“You did us proud Jin Ae. I don’t know how we can all thank you for what you did yesterday and last night.” Her brother reached over and kissed her, and she sat up and hugged him back.”
“You can thank me by marrying Cho Tim, she is like a sister to me now.”
“I’m working on it, Sis!”
Jin Ae ate what had been prepared and then went into the attached bathroom and luxuriated in a hot shower. She had learned a lot in yesterday’s exercise and as soon as she’d finished rechecking the intelligence IT system, she was determined to take a quick trip back to the US and share what she’d learned with her team to address the problem given them to solve by the Pentagon. She hated having to put on yesterday’s clothes and was surprised to hear a knock on the bathroom door.
“Tim I’m not decent yet can it wait?”
Cho’s voice replied. “Open up Tim’s not here, I have fresh clothes for you!”
Jin Ae opened the door to Cho unconcerned about her nakedness seeing it was not her brother and Cho came in looking very tired.
“Jin Ae the army officers are so pleased with the work you did yesterday to help us out. They’re talking about kidnapping you and keeping you here in South Korea. Of course, they were just joking but that shows how impressed they were. When the intelligence men you met in the board room passed on to the officers who make final decisions what you’ve done my father came to know. He immediately contacted your brother and agreed for him to marry me even without meeting him personally. That is just unheard of in our culture. I’m a little scared though as I don’t want to live in America. I went to school there and it was OK, but I love my country.” Cho tried to be stoic, but the tears flowed.
Jin Ae hadn’t thought of that. She’d had a wonderful experience in Korea but as she’d been born in America and bought up there that was her life. She realized Cho would have the same feelings about her own country and felt wretched as so wanted to have Cho as her sister-in-law and wanted Tim to be happy too. Was that selfish of her and her brother?
She reached out to Cho and the women cried on each other’s shoulders. Then Jin Ae pulled back realizing her condition. “I’d better get dressed!” She mumbled self-consciously. “Where did you get these clothes Cho?”
“They’re mine, I figured you were the same size as me. You can keep them if you want to.”
Jin Ae nodded. “Thank you, Cho. I’ll keep these as a remembrance of my new sister but only on condition you come with me after I’ve finished here because I want to buy you a complete outfit to remember me by too.”
Cho nodded in agreement.
“I need to get back and recheck the system to see nothing has been planted as a sleeper in the system Cho.” She hastily dressed and Cho guided her back through the layers of security into the control room again. She took up her seat again and began running through all the security procedures in turn testing them. Finally, she came to the conclusion the system was safe. The IT Officer watched from a distance and she verbalized as she worked so he’d know exactly what she was doing with each procedure. He thanked her profusely as she got up to go then phoned his superior who made a quick appearance from an office to thank her personally before ushering her safely through the return check points with Cho. He hailed an army vehicle and told him to drop them off wherever they pleased. The two women sat in the back of the vehicle discussing the proposed wedding. That would have to be worked out with the family who would insist on a big wedding for their daughter considering their status in society. But it would take some time to sort out the details and Tim’s program had to be considered as he’d be back at the Pentagon as soon as the preliminaries he was working on were settled so diplomats could take over while they sank into the background to guard and support.
Jin Ae turned to Cho. “Sister I need to cut my visit here short and return to the US, so we only have a few hours left in the day. I’m discarding my list. Take me to something cultural so I can be immersed in my roots here and tomorrow I’ll try and get a flight out. My experience over the past day has given me ideas to share with the team I control at work. We are working on something of huge importance.”
Cho looked subdued. “You want to leave so abruptly when I need to know more about your brother. If I’m going to be his wife, I need intimate details. Yes, I worked with him for several years while he was here, but it was professional and now I want to know him. I had high hopes you’d help me.” Tears formed in her eyes and Jin Ae noticed the driver watching them in the rear vision mirror and stared back until he averted his eyes. Then she reached over out of his sight and took Cho’s hand in hers.
They reached the destination Cho had nominated and alighted bowing to the driver who sped back to base. Cho spoke. “There is a row of fashion houses here and you said you wanted to buy some things before you left.”
“Which shop do you recommend Cho?” Cho pointed to the one she favoured and both women moved inside. Jin Ae exhaled in appreciation as she looked around. “They have beautiful creations here Cho. Show me what outfit you’d choose if it were you shopping.” Cho wound her way slowly through the racks of dresses and accessories for a half hour holding up items against herself as she investigated mirrors scattered around. Finally, she held up the outfits she’d selected. “Would you be happy with these?”
Jin Ae went through a charade holding the garments up as Cho had done and inspecting them in a mirror along with accessories. She nodded and moved to the counter to pay. She handed her credit card to the shop manager and the woman eyed the card suspiciously. Cho broke in and told the woman the card was good despite no Korean words and the woman fed it into the system cautiously looking surprised when the transaction was approved. She packed the items and gave a receipt bowing as she handed them over.
Outside the shop she handed over the parcels. “A gift to my beloved new sister with love from Jin Ae.”
Cho smiled happily as she received the gifts. “Let’s go eat Jin Ae, do you have any preferences?”
“The restaurant you took us too on the first day Cho.”
By the time they’d eaten both women were feeling the effects of a previous night with little sleep and much tension. Cho steered her future sister-in-law back to the Mammoth Hotel and promised to help her next day change her bookings back to the US.
Tim had showed up at breakfast time on Jin Ae’s last day unaware of her plans. This time he was met by the two women Cho having agreed to eat with her on her hoped-for last day. So, the three ate together and talked. Tim was having a hard time trying to keep his enthusiasm about marrying Cho within the bounds favoured by Koreans publicly and this made Cho nervous. Finally, Jin Ae whispered he should be more restrained while Cho went to the deck to take more food and he nodded in acknowledgement. He apologized to Cho when she returned and said he’d try to be more careful to follow what was expected but added innocently that it was hard because he loved her so much it was hard not to express it. Cho relaxed and smiled encouragingly. He looked Korean but he was a foreigner and she’d help him to be even more culturally acceptable than he was already. She realized she had a deep longing for them to be together too and was happy he’d expressed his love even though it could be embarrassing. If marrying him meant going to the US, then she would make that sacrifice.
When Jin Ae contacted the airline office in Seoul she was puzzled to find her ticket was blocked. The people at the front desk were unable to answer her questions so she demanded to see the manager and was ushered with Cho into a palatial office upstairs and where they were greeted by a smiling polite man. He patiently explained that a top-level government officer had had been in touch and had requested they issue her with a refund as her travel arrangements were being cared for now by the Korean government. He was in touch with his head office to find out what was going on. Jin Ae remembered what Cho had told her in jest about kidnapping her and she was shocked. They wouldn’t dare! She turned to Cho in irritation and Cho shrugged she took out her cell phone and phoned her Mother who in turn contacted the base to see if she could talk with her husband urgently.
The women left the office with Jin Ae seething inside. Cho’s phone played a Korean tune indicating a call. She picked it up and it was her father. His message was brief. “Go to the Korean Airlines and show your identity, I need to get back to work daughter.”
Jin Ae at first refused to go thinking she needed to go back and reason with the manager of United Airlines ticketing office, but Cho persuaded her to come with her as she was curious about this unusual event too. So, she dragged her grumbling friend with her, and they arrived at the Korean Airlines ticketing desk. Cho persuaded Jin Ae to show her passport and the one serving them placed a phone call. A man came quickly and bowed inviting them to his office.
‘The government has instructed us to treat you as a VIP. You will be issued a first-class ticket and anything you choose from the airline shopping catalogue will be yours free all you have to do is tell us what you want. There are no limits on the cost of what you choose there. Any travel to and from Korea in future will be at government expense.”
To be continued
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