Jin Ae felt sorry she’d been so angry on the way there and looked at Cho in embarrassment. “I was only doing what I was trained to do and do not deserve this.”
Cho smiled. “Obviously, my country is very appreciative of what you’ve done so please don’t embarrass us by refusing their offer.”
Jin Ae found an appropriate flight and arrangements were made for a Korean Airlines driver to pick her up from Mammoth Hotel and facilitate her progress through customs and immigration at the airport. Word had gone ahead to the airport and they were processed swiftly and escorted to the airline first class waiting rooms. Permission had been given for Cho to accompany her inside and see her off at the gate on boarding. Cho cried as Jin Ae turned and waved after passing through the gate to be ushered into first class and settled by the crew. This really was VIP treatment. Tim had phoned her at the airport and wished her bon voyage. The journey was more comfortable than she’d experienced in her travels of the past and there was a further surprise when at the airport on arrival she was met by someone from the Korean Embassy and driven home. Her mother Mee was delighted to see her.
Despite jet lag from the time difference between Korea and California Jin Ae was at the office early to receive a report of progress made on their project. She’d been in touch daily with her associate James who’d been seconded from a team working on another project. While Jin Ae oversaw the project her team worked on, she valued the experience and knowledge of James. James was his English name just as she was recognized in English as June, but he was originally from Hong Kong. They’d been careful not to talk about their project by phone as that was unsafe and could get them into huge legal trouble having signed off on a security agreement. So, Jin Ae needed to be brought up to date and she learned they’d been able to make some good progress. She indicated she needed to talk with James privately and they went to her office. She shared in broad outline what she’d been doing the past few days and he nodded in recognition. The two of them decided to work together building on what their team had found and the issues Jin Ae had worked with in Korea.
While they worked James spoke as he concentrated on screens in front of them. “I came to pick you up at the airport last night but was surprised to see Korean Embassy people sorting through your luggage and bundling you out of the building. I watched as you were picked up by an embassy vehicle. Are you a diplomat working undercover or what?”
Jin Ae had been in deep concentration so continued in silence but the statement eventually found its way to the top of her multi-tasking mind and after a few seconds she spun around to face him. She laughed. “No, I’m not a diplomat, nor a spy, nor a imbed from the Pentagon though I’m sure there would be some among us. Why do you ask that? Are you a spy from Hong Kong?” She laughed until tears flowed from her eyes.
She saw this had embarrassed him and felt sorry. She didn’t want to spoil their friendship as they worked well together, and IT was the whole of their life. “Why did you come to pick me up at the airport James?”
James concentrated on the screen in front of him and said nothing. He felt foolish for asking his question now and she’d laughed at him. Jin Ae felt wretched. She remembered students in elementary school laughing at her because of her different eye shape. It had hurt her, but she’d laugh along with them to cover her hurt feelings. She looked at her watch.
“James its lunch time. Let’s go eat.”
James stared at the screen. I’m working on one of the issues you said to try out and I’m not hungry.”
‘Well June wants to eat, and June wants company and June appreciates the fact that you’d come to the airport to pick me up last night. No one has ever thought of doing that for me before and I really appreciate you doing that.”
James smiled and stretched, then got to his feet and followed. They selected items from the serving deck and found a table. Jin Ae resumed her June persona. “How did you know I’d be on a Korean Airlines flight when you knew I’d booked for Seoul on United?”
“You phoned me from the Seoul airport and told me what had happened, and it was easy to figure out which flight you’d be on.”
Jin Ae tried to remember doing that and retracing her actions remembered she did phone him. She’d been phoning him each evening along with her mother. She rationalized it was all business, but they were not permitted to talk about the project except in general terms about progress. Why had she been doing that? Then she remembered his quiet attention to her, and it suddenly dawned on her what his eyes had been communicating as they sat and talked within the team. James was smitten with her! Why had she been so intent on phoning him each evening when there was really no reason to do so. He was perfectly capable of managing the team in her absence.
“James is there something on your heart you’d really like to say to me because I might like to hear that?”
James shifted uneasily on his seat and increased activity with his food intake.
“James, please talk to me!”
James looked up with tears in his eyes. “I don’t think you’d be interested in what I’m thinking June.”
“I want to hear what is on your heart James.”
“OK, I love you June, please don’t laugh at me.”
“James, I think I love you too. Why don’t we go out together and test our feelings to see if that is really what is happening?”
James smiled happily and nodded.” Let’s finish this project as fast as we can and then do that, I think the suggestions you made will confirm the firewall we’ve constructed is working well and now all we have to do is go through the various systems to ensure there are no imbeds in government databases. Too bad some of the information was compromised. They were not careful enough when they constructed their IT systems, but it should be OK now.”
When James transferred back to his group within the corporation, he and Jin Ae, who now reverted to being called June became an item and after a six-month courtship began to plan on their wedding.
Tim was delighted to hear of his sister’s happiness and the planned wedding and suggested that perhaps they could combine and make it a double wedding in Seoul. James was agreeable to the suggestion as his family would find it convenient to make the trip from Hong Kong to celebrate there. James family were owners of many corporate interests in Hong Kong and Wonsa Kim who’d declared his retirement from army service was interested in working with James family on joint investments in Korea so there was a bonding between the families through those two marriage unions.
Cho who became Mrs Mason found it not as difficult as she’d thought to fit in with the Washington DC diplomatic community and Jin Ae and Cho were constantly on Facetime sharing each other’s lives and eventually families. Jin Ae was happy to spend the rest of her life as Mrs June Wu. She looked on her trip to Korea to investigate her roots as the watershed that bought so much future happiness to her life.
© Copyright 2021 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved. Above image from pexels-photo-6457518 Alexander Suhorucov.