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Chapter 2 - Paper planes

1995

Daegu, South Korea

Suho Lee's monolid eyes squinted, creating creases in between his brows, as the morning sun flooded inside his room. 

He smelled the scent of hot chocolate and cinnamon whiffing in the air in the morning.  

The smell itself told him it was morning making him relaxed and calm. 

Trying to make out the time, he peeked at the clock with one eye shut, sighing, and decided 6 am was too early to stand up. 

The chilly breeze swayed the hanging planes in his ceiling, his eyes swerving to the pictures of basketball icons, from Michael Jordan to Haneul Lee, Suho’s dad. 

Winter air whispered to him, sinking further into his comforter, lulling him to sleep.  

Haneul Lee, Suho’s father, born and raised in Seoul. 

Little did Haneul Lee know that his once escapade to Daegu with his friends would lead him to meet the love of his life. And his longing for the girl led him to transfer to Daegu in senior high, as a basketball varsity player for Daegu National High School. 

He was a free-spirited soul who was able to get away from exams and projects because he’d usually compete for the school. 

His family wasn’t wealthy to sustain his luxurious life. 

But because he was the basketball ace and a handsome lad at that, he’d usually model for various events and products where he got his extra allowance from. That’s how he sustained living in Daegu, away from his parents, trying to woo the girl who captured his free-spirited soul. 

That girl was Suho's mom, Ji Hyo Kwang. She was Daegu’s goddess in the 70s with her long wavy hair, almond brown eyes, and porcelain skin. Her beauty flourished mesmerizing every man in the village.

She wasn’t a princess born from a wealthy family but was rather from humble beginnings of a one-room apartment rental. 

Her mother and younger sister were her reason for survival in their hard life, living one day at a time. 

The villagers knew her not only for her beauty but her hard work and perseverance. Stopped going to school after senior high, she became the breadwinner for her family, working from one job to the next. 

Not skipping a day in her life without finding ways to earn money. 

Villagers would often gossip about how wasted her beauty in the suburbs and that she ought to find a fine rich man to marry and live a carefree life. 

Her life turned 180 degrees after meeting Haneul Lee at 18. 

He confessed that he’d been watching her from afar for a while and vowed to sweep her away one day. 

And that came when the two got married at a sweet age of 22. They didn’t have much then and were living with Haneul’s allowance from the National Team and Ji Hyo using the money to invest in a business, doubling their income.

In July of 1979, their love bear fruit with the arrival of Suho. 

Suho Lee was their biggest miracle and blessing in their married life. 

Soon after, Haneul joined several Olympic competitions and later on played for international teams abroad. 

Suho grew up not having his father by his side but watching him on television in every single competition he was a part of. He became his father’s number 1 fan and his hero. 

Every time he came home, he’d bring him a replica of the airplane he’d boarded to show him how far he has traveled. Haneul wanted his son to follow his footsteps which Ji Hyo strongly opposed to.  

It was in 1985 when Haneul Lee, secured, signed up for a sporting agency that he got an offer to play for a local company and stay in South Korea. 

He scored a big bonus which made it possible to build the house in Daegu. Haneul Lee was a household name in South Korea for bringing in fame and glory for the country. 

He had endorsement gigs from energy drinks to cars. And the Lee family was at the top of their game. They even purchase an apartment in Seoul and a farm in Gyeonggi-do and have a college trust fund for Suho when he gets older.  

The land they purchased in Daegu was Haneul’s gift for his wife for it was where she was born but had to be sold because of poverty. 

Ji Hyo was ecstatic at the gift and wished that they built a simple 2-story red-bricked house like the rest of the neighborhood. 

As ordinary as it was from the outside, the interior was a different story. Inside, wood was everywhere from the wall to the floor. Haneul added all the latest technology in the 80s from the latest entertainment gadgets to state-of-the-art kitchen equipment. 

The first floor housed their living space, dining, and Haneul's office, showcasing all his trophies, memorabilia, and fan's gifts. While the second floor became their living quarters. 

Suho, at 6 years old, unlike other kids his age, has a room of his own filled with every toy imaginable and a customized basketball court. 

He has traveled to various places watching his father play, checking in different hotels in the cities they visited. 

One of his favorite places was a park in a tropical country. Whenever his dad traveled to this country, he’d beg his mom to bring them along with him. 

Little did his parents know that he was looking for a specific girl he once met, lost, lonely, and crying by herself.

He gave her one of his paper planes.

Sadly, the only remembrance he had of this little girl was a family picture, with her in the background. 

Suho, like his dad, became obsessed with playing basketball at such a young age. This was how he met his best buddies and neighbors, Joo Ho and Kwanghee, who were also his classmates. 

He was popular among the kids and even parents at school, especially as the first-born and only child of the legendary basketball king, Haneul Lee. 

People were amazed at his resemblance to his father, with the mole under Suho’s left eye as the only defining feature. 

Even at a young age, he has captured the hearts of young and old ladies alike, charming them with his vibrant personality. 

His friends love having him around for his spontaneity and humor. 

While the elders love him for his talent in arts and woodwork. 

Grandma Jung, the old lady next to their house, once said that Suho has the best of both worlds -- his father’s vibrant personality and mother’s creativity. 

When Suho entered middle school, Mrs. Lee had more time left for herself that she developed a liking for plants. 

Realized that she can grow herbs and ornamental plants in the house. 

Soon enough, the house was half-filled with every indoor plant available from hanging plants to even exotic houseplants, such as English Ivy. 

Not long after, their village head asked her to help design their neighborhood playground. 

From then, neighbors and locals nearby towns started buying plants from her. 

Before she knew it, the business began to flourish, and they renovated the first floor to a plant store and Mr. Lee's study. 

Then, moving the dining and kitchen to the second floor. 

Mr. and Mrs. Haneul Lee, with Suho, became the epitome of Daegu's perfect family. All except for small detail.

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