Dancing Universe - Part Two

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

“Across the universe, dancing with you. Even as we held hands, it feels like a dream.” Yoon Hye Sang, Dancing Universe




Lee Minho’s POV – July 2, 2020

It’s officially Goeun’s birthday and I’m ecstatic that I’m the first person to celebrate it with her.

She’s looking teary-eyed and I want to hug her, but my hands are full.

Once the candles are blown, I put the cake on the coffee table and drop Choco. Then I pull my girl into my arms and whisper into her ear. “Happy Birthday.”

“Thank you,” she mumbles, her face hidden in my chest. She wraps her arms around my waist and I clue in that she’s not as excited as I thought she would be.

I draw back so I can examine her. “Hey, are you crying?”

She just nods.

“Crying because you’re happy?”

She nods again.

Okay, that’s fine. I hate seeing her cry, but that reason makes it acceptable.

I stroke her back gently with my hand since she seems content on hugging me. Then after a few minutes, I tell her, “It feels like tonight has been too boring. It’s your birthday. Let’s celebrate outside.”

“What about the cake?”

I shake my head. “We don’t have to eat it. I have a feeling you’ll be having a lot of cake today.”

She agrees and we get ready to go out.

Normally when we go to the Han River, we walk or go biking. Sometimes we go on scooters or hoverboards. There are many rental shops near the river and very convenient to rent, even at night. It’s much easier than bringing our own gear.

As I put the cake back into the refrigerator, I remember that I have another gift for Goeun.

I go to the sub-kitchen and open the door to the small fridge where I have been keeping her gift. I take it and go off to find her.

My girlfriend is in the entryway, already putting on her shoes.

“These are for you,” I announce, presenting her with a bouquet of flowers.

They’re red roses, her favourite.

She holds them to her nose and smiles. “They’re beautiful, thank you.”

I just smile back and put on my shoes. I had something else prepared for her today, but I’m still deciding if it’s a good idea or not. For now, these will do.

Sometime later, we’re in the car.

We’re headed to one of our favourite places: Banpo Han River Park. There are twelve different parks along the shoreline of the Han River but we visit this one the most, primarily because it’s close to where Goeun lives. It also has an amazing night-view of Banpo Bridge.

We both love going to the river.

Seoul is so intense in the way that most busy cities never sleep, but the Han River feels like an escape. It’s peaceful and quiet there especially at night. It feels like a completely different world.

I find parking close to Dongjak Station and when we leave the car, I’m surprised to see Goeun still holding her flowers.

“Don’t you want to leave that behind? We’ll be at the river for a while.”

We’re standing a few feet away from the curb, waiting for the walk sign to allow us to cross the street.

“It’s okay,” she says, waving her bouquet playfully. “I’ll put them in the bicycle basket once we rent one. You gave these to me so I want to take the time to appreciate them.”

“You’re lucky we’re in public and you’re wearing a mask,” I tell her in a mock threatening voice.

“Otherwise you’d do what?” she taunts, backing away from me. “Kiss me?”

“If you already know, why are you asking?” I turn my body to look at her. “Where are you going?”

She moves a few feet away and raises her phone.

Click.


“I’m collecting evidence.” Satisfied with the photo, Goeun walks back to show me.

I peer over her shoulder to look at her phone. “Evidence?”

“Yes, evidence that a handsome man in a mask keeps making cringey comments.”

I laugh and swing an arm around her shoulders. “Sorry, you bring out the worst in me.”

“Do you like the photo? I tried to get that blurry effect you like so much.”

“I like it. I like anything you do.”

She makes a face. “There you go again!”

I laugh harder as we walk side-by-side on the foot and bicycle path under the Banpo Bridge.

We joke and tease each other along the way and take more photos just because we can. We don’t have this kind of freedom in the daytime. When we do have time away from prying eyes, we take every opportunity to enjoy it.

Once we arrive at the river park, we rent a bike for Goeun and a hoverboard for me.

Summer is humid in Seoul so the cool nighttime air is a welcome reprieve. Because of how dark the sky and water are, almost pitch black, the city lights in the background shine even brighter. The Han River is always breath-taking, but nevermore so in the stillness of the night.

As I appreciate the view, a sense of calm settles over me. Goeun is quiet too, pedalling her bike slowly, and just staring at the water.

“I’m going take a video,” I inform her. “Stay quiet, okay?”

She nods and I lift my phone to capture the scene. Having to keep my balance on the hoverboard makes it hard to take a steady video. At one point I almost fall but Goeun and I both manage not to laugh or make a noise.

Once I’ve filmed enough, I hop off the hoverboard and walk over to show it to her.

“Ooh,” she teases when we see my shadow appear in the video. “That was very smooth.”

“I’m Lee Minho, would you expect any less?”

I receive a punch on the arm for that. “Ah!” I say, feigning hurt. “Is this the way you should be treating your boyfriend? The one who just gave you the best birthday celebration of your life?”

“You’re doing it again,” she complains, wrinkling her nose at me.

“Doing what?”

“Complimenting yourself.”

“I compliment no one. I’m just telling the truth.”

She shakes her head, but I know she’s amused. “What am I going to do with you?”

“Just love me,” I reply, the words spilling out before I can stop them.

She freezes at hearing me use the word ‘love, but I don’t take it back.

I don’t know what motivates me to continue the conversation. Maybe it’s because of the time we spent at the apartment today. Maybe it's how happy I’m feeling at this moment. Maybe it’s the beautiful scenery. Whatever it is, I press on, unable to reign in my feelings.

I reach over to put a hand on top of hers, her slim soft hand that currently has a vicegrip on her bicycle handlebar. When I touch her, she looks up at me.

“I’m not perfect,” I say quietly. “Sometimes I’m vain or self-absorbed. I can be stubborn and insist my way. Sometimes I’m lazy and won’t clean up.“

She huffs out a laugh, probably thinking about the dishes I’d left in a pile in the dishwasher.

“I’m not perfect, Goeun-ah.” I give her a half-smile. “But love me anyway. Please?”

She doesn’t say anything and just looks at me. When she wants to, she’s very good at hiding what she feels. Right now, I can’t read her at all.

For once, I’m the first to drag my eyes away.

Am I doing it again? Pressuring her? Pushing her to show me what she feels?

I let out a sigh and remove my hand from hers. I know I just made things awkward.

Excellent job, you fool.

I clear my throat and opt for a lighter tone. “So, how does it feel? Now that you’re thirty?”

When she doesn’t reply after a long pause, I swivel my head and see her still looking at me intently. Then she catches herself and says, “You should know. You’re older than me.”

“Your thirties feel different,” I muse, as I consider the topic. “It’s both good and bad. But mostly good. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself.”

Goeun gets off her bike and comes towards me. There’s a railing which serves as a barrier between the path and the water, and she leans her bike against it.

Then she slips her hand in mine and says, “I’m glad I got to spend the last of my twenties with you.”

I squeeze her hand, relieved that the tension has passed.

“I enjoyed filming the King,” she continues, “and I enjoyed the past month we spent together. Tonight is better than I could have ever imagined. Thank you, oppa. For making my birthday and the last of my twenties so memorable.”

Just like that, things between us are good again.

We make the best of the next couple of hours, taking turns on the bike and hoverboard, drinking canned coffee from a vending machine, and just soaking in the view of the river. We take a few more photos, then reluctantly agree that it’s time for me for take Goeun home.

We return our rentals and make our way down the pedestrian path, heading towards Dongjak station where my car is parked.

I notice that Goeun is exhausted, so I put an arm around her and press her to my side. “Do you want a piggy-back ride?”


She shakes her head. “No. Just carry these for me.”

“I knew you should have left this behind,” I say, taking the flowers from her hand.

“I like looking at them. They’re pretty, just like I am.”

When I raise my eyebrows at her self-praise, she explains, “I know you’ll say some cheesy comment about me being pretty, so I beat you to it.”

I let out a bark of laughter and press my lips against the side of her head. “You know me well.”

Even though our energy is fading, we take our time on the walk back. Moments like these are hard to find and soon everyone will wake up. We’ll have to hide again. We’ll have to remove any traces of us being together.

Until we get to that point, we try to make it last.

We savor these hours, of just her and me, in this place where no one’s watching.

It’s almost five in the morning by the time we arrive at Goeun’s apartment complex. We’re in the underground parking lot and I’ve just turn off the engine.

We sit in the car for a minutes, lingering. It seems like neither one of us want to leave.

I lean back against my seat and rest my head on the side so I’m facing her. She copies me and does the same.

“What time are you going to your parents’ house?” I ask her.

“Around noon? Maybe one o’clock?”

I reach over to rub her cheek with the side of my fingers. There are faint smudges under her eyes that indicate her fatigue. “Will you take a nap when you go upstairs?”

“Mmhmm.”

“You should go now,” I murmur.

“I don’t want to,” she whispers back.

Looking at her like this, I feel the same rush of emotion that I felt a few hours ago. The same feeling that burst free and then made things awkward for us.

I suppose these small, quiet moments are like a trigger for me.

Is it so wrong that all l want is to be with her?

It doesn’t even matter what we do or where we go. I’m just as happy here in this underground parking lot as I was at the Han River.

My thoughts lead me to that last gift I planned to give Goeun. I’ve been hesitating about it all night, unsure if I should or not.

But as with all things related to her… I just can’t help myself.

My lips form the words before I can stop them.

“There’s a song I’ve been listening to lately. Do you want to hear it?”

She nods.

I swipe through my phone until I find the song. I found this by chance, one night when I couldn’t sleep. I knew since then that this would be the way I’d tell her.

I play it and the soft melody creates a haze, the world blurring. The only thing in focus is her and me.

We’re silent as we listen, the lyrics more potent because of the time we’ve just spent together. We stare at each other as the music plays.



The day when the stars blessed us

The universe helped me, too

When we get closer

Everything else fades and only the light remains


Across the universe, dancing with you

A night of just the two of us when no one is watching

Across the universe, dancing with you

Even as we held hands, it feels like a dream



When the song ends, I turn off my phone and pull her hand into mine.

“It’s beautiful,” she says. She’s smiling, no idea what I’m about to tell her.

I try to warn her. “It makes me want to confess to you all over again.”

“Do it,” she jokes. But I’m not joking.

“I love you,” I tell her. “I’m in love with you.”



Lee Minho’s POV – July 2, 2020

“I love you,” I tell her. “I’m in love with you.”

My words cause Goeun to sit up from her seat.

I’m quiet, waiting for her to react. To say something.

We’ve done this before. I’ve confessed to her before.

To be honest, a part of me expects her to shy away or to show some sort of resistance. After all, that’s what my girlfriend does when I drop comments about how much I care for her.

Then the other part of me wonders if she’s on the same page as I am. I may have caught her off guard at the Han River, but she’s also very affectionate tonight. The entire walk back to our car, she wouldn’t let go of me. That’s the first time she’s done that.

I have a fifty-fifty chance; it’s a risk.

Even if she does like me a lot, there’s a chance she might not love me back. Not love me yet.

It’s possible she clung on to me because she’s thankful for what I’ve done on her birthday. Maybe it doesn’t mean more than that.

That’s okay.

We’ll be okay.

I did say that we can go at our own pace, that we don’t need to rush. That includes the emotional part of our relationship, not just the physical.

I’m almost convinced that I’m about to get rejected when Goeun speaks and astonishes me.

She takes a deep breath and looks at me straight in the eye. “I love you too, oppa. I love you so much.”

My jaw drops and I stutter. “You—you do?”

“I do,” she repeats, smiling at how surprised I must appear. “I wanted to tell you earlier, but I couldn’t say it. I was being a coward.”

“You’re not a coward. You’re perfect.”

She giggles at that. “You and your cheesy comments. Listen, oppa, I’m serious. I’m not perfect, just as you aren’t. At the Han River today, when you asked me to love you, I wanted to tell you that I already did. But I got scared. I’ve never felt so strongly about anyone before.”

I gaze at her fondly because I know well what she means. It’s how I feel too. Loving someone can be overwhelming.

“I want to do better for you,” she says. “I’ll try to be braver. You deserve someone who won’t always hesitate. Someone who won’t run and hide.”

“No, no,” I reply, shaking my head. “I don’t want you to feel pressured. The last thing I want is for you to force feelings you don’t have.”

“But I do feel it.”

“When did you know?”

“Back at your apartment when you were holding Choco and my birthday cake. When you were singing to me.”

This information makes me pause, then grin. “I should sing to you more often.”

We both laugh and my chest feels warm and full.

A thought crosses my mind. “Is it too fast? Are we going too fast, you and me? Technically, it’s only been a month since I confessed the first time.”

“It’s been thirty-five days including today.”

“Really?”

“And two hundred and ninety-eight days since we first met,” she says, matter-of-factly.

I raise my eyebrows, not expecting this from her. “You counted?”

“Of course not. My phone has an app.”

Ah yes. Tracking your relationship days is an essential part of dating. I don’t know why I assumed Goeun would be different.

“I’m shocked, you know,” I admit to her. “It took you eight months to call me ‘oppa’ but it took you much less to say ‘I love you.’”

She shrugs. “Remember what you told me? That we’ll go at our own pace? This is me, going at my own pace.”

“Say it again,” I demand.

“I love you, Minho-oppa.”

“I love you too.”

I’m so happy. I have no other words to describe how happy I am.

It doesn’t even matter that it’s the early hours of the morning and that we’ve just spent the entire night awake. I’m suddenly alive, my body tingling with built up energy.<