Three months prior

I never understood how sitting for eleven hours straight in an airplane could cause you to feel dirtier than if you just ran a full marathon and rolled around in mud for good measure.

My hands were sticky like Id massacred a bag of gummy worms and licked my fingers just to make sure I got all the sugar.

My body felt bloated enough for me to wonder if they really did put something in airplane food to make sure people didn use the bathroom too often.

And my once-bouncy hair was pulled into a knot on the top of my head that would make any poor college student proud.

Eleven hours of hell.

And we were finally making our descent.

This wasn the plan.

At least not the original plan.

No, the original plan was to relax all summer, hang out with my friends, and soak in the last three months of freedom I had before I entered the workforce, and attempted to feed myself and pay bills without having a nervous breakdown.

My parents had been supportive of my ”time off ” decision until my dad got a random phone call from my uncle in Korea. The only thing I knew about Uncle Siu was that he was super high up in some music label and only called on holidays or birthdays. Id seen him exactly twice in my entire life, and all I remember is wondering why he was always wearing a suit.

The phone call lasted an hour, and in that hour, my life—and my plan to chill for the summer with my friends—changed forever.

Id spent weeks—okay, maybe months attempting to find an internship at all the local indie record companies. I would have sold my soul to hand out coffee and donuts just as long as I could learn the industry and get my foot in the door.

The only problem?

You had to know someone.

I had zero references except for professors that, lets be honest, most likely every intern had, and no experience.

Ergo, I was going to take time off before applying at every Starbucks so that I wouldn end up homeless under one of Seattles notorious bridges. I could just envision myself begging for pennies near the monster bridge and shivering in my raincoat.

Not the life for me.

The phone call came out of nowhere.

My perfectly dressed uncle needed a summer intern and had remembered from previous conversations with my dad that I was majoring in music production with a minor in business. The rest was history. Besides, being an intern at a record label sounded like the exact opportunity I needed to get my foot in the door.

Within twenty-four hours, I was packing for South Korea instead of the beach.

Id only ever been to Mexico, so going to a foreign country by myself wasn just stressing me out, it was making me sweat—obviously, since I was doing nothing except sitting on my rear while the plane hit the worst turbulence known to mankind.

I had a language app on my phone that seemed harder to understand than the language itself and a trusty book my mom was able to Prime from one of the Amazon warehouses that same day.

My mom tried practicing with me during packing, and the entire conversation had her paling by the minute.

”Maybe you shouldn go, ” she said in a worried voice while I tried shoving another pair of Nikes into my giant suitcase. At the rate my suitcase was filling, they were going to think I was immigrating, not visiting—but a girl needed her shoes!

”Just. ” Shove. ”One. ” Shove, shove. ”Minute. ” Ah! I plopped onto the suitcase and grinned. ”Care to zip me? ”

Mom looked just like me, with crystal blue eyes and blond hair, long tan legs that I used to think were gangly, and an open, wide smile that said more than words ever could. To be fair, my blond hair was fake while hers was real, and my eyes were brown, but still—we were nearly twins in every way that mattered.

With a sigh, she walked over and placed her hands on my legs. ”Im worried for you. You don know the language, you don know the customs— ”

”That was an exaggeration, and you know the internet lies. ” I pointed out. ”Besides, Ill make sure to always take my change with both hands, speak quietly, and act not so… ” I spread my arms wide and shrugged. ”…American. ”

Her eyes took me in from head to toe. ”You do realize you
e wearing a Seattle Seahawks sweatshirt and a Yankees hat, right? ”

I grinned. ”All I need is your trusty fanny pack, and Ill be all set! ”

She burst out laughing and then gave me a light shove. ”Its Burberry. ”

”Still a fanny pack, ” I teased.

The sound of her zipping me up filled the silence in the room, the very tense silence. We were close, best friends. I was an only child who refused to cut my apron strings. My eyes misted up as the final zip sounded.

Mom looked up and braced the sides of my head with both of her hands. ”Please be careful. ” She locked eyes with me. She always smelled like my favorite Prada perfume, and her hands felt warm against my cheeks. ”Don walk around alone at night, and call me, text me, I don care what time it is, and know that if you get scared or if you hate it, you can always come home. ”

”My little girls not a quitter. Besides, Siu will take care of you. Hes a good man—I trust him with my life, ” Dad said, waltzing right into the room with a bounce of pride in his steps. ”You ready, squirt? ”

I narrowed my eyes and pointed at myself. ”Legal drinking age. ”

Dad promptly plugged his ears while I sighed, hopped off the suitcase, and made my way over to him, wrapping my arms around his waist.

”Gonna miss you, ” he murmured into my hair.

Mom looked away.

I knew she was struggling.

And we all knew this was an insane opportunity, one I needed to take, just like my first steps when I was little—my first real step into the workforce, into adulthood, mine just looked a bit different from others, and I was okay with that.

”Ill miss the rain, ” I said against his chest. All I wanted to do was stay in the safety of his arms a little bit longer.

”Ill miss you, ” he repeated in a whisper.

And then my mom joined us for the hug.

The sudden feel of wheels touching down jolted me out of the memory as the plane hit the runway. The sound of Ariana Grandes voice filled my ears as my eyes greedily drank in the view from the window.

I smiled.

Time for an adventure.

And the chance of a lifetime.

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