Face Time (Love In The Digital Age, #1) by S.J. Pajonas
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 25, 2014
After the best first date ever, Lee thought Laura was funny, intelligent, and impulsive; a whirlwind of bright laughter and happiness. Laura loved Lee's sweet smile and the way he expertly filled in every awkward pause.
He held her hand and then pulled her in for the most perfect kiss she’s had in years. What could possibly be wrong? Just the 7000 miles that separates them the next day.
Even though Lee has gone home to Seoul, Laura can't stop thinking about him. What starts as an innocent text thanking him for their dinner date becomes something much more: someone either of them can't live without.
But Laura's got a live-in mother going through a midlife crisis, and Lee's stressful traveling schedule means they'll be apart for some time. Life, family, and a complicated past also get in the way, and they're both going to need actual face time to figure it out.
My apartment is in a high-rise complex right on the northern edge of Cheongdam-dong, and I was lucky enough to score one of the last one-bedroom apartments with a view of the river and west towards Seongsu Bridge. Chris and Cori live here, too, in the same building, but five floors down and on the other side. I had only been in Seoul a week, living in a hotel on the other side of the river near work, when Chris asked me out for drinks and to meet his wife.
Cori went home that evening, spoke with the management, and I signed the lease on this place two days later. The firm pays for everything. It even came with furniture. The only thing I did to personalize my space was to keep my suitcase by the front door and my computer, iPad, and iPhone are always charging on the kitchen table when I’m here.
A storm is moving in this morning, threatening rain for most of the region. Black, rolling clouds sit in the sky, ready to start the onslaught of spring precipitation. March isn’t too bad, but in spring and summer, it rains all the time. I’m never without an umbrella when I’m back here.
Sipping my coffee at the window, I can’t believe I got up at 7:00am when I don’t need to be in the office until noon, but I wanted to make sure I’m showered and dressed before Laura calls. Checking the time again, it’s only 7:40am now. I should get breakfast before 8:00am.
The shelves are empty in my fridge, as per usual, except for an unopened box of soy milk. I need to grocery shop for some basics since I’ll be here for two solid weeks before leaving for India. In the cabinet are a few boxes of cereal I keep around just for these moments.
When I return to Seoul after being away for so long, it takes me at least two days to get to the store, and I don’t always want to eat out. Cereal fills in the gaps nicely. Pouring the soy milk into a bowl filled with this Korean abomination of cocoa puffs, Sandra’s voice filters into my head. “You live like a college student, Lee. It’s so depressing.” Maybe for her.
My iPhone and iPad both light up at the kitchen table at 7:55am. She’s early. I set my iPad up and sit down at the table with the light facing me and accept the call.
“Hi.” Laura smiles at me, and my stomach flips over, but I reach out and take a screenshot. The more photos I have of her the better. She’s sitting on her bed, her hair pulled back loosely over one shoulder, with a brown paper bag next to her. “I hope this is another dinner date because I picked up food on the way home.”
“Hi, Laura,” I say, relaxing in her presence like I did during the first date. “It’s good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you, Lee. You look better rested.” She reaches into the bag next to her and pulls out a styrofoam container. “I am. I slept through the entire night. Didn’t even need to take anything. I’m happy to be back in Seoul.”
“I’m sure.” She squints and leans into the camera. “Are you eating? Do I see a bowl? Eat with me. I got falafel.”
“Oh. Falafel.” My mouth immediately starts to water. “I haven’t had Middle Eastern food in forever. I may have to seek someplace out while I’m here. I’m eating cereal. It’s the only thing left in the apartment.”
“You had milk, though,” she says, pointing her finger at me.
“I keep those boxes of the shelf-stable soy milk around and pop one in the fridge before I leave on a trip. That way it’s cold and ready when I come back.”
We both take a few bites of our food and chew in silence for a moment, and it’s the same kind of easy quietude we had on our first date. I’m taking the time to memorize her face. She has almost flawless skin, gentle arching eyebrows, and a long straight nose. I love how soft the short hairs around her ears are. She reaches up and tucks them back, a curl falling out across her face.
“Are you on your computer?” she asks, and I pull back from the iPad. I hope I wasn’t drooling.
“No, I have an iPad, too.”
“Me too. Technology and clothes are the only things I splurge on nowadays.” My attention shifts to her falafel sandwich which looks so good my stomach rumbles. That’s kind of cruel. My cereal is unappetizing and soggy so I push the bowl away.
“Let me see your setup. Take a picture with your iPhone and send it to me.”
“Okay.” She picks up her phone and points it at me. “Smile.” A few seconds later, my iPhone blinks with her message and photo. “I have one of those breakfast-in-bed trays for nights when I want to relax in my bedroom.”
The photo shows her bed, the iPad set on top of a tray, but my eyes focus on the pile of clothes on her floor. “I spy with my little eye…” I play this game with Evie, but it’s things like a red truck or a green trash can, never a black bra.
“Oh, Lee. I saw that in the photo, and I was hoping you’d overlook it.”
Her neck blushes, and she takes another bite, letting me stew and think about where that bra has been. This “relationship” of ours is only a few hours old, and it’s already a hundred times better than my last two girlfriends.
S. J. Pajonas loves all things Asian and has been in love with Japan and the East for as long as she can remember. Writing about Asia and Japan came naturally after studying the culture and language for over fifteen years. She studied film and screenwriting first and eventually segued into fiction once she was no longer working a full-time job.
Face Time is the first novel in the Love in the Digital Age series, and Pajonas’s first foray into Korean culture and families. Along with Removed and Released in the Nogiku Series, she continues to take the cultures of Asia and weave them into stories that appeal to people from around the world. Her writing is described as unique and unpredictable. Expect the unexpected.
Stephanie lives with her husband and two children just outside of New York City. She loves reading, writing, film, J- and K-dramas, knitting, and astrology. Her favorite author is Haruki Murakami and favorite book is The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.