept her gaze down but her ears were ringing at his words. He just admitted to Chae Won, a top model and his crush, that she was more than beautiful. She was having a hard time processing it in.
Chae Won snorted. “Just because she dressed up nicely tonight, you already fell for her?”
Woo Bin shrugged his shoulder. “Maybe you’re right. I might have already fallen for her.”
Sae Li choked. Her head whipped up and her gaze met Woo Bin in disappointment. How could he easily say something like that? Was he that shallow?
If he went for her looks tonight, he’d leave her tomorrow when she returned to her old self?
“Sae Li...” he said, realising how he sounded.
“You’re such a jerk, Woo Bin!” she cried out. She then turned on her heels just when a tear fell down her cheek and rushed out the ballroom.
Jong Suk and Sung Ah, who have witnessed the whole thing, weren’t surprised at all by Sae Li’s reaction. They both knew how she was in love with her best friend who was too dense to see it. If he did realise it, they would have...
“Let’s dance, Woo Bin,” Chae Won asked even as Woo Bin stood in his frozen state.“Huh? What?”
He got over the shock but was still left with confusion.
“You know dance. We are in a ballroom.”
Woo Bin wasn’t listening. He turned to his friends for answers but they shrugged their shoulder.
“Speaking of dancing,” Jong Suk said turning to her girlfriend. “Honey, would you like to dance?”
“Of course,” Sung Ah replied happily taking her boyfriend’s offered hand. The two walked off to the dance floor.
Woo Bin glared at their backs as they were not being helpful. He let out a frustrated breath before running out after Sae Li much to Chae Won’s displease and yelling. He got outside but couldn’t find her anywhere. She couldn’t have gone far. “Darn it!”
he cursed under his breath. He ruined everything.
Dejectedly, he slowly retraced his steps back to the hotel. But as he made his way back to the ballroom, he heard soft crying that sounded awfully like Sae Li. He slowly walked around the Christmas tree, and then around one of the big thick pillars that was on for corners of the lobby and found his best friend crouched down on the floor with her head buried in her lap crying.
“Leave me alone,” her voice came out muffled. “I don’t want to talk to you ever again.”
Woo Bin sighed. He bent down to her level and gently raised her head to face him. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t want to hear how sorry you are,” she yelled swatting his hand away. “You’re the biggest jerk ever! How could you say you’ve fallen for me even as a joke?”
“What if I say it’s no joke?”
“Do you expect me to believe you suddenly fell for me? Or is it because I’m dressed like this? God, I can’t believe I was in love with a shallow person like you!”
Woo Bin stilled at her unintentional confession. “You’re in love with me?” his voice came in a low whisper. “Was,”
she corrected him. “Past tense. I don’t like you anymore.”
He let out a dry laugh. “You’re in love with me.”
“I said I wasn’t anymore,” she snapped angrily at him.
“I can’t believe it.” He ruffled his hair in frustration. “Why didn’t I see that? I’m such an idiot!”
Sae Li was troubled by his reaction. It wasn’t what she was expecting. “I told you. I don’t love you anymore,” she muttered.
He grabbed her hand and pulled her towards him causing her to lose her balance. She went crashing down on him, taking him down with her. She tried to get off him but he held her down.“What the--?”
her cry was cut short when his lips came crushing down hers.
Her eyes widened. She resisted at first. Tried to break free but he grabbed her head and held her. She really should be hating it and hating him but with his soft mouth on hers demanding for her to kiss back, she gave in. She let all her emotions out, the years she was suppressing her love. She kissed him back with hunger and passion.
Woo Bin was the first to pull away but kept their lips a few centimetres distant. He held a goofy grin on his lips as he eyed her with lustful eyes. She stared back at him, not at all caring that they were both lying on the floor behind the pillar and out of the sight of anyone who could walk in on them.
“Are you still going to say you don’t love me anymore?” he questioned daringly.
Sae Li didn’t like his confidence. “I think you have another thing coming if...”
He once again cut her off with a kiss stopping her from finishing her sentence. This time it was a peck, quick but leaving her tingling inside.
He raised a brow. “Are you still going to deny it?”
She pulled a long face. He was getting what he wanted as always. “I love you,” she confessed. She felt like a weight had been lifted from her heart after finally admitting her feelings.
“Good,” he said, slight cockiness in his voice that got her scowling. Then he surprised her by adding, “Me too.”
She wasn’t going to fall for that. “You only like me because I’m all dolled up. Tomorrow you’re going to call me a nerd again and forget all about tonight.”
“Oh, I’ll still call you a nerd,” he teased, “but I won’t forget tonight. Han Sae Li, I don’t think you’re getting it in your dense head. I’m in love with you and I didn’t start loving you from today. I’ve always been in love with you since high school.”
Her gaze fell down on the floor, trying hard to not look at him even though it was impossible as he was too close to her. “Where was your love when you were dating all those models?”
she muttered quietly.
“So, I’m dense too,” he said. “I thought I could never have you so I went out with other girls to get you out of my mind only it never worked out because I only wanted you.”
She wasn’t convinced. “Even though I’m a nerd?”
Woo Bin grabbed her hands and made her look at him. “Yes, but I always knew how beautiful you were because I already know you’re beautiful in the inside.”
She caught her breath. “You’re not saying this just for a one night stand are you?”
He shook his head. “Hell no. Sae Li, I love you. I don’t want to have a fling with you. I love you like I want to spend the rest of my life with you!” “Really?”
Tears blurred her vision. It all seemed like a dream. This was what she wanted but she was afraid that it wouldn’t last and then she might lose their friendship too.
He let go of her hands and grabbed her face gently, shushing her cries. He wiped her tears with his thumbs before it fell down. “Sae Li, do you trust me?”
Despite her tears, she nodded her head. “I do.”
“Then trust me when I say I love you. Can you do that?”
She nodded again.
He then pulled her mouth to meet his to kiss her once again, and this time it wasn’t to shut her up. With still teary eyes, she kissed him back. There was a moment of hesitation at first only to disappear when she smiled behind their interlocked lips..
She had decided not to think of what could happen in the future. All she cared about now was being with the man she had loved for over five years.
Woo Bin laughed between the kisses. She pulled back to frown.
He chuckled. “I think I broke the record of being able to get a girl five minutes into the party.”
Sae Li rolled her eyes. “Technically you didn’t get me since I came with you as your date.”
“Way to ruin my ego,” he said with mock disappointment.
She stuck out her tongue. “How about we get out of here, Woo Bin?”
This ignited Woo Bin to scramble to his feet bringing her up with him. “Your place or mine?”
“Mine since it’s cleaner,” she said. They rounded the corner of the pillar and headed for the exit hand in hand.
“Hey, it’s not always messy!” he said in defence. “You only come at the times I don’t have a chance to clean up.”
“Sure,” she said, not at all convinced.
Just as they got to the doors, Jong Suk and Sung Ah came out.
“Did you guys make up already?” Sung Ah asked curiously, noticing their fingers entwined together.
Sae Li nodded, a blush rising to her cheeks. “Mmmh.”
“Finally!” Jong Suk exclaimed. “I thought you two would never admit your feelings for each other.”
Woo Bin and Sae Li looked at each other then back at Jong Suk. Sung Ah seemed to have known too. They couldn’t believe that their friends knew about their feelings for each other but never once helped them.
“But why are you guys going out? Party’s back in the ballroom.”
Woo Bin glared at him. He then pulled his hand that held Sae Li’s hand closer to him. “I’m taking Sae Li home.”
“Like I’m going to believe that!” Jong Suk said. “I know the real reason...”
“Jong Suk, let’s go back inside since they’re okay now,” Sung Ah said before Jong Suk could finish his teasing. She pulled her reluctant boyfriend back to where they came from. But not before casting a wink at the new couple.
Sae Li was blushing furiously while Woo Bin was grinning.
“Come on, Sae Li,” he said before pulling her out the hotel and into the young evening of Christmas Eve where there were promises and laughter following them.