They let you smoke in here, that is if you’re Korean or there’s a table full of Koreans also smoking in the room. It’s a fine line if you don’t speak the language. This is their place in their part of town. They aren’t rude about it, but they aren’t looking for hipsters to discover a joint like this, overrun it, then write it up in LA Weekly.

We play trumps and drain pitchers of yogurt sochu while pigging out on wings and fried eel. There’s a bell on the table. You just push the button and someone comes running. I like that about the place. Tori didn’t want to come. There was a shooting here two weeks ago in the parking lot. I tell her that’s the Friday crowd. Sunday afternoons are fine and she can stay home wallowing.

He’s into her. They make a good team, Jacob and Tori. My husband and I were losing on purpose early on, but they picked up the game quick. We are playing to win and still losing. That’s just the cards though. They always turn around for us. It’s the other game that I’m unsure of, matchmaking gets harder as you get older. People become particular, they see the patterns of what didn’t work last time everywhere. I told Tori to be open and she’s doing her best.

Jacob is a riddle to me. My husband tells me he’s a good guy, but that’s a spectrum. You can be a good guy around the guys and a prick in private. I’ve been assured that’s not the case here, but hubby can’t judge that.

The sochu buzzes warm in my veins, mingling with the heat from the spicy food on the table. We’re laughing, cracking jokes, and generally making a ruckus. The staff just smiles and shakes their heads at us. They’ve seen it all before, a group of loud gaijin making a spectacle of themselves in their quiet establishment.

We take turns ringing the bell, ordering more food, more sochu. The table is a jumble of empty plates and drained glasses. There’s a comfortable camaraderie here, a rhythm to the conversation and the game that feels familiar and comforting. It’s in stark contrast to the unease I feel every time Jacob and Tori share a quiet moment.

My husband, God love him, is oblivious. He’s too busy trying to figure out how to win the game, too caught up in the strategy and competition to notice the undercurrent of tension. He’s always been like that, laser-focused on the task at hand, blind to the emotional nuances unfolding around him.

Jacob is a mystery, his face a careful mask of friendly camaraderie. He’s charming, of course. They always are. But there’s something underneath that I can’t quite put my finger on. A restlessness, a shadow in his eyes that gives me pause.

Tori, on the other hand, is an open book. She’s always worn her heart on her sleeve, and it’s clear she’s smitten. The way she watches Jacob when he’s not looking, the way her laughter lingers a bit longer at his jokes. It’s sweet, in a naive sort of way. I just hope she’s not setting herself up for heartbreak.

As the evening wears on, the energy in the room changes. It’s subtle, almost imperceptible. The laughter grows louder, the jokes bawdier. It’s as if we’re all trying to drown out the unspoken words hanging in the air, the questions and doubts that have yet to be voiced.

I catch Jacob’s eye and hold his gaze. I’m not a woman to be trifled with, and I hope he understands that. I hope he understands that I won’t stand by and watch him hurt my friend. His smile doesn’t reach his eyes, but he nods in understanding. There’s a tacit agreement between us, a promise made and accepted.

The drive home is a quiet one. The city lights dance across the windshield as my husband navigates the familiar streets. He’s content, his mind likely replaying the card games, the laughs, the camaraderie. It’s a simple joy for him, these weekend get-togethers, a break from the grind of work and the mundanity of everyday life. He hums to himself, a soft, off-key melody that wraps around the silence like a comforting blanket.

I glance over at him, my steady rock amidst the swirling currents of uncertainty. His hands are steady on the wheel, his eyes focused on the road. For a moment, I wish I could be more like him, more able to take things at face value, to enjoy the moments without the constant overthinking. But then, I guess that’s why we work so well together – his simplicity balances out my complexity.

Back home, the house is quiet, save for the soft ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece. It’s late, and the world outside is hushed, the city’s vibrant energy dimmed to a soft hum. I make a pot of tea, the ritual bringing a sense of normalcy, a grounding to the swirling thoughts in my head.

I find myself thinking about Tori and Jacob, the way they looked at each other, the sparks of something more than friendship. It’s clear to me that they both feel something, but whether that something is a fleeting infatuation or the beginnings of a deeper connection, I can’t tell.

As I sip my tea, my mind begins to play out scenarios, to sketch out possible futures. It’s a habit I’ve never been able to break, this constant planning, this need to be prepared for every eventuality. But when it comes to matters of the heart, I know better than anyone that you can’t predict or control the outcome. You can only hope for the best, and be there for the fallout if things go wrong.

The next day, I call Tori. She sounds happy, her voice bubbling over with enthusiasm as she talks about the night before. She’s clearly smitten, and I can’t help but feel a pang of worry for her. But I keep my concerns to myself, letting her bask in the glow of her newfound feelings. After all, who am I to rain on her parade?

Then, she mentions something that sets me back on my heels. “You know, he asked me about you,” she says. There’s an odd tone to her voice, a mixture of mischief and something else I can’t quite place.

“About me?” I ask, taken aback. “What did he want to know?”

“Oh, just stuff,” she says evasively. “You know, how long we’ve known each other, how close we are… He was curious about the age difference, too.”

I feel a knot form in my stomach. Why would Jacob be asking about me? It’s Tori he’s supposed to be interested in, not her married friend.

“He… he didn’t say anything else, did he?” I ask, trying to keep my voice casual. But there’s a tremor there, a hint of the unease I’m feeling.

“Oh, no,” she says. “He just seemed… interested. But don’t worry, I set him straight. I told him you’re like a sister to me.”

Her words are meant to reassure, but they have the opposite effect. The knot in my stomach tightens. The rest of the conversation passes in a blur. When we hang up, I’m left with an unsettling feeling. I can’t shake the suspicion that something is going on, something I’m not privy to.

That evening, I bring it up with my husband. He laughs, brushing off my concerns. “You’re overthinking it,” he says. “Jacob’s just being friendly. He probably just wants to get to know us better.”

But I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to it than that. I can’t help but recall the look in Jacob’s eyes when he nodded at me, the unspoken understanding. Was there more to that nod than I’d thought?

For the first time, I find myself questioning Tori’s motives. She’s always been open, honest. But the way she brought up Jacob’s questions, the tone in her voice… Could she be playing a game here, too?

I thought I had her figured out, thought I knew her better than anyone. But as the days pass, I realize there’s more to Tori than I’d ever imagined. Her laughter, her openness, they’re part of her, yes. But they’re not all of her. There’s a cunning there, a sly intelligence that I’d overlooked. And for the first time, I realize that she’s not the naive girl I’d always seen her as.

In this strange dance of friendship and unspoken tension, I’d thought I was the one leading. Now, I’m not so sure. Tori’s moves are subtle, her strategy hidden beneath layers of laughter and smiles. But she’s playing the game, just as surely as I am.

And as for Jacob, well… He’s still a mystery. But one thing’s for certain. He’s not the only player in this game. And as the cards continue to be dealt, I can’t help but wonder: who’s really holding the trump card?

The following weekend finds us back at the same Korean joint, the smell of barbecue and sochu filling the air. The same bell rings, the same laughter rises, but something is different. The game is on, and this time I’m not sure of my hand.

Jacob, as ever, is the picture of amiable charm. He trades jokes with my husband, engages in friendly banter with the staff, and somehow manages to make everyone at the table feel special. His smiles are easy, his laughter genuine. But every now and then, his gaze finds me, and in those moments, his smile seems to hold a question. Or is it a challenge?

Tori is different, too. Gone is the girl who blushed at Jacob’s compliments, who stuttered and stumbled over her words. In her place is a woman who knows her worth, who meets Jacob’s flirtations with witty retorts of her own. It’s a side of her I’ve never seen before, and I find myself both surprised and impressed.

The cards shuffle, the game continues, but my mind is elsewhere. I’m caught in a web of intrigue and speculation, watching the dance between Jacob and Tori with a new understanding. There’s an ease to their interactions, a familiarity that’s developed over the past week. It’s clear that they’ve spent time together outside of these weekend outings, and it’s equally clear that their relationship has evolved.

And then, there’s me. The observer, the outsider. The one who thought she knew all the players, only to find out she’s been left in the dark. The one who thought she was orchestrating the game, only to realize she’s just another piece on the board.

It’s a sobering realization, one that sends a jolt of unease down my spine. I’m used to being in control, used to knowing the score. But as I look around the table, I understand that I’m not the one holding the cards. I’m not the one setting the pace. I’m in unfamiliar territory, and I don’t quite know how to navigate it.

The evening ends, and we all part ways. Jacob and Tori head off together, their laughter echoing down the street. My husband and I make our way home, the silence between us a stark contrast to the lively chatter of the night.

As I lay in bed that night, I can’t help but replay the evening over and over in my mind. The smiles, the laughter, the looks that passed between Jacob and Tori. The questions that went unasked, the answers that went ungiven. The game that’s being played, and the realization that I’m not the one pulling the strings.

I’m left with more questions than answers, my mind a whirl of thoughts and theories. But one thing is clear: Tori is not the same girl I thought I knew. And Jacob, well… he’s not just the charming newcomer. They’re both players in this game, and it seems they’ve been playing for longer than I realized.

And as for me? I’m left wondering where I fit into all this. I thought I was the matchmaker, the friend, the mentor. But now, I’m not so sure. The game has changed, the players have shifted, and I’m left trying to figure out my next move.

But there’s one thing I’m certain of. I’m not out of this game yet. I may have been caught off guard, but I’ve always been a quick learner. I just need to adjust, recalibrate, figure out the rules of this new game.

My opportunity comes sooner than I expect. The next day, I find myself alone with Tori, a coffee date that had been planned weeks ago. It’s a chance for me to speak to her one on one, to try and understand what’s going on.

Tori is radiant, her eyes sparkling with an inner joy that seems to light her from within. She’s happy, that much is clear, and a part of me is glad for her. But another part, a larger part, is worried.

I can’t help but ask her outright. “What’s going on with you and Jacob?” I ask, trying to keep my tone casual.

She pauses, her smile fading slightly. “What do you mean?” she asks, and I can tell she’s playing coy.

“You two seem…close,” I say, choosing my words carefully. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

She hesitates, and for a moment, I think she’s not going to answer. But then she sighs, a small, resigned sound that tugs at my heartstrings.

“You’re right,” she admits, looking down at her hands. “There is something.”

I hold my breath, bracing myself for the words I fear she’s about to say. That they’re dating, that they’re in love, that they’ve been keeping it from me. But what she says next takes me completely by surprise.

“Jacob and I…we’re not together,” she says, and I can hear the honesty in her voice. “But not for lack of trying. He’s…he’s not interested in me. He’s interested in someone else.”

My heart skips a beat. “Who?” I ask, even though I already know the answer.

She looks up then, her eyes meeting mine. “You,” she says simply.

The word hits me like a punch to the gut. I reel, my mind spinning as I try to process what she’s just said. Me? Jacob’s interested in me?

But as I look into Tori’s eyes, I see the truth. She’s not lying, not playing a game. This is real, and suddenly, everything clicks into place.

“Why are you helping him when you know that I am married?”

She looks away, her fingers tracing the rim of her coffee cup. “Because,” she begins, her voice barely above a whisper, “because I care about you both. I care about him, and I care about you. And I know you, you’re not…you’re not as happy as you could be.”

Her words hang in the air between us, a painful truth that I’ve been avoiding. My marriage, my husband, my life – it’s comfortable, familiar. But is it fulfilling? Is it what I want?

“Are you suggesting…” I start, unable to finish the question. The thought of it is too strange, too foreign.

“I’m not suggesting anything,” Tori interrupts, her voice steadier now. “I’m just…I’m just being honest. You deserve to know. And what you do with that information is up to you.”

I’m silent, my mind racing. This isn’t what I was expecting. A confession of feelings, yes. A declaration of love, perhaps. But this? This is something else entirely.

“Why are you doing this?” I ask, my voice strained. “Why are you trying to…to meddle in my life?”

Tori looks up, her eyes meeting mine. “Because I care about you,” she says simply. “And because I believe in happiness. And sometimes, to find that happiness, you need to take risks. You need to step out of your comfort zone.”

I’m left speechless, her words echoing in my mind. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard before, a concept I’ve toyed with in my mind. But to hear it now, in this context, it’s almost too much to bear.

The rest of our coffee date is a blur. We talk about other things, lighter topics, but the conversation feels forced. The elephant in the room is too big, too real to ignore.

As I leave the café, my mind is a whirl of thoughts and emotions. Anger, confusion, fear…and, if I’m honest with myself, a hint of excitement. Because while this revelation is terrifying, it’s also exhilarating. It’s a chance for something new, something different. It’s a chance for happiness.

But it’s also a risk. A risk that could cost me everything.

The drive home is a quiet one, the cityscape passing by in a blur. I’m lost in my thoughts, my mind a maze of questions and what-ifs. What if I pursue this? What if I don’t? What will it cost me? What could I gain?

And the most important question of all: what do I want?

As I pull into the driveway, I realize I don’t have the answers. Not yet. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m on the cusp of something. Something big, something important. Something that could change my life.

And as I sit there, the engine idling, I make a decision. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know one thing: I’m ready to play the game. I’m ready to take a chance.

Because, as Tori said, sometimes to find happiness, you need to step out of your comfort zone. And I think it’s about time I took that step.

That night, I do something I never thought I’d do. I reach out to Jacob. Not as a friend, not as a matchmaker, but as a woman looking for something more. My fingers hover over the keyboard, second-guessing every word. But finally, I press send.

“Jacob, we need to talk. Can we meet tomorrow?”

His response comes quicker than I expect. “Sure, I’ll be at the park at 11. See you then.”

The next day, I find him sitting on a park bench, the sun casting long shadows across the grass. He looks up as I approach, his face unreadable.

“Is everything okay?” he asks, standing up to greet me.

“Everything is… complicated,” I say, meeting his gaze. “Tori… she told me about you two.”

His face pales, but he doesn’t deny it. “I see,” he says quietly. “And how do you feel about that?”

I take a deep breath, gathering my thoughts. “Surprised. Betrayed. Confused. But also… relieved.”


“Yes,” I say, forcing myself to meet his gaze. “Because for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m not alone in feeling… restless. Unfulfilled.”

We sit in silence for a moment, the only sound the rustling of leaves in the breeze. Then, slowly, Jacob reaches out, his hand covering mine.

“I feel the same way,” he says, his voice barely above a whisper. “I’ve been feeling it for a while now. But I didn’t know how to… I didn’t want to upset the balance.”

“Maybe the balance needs to be upset,” I say, looking at him. “Maybe we’ve been settling for less than we deserve.”

He looks at me for a long moment, his eyes searching mine. Then, finally, he nods. “Maybe we have.”

And just like that, a new chapter begins.

“I’m surprised by how easy it is to push my husband to the side. He’s still there, I’m still smiling at him, but it’s different now. It’s as though a veil has lifted, and I see our relationship for what it truly is – comfortable, yes, but lacking the spark that once made my heart race.

Every morning, I wake up next to him, his peaceful, oblivious face a stark contrast to the storm raging within me. I go about my day as usual, the same routines, the same rituals. But beneath it all, there’s a thrill, a sense of anticipation that wasn’t there before.

Jacob and I start meeting more frequently. At first, it’s innocent – coffee catch-ups, quick lunches during work breaks. But soon, we start seeking out more private places, places where we can talk freely without the prying eyes of friends or acquaintances.

Our conversations are deep and meaningful, filled with dreams, fears, and confessions. We talk about our pasts, our hopes for the future. We talk about our relationships – his past, my present – and how they’ve shaped us into the people we are today.

It’s during these conversations that I realize how much I’ve missed this – the intimacy, the connection. With my husband, conversations had turned into mundane discussions about bills, household chores, or what to have for dinner. The spark, the passion, had faded into a distant memory.

With Jacob, though, it’s different. He listens, truly listens, to what I have to say. He challenges me, makes me think, makes me feel alive in a way that I haven’t in years.

One day, during one of our meetups, Jacob takes my hand. His eyes are serious, his grip firm. “I can’t do this anymore,” he says, his voice barely a whisper.

A cold sense of dread washes over me. “Do what?” I ask, although I already know the answer.

“This,” he says, gesturing between us. “I can’t keep pretending that this is just friendship. I can’t keep pretending that I don’t want more.”

I’m silent for a moment, my mind racing. This is the moment of truth, the turning point. There’s no going back from here. “What are you saying, Jacob?”

He looks at me, his eyes filled with a mix of hope and fear. “I’m saying that I want more, if you want it too.”

My breath catches in my throat. I’ve been expecting this, but hearing the words out loud makes it all too real. But as I look into his eyes, I know there’s only one answer I can give.

“Yes, Jacob,” I say, my voice steady. “I want more too.”

“Yes, Jacob,” I say, my voice steady. “I want more too.”

There’s a moment of silence, a tangible pause in the air before Jacob pulls me into his arms, his lips meeting mine in a kiss that’s filled with years of pent-up longing and desire. It’s a kiss that seals our fate, a kiss that sets us down a path from which there’s no return.

We spend the night in Jacob’s apartment, a place I’ve been to many times but now feels different. There’s an intimacy in the air that wasn’t there before, a sense of belonging that makes my heart ache with a mixture of guilt and relief.

We make love, our bodies moving together in a rhythm that feels both new and familiar. It’s passionate, intense, and for the first time in a long time, I feel truly seen, truly desired.

Afterwards, we lay in silence, our bodies entwined, the hum of the city outside a stark contrast to the quiet peace inside the apartment. Jacob’s fingers trace lazy patterns on my skin, and I can’t help but revel in the feeling of being here, with him.

Eventually, I know I have to make the call. I slip out of bed, pulling on one of Jacob’s shirts for some semblance of modesty. I find my phone on the coffee table, its screen lighting up with missed calls and messages. All from him.

I take a deep breath, pressing the call button. The phone rings twice before he picks up. “Honey, is everything okay? You’re not home yet.”

I force a smile into my voice. “Hey, I’m at Tori’s. She’s having a rough time with Mark, needed a friend.”

There’s a pause, then a sigh of relief. “Okay, just… take care of yourself, alright? I love you.”

“I will,” I reply, my voice barely a whisper. “I love you too.”

As I end the call, I find Jacob watching me, his eyes filled with understanding. There’s no judgement, no accusations. Just acceptance. And in that moment, I realize that this is it. This is the path I’ve chosen. A path towards betrayal, towards a future filled with lies and deceit.

And the most terrifying part? I don’t care anymore. I’m ready to take the plunge, ready to face the consequences. Because for the first time in a long time, I feel alive. And I’m not willing to give that up, not for anyone.