Disclaimer: Kang Shin-woo belongs to the Hong sisters, creators of You're Beautiful. The title of this fic comes from the 1963 song by The Beatles.


"I used to think you were really cool when we were kids," Ha-neul said, and giggled.

"I might have even had a little crush on you back then." — from This Above All, Chapter Nine

Chapter One

Busan, 2000

"Ya, Doo-hwan, where were you?" a boy shouted as So Ha-neul entered the classroom. "We didn't see you in the cafeteria!"

Ha-neul would have ignored the loudmouth if she hadn't heard the answer from one of his friends. "Are you blind, Son-hae?" a second boy asked. "That's not Doo-hwan; that's So Ha-neul!"

"It is?" Nam Son-hae asked, the exagerrated wonder in his tone suggesting that he had known it was her from the very beginning. Her cheeks began to grow warm.

"Can't you see she's wearing a skirt?" the other one pointed out, sounding as though he were in on the joke, too.

"Well, she's as tall as Doo-hwan. Anyone could have made the same mistake."

Tell them that's not true! Ha-neul's mind screamed as Son-hae laughed and exchanged high-fives with his friends. She tried to will herself to say or do something, but couldn't even move from her spot just beyond the door, let alone think of and actually utter a clever retort.

She was still trying to work up the nerve to respond when a third voice broke in. "That's enough, guys."

Ha-neul recovered enough to turn and find Kang Shin-woo standing just behind her. To her mortification, she realized that he had heard, if not everything, then at least enough to understand why those boys were laughing at her.

Fortunately, he seemed to be on her side, and since he was one of the oldest in the class, even Son-hae and his friends paid attention when he spoke. "We were just joking around," they said.

"Well, I'm sure that was fun for you, but you're making Ha-neul uncomfortable."

The boys looked at her, and she managed to glare at them. "Sorry, Ha-neul," one of Son-hae's sidekicks muttered.

Before she could say anything, Teacher Gong entered the classroom. The older woman placed her things on the teacher's desk and surveyed the students scrambling to take their seats.

She arched an eyebrow at the tableau in the back of the room. "Is there a problem, Ha-neul?"

Ha-neul was sorely tempted to answer that there was. Teacher Gong was one of the strictest in school, and Son-hae was already in enough trouble with her. He was actually starting to look worried. One word, and he could get punished.

But instead, she just answered, "No, Teacher Gong." Hopefully the narrow escape would be enough to scare the boys into leaving her alone; if not, then she would figure out a way to make them sorry.

"All right, then. Take your seat. You, too, Kang Shin-woo."

"Yes, Teacher Gong."

Ha-neul gave Shin-woo a brief nod of thanks, which he returned with a polite smile before taking his seat as the teacher ordered.

Eun Jae-bong, who had the seat in the row ahead, turned around to grin at him. "I think I know who's going to win the Perfect Gentleman Award again this year," he teased as Teacher Gong started writing that day's lesson on the blackboard.

"I wasn't thinking about that," Shin-woo told him earnestly. "I just wanted them to stop. Ha-neul can't help it if she's tall."

"Son-hae can be a real pain," the other boy admitted. "Good thing he listens to you; he doesn't even mind anyone else, not even Hyun-seok, and he's class president." Then he paused, looking thoughtful. "I wonder if he likes Ha-neul."

"What? Why would you think so?"

Jae-bong shrugged. "My mom says boys only tease girls they like."

"That doesn't make sense. If you liked someone, wouldn't you want to not make them feel bad?" Ha-neul had had an awful look on her face while those boys were laughing at her. That wasn't the kind of look you wanted to see on someone you liked.

"My mom also said this love stuff doesn't necessarily have to make sense."

Just then, Teacher Gong finished writing on the blackboard and turned to the class. "Our lesson is about to begin," she announced. "Please take out your books and open to Chapter 12."

Shin-woo shook his head as he dug around in his bag for his math book. He didn't know if Son-hae really did like Ha-neul, but one thing was for sure: making fun of her wasn't right, and he was going to do his best to keep it from happening ever again.

When Shin-woo turned to go, Ha-neul hurried to her own desk, painfully conscious that she was the only girl tall enough to sit in the very back row.

She tried to remind herself that there was nothing wrong with being tall. When she had first mentioned it at home, her mother pointed out that Ha-neul got her height from her basketball player father. "You can't fight genetics," Mrs. So always said.

Besides, her mother added, it was only temporary; girls tended to develop faster than boys, but they would catch up sooner or later. Lots of boys didn't know that, though, or they had forgotten. Those boys gave the girls who were taller than them a hard time because they were jealous or confused by all the changes going on in and around them.

Good thing at least one boy in her class wasn't like that, Ha-neul thought as she glanced at Shin-woo, who was exchanging jokes with the boy sitting in front of him. Even if he didn't know about the things Mrs. So had talked about, it was nice of him not to make fun of Ha-neul for being so tall. Actually, he wasn't a loudmouth like the other boys; he liked to joke around with their classmates from time to time, but when he said something, it was usually something important.

She decided right then that Kang Shin-woo was the nicest boy in the sixth grade.

The fact that he was just a little (not a lot) shorter than her didn't hurt, either.