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    Loves Error

    I asked for a cigarette before heading up to the hotel. The combination of alcohol and nicotine made me dizzy. I leaned against the wall at an angle, and Han Jae-yi stared at me.

    “I haven’t fed you much. I feel guilty every time you do this.”

    I burst out laughing.

    “You’re a little, you know, overprotective of me.”

    “Really?”

    The look in his eyes turned to interest. He seemed to want to hear my assessment of him.

    “Eating, drinking. Every side dish. You want to interfere and control every aspect of my life. Cut the crap. I’m drunk because of my constitution, not because of you.”

    He listened and pondered my words. A puff of cigarette smoke dispersed into the air. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. This is a boring fight. Drinking with him is no longer enjoyable. As my veins dilate and my heart races, I think of Kamala being bitten by a viper again.

    “Let’s go upstairs.”

    I convinced him to go back into the hotel. I pressed the elevator button and leaned against the wall again. Han Jae-yi watched me closely, worried I might collapse. He didn’t say much.

    I was usually the one who became quiet when drunk, but this time he didn’t say anything, just stood there, lost in thought. Then he turned his head and smiled cheekily, as if to himself. Just as I was about to ask him what he was thinking, the elevator arrived.

    In the square box, we leaned against opposite walls as usual. Han Jae-yi’s eyes lingered on my flushed neck. He might not have realized it, but he had been scrutinizing me intently since earlier. It felt like a déjà vu from the hotel in Jeju Island.

    When the elevator stopped at the sixth floor, I stepped out resolutely. Just as I was about to bid him goodnight and turn back to the hallway, the elevator door, which was about to close, opened again in Han Jae-yi’s hand.

    “Would you like to have another drink in my room?”

    His tone suggested he had hesitated for a long time before asking. Feeling a bittersweet emotion, I stood there and smiled. Watching him finally say the words I had thought about countless times, I realized again: you are impulsive and don’t consider the consequences. That’s what attracted me to you, and I can’t deny my desire for you.

    “Sure. It’s Sunday tomorrow anyway.”

    I got back into the elevator. Though he wouldn’t be affected by more alcohol, the problem was me. I couldn’t keep my composure under Han Jae-yi’s persistent gaze. Despite all my training, today I had to admit it was quite overwhelming.

    We climbed two more flights of stairs to reach Han Jae-yi’s room. A slightly more expensive type of wine was poured into a spotlessly polished wine glass. A poet once said. that the downfall of the Roman aristocracy was caused by excessive wine addiction.

    Together we stepped out onto the terrace and breathed in the night air. Wine bottles and cigarette packs sat on an old iron table. Han Jae-yi offered me a wine glass that was less than a third full. Holding his own full glass, he said,

    “You should drink just a little.”

    Before we could clink glasses, he was already drinking his wine alone. I swirled my glass and watched him. I was curious how far he intended to go.

    “Why did you ask to see me?”

    He set his glass down to answer the question.

    “I told you, Woo Seo-jin is like a drug to me. I go to him when I’m stressed.”

    His answer was tediously predictable.

    “So, does seeing me calm you down?”

    “No. It makes it worse.”

    There was a brief silence after his words. Not enough time to ask for clarification.

    “Well, maybe you’re not having the same effect on me anymore.”

    As he quickly shifted to a joking tone, my breathing steadied. It was yet another meaningless conversation. Han Jae-yi had already emptied his glass. When he reached for a cigarette and lit it, the darkness revealed his eyes.

    Suddenly, I realized we were both the same. I had been watching him closely too, observing his actions, gestures, even his gaze. I had been scrutinizing him just as much without even realizing it, so I had no right to complain if he noticed.

    “Remember the flight attendant you said you were seeing?”

    As he flicked ash from his cigarette, it took me a moment to recall who he was talking about.

    “I didn’t really see her. Just went on a couple of dates.”

    “Right. Anyway.”

    Feeling a little sober, I took a sip of the wine. I could taste the strong tannins. It was the exact opposite of Han Jae-yi’s taste. It was clear he was drinking just to get drunk.

    “Did you sleep with her?”

    I looked up at him instantly. His tone suggested he thought it was a reasonable question between us, but his expression was different. Waiting for my answer, he was already filling his second glass.

    “No.”

    At that moment, someone started singing outside. A bad opera was drunkenly sung in the deserted old town square. Han Jae-yi muttered to himself, “Shit.” It was in clearly pronounced German, and I wasn’t sure who he was talking to. He must have been half out of his mind.

    Once again, I felt this was a tedious fight. Drinking with him was no longer enjoyable. Suddenly, it seemed we were wasting our time with this foolish contest of wills.

    “Don’t lie to me.”

    Han Jae-yi gave me a questioning look. Of course, I was speaking in German.

    “What lie?”

    His German had a slightly stronger “R” sound. We chose this method because it was as comfortable as our native tongue but left some ambiguity and room for interpretation.

    “Why did you want to see me? You have something to tell me, don’t you?”

    He leaned back in his chair with a blank expression, claiming he just wanted to confirm something. But he didn’t specify what.

    “What do you need to confirm?”

    “No, before that, you first.”

    “What?”

    “Did you go to Korea because I said I was getting married?”

    We were fiercely fighting for dominance. It was instinctive behavior. It was hard to pretend anymore when it seemed so obvious that he already knew and was asking. I bit my lip and reached for my cigarette pack. Han Jae-yi grabbed my hand.

    “Don’t smoke. I can’t handle you if you do.”

    He also snatched the wine glass in front of me, and my wrists grabbed by his hand felt burned as if they were on fire. Pulling my hand away as if I had been scalded, I gripped the table. As I watched his hand drop, I gave the best answer I could muster.

    “I don’t want to say anything that will affect your marriage.”

    He laughed. He stubbed out the cigarette he was holding and filled his third glass.

    “It doesn’t matter, we’ve already broken off the engagement.”

    For a moment, I was stunned and speechless.

    Han Jae-yi was unmoved. He concentrated on pouring the wine as if he didn’t care about my reaction. I narrowed my eyes at the word ‘broken’ and the interpretation of ‘already,’ wondering if I had heard correctly. Why. No, when.

    “The day before I asked you to meet. It was kind of hard to talk about it on the phone… I wanted to tell you in person, but it felt awkward to do it sober.”

    “What happened.”

    “Because you’re the reason.”

    I cursed myself for my ambivalent feelings at that moment: I felt a rush of excitement from my toes, and a sense of dread that I would not be able to act wisely anymore. I looked at Han Jae-yi, who was constantly pouring wine down his throat after hurling such a remark at me, his lips stained red.

    I left the terrace, making up some stupid excuse to go to the bathroom. I went into the bathroom, turned on the water in the sink, and looked in the mirror. If I step out into the light, it’s all over. My eyes were already filled with lust.

    I dimmed the lights in the room as I left the bathroom. Left alone on the terrace, Han Jae-yi saw me and got up from his seat. I wanted to tell him to stay where he was, but he walked into the room anyway. The terrace door closed behind him, leaving a silence that didn’t allow for any noise. The enclosed space made me feel like I was suffocating.

    “Why did you come in? Aren’t you drinking more?”

    “Are you trying to drown me in alcohol?”

    “No matter how much you drink, it doesn’t affect you.”

    He laughed and shook his head.

    “The Schmitz brothers have it wrong, even I get drunk when I drink fast, like now.”

    I had never heard Han Jae-yi admit to being drunk. It was also the first time I saw it. He looked fine on the outside, but who knew what was going on inside. He lay down on the sofa next to the bed and closed his eyes.

    “I’m actually really tired.”

    It made sense; he had barely slept.

    “Go back and rest early tomorrow, then.”

    There was no response. He just breathed quietly. After waiting a bit longer, I decided to return to my room, assuming he had fallen asleep. As I passed him to head to the door, he suddenly grabbed my arm.

    “Where do you think you’re running off to?”

    He spoke with his eyes still closed.

    “Stop running away. You’re driving me crazy.”

    “Are you drunk?”

    “I already told you I am.”

    Finally, Han Jae-yi opened his eyes and looked up at me with an angry expression. My breathing quickened as I struggled to break free of his grip. His grip was getting stronger as well. If he pulled me even slightly, I’d fall right on top of him.

    “Why do you look like you’re in hell? I told you I broke off the engagement because of you. Do you feel guilty?”

    “Should I?”

    “No.”

    He looked away for a moment, as if thinking.

    “Gisella was delusional with her ridiculous ideas, and I was willing to make amends, but that last condition was hard to accept.”

    “What condition?”

    “The condition she gave me to reconsider the marriage. That I should have no further contact with you. That I should never see Maximilian Schmitz again. You know that’s impossible for me.”

    He paused for a moment, then continued.

    “It’s not a matter of choice. You were never that kind of person to me. Why is that? Why? I’ve been thinking about it these past few days. What are you to me? What are we? Why does everyone say we’re abnormal?”

    His grip on my arm was so tight it was starting to hurt. I wanted to tell him to let go, but the words wouldn’t come out.

    “I came to confirm it. I’m a little out of it right now.”

    Only then did he let go of my arm. I massaged the sore spot, trying to relax the muscles. Watching me, Han Jae-yi muttered, “I’m sorry.”

    “You’ve lost a lot of weight.”

    As he said it, his eyes blatantly scanned me from head to toe. The hand pressed to his temple now brushed his own lips. I was definitely being swayed by him.

    I couldn’t control the emotions that were stirred up by Han Jae-yi’s every word and action. It was hard to say goodnight to him now that his eyes were on my lips. I turned away and headed for the door.

    “Seo-jin-ah.”

    Han Jae-yi tried to stop me, but my will was firm. I had to walk out that door now to give myself an excuse to casually greet him tomorrow morning, he said dejectedly behind my back.

    “Good night.”

    His voice was half-muffled by the sound of the door closing. I walked out into the hallway, down two flights of stairs, and opened the door to the room I was staying in. I collapsed onto my bed and took a deep breath. I wiped my forehead and cursed quietly.

    I realized how easy it was to get carried away with my own fantasies. I realized how easy it was to succumb to self-indulgent lust devoid of the other’s feelings. I was a little more unconventional than I thought I was. Desiring a friend of fifteen years, who came to me after breaking off an engagement, wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined.

    I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned in my unlit room for an hour before finally getting up. I opened a bottle of water on the table and gulped it down. I checked my phone, but there were no new messages.

    I rummaged through my bag to go out for a smoke. As I was checking my uniform, thinking I had lost my lighter again, there was a knock on the door. The time was two in the morning. The other person waited patiently and knocked again. When I opened the door, Han Jae-yi stood there, looking exactly as he had an hour ago.

    “What… what’s going on…?”

    Before I could finish, he pushed me inside and crashed his lips against mine. My reflexively stiffened body tried to push him away, but the force of his determined lunge pushed me back against the wall. His t0ngue slipped into my mouth, searching desperately for something. I responded to his need for confirmation. As our tongues intertwined and the passion ignited, a sense of blissful oblivion overwhelmed me.

    We could never go back to the way we were.

    Han Jae-yi’s breath smelled of wine. Every exhale carried the flavor of the heavy red wine I loved, making me feel drunk again. As our saliva mixed and our tongues tangled, my veins pulsed, and my breathing quickened.

    Our heights were perfect for kissing. There was no need for either of us to look up or bend down. We took turns tilting our heads to avoid bumping noses, devouring each other’s lips and exploring each other’s t0nges. Even the sound of our breathing was perfectly in sync.

    When he realized I wouldn’t push him away, he released his grip on my wrist. He wrapped one of his hands around my waist and the other around my neck. His breath, which I had imagined a thousand times, invaded my nose, lips, and throat.

    Han Jae-yi’s body pressed closer against mine. My tongue, which had slipped away, was captured again and drawn back as our lips met. He was relentlessly demanding and pushing against me. To catch my breath, I bit his lower lip. Adjusting the angle of my face to match his, I nudged my nose against his.

    This naturally broke our locked lips and paused the kiss. He gave a brief, regretful peck and, still with our faces touching, I asked him.

    “Is this what you wanted to confirm?”

    His eyes, previously entirely focused on my lips, now looked straight at me. At this close distance, his characteristic gaze appeared even more elegant.

    “No, I didn’t need to confirm anything.”

    The hand that had been around my neck slid up my cheek and brushed over my lips.

    “I already had the answer hours ago. But.”

    Before I knew it, his fingers, which had been tracing my lips, slipped into my mouth.

    “The fact that you didn’t push me away, it’s driving me a bit crazy.”

    As my lips parted due to his fingers, and without missing a beat, he slipped his tongue in and kissed me again. It was aggressive yet tender and sweet. Receiving Han Jae-yi’s lips, which I had imagined countless times, I bid farewell to my tiresome battle. We kissed again and again, breathing heavily, determined not to miss any part of each other.

    When we finally broke apart to catch our breath, we both realized quite some time had passed. I felt a sweet exhaustion wash over me, making me drowsy. I buried my face in his shoulder and closed my eyes. Was it relief that allowed me to let go? The overwhelming sleepiness drained the strength from my body. Holding me, Han Jae-yi whispered in my ear.

    “Can I stay with you?”

    I nodded and pulled away, heading to the bed. I took a sip of water from the bottle on the table, then collapsed onto the bed and closed my eyes. I sensed Han Jae-yi moving closer, but I lost consciousness as if I had passed out. It was such a sweet sleep that I wouldn’t have complained if I had died like that.

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